"Truth Be Told" Review: The Sad, Sad Life of John Reese
Wow, it seems like it was just yesterday that an episode of Person of Interest was on! I am going to have to get used to this quick burn off of Season 5, because I'm still trying to digest everything the show threw at me in "SNAFU," but it's face down in the trough again for "Truth Be Told." Thankfully, "Truth Be Told" was more of a traditional episode of Person of Interest that told a simple story. A simple story about how John Reese can't have nice things.
This week's number belonged to Alex Duncan, just some shmoe who worked at a consulting company and was barely the third-most interesting character in his own story. He was looking for info on the mysterious death of his brother, who was killed in action in Afghanistan and who we later discovered was part of Reese's past in one of the show's big twists. Flashbacks to 2010 showed Reese and Kara Stanton bringing the heat to Duncan's brother Paul—the twist being that we didn't realize he was related to Alex until halfway through the episode. As it turned out, Reese killed the guy, which made for some pretty uncomfortable moments while Reese worked to save Alex and learn the truth about what happened to Paul. Oops! Though to be honest, about 80 percent of the population is related to someone that Reese killed, and everyone knows someone who was shot in the knee by Reese.
Anyway, the procedural part of the episode was just okay, but the tasty meat of "Truth Be Told" explored the sad, sad life of John Reese. Again. Honestly, I don't ever tire of these Reese-centric episodes that end with him walking away alone while attempts at having a regular life explode behind him. This is who Reese is, and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman have never tried to make it otherwise. Reese is a tortured soul, and as the episode reminded us, it's part of the job. You think Batman gets to have a normal life of eating mozzarella sticks at the Cheesecake Factory? I don't even know if Reese eats. For all I know, he just downs flavorless, vitamin-rich paste from a tube and then crushes another guy's windpipe with his elbow. And that's part of the reason we love him.
And so when we saw John trying a date to meet Iris' parents at a pirate-themed restaurant called Scallywag's—probably in the hellhole known as Times Square (what, was Guy's American Kitchen & Jalapeño Poppery all booked?)—and he "took care of business" in the bathroom (stopping as assassin from killing some shlub) right before shaking Iris' dad's hand, it was more comical than hopeful for us, because we know that kind of life isn't sustainable for him. Well, not for another 10 episodes at least. It's extra tragic seeing Finch constantly praising John for giving normality a go (and somewhat odd considering Finch's life is barely more normal than his) when Finch knows the numbers come first. It's what he signed up for.
We should have known Iris and John were doomed immediately when we saw flashbacks and Iris in the same episode, because John's past is equally responsible for his loner life as his current job is. John's former boss, Terrance Beale (guest star Keith David, who I can't believe is only NOW appearing on Person of Interest for the first time), sprung up in his present to go after Alex Duncan—long story short, Alex may have gotten close to some illegal CIA operations while digging up info on his brother—and whenever John meets someone from his past, it essentially drops a 10-ton bomb on his chances of normalcy. In a rather cordial meeting given that they spent parts of the episode pistol whipping or elbowing each other in the face, Beale reminded John that the world needs people like them more than ever. That was quickly followed by a flashback in which Stanton told John why he was recruited into the CIA: because he had no family and he could give everything to the job without fear of going back to something. "We don't get normal lives," she said, and dammit, she's right.
This weighed on John, as it always does, so John took Iris for a walk at the end of the episode and essentially got her to break up with him because, let's face it, he needs to work on his communication skills and he's a really crappy boyfriend. It sucked to watch this happen, especially since Iris was such a gosh darned babe and somehow put up with all of John's conditions with being her boyfriend. I mean, she was totally cool with his weird hours and the frequent splashes of blood on his clothes, so she had to know he was up to something. That's a keeper, normally. Anyway, John said his past would never let him be a good boo for her, and that was it. They were done. Another one bites the dust.
Of course, John could quit and work at a Best Buy or something in an effort to find that normalcy, but John is a man who is atoning for his sins of the past by helping people out now. His guilt over everything he's done trumps everything else because he is the brooding hero archetype, and the job comes first. I suppose the question is whether a normal life free of pain—which is his character's ultimate goal when you think about it—is in the cards for him as we hurtle to the end of the series. Can John Reese have a happy ending? It is one of life's greatest questions.
But part of me thinks John will continue to be a behind-the-scenes hero until it kills him. With every chance at a normal life that pops up, there will also be a phone call, and on the other end will be Harold Finch saying, "Mr. Reese, we have a new number." And John will reply, "I'm on my way." Just as he did at the end of "Truth Be Told," just as he will do every day of his sad, sad life.