Let us not forget Alicia Corwin. A woman who is deeply involved in the conspiracy, who was bossing around Reese and Stanton and to whom Snow deferred. A woman who knows all about the Machine and was in a position of power when it came to Ingram’s dealings with the government and the CIA. And a woman who will seemingly go after Finch. All on her own.
I agree with you that Reese’s behaviour towards Jessica is more problematic and hero-y and Nolan-ish, though it is consistent with his personality and his gender assumptions. But while he did give her up “for her own good”, so she could have a better life, he also gave her up to devote himself to his country. It wasn’t “I’m not worthy to be with this special snowflake”, it was “my country needs me more than Jessica does, and I choose to serve it. She can be happy with someone else.”. He didn’t just leave her, he left the country and became a spy and gave up his whole life. That’s a pretty solid reason to end a relationship, I think. Plus, we saw that Jessica did make her own decision to wait for him for a while, despite what he said, and then she also made the decision to move on with her life (tragically as that ended). Ultimately, did Reese disregard Jessica’s right to choose or did he just dump her? I think it’s the latter.
I find Finch’s behaviour less problematic and I agree with zi6u83’s points. Finch said the Machine is like a virus. It has ruined countless lives, it has taken Ingram’s life. We saw his reaction when he first saw modern day Alicia. The Machine is deadly, and the less people who can be linked to it, the better. I find that understandable. The whole point is that no one can know. Finch wouldn’t even tell Reese exactly how he gets the numbers and Reese is actually aware of the Machine’s existence. I think that’s a safety precaution both for the individuals and the Machine itself. Grace is a woman, but that’s an afterthought. I feel that she just represents the normal life Finch had to give up. And that is what I actually find problematic, a woman who isn’t a character but a symbol/stereotype. But even that is somewhat understandable when you consider she is a minor character with 2 minutes of screentime. But it does remain problematic and a huge cliche.
You’re right, Alicia is awesome. I really liked her in this ep. I liked Stanton a little less after 20 but I’m hoping she’ll really pull out the stops soon. There are some great women in this show, just not the two that matter most to the main characters apparently :/
But John definitely left Jessica “for her own good.” He could have left to do his tour of duty and actually told her that was what he was doing. At that point he was in Special Forces, not the CIA. They could have had a long distance relationship like any number of servicemen. But like Jessica herself said, he left because he didn’t want her to be hurt if he died. But mostly because he’s a coward.
As for Finch, if he was THAT worried about what could happen to Grace if she found out about The Machine, why was he not more concerned when Will was asking questions about it?
Ultimately the problem isn’t the individual cases of Reese and Finch, but the fact that we got slammed with both of them back to back at the end of the season. The problem is Sameness. Why do they both have to have had the love of their life, only to reject it with no input from the women themselves? It wasn’t necessary and it cheapens all the development Finch has had thus far.
I see your point about Reese, and there’s definitely an element of “I wanted to protect you” in his actions. But I just feel that element is secondary, and that the primary motivation for Reese was 9/11 and the fact he decided to just devote himself to his country 100%, he made a conscious choice. I mean, he obviously wanted Jessica to be happy and not to get hurt, because he loved her, but I feel that she was collateral damage to his higher purpose, to his duty. He didn’t want a long distance relationship, he didn’t want to maintain any contact with his old life, he just took off as a reaction to 9/11, because he saw himself as a tool, a weapon for the army/the CIA/etc to use (which is why he became a pawn later on). For me, there wasn’t a reason for him to offer Jessica a choice; even though he loved her, he flat-out decided to leave her behind. Which happens sometimes, and which is his right. You don’t ask people if they want to be dumped, that defeats the purpose. And yeah, asking her to wait for him would indeed require courage he didn’t have, which paints him in a negative light, and he knows that. But I do think you’re right and the show is more overtly pushing the more “romantic” yet patronising angle of “I want what’s best for you and I know what that is and you don’t”. Which really is problematic. I just feel Reese’s overall personality (“I am a killing machine”) justifies his choice, if not his attitude.
And when it comes to Will I actually think that Will is already “infected”, he’s Ingram’s son so he is connected to the Machine in a very real way, even if he doesn’t know it. The higher-ups who know about the Machine are obviously aware of Will’s existence and expect questions, that’s why they’ve redacted most of Ingram’s files and made sure almost everything Will looks into will lead to a dead end (although Corwin’s name does seem to pop up a lot and that’s either a contrivance or it’s because she is no longer with the government). The questions Will asks are less about “omg is there a conspiracy?” and more about “oh hey so what did my father do with his life?”. The latter is far safer and easier to cover up, so I think Will is not a direct threat to the Machine’s secrecy, he’s a possible threat which is being closely monitored.
But I do completely agree that it’s contrived that both Reese and Finch are such martyrs who gave up on love for their duty and isn’t that sweet etc etc. Some variety would have been nice. Finch said something (maybe a lie) about having brothers, he could have left behind a family member instead of a girlfriend, for instance, and it’d be just as painful. And I also agree that it takes away some of Finch’s mystery and previous characterisation, although it also gives him a new layer and it tells us (not to mention Reese) that he did enjoy life at some point at least. But I know what you mean and I get it. I watched Lost, and I experienced the biggest disappointment EVER when Ben, the mastermind, the puppet master, was revealed to have a practically high school crush (!!!) on Juliet and to have murdered Goodwin (Brett Cullen!) because he was jealous. Like, seriously? So I feel you, reveals like these do tend to humanise/demystify characters and that’s disappointing.