|“||I traveled the world looking for bad guys, but there were plenty of you right here all along.||”|
John Reese is the alias of a former U.S. Army Special Forces and CIA Black Ops operative who works with Harold Finch to stop future crimes using numbers generated by the Machine. His real last name is unknown, but military records indicate that John is his real first name. Reese operates under a series of aliases and cover identities, including John Rooney, John Warren, John Anderson, and two law-enforcement personas, an NYPD Detective called James Stills and a U.S. Marshal called Brad Jennings, used when he was able to acquire their badges. He is also known as "the Man in the Suit" or "guy in the suit" by law enforcement and criminals pursuing him.
It is mentioned that Reese's father, an Army soldier, died shortly after returning from his fourth combat tour in Vietnam when John was a child. ("Lethe") At some point later on, Reese was forced between choosing jail or entering the military because of a violent fight he was involved in as a young man. He opted for the military, and entered the Army shortly thereafter. ("Liberty")
John H. --s, the name on his military records, rose to the rank of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, and served as an infantryman, Special Forces Soldier (Green Beret), and Operator with the Combat Applications Group (aka Delta Force). He is listed by the Army as M.I.A. and most of his military history is labeled as REDACTED in the Machine's databases. ("Title Sequence") His military personnel file confirms he is from Puyallup, Washington and enlisted at Fort Lewis, Washington. His social security number is 380-00-0050. ("Many Happy Returns")
Reese joined the Army on January 15, 1993. Over the next nine years, he served four short tours and one long tour of duty, including service in Afghanistan and Iraq. He appears to have been promoted to the rank of Sergeant on September 15, 1998. ("Title Sequence")
Reese left the Army in 2001, prior to a vacation in Mexico with his girlfriend of six months, Jessica Arndt. As the vacation is extended beyond the weekend, Reese surprises Jessica with the news. Moments later, the two witness a live television report about the attacks on the World Trade Center, and Reese knows his service is far from over, prompting him to reenlist. ("Pilot")
Jessica knew Reese as "John," yet it is not yet known what last name he went by during their relationship. ("Mission Creep") However, photographs taken of him in uniform and the timeline of events leading him to adopt the alias John Reese suggest she knew his real name.
With the CIAEdit
On February 12, 2006, Reese runs into his former girlfriend Jessica at the airport, and he tells her that he has found a new, secretive job. She tells him that she is engaged to a man named Peter Arndt, though she would wait for him if he told her to. After a silence, she turns and leaves. Moments later, Reese whispers, "wait for me. Please." ("Mission Creep")
Some time later, Reese first meets with his partner Kara Stanton in Hungary to interrogate two men about the whereabouts of a killer named Alim Nazir. This is presumably his first CIA mission.
Stanton promptly murders them, knowing that they helped Nazir flee the country after a hefty bribe. Reese, visibly shocked, is told to dispose of the gun and bodies. Stanton reminds him that he doesn't have any old friends, including Jessica, whom Stanton has photos of from the airport. Afterward, she assigns him the cover name 'Reese'. ("Foe")
In Prague, Reese and Stanton kill an American traitor selling drone blueprints to two Chinese nationals, and kill the nationals as well. When Kara cracks a joke, Reese ignores it and she tells him to lighten up. She warns him that he'll have to accept the fact that he's a killer and that he might as well learn to love his work. ("Prisoner's Dilemma")
Reese, Stanton, and their boss Mark Snow are operating illegally in New York City, holding a government employee captive after he tries to sell some software to the Chinese. When Reese is given permission to get some R&R, Stanton follows him to a bar and finds him meeting with Jessica's husband Peter. She gives him a lecture, telling him that they're no longer like other people, and Reese reluctantly leaves with her before Jessica can spot them. ("Blue Code")
Reese and Stanton go to a bar in Paris and target a couple. They have orders to kill the couple and Reese wonders why, but Kara isn't interested. As they watch the couple flirt, Kara suggests that Reese might play along with their own cover. Once the bar clears out, Kara shoots out the camera and Reese goes over to kill their targets. After killing the couple, the two go back to their apartment and clean out any traces of their presence. Kara tells Reese that they can take a break. However, when he says he's fine, Kara draws a gun on him and tells him to choose between being a boy scout or a killer. She reminds him that he chose that life. Reese then slams her into a wall and says that he loves his work, and they kiss. ("Prisoner's Dilemma")
Reese and Stanton's next assignment is to follow Daniel Casey, a former government programmer on the run after being nearly killed for learning too many secrets about the Machine. A man named Rick Dillinger follows Casey, but the two are confronted by Reese and Stanton. Men who are working for Greer open fire on them and Dillinger is able to escape with Casey, but Reese and Stanton still are able to capture one of the wounded shooters.
Reese and Stanton torture their prisoner, who eventually manages to get up while still bound to his chair and jump out of a window to his death. Reese decides to look for Casey while Stanton goes after Casey's friend, Lester Strickland.
Following Dillinger's departure and eventual death, Casey is walking down the street and finishes a call when he Reese confronts him at gunpoint. Casey turns around and begs for his life when Reese gets a call from Stanton. Reese purposely misses and lies to Stanton that Casey is dead, later telling Casey that he is not a traitor and doesn't deserve to die. Harold Finch, Dillinger's employer and Casey's protector, watches from his car and his amazed at Reese, considering him as a new partner. ("RAM")
Reese and Stanton are in Tétouan, Morocco, interrogating a suspect. While Stanton is busy with the suspect, Reese receives a voicemail call from Jessica, who sounds distraught. Reese calls her and says he'll see her within 24 hours. Later, Mark Snow and Alicia Corwin inform Reese and Stanton that they are being sent to China to retrieve a high profile computer virus stolen from the Pentagon by the Chinese. Reese is denied his request for leave, but as Stanton leaves the room, he receives another set of orders from Snow: retire Agent Stanton as soon as the mission is complete, then he can have all the "leave" he ever wants.
As Reese leaves, Kara notices him smiling, says that it's been a while, and tells him that she needs him to be a killer. ("Prisoner's Dilemma") The pair arrive in Ordos and find the site where the program was found. Upon arrival, they discover the corpses of many software engineers, and much of the building's servers emptied. Reese find a survivor whom Stanton converses with in Chinese. He says that men had turned up shooting and had stolen the Machine. Upon hearing that, she promptly executes him and withholds what he'd said from Reese. (It is not clear if Reese knew Chinese at the time, or if, since then, he has learned Chinese or the meaning of what the man said.) With much of what they came for already taken, Reese and Stanton have no choice but to wait for their extraction at nightfall.
Meanwhile, they do find a laptop and take it, but they are confused as to what it is and what it holds and why it was left behind.
After nightfall, Stanton marks the LZ with infra-red chem-lights. Reese has readied his gun to shoot her in the back, but lowers it at the last moment, only for Stanton to turn and shoot him. She apologizes, saying she had orders from Snow, and was told Reese had ties to terrorists. Reese who is wearing body armor, laughs, telling her he had the same orders and that they have been set up, with the chem-lights actually marking a missile strike, not an extraction. Reese then makes his escape, leaving Stanton standing in shock. Overhead, a UAV observes as an incoming cruise missile targets the beacons. The wounded Reese manages to escape the blast radius, and turns back to see the explosion supposedly killing his partner. ("Matsya Nyaya")
In February, a wounded Reese, now sporting a beard, travels to New Rochelle, New York, to look for Jessica. He discovers that she has died in a car accident two months prior to his arrival. Distraught, he breaks into the Arndt residence and watches one of the videos of Jessica and her husband Peter's wedding, realizing she had most likely been abused and murdered by him, as car accidents make excellent cover-ups for murder. When Peter comes home, Reese confronts the man who he holds responsible for her death and attacks him. ("Many Happy Returns")
Reese later begins to live anonymously in a homeless encampment. ("Risk")
Working with Harold FinchEdit
Deteriorating mentally and physically, a bearded, homeless Reese is attacked on a subway by a gang. Disarming and defeating them with no effort, Reese is taken into custody. Some men collect Reese from the precinct, but not before Reese's prints run through the database. He is taken to the Queensboro Bridge, where he meets a mysterious man going under the name Harold Finch, who offers to stop crimes from happening. Though he refuses at first, Reese soon changes his mind when Finch forces him into experiencing a scenario where he'd be helpless to prevent a murder from happening.
Finch introduces Reese to the Machine — a device Finch built for the government after 9/11, which detects terrorist activity as well as other 'irrelevant' crimes by using thousands of cameras and an advanced database. It would give them a list comprised of Social Security numbers, each belonging to a person involved in a violent crime - either the victim or the perpetrator. Upon the completion of his first case, Reese manages to recruit Detective Lionel Fusco, a corrupt cop who would eventually become a useful asset. ("Pilot")
One such case that Reese takes on is that of Zoe Morgan, a resourceful fixer who Reese is able to protect while posing as her driver. ("The Fix") Zoe has later returned to help Reese on numerous other cases and their relationship has been wavering between friendly and romantic.
As Reese takes on more cases regarding these persons of interest, he catches the attention of Detective Joss Carter, a homicide detective who Reese had met after the subway attack. ("Pilot") He also gets the attention of the CIA, who believe him to be dead until they find the prints run on Reese by Carter. ("Number Crunch")
Reese eventually convinces Carter to help him and Finch. ("Legacy") The two begin helping each other on cases and even become good friends. Though Carter and Fusco don't intially know they're working for the same people, they realize it after Carter suspects Fusco of working with the crime organization HR, and the two begin to assist Reese on many of his cases. ("Firewall")
On his birthday, Reese eventually comes across the case of a person of interest which Finch has been keeping a secret from him, worrying that it will bring back painful memories of Jessica's death. The woman is on the run from her abusive husband, and Reese is eventually able to save her life, delivering the husband off to a Mexican prison after framing him for drug running. Finch's birthday present to Reese is a key to a large apartment, which becomes his home. ("Many Happy Returns")
The FBI begin to pursue Reese after linking him to past crimes, dubbing him "the Man in the Suit". ("Identity Crisis") Reese is eventually caught and arrested along with three other men by a team led by Special Agent Nicholas Donnelly while helping another person of interest. ("Shadow Box") With the help of Finch and Carter, Reese is eventually released from jail but kidnapped by his old partner Kara Stanton. ("Prisoner's Dilemma") Reese and Mark Snow are forced to run errands for Stanton while wearing rigged bomb vests, but Reese is eventually rescued and saved by Finch. Snow, meanwhile, catches up to Stanton and they both die when Snow's vest explodes. ("Dead Reckoning")
The Machine finally gives out Reese's social security number after HR places a bounty on his head. He assists Carter in bringing HR leader Alonzo Quinn to FBI custody, and is arrested but eventually released from police custody by Carter. However, both Carter and Reese are shot by HR lieutenant Patrick Simmons, with Carter dying in the arms of a wounded Reese. ("The Crossing")
Carter's death causes Reese to go on a vengeful hunt for Simmons, and he brutally interrogates many HR associates in an attempt to find him. Reese finds Quinn after fighting his way through the U.S. Marshals guarding him, and demands to know Simmons' location. Finch arrives and convinces Reese not to kill Quinn, and Reese collapses from his prior injuries. He pulls the trigger on his gun, but finds that it's empty. Reese is eventually hospitalized, and Shaw states that the doctor has declared Reese will be fine. ("The Devil's Share")
Leaving the team behind, Reese returns to his hometown of Colorado, and goes to a bar, returning to his habit of drinking and begins to ignore violent crimes. Fusco finds Reese at a bar to persuade him to return to New York. Reese refuses and tells Fusco to leave, but Fusco stays, pointing out that Reese was the key reason behind Fusco's stoppage of his bad habits, including drinking. Reese states how the work he's done is pointless, and Fusco is appalled at how Reese could say such a thing. Fusco then challenges Reese to a fight and the two engage in a fistfight outside the bar in the rain. However, the police arrive and find the two. ("Lethe")
Reese and Fusco sit in a cell, where an increasingly pessimistic Reese says how things will return to what they used to be. Fusco disagrees before leaving.
Reese eventually decides to go back to New York, and he and Fusco save Finch from Vigilance during a bank raid. At the Library, Reese says that the only reason he came back is because Finch is too valuable a friend to lose. He then leaves despite Finch's efforts to convince him to come back. ("Aletheia")
In an attempt to leave the team behind, Reese boards an international flight to Istanbul, but the flight is mysteriously switched to one in Rome. Reese suspects Finch of doing so, but Finch denies it, leading both to realize that the Machine is acting on its own to get Reese back.
Reese learns that the Machine placed him on the flight to protect Owen Matthews, a programmer associated with an online drug market. Finch learns that Owen is a relevant number due to connections with the ISA. Reese reluctantly protects Owen from numerous assassins and the plane finally lands safely in Rome. There, Reese meets with Finch and agrees to rejoin the team. ("4C")
Reese's personality gradually returns to it's old form rather quickly upon return to the team. However, he still remembers Carter and honors her by pouring a drink for the team's "missing member" during a celebration of the completion of another case. ("Provenance")
Reese has been successful at stopping many murders and solving many "cases". He is a wounded man, but he trusts Finch almost implicitly, although this doesn't stop him from spying on Finch early on during their work so he can learn more about his mysterious friend.
Reese has been shot and wounded numerous times, and he shows physical and mental fortitude and genuine care for the people he is helping. He has thanked Finch several times for giving him a job and said that he "believes everyone deserves a second chance". It's clear he views this job as his second chance and is grateful. There are also many references to the fact that Reese craves a more conventional life. He wants a family, but he knows that can never be.
Reese feels quite differently for those who have demonstrated moral weakness. Though left open to interpretation, it is suggested, but later proved unlikely, that Reese may have talked a sexual predator into committing suicide. ("Cura Te Ipsum")
After the completion of another case in which Finch is kidnapped and drugged with ecstasy, a drugged Finch expresses his willingness to answer the questions that Reese has about his employer's past. Reese refuses to take advantage of Finch's state to satisfy his curiosity. ("Identity Crisis")
While bearing one of Kara Stanton's bomb vests, Reese is greatly concerned with keeping bystanders safe should the bomb be triggered. He considers sacrificing himself when abandoned by Stanton while the bomb is armed. He is also distressed by Mark Snow's ruthless treatment of guards they have to neutralize while infiltrating a DoD cyber-security installation. ("Dead Reckoning")
Reese states that he has no problem with murdering criminals, but feels that their deaths should be quick and painless. ("The Devil's Share")
Skills and TalentsEdit
- Marksmanship: Reese is skilled with any kind of firearm, including shotguns, rifles, submachine guns, sidearms, and even grenade launchers. He shows his skill regularly as he usually shoots hostiles in the shoulder or kneecap to incapacitate them without killing them. He's also skilled enough to use a sniper rifle to blow the front hood off of a car, forcing it to crash.
- Hand-to-hand combat: Reese is highly trained in close-quarters battle and hand-to-hand combat. He was able to defeat a gang of punks on a subway with little to no effort. He mostly uses these skills in certain emergency situations, such as when a person of interest is about to be taken hostage. His skills are advanced enough that only a few people have been able to fight him for significant periods of time, let alone defeat him. His fighting style appears to be mix of Krav Maga and Wing Chun.
- Indomitable will/High tolerance for pain: Reese has an unbreakable will and a remarkably high threshold for pain. He was once tortured with electricity in Kandahar simply for refusing to give his captors his name. When former Stasi agent Ulrich Kohl was looking for his wife, he tortured Reese by punching needles into specific nerves on his body, such as the humerus, and Reese never cracked. ("Foe") In addition, after Carter's death, he went on a one-man search for her killer, even though critically wounded from gunshot wounds. ("The Devil's Share")
- Strategist/Tactician: Reese is shown to be intelligent, and he can quickly come up with tactics and strategies to subdue his opponents with ease. He has also been shown to be able to identify former military personnel by their tactics.
- Pickpocketing: Reese has been shown to be able to pickpocket people, as he regularly picks people's pockets to determine who they are or grab keys to information.
- Lockpicking: Reese is skilled at lockpicking and surreptitious entry as shown when he was able to get out of the restraints on a chair when Zoe Morgan discretely passed him a paperclip. ("The Fix")
- Surveillance: As a part of his job, Reese regularly spies on persons of interest by cloning their phones, hacking their emails, and following them from afar.
- Espionage: Reese is good at blending in and "hiding in plain sight." He has been able to go undercover in more than one situation and play a convincing role, such as in when he went undercover as a new driver for the fixer he was following. ("The Fix")
- Interrogation: Reese knows how to get people to talk. In "Judgment", he showed this to the letter. He first captured one member of a gang and threw him in the trunk of his car and drove around an open track recklessly to get information about a kidnapping. When he captured another member, he untied the first member's hands and offered him a burger if he could get their boss' name from the second member, which he did.
Awards and DecorationsEdit
|Combat Infantryman Badge|
|1st Row||Bronze Star Medal "V"Valor Device|
|2nd Row||Purple Heart||Meritorious Service Medal|
|3rd Row||Joint Service Commendation Medal||
Army Commendation Medal
|4th Row||Army Achievement Medal||Good Conduct Medal||National Defense Service Medal|
|5th Row||Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal||Southwest Asia Service Medal Two Bronze Service Stars||Armed Forces Service Medal|
|6th Row||Humanitarian Service Medal||Army Service Ribbon||Overseas Service Ribbon|
|7th Row||Multinational Force and Observers Medal||Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)||Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)|
Right side of chest:
- 1st Special Forces Regiment distinctive unit insignia
- Army Meritorious Unit Commendation
- Reese's name plate
- Special Forces Tab (completed Special Forces Qualification Course)
- Airborne Tab (completed Army Basic Parachute "Jump" School)
- Ranger Tab (completed Ranger School)
- Special Forces Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
- The U.S. Army Green Berets have a prominent history, with recent distinguished service including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.
- To enter the Army Special Forces, one must be 20 years old. According to the Machine, Reese joined the military on January 15, 1993, though the ribbons on his uniform show that he joined the military a few years earlier (either 1989 or 1990). It is likely that he previously served with an infantry unit prior to applying for Special Forces.
- John's uniform shows the green Combat Leadership insignia that is issued to senior non-commissioned officers (NCO's) on Special Forces teams.
- One of his medals is the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), awarded between January 17, 1991 and February 28, 1991. From this is can be concluded that Reese served during Operation Desert Storm.
- In John's unit in Tikrit (Iraq) they used Belgian Malinois dogs. They only use Dutch commands and John knows some of those commands. ("The Contingency")
- Reese can speak fluent Spanish ("Cura Te Ipsum") and seems to understand Chinese and Russian. ("Matsya Nyaya") ("Masquerade")
- Reese's sidearm of choice is a Sig-Sauer P226R, but occasionally he uses a Kriss Vector, or a Coharie Arms CA-415. In Ordos, he uses a Jericho 941 RPSL Semi Compact, and an MP-7.
- Reese has used a Kershaw Tanto Blur (Model 1670TBLKST) in Season 1 and Season 3.
- Reese has shown to be an expert in hand-to-hand combat and self defense.
- It is probable that Reese was a Weapons Sergeant (18B - usually Sergeants First Class) in the Special Forces, as he shows extensive knowledge of firearms and can wield many types of firearms. During his time with the Green Berets and the CIA, he may have received (cross)training in various types of (improvised) explosives.
- Finch supplies Reese with fake identities: 6 cover identities (a glimpse of a Canadian passport), and drivers licenses from South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois and 2 from New York State. ("Pilot")
- Reese uses the badge and name of both Detective James Stills and Marshal Brad Jennings several times. He also uses a police uniform in "No Good Deed" and full SWAT gear in "Get Carter" as he plans to intervene in a possible assassination attempt on Detective Carter during a police raid.
- For his birthday in 2012, Finch gives Reese an apartment at 810 Baxter Street, Apartment 5A. ("Many Happy Returns")
- The prefix in his social security number (380) suggests that Reese received his SSN from Michigan.
- It is established that John Reese is originally from Puyallup, Washington, which is 95 miles away from Mount Vernon, Washington, the real life birthplace of Jim Caviezel, who portrays Reese.
- Reese wears a Resco Patriot RDP09P-BL watch.
- John knows how to play baccarat. ("All In") He also knows how to play Xiangqi, a game of strategy sometimes called "Chinese Chess". ("Many Happy Returns")
- He is the new ADMIN for the machine since "Zero Day", replacing Harold. (For 24 hours)
- Reese displays a certain level of ambidexterity while handling weapons, efficiently switching the grip to the hand that provides tactical advantage, i.e., to his left hand just before securing a right turn.
- Indicated he could fly a helicopter in "Firewall".
- Reese retrieves and collects guns from illegal sources he encounters in the course of his work. He explains that although Finch can get him whatever he wants, legally purchased weapons would be too easy for the authorities to trace back to him and Finch.
- Just like Jack Salazar, Reese enlisted in the Army in order to avoid jail. ("Liberty")
- Reese is an expert at lockpicking and picking pockets.
Nicknames and AliasesEdit
- Main article: John Reese/Aliases
With John being his real name ("Many Happy Returns"), he often uses the name to introduce himself to people he is involved with. Carter and Mark Snow only refer to him as John while Finch usually calls him "Mr. Reese".
- Before he meets Carter formally for the first time, she referrs to him as "the man in a suit".
- Fusco occasionally calls him "Wonderboy". ("Many Happy Returns") He has only called Reese by his first name three times ("Bury the Lede") ("Prisoner's Dilemma") ("Endgame") and as "Reese" several times in "The Devil's Share".
- When he was working undercover with a person of interest, Tommy Clay, he was nicknamed Johnny. ("Matsya Nyaya")
- Among all aliases, the identity "John Warren" is the only clean one and the one that is most close to Reese's real past. He has only used this alias once so far. ("Prisoner's Dilemma")
- Finch created an arrest report to support Reese's cover identity when he goes to see Andrea Gutierrez. Born February 4, 1937, 5' 10" tall. Arrested for aggravated murder (top code 125.26) on February 1, 1984.("Legacy")
- In the pilot, the Forensic Tech asks Carter if John is the "Angel of Death". ("Pilot")
- James Stills
- Samuel Douglas
- Ulrich Kohl
- Neil Vargas
- Ian Davidson
- Peter Arndt
Images of John Reese