While the last episode was almost all fun and games and hunting down some of the world’s most notorious murderers, “Headquarters!” did end on a pretty serious cliffhanger, as Brian finally sat down with his dad to fill him in on all things NZT. (Well, maybe not all things NZT. It was definitely a good idea to keep Edward Morra’s involvement out of it.) Finally telling Dennis about what he’s been doing for the past few weeks is a huge weight off of Brian’s chest, but it’s a weight that’s immediately transferred to his father, as Dennis promptly starts trying to figure out how to get Brian out of the FBI and away from NZT.
Dennis raises some pretty logical questions, and it’s true: Brian’s situation is kind of shady, both ethically and legally. Sure, it’s nice to have a guy who can use his brain superpowers to catch criminals, but it’s hard to imagine a bunch of bureaucrats from the FBI — an agency that literally has the word “bureau” in its name — signing off on a program that provides an illegal, untested drug to a guy who, just a few weeks ago, was in a band solo project called Reabsorbed Twin. Brian’s dad seems to be the only person who realizes how absurd this whole thing is.
But Brian can’t focus on the fact that his dad is gearing up for a highly publicized legal battle against his bosses: He’s got a murderer to catch! After last episode teased out a little more of Boyle’s backstory, we now get a series of full-blown flashbacks, introducing one of Boyle’s old army ranger buddies: Aaron Shaw. Aaron lost his arm to an IED several years ago, and after years down on his luck, Boyle pulled some strings to get him a state-of-the-art bionic arm, which functions almost exactly as if he were born with it. All is well, and Aaron’s life seems to be on the up and up again, until he calls 911 to report that his wife has been strangled — by his own arm, which he says was being controlled as if it had a life of its own.
This is, of course, insane, so Boyle recruits Brian to see if they can back up Aaron’s story. They head to CRAFT, the high-level tech research facility that built the arm, to meet with Quentin Walker, who’s essentially the real-life version of James Bond’s Q. Quentin and his team get to do all sorts of cool things, including but not limited to designing Terminator arms and designing jetpacks that allow people to run really, really fast. So yeah, he’s definitely Q. He says the arm is entirely unhackable, which Brian, of course, takes as a challenge. Never mind the fact that Brian’s knowledge of hacking is based entirely in pop culture and involves a lot of fast, dramatic typing, sprinkled with phrases like, “I’m in.” He reaches out to a hacktivist group called Everywhere to instruct him in the basics, and after a few days of practice, he’s done it. No sweat.
But it doesn’t really matter that he’s shown that Aaron’s arm can be hacked, as dozens of arms around the country start to prove his point and go haywire, sparking — you guessed it — arm-ageddon. But the attacks seem random, and while Aaron’s arm committed murder, others only trigger light mayhem, like pressing all the buttons in an elevator. It doesn’t seem like there’s any clear goal to all this madness, and the only thing these events have in common is the arms, which suggests that somebody’s trying to sabotage the project.
NEXT: Arms race
After interviewing all of the employees and contractors who worked on the arms, Brian singles out one of the engineers, Ellen Kang, who he believes might be one of the radical Everywhere activists who helped teach him how to code. A search of Ellen’s computer reveals the code that took down the arms right there on her desktop, which is way, way too easy. So, Brian starts to wonder if she’s a patsy, and to satisfy his curiosity, he hacks the New York Stock Exchange (NBD) and figures out that a shell corporation named Eve’s Mother, based in the Cayman islands, served to profit from all that arm-related mayhem. Brian tracks the mastermind behind Eve’s Mother, a guy named Kenny Sumida, to Dubai, and with the help of Photoshop and his new friends in Everywhere (AndrewJacksonsGoiter is a great username, and one I might steal for my Twitter account), he gets Kenny extradited to the U.S., where he’s promptly arrested.
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Kenny fesses up to all the arm-related shenanigans, but he swears that he wasn’t behind the murder of Aaron’s wife. In fact, he recruited Aaron as a test subject, paying him $200,000 to let him practice hacking on his arm. Aaron, as it turns out, was in the market for an alibi to kill his wife, and when Kenny came knocking, he took advantage of it.
While this is happening, Brian’s dad is leaning on him more and more to begin his lawsuit against the FBI, even bringing in one of his lawyer friends from the ACLU. Brian’s strategy is to completely avoid confrontation (Brian and I have this in common), until Dennis shows up at the FBI and calls him out on it. Finally, Brian fesses up: He doesn’t want out. He likes what he does, and he’s good at it. A clearly dejected Dennis promises to back off, but instead, he makes a date with Naz and lays out some pretty clear threats: If anything happens to Brian, Dennis will personally deliver her head on a platter to the U.S. justice system. Dang. Naz is super annoyed, of course, as she already has enough Finch nonsense in her life, but she also looks kind of impressed.
So, one of this season’s biggest conflicts — Brian’s struggle to tell his dad the truth about NZT — has essentially been resolved, and there’s only one loose end: Senator Morra. I’m very, very surprised that Sands didn’t make an appearance in this episode to chastise Brian — or worse. The last time Brian tried to talk to his dad about NZT, Dennis almost immediately ended up in the hospital, and Brian didn’t even tell him anything. Besides, Dennis isn’t exactly hiding the fact that he knows about NZT, waltzing into the FBI offices without any sense of discretion. Either Sands needs to brush up on his surveillance skills, or he’s busy planning something particularly nasty for Brian’s father.