“The Devil You Know” is an episode that has a lot going for it. It focuses on the best plot of the season in my opinion, the intensification of the war between Elias and Dominic, which forces Reese, Finch and Elias to remain strange bedfellows. Though Elias is on the wrong side of the law, he still values allegiance and friendship. He is an old school criminal, where tenets exist that are honored among villains. He runs his organization inspiring loyalty in his members and winning the respect of friends like Reese and Finch. He deals more in compromise than violence which, as Finch alludes to later on, benefits everyone. Elias brings order to the cities chaotic underworld and without him men like Dominic will thrive resulting in more violence and death. But Elias’ profession also involves deception, betrayal and murder making him a target for the ‘Dominics’ of the world and hence this week’s number. Elias is the devil they know and highly preferable to Dominic. Though, for me, Elias is a very likable devil!
For anyone who fell in love with the original PERSON OF INTEREST series this episode will bring back fond memories. Reese and Finch working irrelevant numbers together is, for me, the heart of the series. This week the number happens to be Carl Elias, the head of the mob and an ally of Reese and Finch. Love it when Elias says, “Whose guardian angel are you this time, John?” because that’s what Reese and Finch are; guardian angels helping people regardless of their personalities. The fact that Reese and Finch are willing to risk their lives for a criminal speaks volumes to their personal commitments, values, morals and the original mythology. The War of the Machines just doesn’t do that much for me and I still hope for a quick demise to Samaritan.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The episode opens exactly where it left off last week with the showdown between Shaw and Martine. Here again I have to repeat myself, from a strategic point of view, confronting Shaw instead of following her back to the others does not really fit with the pattern of intelligence that has been shown from Samaritan’s team in the past. That illogical pattern continues with them allowing Martine to confront Shaw in an open department store. That would draw unnecessary attention to both fractions and while it makes for interesting viewing it doesn’t fit what you would normally expect to see from Greer. Bone head moves like that can get you discovered very quickly. Like Reese’s group, staying in the shadows is the only way to survive now, so I’m hoping this deviation from the norm signifies the beginning of the end for Samaritan. People didn’t fall in love with the show’s technology, they fell in love with Reese and Finch and their reasons for doing what they do. Bringing on another AI vs Human theme is one thing, keeping it around indefinitely is another.
Of course, Shaw gets away with the help of Root and if one of the two of them is slated to leave the series for the mid season finale, this segment pushes that concept one step closer to its conclusion. Samaritan is no longer blind to Shaw, her cover is blown, according to Root cannot be reestablished and the writers give no real answer as to why. The Machine has developed many covers for Root, but for some reason can’t for Shaw. I find this hard to believe but again if the idea here is to have one of the two of them be the front-runner in the season finale, reestablishing Shaw’s cover is something they wouldn’t do.
Fusco also helps in saving Shaw and his humor is a welcome break in the tension. He rescues “Lucy and Ethel” from the back of a moving van but in the process puts himself on Samaritan’s radar. Martine confronts Fusco about his reason for stopping the van but she gets nowhere with him. Fusco quickly picked up that she was not DEA and runs a bluff that she falls for. Finch has listened and watched the interchange through his own surveillance techniques and realizes he is putting Fusco in danger with Samaritan by asking for his continued assistance, a concern I also share. If Fusco keeps intersecting with Samaritan, they will make a connection between him and the team. Be easy to use him to force the others in the open. Fusco is one of their most devoted allies would gladly jeopardize his life for the other, but that’s not what Finch or any team member wants. I suspect Fusco will be brought into the Samaritan loop eventually, as Reese mentioned ‘the Machine’ to Fusco in last season’s finale, but the longer he can be protected the better. I also think Fusco should be in on the team’s Bat-cave someday. 🙂
The main focus of the episode is the POI case which gives us more background on Elias and why he has the devotion and respect for, and from, his followers. Elias’ mother was murdered forcing him to live in a group home until he was placed in foster care. Unfortunately, the group home disciplined its charges very harshly forcing its denizens to band together for emotional stability. Here is where Elias first met his lieutenant, Anthony, previously known as Scarface, who was sent to the home for murdering his abusive father. A third of Elias’ hierarchy, Bruce, was another denizen of the home and is currently Elias’ accountant. Though not much background was given on Bruce, I suspect we will see more of him as the war between the two criminal factions heats up.
Dominic’s gang pursues Reese and Elias through the old group home which Elias has purchased. It involved numerous shootouts, hidden passages, a bomb laden vault and Anthony’s eventual capture. When Dominic threatens Anthony’s life, Elias attempts to save his friend any way he can. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen, but a very sensitive scene between Elias and Anthony does epitomizing the bond the two shared and once again emphasizes the differences between Elias and Dominic.
Elias and his people are family that he respects and appreciates for their loyalty and trust and feels their lose personally. In contrast, Dominic rules by fear and intimidation and feels everyone is expendable including himself. He expresses no concern or sympathy about his followers who die in the assault, a fact not lost on Link, Dominic’s second-in-command. He even questions Dominic about it during the episode. Dominic’s lack of empathy with his followers is a big chink in his armor, and a weakness he can never overcome.
Elias, on the other hand, is a fan favorite largely because of his past history with Reese and Finch and the bond of mutual respect that has developed between them, especially between Reese and Elias. He appreciates what Reese and Finch have done for him in the past and I loved it when he referred to Reese as a friend. (Also love that Finch has Elias on speed dial!) Dominic will never be anyone’s friend let alone Reese’s who probably considers Dominic a perfect candidate for assassination. 🙂
While Reese saves Elias, Elias saves Reese by allowing him to get them both too safely, before he traps Reese outside the building at gunpoint while he returns to help Anthony. And no amount of reasoning from Finch would dissuade Elias from trying to save his life-long friend. Of course that doesn’t stop Reese who re-enters the building and saves Elias anyway.
The episode ended with the promise of more conflict between the two and for Elias now it is personal. Elias’ strength lies within his intelligence and common sense. He admired Dominic’s strategy that lead to Anthony’s death but Elias’ pre-planning still allowed him to outsmart the sociopath. Now he vows to wage war against Dominic for revenge and if vengeance is allowed to take control, how will that affect Elias’ decisions? A bigger question is how the team will respond to the conflict. The group vows to save everyone but Reese has already told Elias he will not help with a gang war. Will Dominic’s number come up? Will Reese save him from Elias? Will Finch want him to?
And Dominic is slowly closing in on our team of superheroes. He knows that while Reese and his associate, Shaw, are not criminals they are not police either despite Reese carrying a badge. What he is still working out is who is supporting them. He is trying to play ‘the game within the game’ and hopefully it will never lead him to Finch.
No question the conflicts between Elias and Dominic has elevated the show for me this season. There is a lot more narrative that can be written with super-villains and superheroes that not only enriches the mythology but increases tension for, and interest in, the series. Lots of avenues this could go down and I hope the writers devote sufficient time to all of them.