We all know these sayings: what goes around comes around, for you will eventually reap what you sow, for every action comes reaction — and consequences.
The latest ‘Person of Interest’ was a widowed psychiatrist helping his patients who were victims of violent crimes the way he knows how: punishing the perpetrators responsible. Isn’t that like what Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) have been doing over the last four years?
Well, back in 2010, Finch was still grieving over the loss of Nathan Ingram, and wanted revenge against the people he holds accountable for the death of his best friend and partner. But fate intervened — or, in Finch’s case, the Machine, who prevented him from becoming the threat himself. That same year, ’24’s rouge anti-terrorist operative Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) became somewhat of a ‘terrorist’ himself in launching his own revenge in New York City against the Russian and the U.S. governments for the death of his partner and friend Renee Walker. It wasn’t until Chloe O’Brian, his ever-loyal friend, that the fugitive Jack finally came to his senses, and it would be another four years before Jack Bauer ‘Live Another Day’ to prevent a terrorist attack and save President James Heller (William Devane) in London. By that time, Finch recruited Reese in preventing violent crimes and saving the lives of those considered ‘irrelevant’ by a government that is at times hypocritical, corrupt, and complicated.
Bauer, Finch, and Reese knows the way to honor the memories of the people they love and lost is by fighting the bad guys, not become them. However, Bauer and Reese — aka ‘the Man in the Suit’ — are willing to make decisions that the good people wouldn’t and couldn’t do because they were spies for a long time, and spies are willing to break the law in the name of justice … because it is the greater good.
‘Karma’ reminds me of a short-lived ABC series called Vengeance Unlimited with Michael Madsen as Mr. Chapel, a mysterious stranger whose business is helping those who have been wronged and victimized. That premise was also used for TNT’s Leverage with Timothy Hutton as ex-insurance investigator Nathan ‘Nate’ Ford, an ‘honest man’ who leads a crew of modern-day Robin Hoods to provide revenge, restitution, and retribution for ordinary people against the rich and powerful.
This ‘POI’ episode goes back again to Batman — especially to 1997’s much-maligned Batman & Robin, where George Clooney’s Caped Crusader told Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze that vengeance isn’t power, for anyone can take a life, but to give life: that’s power. In 2005’s Batman Begins, idealistic, crusading prosecutor Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) told childhood friend Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) that justice is about harmony while revenge is about making oneself feel better. It’s not who a person is underneath but what a person does that matters.
The line between justice and revenge is a very thin and fine line to walk and cross — one that ‘The Dark Knight’ Detective Batman, the ‘Man in the Suit’ known as Reese, and Jack Bauer has done so over the years, so you can die being a hero … or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Vengeance Unlimited and Leverage are modern renditions of The A-Team and The Equalizer, but ‘POI’ is more like the latter two because Harold Finch and John Reese have the same core purpose that Hannibal, Face, Murdock, and B.A., and Robert McCall does: helping the innocent and helpless, righting their wrongs, bringing the guilty and corrupt and justice.
As Finch said in the previous episode ‘Blunt’: everybody deserves a champion.