What makes us who we are? Is it the people around us? The situations into which we are thrust? The difficult choices we choose to make?
It's certainly a variety of influences that carve out the potential good versus evil fork in the road and, for John Reese, the foreboding and haunting effects of the past seemed eager to push him back down his dark and detached path of old.
Reese has managed to slowly peel away from the glossy eyed days of the pilot, proving his worth and purpose in the world by saving lives. He's become something more and his connection with Finch has turned him into a force for good.
Except "Many Happy Returns" gave us the perfect insight into Reese's downfall, the scary potential of an uncontrollable Reese on rampage, and the realization that the past doesn't have to repeat itself.
There was something oddly cool about watching Reese storm around without a care in the world, pushed to his emotional brink, and determined to get the job done by any means necessary. And he normally does, but there was this change in character, this shift towards a steely soldier with nothing to lose and everything to terminate. Who else could enter a federal building and attack multiple law enforcement agents like it's no big deal?
On the other hand, it was something of a scary transformation and especially for Reese's colleagues. It seemed as if no one could stop him. Reese was actually going to return to his hollow days and kill Jennings without remorse.
It's not to say that the abusive husband didn't deserve a little kick ass, but Reese was coming extremely close to crossing a line from mere protecting to blatant execution.
For Reese's lack of emotion and voice, Jim Caviezel really nailed a multitude of nuances for his different feelings. He was stone cold on his Jennings mission, broken and quietly unstable after hearing his wife's death, just enough teary eyed when discussing Jessica with Finch, and briefly cracking a smile when entering his new apartment. Even having the photo of Reese with a wide and happy smile really illustrated just how much the man has changed. And thank goodness it wasn't a poorly photoshopped picture either.
Finally getting to see Reese take that ultimate tumble into the empty nothing we first met at the start of the series was a great way to help bring the show full circle. Not only was the super soldier dealing with the betrayal of the CIA, but finding out that the woman he loved was killed by an abusive husband and he didn't get to her in time was tragic. Just watching him stare at the wedding video in the dark was haunting enough and, even though we never actually saw him kill Jennings, the absence of any action sequence was plenty impactful. I got the dangerous message.
The tone was certainly revolving around a certain darkness, especially with him snapping and going rogue against Jennings. I really believed that he would kill the man and, in many ways, the fact that he didn't is a huge step for him. Sure, the subject brought back painful memories, but Reese managed to push ahead rather than fall back. He did the right thing and still did what was necessary.
And I loved that Carter did a little detective work to discover more about Reese on her own. It was just another example of the show allowing all of the plot lines to find significance while connecting to each other. Each one was just as important for each character and the story as a whole.
Even the small detail of Reese's birthday further pushed his relationship with Finch and the recognition that Finch is trying to do something good. The final flashback of Finch in the wheelchair and his sincere "I'm sorry" made me feel as if that particular situation was the catalyst for Finch wanting to bring Reese in to help him with his cause. These characters continue to develop wonderfully.
There's something truly entertaining about watching a show that feels like it has the potential to be predictable, yet manages to flip concepts on their head or find a nice balance between character and story rather than lay out a simple cookie cutter hour of television. Even the raw emotions and ideals that delve into morality and change while ignoring simple happy endings make Person of Interest continue to stand out.
That's how to do a solid episode. Here's to your birthday, John Reese.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.