In the second episode of the third season of Person of Interest, the team must protect a despicable man from a murder that he set in motion years earlier. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of stalking and doxxing.
I’m glad that this show is asking difficult, uncomfortable questions, and I’m glad that Harold Finch is not exempt from it, either. At the end of “Nothing to Hide,” it felt like Harold was realizing that even though he’s tried to do the best with what he built, he still might not have done enough.
The events in this episode, then, are a matter of perspective. As the team delves into the life of Wayne Kruger, the head of Lifetrace, they learn that he has everything he need and that, surprisingly, he actually believes in what he’s doing. That might be the most stunning element of this whole script: he never admits to understanding why people might not like Lifetrace and what it does with personal information. Which means he ACTUALLY believes all the defenses of Lifetrace that he utters! It makes him a much more interesting character because, from the perspective of Collier and all the other people who Kruger hurt, he’s a villain who thinks that he is right. Those are often the most terrifying antagonists, both in fiction and in real life.
This also makes “Nothing to Hide” a bizarre experience because there is virtually nothing to like about Wayne Kruger. And the episode doesn’t retrace what we saw in “One Percent” with Logan Pierce, either. There is no charm here. Kruger cheated on his wife; got a DUI in college; speaks of his assistant in wildly misogynist terms; and his company contributed to the misery and LITERAL DEATH of other people, all of which he swept under the rug with a lawsuit. He escaped accountability, which is bad enough, but what’s even worse to me is that he doesn’t think there’s anything he did wrong. It’s what everyone else is doing! It’s the wave of the future! He is helping you, y’all. Why don’t you appreciate how he is making your life easier? How he is meeting your needs? How he has turned the intimate and private details of your life into a commodity?
This episode never, ever shies away from the horrifying reality of how our information is bought, sold, and used against us. Or how that information is more accessible than ever before. Or how this new wave of information technology has now made it easier than ever for people to exploit human vulnerabilities. And I speak on that last point as someone who has been on the receiving end of some monstrous shit. Look, it’s not that bullying never existed before the Internet, or that stalking wasn’t around until sites like Lifetrace (or Spokeo, in real life) made personal information a credit card payment away. These things still happened to me! But the threshold feels lower. When I first got doxed back in 2012 (while reviewing Buffy), I discovered just how unprepared anyone was to deal with it. There were no real recourses in law enforcement, and they just threw up their hands and waved it all away. Livejournal wasn’t helpful, and even when it finally got removed, the damage was already done. The hateful mail and disgusting packages had already started arriving, and I had to move away out of the fear that eventually, someone would show up in person. Hell, I don’t know if they ever did! I was vigilant in my last few months in that apartment, and I saw strange people walking by multiple times. Were they locals? People in the neighborhood? Was I just being paranoid?
I’ll never know, and it’s why this stuff is so insidious and creepy. Because you don’t know. The uncertainty of it all is what terrorized me, and the helplessness I felt made it worse. So I couldn’t find a sympathetic cell in my body as I watched Wayne Kruger suffer. I saw those headlines when Harold did that search: stalkers had found their exes. Lifetrace had been used by awful people to do awful things, and Kruger just viewed it as collateral damage, an unfortunate scenario but impossible to stop. It’s in that moment that Person of Interest contrasted Harold and Kruger, and Harold was disgusted by what this man had done. He didn’t care where this information went and how it was used.
Yet the final third of this episode doesn’t exonerate Harold, even if he did care about how the information the Machine gleaned was used. It might make him more moral than Kruger, more willing to hold himself accountable, but it doesn’t excuse him from the conversation. See, I, too, bought the theory that it was Summers who had set up this intricate revenge plan, doling out individual tasks to victims of Kruger’s which would dismantle his life, piece by piece. Did I feel bad for Kruger? Not for a bit. He became a victim of the very thing he claimed to have enriched lives when it actually destroyed him. And as tense as that scene in the elevator is, as horrifying as that hacked car crash was, I still felt like this man wasn’t even remotely trying to be a good person. So how the hell does the team deal with someone like that? Shaw even asks at one point if its worth it to follow Kruger around.
They have to be as objective as possible about these numbers as they can and try to save everyone. I get that. Which is why the ending still haunts me so much. This is going to come back around to Harold. It has to! I did not suspect that Collier was behind a single second of this, and THERE IS NO WAY THAT THIS WAS THE LAST WE SAW OF HIM. What group is he working for? If they’re targeting people who have been flippant and immoral with the privacy rights of other people, SURELY THEY ARE ALSO GOING TO GO AFTER THE MACHINE???? But that’s what is so brilliant about this. To them, Harold is most likely a villain. He isn’t a good person because he built something that is the greatest violation of privacy in all of human history. Are his good deeds enough to cancel that out? In Kruger’s case, they weren’t, and this is another rare case where the team couldn’t protect their target. I AM SO FUCKED UP BY THIS EPISODE.
This show has made me a bit more paranoid than I already am. That also includes literally anyone who is within ten feet of Carter. I like the idea that someone unconnected to anything related to her current predicament can be in her life. However, after that scene with Quinn at Cal’s grave, I don’t trust Carter’s new partner. HE’S A PLANT. HE’S KEEPING AN EYE ON HER, I KNOW IT. With the Beecher file on lockdown and Carter kept at arm’s length from pretty much anything that will help her keep an eye on HR, I’m interested to see how she’s going to adapt to this situation. She’s clearly not giving up on taking down HR, but what about this new guy? Where is this going?
The video for “Nothing to Hide” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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