Flashbacks (also called analepses) are a common storytelling device during which the current narrative shifts to a point in the past, recalling an earlier event or series of events related to the main narrative. Flashbacks are typically used as a means to allow the viewer to see events prior to the beginning of the main narrative (an external flashback) or to revisit prior events in the main narrative (an internal flashback).
Person of Interest makes extensive use of both types of flashbacks. They can either depict a specific character’s memory or a series of events which happened in the past and are now crucial to current events.
So far, every main character has had a flashback whereas only a few supporting characters have had flashbacks: Carl Elias, Nathan Ingram, Root, Kara Stanton, Hersh and Alicia Corwin.
Usually a flashback is introduced by a timeline that takes the audience back to a specific point in the past.
Most episodes with flashbacks have two to four flashback sequences where at least one flashback is accompanied by a timeline.
Some of the flashbacks that present relevant background information are presented from the Machine's point of view. In these flashbacks, coloured squares are applied to the characters.
- The Machine recorded the phone call Jessica made to her mother. (Pilot)
- The Machine accessed NCS ( National Clandestine Services) Archival Database and retrieved footage of Reese and Stanton on several missions in places including Hungary (Foe), New York (Blue Code), Morocco (Matsya Nyaya), Ordos (Matsya Nyaya), Prague (Prisoner's Dilemma), and Paris (Prisoner's Dilemma).
- The Machine read feeds from Iraq and found Carter in a military camp. (Get Carter)
If the flashback is a character’s memory, it usually revolves around that character only and is mainly told from that character's point of view. If the flashback features background information that is relevant to current events, characters other than the main character can appear and the flashback is told from a neutral point of view.
- Nathan and Alicia meeting in the bar and discuss shipping the Machine. (No Good Deed)
- Nathan creating the Contingency. (No Good Deed)
Reese's flashbacks are mostly personal memories in combination with scenes that occurred earlier in time but relate to a current event. Reese's flashbacks are presented in many ways and supported by a different colour scheme. Flashbacks involving Jessica and other personal experiences are mostly in warmer tones whereas flashbacks revolving around his work with the CIA are usually presented in cold, blue tones.
Finch's flashbacks in the first season are mainly providing additional information about the creation of the Machine. In the first season, no personal memories were depicted. The flashbacks are exclusively in cooler blue tones and always introduced by a timeline.
Finch's flashbacks in the second season revolve more around personal memories back to when he started to work on the Machine and his history with Grace. The color scheme also changes from slate blue in scenes where he works with the Machine to warmer tones in those scenes where he spends personal time with Grace.
Most of the flashbacks take place several years before the current timeline. In No Good Deed, Firewall, and Dead Reckoning, a different type of flashback is used. In these episodes, the flashback reverts to an event at an earlier point of time in the same episode. For example, in Firewall, there is a flashback to May 15, 2012. The main events in the episode begin on May 17th.
- In Season 1, Reese has 6 flashbacks, Finch has 3, and Carter and Elias each have one.
- In Season 2, Reese has 1 flashback, Finch has 6, and Root, Kara Stanton, Hersh, and Nathan Ingram each have one (Ingram and Hersh share theirs with Finch in their respective episodes).
- Many Happy Returns is the episode with the most flashback sequences: 9, and also the only episode that has a flashback inside a flashback (Flashback about Jessica calling Reese in 2010 while Reese is in a flashback in Peter's house in 2011)
- The use of flashbacks as a literary device was utilized in The Passion of The Christ which starred Jim Caviezel (Reese) as Jesus.
List of FlashbacksEdit
|"Pilot"||John Reese||September 11, 2001|
|Reese is with Jessica on a romantic holiday in Mexico. She is sad that he is going to be leaving soon. He tells her that he had quit the army in order to be with her. When they are just about to celebrate, they learn about the attacks on the World Trade Center.|
|"Ghosts"||Finch||June 10, 2002|
|Finch is working on an early prototype of The Machine that only covers New York. He tells Ingram that the next step would be to teach the Machine how to track people, and sort them according to the information.|
|Ingram is shocked when he finds out that Finch taught the Machine to ignore "irrelevant" crimes. After explaining that the Machine deletes the irrelevant crimes every night at midnight, Finch exclaims that the machine was not built to save "somebody," but rather "everybody."|
|"Mission Creep"||John Reese||2006|
|Reese, heading back on a new secret mission, accidentally runs into Jessica at the airport. He is surprised to hear that she is engaged to a man named Peter while she, still being in love with Reese, reminds him that he left in the first place. Reese tells her that "in the end we're all alone and no one's coming to save you." Jessica asks him to ask her to wait for him but Reese doesn't say anything, but rather, he mumbles the words after she leaves.|
|Reese meets Kara Stanton for the first time in Budapest, Hungary. Stanton promptly introduces Reese to their line of work by shooting two fellow agents who she believed to have betrayed them by taking bribes. She also tells him that now he would be behind enemy lines forever and that there is no way back, showing him a surveillance picture of him meeting Jessica at the airport earlier that year. Eventually she assigns him the name Reese.|
|"Get Carter"||Joss Carter||2004|
|Carter is with the military in Iraq interrogating a suspect and trying to get information about insurgent activity. She manages to reach out to the suspected terrorist and eventually convinces him to give her actionable intel. She sends him along with her team members to the secret location the suspect told her and the team eliminates the threat. When they return, she is shocked when she finds out that they also killed the informant.|
|"Super"||Finch||February 8, 2005|
|Nathan Ingram meets with Alicia Corwin to discuss the progress of the Machine. He gives her a piece of paper with nine digits and tells her to figure it out.|
|"Super"||Finch||February 24, 2005|
|Alicia Corwin and Deputy Director Weeks visit Nathan in his office, informing him that the agent whose number Ingram gave to them earlier was found to be a traitor and demanded to know how the Machine works. Ingram doesn't reveal anything and tells them that this is how the Machine works. Later that day, Finch shows Ingram how the Machine operates; finding patterns in activities that no human would ordinarily look for. It then perceives Ingram as a possible threat.|
|"Blue Code"||John Reese||2008|
|Stanton, Reese and Mark Snow are operating illegally in New York City, holding a government employee captive after he had tried to sell some software to the Chinese. When Reese receives permission to get some R&R, Stanton follows him to a bar and finds him talking with Jessica's husband Peter. She lectures him that they're no longer like other people, and Reese reluctantly leaves with her before Jessica spotted them.|
|"Flesh and Blood"||Carl Elias||1981|
|A young Carl Elias is implied to have been living with a foster family. While being treated for wounds sustained during a fight which broke out after he was called a bastard due to his lack of a father, he asks his foster mother if she was willing to help him research his father, but she tells him to let it go.|
|"Flesh and Blood"||Carl Elias||1991|
|Elias formally meets his father at a restaurant who promises him a place in his organization, so long as he remains loyal, tenacious, and capable. Later, Elias finds out that Moretti has double-crossed him and ordered his execution. Before he can be executed, he fights back and kills the assassins.|
|"Matsya Nyaya"||John Reese||May, 2010|
|Reese and Stanton are in Morocco interrogating a suspect when Reese checks his phone and sees that Jessica had called him. He returns her call and a visibly distraught Jessica leaves him worried so he tells her that he will come and get her in 24 hours. In the meantime, Snow and Alicia Corwin send Reese and Stanton on a mission to Ordos, China to retrieve a laptop. Reese is reluctant to go but has no choice when Snow advises him to kill Stanton after the mission because she has been compromised.|
|"Matsya Nyaya"||John Reese||May, 2010|
|Arriving in Ordos, Reese and Kara find the Laptop along with everybody who worked on the project murdered. When they find a man still breathing, Stanton shoots him after she hears him mentioning the Machine. While waiting for extraction, they eat and discuss whether they will be replaced by technology and wonder where they're getting their intel. When Stanton signals the extraction team, Reese prepares to shoot her but backs off at the last moment. Instead, Stanton turns around and shoots him, telling him that she was told that he had been compromised. Reese realizes that they were not sent to China to steal the laptop but to ensure everyone who came into contact with it is dead, including them.|
|"Many Happy Returns"||December, 2010|
|Jessica and Peter are arguing and Peter pushes Jessica, who falls and hits her head on the kitchen counter top. Peter, realizing that Jessica is dead, initially starts to call 911 but stops. He arranges a car accident to make it appear that Jessica died in the roll-over crash.|
|"Many Happy Returns"||John Reese||February, 2011|
|Reese is traveling on a bus to New Rochelle and wants to visit Jessica at the hospital where she worked when he learns about her death. He turns to leave and unknowingly bumps into Finch in a wheelchair on the way out. Reese proceeds to the home of Peter Arndt, where he breaks in and starts looking at pictures and videos of Jessica. When Peter returns, he confronts him, knowing that Peter was abusive towards Jessica and responsible for her death. Peter picks up a fire place poker and Reese attacks him.|
|"No Good Deed"||Alicia Corwin||2009|
|Nathan and Alicia Corwin sit at a restaurant. Nathan tells Alicia that a freight train out will secretly transport The Machine to its new location. Alicia ensures him that the new location will be safe and that the numbers, when sent to the government, will be untraceable. Nathan says that they need to make sure nobody, apart from the eight who already know about it, can ever know about the machine. Alicia corrects him, saying that only seven people know about, barring anybody he told. Nathan shrugs it off as a simple arithmetic error.|
|"No Good Deed"||Finch||2009|
|Finch and Ingram prepare the Machine for shipment to its new home. After meeting with Alicia Corwin, Ingram is worried that the Machine might end up in the wrong hands and suggests to build in a backdoor. Finch, however, prefers to trust the Machine just as they built it and warns Ingram that every exploit was a total exploit. Yet, without telling Finch, Ingram secretly installs a contingency.|
|"The Contingency"||Finch||January 1, 2002|
|On the first day of the Machine, Finch begins work with it, starting by asking it if it can see and identify him. The Machine recognizes him as Admin.|
|"The Contingency"||Finch||February 16, 2002|
|On the 47th day of the Machine, Finch is testing its capability to track people by playing hide and seek. He asks the Machine to respond to his questions by sending a message to his phone.|
|"The Contingency"||Finch||September 6, 2003|
|Finch also tests the Machine's ability to evaluate and assess risks by playing cards in a casino. Again, the Machine communicates with him by buzzing his phone.|
|"The Contingency"||Finch||September 7, 2003|
|When Finch leaves the casino, The Machine protects him from being run over by a car. He tells it not to watch out for him alone but rather to protect everybody.|
|"Bad Code"||Root||April 15, 1991|
|Sam and her friend Hanna are playing computer games in the library in their hometown Bishop, TX but Hanna always loses. When the library closes, Sam sees her friend getting into a car, thus making her a witness to Hanna's disappearance. Unbeknownst to Hanna, Sam successfully finishes the game just after she leaves and enters Root as her username.|
|After being framed by Root in revenge for killing her friend Hanna, Trent Russell is attacked and shot to death by the drug dealers who thought that he had stolen their money.|
|"The High Road"||Finch||May 8, 2004|
|Finch and Nathan are walking in the park. Nathan is unhappy about their relationship and asks about their little project. Finch explains that he had taught the Machine to understand people and find connections between them when it detects an anomaly and points Finch to a woman named Grace, who is painting at the railing. Finch assumes that it's a bug because there seems to be no reason for the Machine to select her.|
|"The High Road"||Finch||2005|
|Finch tests the Machine's ability to find connections between random people when it shows him information about Grace, the painter. Finch suspects that the bug still exists when he learns that she likes Charles Dickens and that there is also not a single anomaly in her life, which makes her different from other people.|
|"The High Road"||Finch||January, 2006|
|Finch is buying an ice cream cone when the Machine tells him that Grace is painting in the park again.|
|On Grace's birthday, she receives a letter from a bike messenger informing her that Finch has created for her a birthday scavenger hunt. She tours around the city, eventually ending up at the Guggenheim museum, where Finch is waiting for her. Together, they tour the museum, and Finch begins to tell her something that he thinks she needs to know, but she stops him.|
|Finch meets Nathan for dinner, where Nathan deduces that Finch is seeing someone. He tells Finch that a little mystery goes a long way and that he has just returned from his friend's wedding, during which he saw his ex-wife Olivia. Nathan explains that he's told her so many lies over the years that he doesn't even remember what happened any more.|
|"Prisoner's Dilemma"||John Reese||2007|
|In Prague, Reese and Kara enter a hotel room where three men are concluding a deal involving combat drones. Reese and Kara pose as hotel guests, then Reese kills two men and Kara kills the other. Reese is visibly nervous and Kara has to calm him, explaining that the people that they killed were enemy combatants and that killing people is in fact their job. And in order for Reese to be good at his job, he'd have to learn to love it.|
|"Prisoner's Dilemma"||John Reese||April, 2009|
|In Paris, Reese and Kara sit at a bar discussing the next group of people they are supposed to kill. Reese questions the fact that the people are bad, and Kara says that orders are orders. She tells him that he needs to decide whether he's cut out for his job or not, to which John replies that he loves his job. The partners kiss afterward.|
|"Prisoner's Dilemma"||John Reese||May, 2010|
|Reese has just received orders from Snow to "retire" Agent Stanton after their mission in Ordos. ("Matsya Nyaya") As he leaves the room, Stanton notices a worried look on Reese's face and tells him to shut it down, because she "needs the killer", not the Boy Scout.|
|"Dead Reckoning"||Kara Stanton||2010|
|When Kara and Reese find out they have been double crossed during their mission at Ordos, ("Matsya Nyaya") they run for their lives. Kara survives and regains consciousness some time later, finding several men holding her at gunpoint. She is then taken to hospital in Dongsheng, where she is greeted by a man who had been following her CIA activities and knows almost everything about her.|
|"Dead Reckoning"||Kara Stanton||2011|
|Using the tale of the mythical Titans as an analogy, Greer offers Kara answers about why the government wanted her dead. He then tells her that if she will assist him in dispersing a virus, he will tell her who sold the Laptop that Reese and Kara were sent to Ordos to destroy, the man responsible for all that happened to her.|
|"One Percent"||Finch||September 11, 2001|
|Finch is working at IFT Plaza when Nathan Ingram turns on the TV. They listen as the news covers the events of 9/11. They say that they started IFT to change the world, and they grew wealthier and wealthier, but failed to meet their goal. 9/11, however, changed the world. They say that they need to change the world before someone else does.|
|Nathan tells Finch that The Machine was their chance and expresses disappointment in Finch's giving it away. Nathan asks Finch what would happen if they built a backdoor into the machine, but Finch wants to hear nothing of it. He tells Nathan that they either move on to their next venture together, or they don't. Nathan then walks out the door without saying a word.|
|"One Percent"||Nathan Ingram||2009|
|Nathan holds up the social security number and a photo of a woman and is watching her from his car. When she leaves her house, Nathan sees a man following her and pulls out a gun, preparing to intervene.|
|"In Extremis"||Lionel Fusco||2011|
|Fusco is dragging Detective Stills's body and attempting to bury it. He begins to cry and places Stills's body down in the grave.|
|"In Extremis"||Lionel Fusco||2004|
|Fusco sits at a bar and asks the bartender for another drink. His partner, Detective Stills tells him he's had enough and should go home. Fusco tells Stills that he can't go home because his wife has kicked him out of the house. Stills asks Fusco to stay the night at his house.|
|"In Extremis"||Lionel Fusco||January 17, 2004|
|Fusco knocks on a door and Stills opens it. He lets Fusco in and Fusco sees that Stills and Azarello have killed a man in what they claim is self defense. They ask Fusco to cover for them, and they guilt him into doing so.|
|"In Extremis"||Lionel Fusco||March 25, 2005|
|Fusco enters an appartment where Stills and Azarello have killed several people. Once again, they ask Fusco to cover for them and he refuses this time. A man jumps out of an armoire, and Fusco shoots him in self defense. He is forced to cover for his partners as a result.|
|"Zero Day"||Finch||2010 (Day 3177)|
|Harold goes over to Nathan Ingram's house and they reminisce about their past adventures and discuss current ones. Harold tells Nathan that he plans to propose to Grace and as a result, he'll have to tell her the truth about his background. Suddenly Nathan's phone buzzes and shows a new irrelevant number.|
|"Zero Day"||Finch||2010 (Day 3178)|
|Grace is painting a portrait of Harold in the park when he proposes to her.|
|"Zero Day"||Finch||2010 (Day 3178)|
|Harold follows Nathan into the Library, and Harold asks what it is. Nathan proposes that Harold thinks of him as a liability. Harold sees photos on a board, and realizes that Nathan had installed a backdoor into the Machine. Nathan explains that the machine "was waiting" for him, and that he took precautions. Harold tells him that the precautions would be essentially worthless and threatens to put a stop to Nathan's side operation. Harold tells Nathan that they can't save everyone and shuts down the irrelevant section of the machine, just as Nathan's number comes up.|
|Hersh is in an interrogation room with a man suspected of attempting to bomb a ferry, Asif, and a translator. The man says he was attempting to load semtex onto a van next to the Liberty Island ferry and that he would be the detonator. Hersh shoots the translator and sticks the suspected terrorist with a needle, making him go limp.|
|Harold and Ingram meet at The Library, and Nathan tells Harold that he plans to meet with a reporter and tell her about the work he and Harold have done. Harold says that Nathan shouldn't do that and hypothesizes that Hersh is killing the relevants. Harold warns Nathan that calling a journalist will put their lives at risk.|
|Harold follows Nathan to the place where he plans on meeting the reporter. Watching Nathan through the windshield of a van, Hersh wakes up Asif and shows him the explosives packed into the van. He tells Asif that he has completed his mission and leaves. Nathan spots Harold, and an explosion is seen and heard behind Nathan.|
|Harold wakes up at a facility where victims of the terrorist attack at the Ferry are being held, and a doctor tells him that he has sustained injuries to his neck and lower back. He frantically tries to find Nathan and eventually finds him, dead. He gets up out of bed on his own and hides behind a wall as Grace looks for him. Grace asks one of the guards where Harold is, and they tell her that if she doesn't see him, he probably didn't survive. Grace finds the book that Harold placed the engagement ring into, and cries, assuming that Harold had been killed in the attack.|
|"God Mode"||Finch||2010 (Day 3191)|
|Harold goes back to The Library, sees that Nathan's number had come up on the irrelevant list, and re-installs the contingency. The clock then strikes midnight and Nathan's number is erased from the system.|