JULY / AUG 2013: BY GINA DALFONZO
Take two men who have lived through some of life’s greatest catastrophes, and been left with deep emotional scars. One is paranoid and withdrawn; the other spends most of his time drinking. Throw them together for an incredibly secretive and dangerous mission, with the stakes enormously high and the tension ratcheted up to breaking point. Make sure the reckless one loves to poke his nose into the paranoid one’s private life. Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure the reckless one is crazy about guns and the paranoid one is terrified of them. It doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for a great friendship, does it?
Yet, a great friendship is exactly what has developed over the past two seasons of Person of Interest. Between the paranoid, prickly Harold Finch and the reckless John Reese, a deep level of trust and loyalty has been achieved. But as you might expect, given the factors I listed above, it didn’t spring up overnight. It took a long, bumpy road to get them where they are today.
Even for viewers who were rooting all along for them to be friends, it’s understandable that the process was so delicate and difficult. For one thing, it’s hard to blame Finch for being a confirmed recluse. When one is a billionaire genius inventor of a powerful machine that people will kill to control, one does not tend to court society. Finch’s difficulty is he wants to try to use the information provided by his machine to save lives, so he can’t drop out of the world entirely. Yet with his timid nature and disability caused by a murderous attack, he can’t carry out this self-appointed mission on his own.
That’s where Reese, with his training in espionage and fighting, comes in. Unfortunately for Finch (at least, it seems unfortunate at first), it’s impossible to hire an ex-CIA agent and expect him to stay out of your business. So their relationship started out as something of a tug of war. Finch made an early attempt to establish his boundaries, as follows: “I recognize, Mr. Reese, that there’s a disparity between how much I know about you and how much you know about me. I know you’ll be trying to close that gap as quickly as possible. But I should tell you, I’m a really private person.”
Reese, however, simply took this as a challenge, plowing over every boundary his boss could construct with a cheerful nonchalance. Of course, one could very easily argue that Finch had it coming—he does, after all, spend his life spying on other people. He does it with the best of motives, admittedly, but it’s still spying. And yet, a viewer could never quite help feeling sorry for the poor man, with his pained expression, as his associate kept digging up layer after layer of his deeply buried life. Finch is very good at keeping secrets, but Reese is very good at digging.
The turning point came when Reese was shot during a mission by a couple of rogue CIA operatives from his past. Ignoring the danger, and deaf to Reese’s warnings to stay away, Finch showed up on the scene and got his wounded associate to safety. There was a shift in the dynamic from that moment—a realization that, for all the surface tension, a bond had been created.
This was as momentous for Reese as for Finch. For a long time, Reese’s philosophy could be summed up in the words he once said to his former girlfriend, the last time he saw her: “We’re all alone, and no one’s coming to save you.” By the time he regretted those words, and came back to save her from an abusive husband, it was too late. He can never forget or undo his mistake, but with the help of this unlikeliest of new friends, he does start to learn that he was wrong about one thing: He doesn’t have to be alone.
What really solidified the bond between the two men was the moment, near the end of season one, when Reese’s incessant snooping turned up the love of Finch’s life, an artist named Grace. With one of his deepest secrets discovered, Finch didn’t get angry—which showed just how far the two had already come—but simply explained to Reese that he had been forced to fake his death and go into hiding, to protect Grace from the danger that threatened him. The realization that each of them had known a similar loss brought Reese a new understanding of the odd, secretive little man he’d been spending so much time and effort trying to figure out.
Since then, a lot of things have remained the same. From both sides, there’s been teasing and snooping and the occasional heroic rescue of each other. Finch still insists on addressing his associate as “Mr. Reese” most of the time, and Reese still messes with his boss’s head every chance he gets. But, also on both sides, there’s a genuine respect and affection.
Nowhere was this clearer than in the season finale, when a shady character told Reese a very plausible lie that made Finch look like a traitor. I was on tenterhooks waiting for the blowup… which never came. Reese simply refused to believe it for a single second. His unshakable trust in his friend made the episode one of the most touching I’ve ever seen, in any show.
The paranoid recluse and the reckless ex-agent may have gotten off to an extremely rocky start, but as it turned out, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ♥