[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's Person of Interest. Read at your own risk.]
Tuesday's Person of Interest featured the return of dearly departed Detective Joss Carter, but the real meat of the episode ended up taking a good, hard look at the Man in the Suit.
Carter (Taraji P. Henson) appeared in flashbacks as Reese (Jim Caviezel) re-opened a murder case that Carter was never able to close. However, after lone-wolf Reese was shot by the killer he was hunting, those Carter flashbacks were actually revealed to be hallucinations Reese was suffering as he bled out from his injuries.
During the characters' metaphysical heart-to-heart, Reese wrestled with how he's isolated himself ever since his relationship with his ex Jessica ended in tragedy. But will Reese heed Carter's urgings to forge meaningful connections in his life? And why was now the best time for the show to bring Carter back? TVGuide.com chatted with executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman about the unique episode.
Had you been looking for a way to bring Carter back to the show ever since she left?
Jonathan Nolan: When we talked after Carter's death on the show, we joked about how characters on this show all live forever in flashback. We would have felt differently about that storyline if we felt we'd never get a chance to work with Taraji on the show again. So, we knew we were always headed here, it was just a question of making sure that we had a very special setup and payoff for why you would go back.
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When did you realize that setup would so heavily involve Reese?
Nolan: We were very excited when we realized at the beginning of this season that we had an opportunity with Reese's character, who was saddled with this real-world identity and started having to pretend to be a normal person. The flipside is that, to pretend to be a normal person, you avail yourself of all the nice sh-- that normal people get too do: fall in love or have a relationship. With Reese, there's still so much preventing him from getting to that space. So, we felt like we had a great opportunity toward the end of this season to examine where his character has gotten to through the lens of a character we dearly love.
How much did you want this episode to also deal with the unresolved feelings Reese has for Carter?
Nolan: We struggled with the kiss between those two characters. We had always conceived of that relationship as a very close friendship and camaraderie of two people who had both seen some very difficult things, who were repairing themselves and each other through their friendship. So, when the actors found a path to something that had gone beyond that to a different place emotionally, we wanted to honor that. But for us, [this] is a relationship whose poignancy lies in that friendship and that camaraderie. So, we wanted to honor that with this episode in the dimension of the opportunity lost there. Of course, the romantic opportunity is lost, but mainly it's about these two people who care for each other, look after each other. So, that's why at the end of the episode it's her reaching out to hold his hand rather than reaching in for an embrace, because that's so much of what that relationship was.
Do you think Reese's therapy and relationship with Iris this season is what made this kind of exploration of Reese's inner feelings possible in this episode?
Greg Plageman: Definitely. I think that Iris' character was somebody that almost surprised Reese with her candor and her ability to almost see through him when he was not being totally truthful. And she allowed him, in an odd way, to find an outlet to talk about some of this stuff. Carter's like a can opener in that regard, at least in this episode. [Reese] has been up against it for so long that we want to push his character so people don't think that he's just this emotional automaton. There are strong feelings there, but there are reasons he's buried them. I think both Iris and Carter have given him license to move on in that aspect of his life or at least to try to branch out before it's too late for his character.
How did you conceive of turning what looked like normal flashbacks into Reese's hallucinations after being shot? Does it imply that Reese has been walking around with Carter in his head for a while?
Nolan: Yeah, a little bit. One of the things we built into the DNA of this show from the beginning was the idea that the show is largely being told to us by the Machine. This episode is a total departure from that. For the most part, our flashbacks are not psychological flashbacks. Our characters are talking about a moment in their life and the Machine rewinds and it's filling in the blanks, almost as if the Machine is curious. This episode is very different. There's no opening credits and very few Machine-point-of-view surveillance shots. The hope was that the audience would be watching it and gaining a sense that there's something wrong with this episode. As you're watching these flashbacks, they feel a little like the flashbacks that we usually have on our show, but they're not quite motivated the same way they usually are. We were just trying to play that gentle trick on the audience that there's something they're not quite getting. The emotion, the dislocation of the episode kind of crept up on you.
I have to say, given your commitment to killing off characters like Carter and the mystery surrounding Shaw this season, I began to seriously wonder if Reese was going to make it out of this alive.
Plageman: Well, that was another cut. [Laughs] It's something Jonah and I always talk about. People get locked into TV shows where they feel like, "Oh, they can't possibly lose their regulars. You wouldn't be able to go on or function." I think you lose an element of danger. You lose an element of suspense that we really cling to dearly here in Season 4. We love being able to shock people.
Nolan: Reese's character is definitely going to be killed off of the show. It's just a question of when. We said it right there in the pilot.
As we head into the final two episodes of the season, how does this experience affect Reese?
Nolan: Reese is a pretty stubborn guy. We'll see if it has any impact, but it definitely feels like a bit of a wakeup call for the character, in terms of his whole renegade, go-it-alone bulls---. At some point, you've got to reach out. He's not quite as emotionally dysfunctional as some protagonists in some [other] shows, but there's still a fair amount of damage there.
What can you tell us about the Season 4 finale?
Plageman: If you imagine this protracted war [between the Machine and Samaritan], there's been some circling between the two entities. It all comes to a head here. It's the time of the season where we bang the toys together and a lot of old faces come back. There are a number of story threads that we've set up along the way this year that we really want to pay off in these last two episodes in a big way.
Obviously there hasn't been a Season 5 renewal yet. Does the finale wrap things up, or are you setting up the next chapter?
Plageman: Quite a few doors are slammed, but a couple of windows open too.
Nolan: I'm going to keep telling this fu---ing story. We've got lots more story to tell and we're very hopeful that we will be continuing to tell it on CBS next year. But there is definitely more story to tell in this world.
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Were you happy to see Carter again?
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