“Karma” deals with the known fact that revenge is a dangerous, self-destructive emotion. Taking revenge to alleviate a painful experience can and usually does make a bad situation worse. It’s a topic that should be avoided unless it can supply a new perception to the storyline and this case that didn’t happen. “Karma” was an intriguing episode, but not at all what you are used to from POI. It was a stand-alone episode in that no mention was made of Samaritan or the Brotherhood which are the two many storylines this season. That didn’t make it unusual. What did was the surprise at how the story left more questions than it answered and how the original characters and mythology were misrepresented or forgotten altogether which led to an inappropriate division between Reese, Finch and Fusco. Not what fans want to see.
The story centered on the new number, Dr. Stane Edwards (Patrick Kennedy), a psychologist who acquires justice for patients of his that have been wronged. He does this by framing the alleged culprits for crimes they never committed. He began his activities after the death of his wife, framing 7 other individuals in his vigilante career.
His current ‘culprit’ is Wyatt Morris (Daniel Sauli), the person he believes killed his wife 7 years earlier. A crime Morris has always claimed he didn’t do. Oddly enough the murder of his wife was never solved in the episode; one of the open-ended questions this episode left hanging. Solving that murder would have been the correct way to go. But that didn’t happen which left a very disturbing feeling hanging over the entire episode. The unsolved murder didn’t sit well with Reese (Jim Caviezel) but seemed to suit Finch (Michael Emerson) just fine, another one of the glitches in the show. But the characters of Reese, Finch and Fusco weren’t normal in the show either, which left its own unpleased impression on the episode. That normally wouldn’t happen in the series and I would love to think Reese would follow up on his own to get the wrongdoer as he did in “Triggerman.”
Justifiable retribution has always been a reality on POI and it has always been appropriate because the facts surrounding the individual were all substantiated by the Machine. Though death is not always the solution to a problem, it has been used very effectively in episodes such as “In Extremis,” and “Cura Te Ipsum.” In these cases, the facts were completely known. In this episode that was not the case, so the point of the show didn’t play out the way they wanted it to.
Edwards’ vendetta against Morris began when he perjured himself on the witness stand to get Morris convicted of manslaughter. But it only carried a 15yr sentence so when Morris was released early, Edwards set up a more elaborate frame to get Morris convicted for murdering Edwards himself, a crime that would carry a life sentence. Unfortunately, the plan required Edwards to commit suicide in the process, a fact Reese and Finch realized almost too late.
As the story progressed, viewers began to realize Morris was innocent of the crime. Finch was insistent that Edwards was going to murder Morris to get revenge for the death of his wife way before all the facts were known. Finch was basing his judgement on the revenge path he took years earlier when he almost murdered Alicia Corwin (Elizabeth Marvel) under the mistaken impression that she was responsible for the death of Nathan Ingram, a sequence presented in flashbacks.
This brings up another very disturbing part of the episode. If Edwards has been mistaken about Morris’ guilt, was he mistaken about some or all of the other people he framed over the years? Nothing was mentioned about their cases being re-opened by Reese and Finch. Something we would have normally expected our heroes to do. But this episode was anything but normal. Since when would you believe that Team Machine would sit still for the possibility that innocent people are in jail and not do something about it?
For Finch, his revenge trip didn’t end in disaster. He realized his actions were wrong by himself, though the constant pressure The Machine put on him can’t be ignored. His revenge was fueled by his own survivor’s guilt at his part in the death of his friend. The realization that he almost killed an innocent person is a reality that is hard for Finch to get past.
He found solace for his guilt by continuing to help the irrelevant numbers, a mission Nathan had started and Finch had shut down. A mission that helped Reese over his guilt for the death of Jessica, a fact he felt responsible for. Both found ways to move on, and they did. This episode doesn’t seem to remember that.
For Edwards the situation presented was different. He was apparently suffering from clinical depression, a psychological problem which kept him from acknowledging his actions were unbalanced, so Reese and Finch were there to help him…eventually.
The ramifications of Finch’s almost taking an innocent life caused him to be even more adamant in his non-violence policy than usual. Unfortunately the writers choose this time to re-write the characters of Reese and Fusco (Kevin Chapman), to make it appear they sanction Edwards’ action to murder Morris if he chose to. I say ‘appear’ because every fan out there knows neither of those two would ever do that in a normal episode. That was annoying and caused a rift between the two sides at a time when the relationship between the trio needs to be made stronger not weaker. We need to see Reese and Finch confide in each other more. PERIOD!
And they continued the character assassination even after both Reese and Fusco knew Edwards had perjured himself on the stand. Since when have you seen Reese agree to kill anyone for no reason, or Fusco for that matter? If the writers want us to believe the reason Reese would do that was because he was overcome by grief for losing Jessica that is just poppycock. That ship sailed a long time ago. Reese has experienced many losses in the past, some we might not even know about. But he isn’t incapacitated by it or driven to vendettas because of it. If anything it has been influential in his desired to save others which is why he joined Finch in the first place.
REESE SAVES EVERYONE! Good or bad! Justice is on Reese’s mind, not blind revenge. That is NOT something Reese would ever do. In most cases, the perpetrators were just imprisoned. Even Jessica’s killer was not murdered and if there was ever a person Reese was justified in revenging by death, it would have been Jessica. Killing for no reason is not what Reese does. Once again writers, tell your story, but stay true to your characters and DON’T change what has already been written.
Fusco too has never been a wanton killer. He saves lives and believes Reese helped him turn his own around. Even as a ‘dirty cop’ his heart was not in it, a fact Reese realizes when he first met Fusco. If you still have any doubts, in “The Devil’s Share” Fusco reveals in a flashback he deliberately shot a drug dealer for killing a rookie cop who was expecting a child. In the same episode, he emotionally refused to kill Simmons for Carter’s murder, citing Carter’s positive influence over him as the reason. Now we are to believe they both just change overnight?
I also disagree with the premise that Reese’s persistence in looking for Carter’s killer did not give closer. I personally got a lot of closure from it and was impressed that the writers gave all the characters that had interacted with Carter an opportunity to take part in that closure as well. I don’t think there’s a fan out there that wasn’t glad to see Simmons bite the dust. Sure the grief is still there. Her loss is felt to this day. But the concept that justice wasn’t served is not.
As for Finch, his stance about not killing is commendable for sure. But I have to say, it still is a point of contention for me whenever Finch is so adamant on the topic. Nothing is that black and white in reality. Finch’s refusal to allow Reese to eliminate the Senator in “Death Benefit,” opened the door for Samaritan to come online causing the death of thousands that would not have perished otherwise. That doesn’t seem to bother Finch at all. It also seems acceptable to him that the Machine gives relevant numbers to the government fully knowing those individuals will be killed. I believe Root even pointed this out to Harold in an episode. Finch needs to realize that life like everything else is a grey area and his stance on it is very hypocritical at time. If TPTB want to do a stand-alone, that is one they should consider. Have Finch face the reality that he is responsible for all those deaths and may need to be more acceptable about others in the future. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many” as the saying goes.
One positive aspect of the episode is the continuing humor of Fusco, and this time Reese joined hm. I loved Fusco and Reese’s interaction over Finch’s therapy visit. Fusco’s wit, “Hey Glasses, tell him about all your nutcase friends. Maybe he will give you guys a group therapy discount.” Reese’s reply, “I think you are now one of those nutcases, Lionel.” 🙂