Detective Carter returned to POI tonight to deliver a stellar episode and make all of us fans have a good ugly cry. Seriously, was anyone prepared for those scenes of isolation and regret? “Terra Incognita” has been heavily advertised as being Taraji P. Henson‘s return, and while this might look like a ploy to boost ratings after her recent success on Empire, it’s clear that the writers had a very specific reason to bring Carter back. Her flashbacks made sense, because Reese as “Detective Riley” is trying to solve a case she worked on, but never solved.
As Reese progressed through the case, the scenes shifted seamlessly between his investigation and Carter’s, years before. The effect was well done and gave cohesion between the two timelines. In the end, the perpetrator’s reveal wasn’t much of a payoff, arriving at maybe the midpoint of the episode. Instead, Reese slowly bleeding out and/or freezing to death became the focus. And that’s where things went from good to mind-blowing, as Reese’s ongoing memory of him and Carter on a long-ago stakeout started to meld with the present.
One of this season’s many themes has been John Reese and his intentional isolation from those around him. Sure, he’s worked with them and shared one-liners, but as Carter says during one of many great moments, there’s friends you talk about the weather with, and friends you share life and feelings with. That’s not the exact quote, but my eyes were a little dusty at the time. Yes, John reveals to past/phantom Carter, his isolation came from the loss of someone he loved, but he ultimately reveals that his unwillingness to connect came before Jessica’s death, back to a battlefield where neither side made it out. Jim Caviezel and Taraji were on fire during that scene, and reminded us just how much the show lost when Henson left.
The last few minutes of her and Reese in the car, as he realizes he never opened up to her, and would never be able to, hit hard. He’d only be able to imagine what it would have been like, had he let her in during that stakeout. And then he almost died because he hadn’t opened up to anyone else. Dang, POI. Are we going to see a new side of Reese now, or are all these foreshadowing moments leading up to a very not asked for departure?
Who was in the car at the end coming to Reese? We’re to assume it’s Finch, Fusco or Root (maybe all of them, road-tripping). I doubt it’s Samaritan agents- there’s no reason they would be following “Detective Riley.” Maybe we’ll never know which member exactly saved John. That’s okay, because it wasn’t the point. The last line, “we made it,” then realizing that no, she didn’t, and he never had that conversation with her, hit hard. This is the Person of Interest that we stick around for. Now go share your feelings with someone.
Points of Interest:
1. Fusco can’t catch a break. Bring delicious hot dogs for your stakeout friends; get nothing but hate. Root, on the other hand, can be a runaway bride with a giant burrito, and everyone loves her.
2. We need more near-death experiences, just so we can have more dead characters reappear.
3. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of new Carter material. It’s still a shame that the show lost her. Maybe they’ll have something whenever the show nears its final few episodes.
4. So. Many. Feels. Seriously, I couldn’t ask for a better range of emotions from any show than I got from this hour. Period.
5. Nolan called this episode “the calm before the storm” in an interview. After a week’s break (ugh) we’re going to most likely get a crazy two-part season finale, and if it’s like any of the others, some characters won’t make it through.