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John Reese


Played byJim Caviezel
Jack Davis (young John)

NameJohn H. (last name unknown, Begins with "Tal", ends with "s")

AliasJohn Reese
Detective Stills
John Rooney
John Riley

NicknameThe Man in the Suit (given By Carter)
Wonderboy (By Fusco)
The Big Lug (By Fusco & Root)
Crockett (By Frankie Wells)
Tall, Dark, and Deranged (By Fusco)
Mr. Tall Dark and Fearsome (By Fusco)
Captain America (By Shaw)
Our mutual friend (By Fusco)
The bane of my existence (By Fusco)
Mr. Happy (By Fusco)
Mr. Fabulous (By Fusco)
Partner (By Fusco)
Helper Monkey (By Root)
Angel of Death (by unknown man in Pilot)
Mr. Sunshine (by Fusco)
Primary Asset (by The Machine))
Wilkes Booth (by Shaw)
Poorly Socialised Guard Dog (By Shaw)

Intro IDID.008/2720.10 (opener in many episodes)
ID.411/0106.15 (“If-Then-Else”)


Date of birthMay 4

Date of deathNovember 13, 2015

Social Security #380-00-0050

OccupationFreelance Private Investigator
Central Intelligence Agency Operative (formerly)
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class (formerly)

ResidenceApartment 5A, 810 Baxter St., New York, NY, USA

OriginPuyallup, Washington, USA

FamilyJessica Arndt - ex-girlfriend (deceased)
Conor - father (deceased)
Margaret - mother (deceased)
Sophie - sister (deceased)

AffiliationCIA (formerly)
U.S. Army (formerly)
The Machine

AssociatesHarold Finch
Joss Carter
Lionel Fusco
Sameen Shaw

First appearancePilot

Last appearancereturn 0

Mission Creep
Blue Code
Matsya Nyaya
Many Happy Returns
Prisoner's Dilemma
The Devil's Share
Terra Incognita
Truth Be Told
return 0

Images (437)

I traveled the world looking for bad guys, but there were plenty of you right here all along.

— Reese

John Reese is the alias of a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and CIA National Clandestine Service (NCS) Special Activities Division (SAD) officer 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. When Samaritan went online and actively started searching for Reese, the Machine created a new alias for him, John Riley, a narcotics detective with the NYPD. He is soon transferred to homicide at the same precinct as Detective Lionel Fusco, and became his partner. Reese is also known as "the Man in the Suit" or "guy in the suit" by law enforcement and criminals pursuing him.

About Him

Living… as a vagrant on the streets of New York City when Harold Finch finds and recruits him. Finch brings him into a different world, one where a mysterious Machine provides social security numbers of people who are either going to perpetrate or be victims of a violent crime.

Profession… employed (unofficially) by Finch as a kind of vigilante. Reese is Finch’s man on the ground to track down and stop the violent crimes that the Machine tells Finch about. Previously employed by the military and then the CIA, Reese was officially killed in action, but actually survived. As a man who’s not even technically alive, Reese is the perfect fit for Finch’s secretive operation.

Interests… drinking and martial arts movies, at least prior to Finch picking him up off the street. After he begins working with Finch, he reverts back to his earlier interests – working out and guns.

Relationship Status… single, with no friends and no family. Before his recruitment into the CIA, he was in a relationship with Jessica Arndt, but he broke things off when he became a special-ops agent.

Challenge…. working with Finch to track down the perpetrators and victims that the Machine spits out. Finch originally built the Machine for the government to detect terrorism, but it didn’t end up functioning precisely as designed. In fact, it detected all premeditated violent crime, against regular civilians as well as nationally significant targets. The government wasn’t interested in ordinary people, however, so Finch took it upon himself to save the “irrelevant” citizens. Because Finch is physically disabled, he needs the military-trained Reese to actually carry out the missions.

Personality… intense, focused, and level-headed in dangerous situations. Reese has a dry, dark sense of humor toward the criminals he has to deal with. When he chooses a cause, he is incredibly loyal to it. Reese’s demeanor is so calm as to be inscrutable. Although Finch knows more about him than he knows about Finch, he has almost as many aliases as Finch. For instance, John Reese is not his real name.


Early Life

John was an adopted child that had no contact with his birth family, although whether or not they were alive is unknown (“Truth Be Told”) .John was close with his adoptive father, Conor, and claims that when John was eight Conor tried to teach him how to drive and he damaged some neighbors' property (“Point of Origin”). It is mentioned that Conor was an Army soldier and died shortly after returning from his fourth combat tour in Vietnam when John was a child (“Lethe”). He went back into a situation described as being "the gates of Hell" and gave his life to save four people. The death of his adoptive father in such a heroic way inspired John to save lives himself (“return 0”). John's adoptive mother, Margaret, also died and his claim that he had no siblings would suggest that he didn't have a chance to know his sister, Sophie, who may have died before he joined the family (“Truth Be Told”). John claims to be the one who kept the school bullies in line during his academic career (“Point of Origin”). At some point, he was forced to choose between jail or enlisting in 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”).

Military Career

John H. --s, the name on his military records, rose to the rank of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, having served as an infantryman, Ranger, Special Forces Soldier ("Green Beret"), and Operator in the Combat Application Group (CAG: formerly known as "1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta" (1st SFOD-D), and popularly known as "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/Season 1”). His military personnel file confirms he is from Puyallup, Washington and enlisted at Fort Lewis, Washington. His Social Security number (SSN) 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/Season 1”).

John with Jessica in Mexico (“Pilot”)

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 re-enlist (“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.

At some point while overseas, Reese was captured and tortured with electricity for sixteen hours for just his name. He never broke (“Foe”).

With the CIA

At some point in 2005, Reese joins the CIA as a Paramilitary Operations Officer in the Special Activities Division (SAD) of CIA's National Clandestine Service (NCS) (“The Devil's Share”).


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 operation.

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 this life. Reese then slams her into a wall and says that he loves his work, and they kiss (“Prisoner's Dilemma”).


Reese and Stanton meet with CIA operative Beale, who was the person that selected Reese for his position. Beale compliments Reese on his test scores before giving them their assignment, which is to investigate Paul Duncan who may be stealing from a co-operative project between the CIA and the Pentagon called "Desert Rain" which supplied light arms to the Afghan National Police and Army. The operation was being conducted without congressional approval.

He and Stanton question Duncan and search his accommodations. Reese shoots Duncan when he begins to demand they leave and Stanton uncovers the money under a false back in his briefcase. Stanton tells Reese that the real reason Beale chose him was that he had nothing to lose and nothing to go back to, with his adoptive family being dead and having walked away from Jessica without hesitation. John says he only walked away because he had to, and Stanton reinforces that they don't get to have normal lives (“Truth Be Told”).

Reese and Stanton are later assigned 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 Reese confronts him at gunpoint. Casey turns around and begs for his life when Reese gets a call from Stanton. Reese purposely misses shooting him 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 is 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 finds 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”).


John after returning to New Rochelle from Ordos.

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. Unbeknownst to him, Finch has also been investigating Jessica, and presumably him, as part of the Contingency operations. Reese bumps into Finch's chair on the way out of the hospital where Jessica worked, but is not paying attention, unlike Finch, who double checks Reese against the soldier pictured in the file with Jessica (“Many Happy Returns”).

Reese later begins to live anonymously in a homeless encampment. He is looked out for by a woman named Joan (“Risk”).

Working with Harold Finch

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 tells Reese of 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 later returns 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 didn't initially 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”).

Reese and Finch eventually save the life of Sameen Shaw, a government assassin on the run after being betrayed by her employers, and Shaw eventually becomes part of their team (“Relevance”).

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”).

Reese searches for Simmons (“The Devil's Share”)

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 flees to 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”).

Reese and Holly, a flight attendant (“4C”)

In an attempt to leave the team behind, Reese boards an international flight to Istanbul, but the flight is mysteriously switched to one to 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 returns to its old form rather quickly upon returning 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”).

Having returned to New York, Reese helps Finch run surveillance on Sandra Nicholson, a 911 Trainee Supervisor, where Finch has gone undercover as a 911 Call Center employee. Reece and Shaw head over to rescue Aaron, a young boy who's the target of a kidnapping, when he calls Sandra, who directs the police to the same location. However, both the team and the police arrive too late as the kidnappers have heard Aaron's low battery signal and located him. When Finch brings up the footage of the kidnapping, Reese realizes that the kidnappers are not ex-military, based on their lack of tactics, and identifies them as Templarios, a Mexican kidnapping gang, based on the ring on a gang-member's hand. Reese calls Fusco and the detective confirms that the Templarios hang out at El Certero, a local bar. Reese goes into the bar and spots the man, Solano, wearing a number of piercings. The other Templarios come over and Reese advises them to let him through. When they refuse, Reese admits that he was hoping they'd choose the hard way.

Shaw arrives at the bar as Reese finishes knocking out the last one. They turn to Solano, who tells them that the caller pays him anonymously and there's nothing more he can tell them. Shaw grabs a pair of pliers and turns to Solano, demanding to know where they're keeping Aaron.

Then, Reese and Shaw proceed to the location where the Templarios hold Aaron and, using a suit as a decoy, befuddle the gang members long enough to take down a few of them. Reese identifies the bomb on Aaron, and as he prepares to charge in, Shaw delays him and says that she'll clear the way. She starts taking them down one by one, while Reese starts defusing the bomb. While working on the bomb, Reese tries to distract Aaron by talking about baseball. He cuts the last wire with just seconds to spare, just as Shaw takes out the last Templario.

Later, he and Shaw join Finch at a park where Finch met Sandra, after Sandra has left. Finch thanks them for their help. When the mysterious caller who had orchestrated the kidnapping calls up Finch via the relay, after hanging up, Finch tells Reese and Shaw that the call was of no consequence, while discarding the battery of the relay phone, to prevent tracking (“Last Call”).

Reese then helps Finch when both Finch and Root independently receive the number of Cyrus Wells, a janitor who has retinal access to Maxwell Limited, a front for the NSA, which has a micro-processor on its premises which can run Samaritan. Reese helps the team fight off attacks from both Vigilance and Decima, either alone, or teaming up with Shaw and Fusco, depending on the situation. When Decima capture Cyrus and use him to access the room where the chip is stored, Reese and Fusco fire at them, providing cover while Root successfully rescues Cyrus, while unarmed and taking a bullet in the shoulder, as Cyrus is afraid of guns. However, they lose the chip to Decima (“Root Path (/)”).

In the Library, Reese and Finch evaluate a new number's, Maria Martinez records and activities. After Finch then gets a call from Root, who is following Greer in a subway station, Reese leaves the Library and sits with Shaw at a diner where Maria and her associate are meeting. The man Maria is talking to mentions something about his brother being released, and Finch identifies the man as Jamal Risha, brother of Omar Risha, who was recently detained at JFK airport under accusations of terrorist activities. Jamal, meanwhile, gives Maria an envelope, which Reese suspects of having a bomb inside. Reese says he'll follow Jamal while Shaw decides to go after Maria.

He and Finch later pose as international officials and meet with Rene LaPointe - a French diplomat part of the UN which Maria secretly watched and placed the GPS tracker she took from the warehouse underneath his car, at his office. Finch requests that LaPointe allow them to look at the paperwork naming Omar a terrorist and LaPointe agrees to let them do so, but only in his office. He says the letter is from the Ministry of the Interior, which Reese points out is full of corrupt people. LaPointe responds by saying that two terrorists also posing as translators were caught in Kentucky. Finch takes it into consideration and thanks LaPointe for his time before leaving.

Reese is present when Maria is taken to Finch's safe house. After hearing about Omar's situation, Reese suggests that they have Omar meet with his lawyer and implies that Finch can pose as one.

Finch is watching Omar get taken into a truck for deportation because of his knowledge involving the generators and Ken Davis and tells Reese that he is going to pursue them. Reese poses as a truck driver and knocks out the other guard and drives Omar to safety. Shaw reports to Finch that Maria is headed off to LaPointe's office and they both know she will almost certainly die. Reese, Fusco, and Omar arrive at the building posing as firefighters after receiving a smoke call that was started by Shaw. They enter the building, but are confronted by more hitmen. Shaw fires another smoke grenade in the building and it blinds the men who are taken down by Reese and Fusco. They manage to rescue Maria and cleared all of diplomatic immunity involving Sevon and arrested by the NYPD for the murder of LaPointe. After Maria's case concludes, Finch tells Reese, in the Library, that Davis hasn't been heard from and could be anywhere (“Allegiance”).

Reese and Shaw are watching their latest number, Leona Wainwright, who Finch says works at the office of personnel management and is living in Washington D.C. Leona gets in a taxi and Reece gets out to approach the taxi Leona got into, only to find a man pointing a gun to her head. When he gets close, the man reveals a grenade and the car explodes.

Finch announces that they got a new number, Matthew Reed, and assign Reese and Shaw to Westchester under the aliases Frank Mercer and Betty Harris while Finch and Fusco go to D.C. to investigate Vigilance who are involved in Leona's murder. Reese and Shaw arrive at East Springs High School in Westchester where a high school reunion is taking place. The job is mostly uneventful, with the only notable thing is Reese gets slapped by three different women which Shaw explains that is because he became engaged with a brunette (the first woman to slap him), but then had an affair with a blonde (the second girl), only to have another affair with a redhead (the third girl), whose mother he seduced. They found out that Matthew's girlfriend Claire Klein was found death in his car because of a drug overdose and she is Doug's - the caterer of the dance - best friend and secret crush. Reese leaves while Toke talks to a man named Phil in order to call Fusco to ask for the police report on Claire's death. The bowling alley's lights suddenly turn off and the TV screens switch to images from Claire's death. Matthew appears frightened and leaves. During the ballroom dancing event, Reese and Shaw spot Doug chatting with Phil. Balloons begin to fall, but a mannequin of Claire falls with it; Matthew leaves. Reese asks Toke if he's seen any suspicious activity and Toke points out Phil's increase in height and masculinity. He follows Phil into the kitchen where they begin to fight. Toke walks in and Phil grabs him, threatening to kill him unless Reese drops his cleaver. Reese does but then throws a plate immediately afterwards, hitting Phil's leg and tripping him. Reese quickly knocks out Phil and finds a picture on him. He gets down to wake him up, but Phil dies, having consumed cyanide. Reese realizes Phil is a Vigilance member - the photo has a picture of Reese and Shaw. He places Phil's body in a cooler, pointing out that Phil was sent to observe them. Shaw sees Alice and several others unpacking hydrocodone prescriptions out of the goodie bags, the same drug that happened to kill Claire. Shaw gets a text on her phone from Claire, saying to meet her at the chemistry lab. She sees that the message was sent to Doug, realizing he's the one being terrorized, which means Matthew is the perpetrator. It was revealed that Doug accidentally killed Claire in an attempt to calm her down and ultimately to help her feel relaxed while having sex. After convincing Matthew to spare Doug, they get attacked by Vigilance. They ultimately defeat Vigilance while keeping Matthew's alive and got Doug arrested (“Most Likely To...”).

Reese and Shaw are having breakfast in a diner as they watch the breaking news involving the leaking of the black budget, and eventually the "Northern Lights" program, by Vigilance leader Peter Collier. The Machine produces the number of one congressman Roger McCourt: head of the House of Rules Committee and an outspoken opponent of the government's surveillance system. This could imply that Samaritan wants him dead. Reese poses as a Secret Service agent assigned to the congressman in order to keep an eye on his him and assess the possible threats. Reese discovered Decima agents following McCourt and later, with the help of Finch, it becomes apparent that Decima wasn't trying to kill McCourt- rather they were trying to protect him from Reese and company. They realize that McCourt made a deal with Greer that would provide Samaritan with the NSA feeds for New York which would move Samaritan one step closer to coming into existence. Thus, the Machine, having felt gravely threatened for the first time, produced a number for the Team to kill off rather than to protect. Reese and Shaw were ready to go through with the Machine's plan but Finch tried to persuade them against such an act arguing that if they start taking kill orders from the Machine, they are no better than Decima. They decided against killing McCourt and Reese, Shaw and Finch were able to escape (“Death Benefit”).

Following the events of “Death Benefit”, Finch disappeared and Shaw and Reese are seen to be freelancing (example: Shaw preventing a store from being robbed by an employee). Root appears and, while she tries to guide them through the streets away from the prying eyes of Samaritan, she receives a number from the Machine which turns out to be that of Grace. It is revealed that, in an effort to locate Finch, Samaritan has targeted the closest living connection to him which inadvertently led to the identification of Grace. Reese arrived at Grace's apartment just in time to save her from a Decima operative posing as a driver. Reese takes her to the eighth precinct and when it becomes encircled by Decima agents, the Team manage to create a distraction to drive her away. But they are cut short and Grace is taken. Reese and Shaw locate the place where Grace was being held but arrive too late - just in time to listen to Greer's demands. Finch is found sitting outside of Grace's apartment and agrees to Greer's terms to be taken captive in exchange for Grace. Reese tried to dissuade Finch but to no avail. After the exchange, Reese informs Grace that she has been accepted for a job in Italy and advises her to start afresh (“Beta”).

In “A House Divided”, Reese and Shaw continue to search for Finch by unsuccessfully chasing down Decima agents. Root arrives and takes them to a van which hides several Samaritan servers along with Daizo, Greenfield, and Casey. After Root sends Shaw to surveil a hotel, where Control and other key people of the government are due to meet, she and Reese enter a coffee shop to monitor a man who turns out to be a Vigilance member. After discovering that Vigilance has uploaded a Stuxnet virus into the power grid which is set to create a blackout, Reese goes to the aid of Shaw - who inadvertently finds out that Control and her company are the victims in this case due to the insurgence of Vigilance. Finding out that the Machine produced Greer's number, putting Finch in imminent risk, Reese and Shaw, with Hersh's help, arrive at an empty office building where Finch was kept hostage by Greer only to find a TV monitor setup by Collier, broadcasting the kangaroo-court he helped orchestrate.

Amidst the chaos of the blackout, the three set out to find the courthouse where Collier is keeping Finch and the others hostage. After receiving a call from Root, Shaw realizes that Root is going on a suicide mission alone. Reese sends Shaw to help Root. Disguising themselves as Vigilance members, who are running amok in the streets, Reese and Hersh trick one of them to disclosing the location of the courthouse and, at the same time, Fusco arrives with Bear. Upon arriving at the courthouse, they discover six Vigilance members already shot to death by some other group which turns out to be Decima. A shootout ensues in the courthouse and Hersh discovers a bomb set to explode once the power comes back on. Although Reese managed to escape and prevent Lambert from killing Finch, Hersh was unable to diffuse to bomb which exploded, taking the lives of a number of reporters and police officers. Once back in the Library, Reese tends to Finch's wounds when Root calls them to inform them that Samaritan could not be stopped since any chances of stopping it vanished when they failed to kill the congressman. She tells them about the new identities the Machine created for them. Reese and Finch are seen vacating the Library and parting ways (“Deus Ex Machina”).

Season 4

Reese and Finch meet (Panopticon)

From the beginning of the fourth season, Reese is known as John Riley who is an NYPD detective working undercover for narcotics. He meets Finch (now known as Harold Whistler) to talk about resuming their work much to Finch's dismay. Reese begins investigating a new number Ali Hasan who is being threatened by a new gang called "the Brotherhood" to create them a secure, private communications network. Reese and Fusco come to learn about all this after Hasan unsuccessfully tries to kill one of the gang members, Link, by creating a cellphone bomb. With the help of Elias, Reese finds the address to the house where the Brotherhood is keeping Hasan's son along with their supply of heroin. Aided by Shaw and some of Elias' men, Reese is able to save Hasan's son. Later, it is seen that Reese has been promoted to a homicide detective. He sits on the desk opposite to Fusco where Carter used to sit (“Panopticon”).

Reese once again meets a reluctant Finch to discuss a new number Claire Mahoney. He manages to bring Finch into a fold and they both begin to track her whereabouts. In Claire's apartment, Reese recovers her hard drive and encounters a man claiming to be her father and voices out his concerns over her safety. Reese discovers Claire standing in the middle of the road, saving her. Then they see the man claiming to be Claire's father arriving at the scene. Claire denies that the man is her father, claiming that he is dead. Reese fights off the impersonator and his cohort, letting Claire escape in the process. Finch discovers that Claire, and others like her, are part of a scavenger hunt and stumbles onto the shocking discovery that the source is Samaritan which is using the game as a recruitment process. They discover that Claire is after digital documents that would incriminate a private military organization called Silverpool for war crimes. Reese and Shaw were able to save Claire from the Silverpool's men but could not stop her from being recruited by Samaritan (“Nautilus”).

In Wingman, Reese comes under scrutiny from his Captain for his excessive use of fire arms and diverting attention away from his active cases. Despite this, Reese is able to assist Fusco with a number as well as solve his pending cases. However, his cover as a homicide detective gets increasingly disruptive to the more unrestricted routine he was previously accustomed to. He works closely with DEA agent Erica Lennox when siblings Malcolm and Tracie Booker are targeted by Dominic and the Brotherhood after Malcolm steals their money after a botched heroin deal with the Armenians. Reese and Lennox bring the kids to a safe house and try to obtain the location where Malcolm hid the money. He later finds out that Lennox is the mole in the DEA and on the run with the Brotherhood closing in on their location. Reese and Fusco engage in a gun fight when they discover that Malcolm has given himself up to the Brotherhood. Reese manages to save him after showing Link a photo where Shaw threatens to burn down their heroin stash (“Brotherhood”). Being involved in a lot of questionable shooting incidents in recent times, Reese is temporarily assigned to desk duty and must attend mandatory sessions with a psychologist (“Prophets”). Finch assigns him to investigate a new number, insurance officer Walter Dang, who appears to be posing as a detective on his own investigation on the apparent suicide of Abel Mindler- the brother of his co worker Elena Mindler. Dang finds himself in trouble during one of his investigations but is saved by Reese. Reese brings Dang to the precinct and, while Reese and Fusco mull over Dang being a fake cop, he slips away. It turns out that Abel was transporting rifles that use high-explosive rounds for someone named "the Armorer". Dang is kidnapped by the Armorer's men and Reese and Fusco track them down. A gun fight ensues, however Elias and his men arrive to back them up (“Pretenders”).


After a copy of Samaritan is uploaded to a satellite, Reese and the Machine trick Finch onto the wrong rooftop while Reese sacrifices himself to upload a copy of the Machine to destroy Samaritan. Reese tells Finch that he'd spent so long trying to save the world that when he went to work for Finch, saving one life at a time didn't seem like enough to him. However, Reese explains that he has come to realize that saving one life- if its the right life- can make a real difference. Reese and the Machine are able to get Finch to leave as Reese single-handedly holds off Samaritan agents with the help of the dying Machine in God Mode. Reese is eventually gunned down, but not before the Machine's copy uploads to Samaritan's satellite. As the Samaritan three surviving agents approach the dying Reese, a cruise missile fired by Samaritan as a counter-measure destroys the building they are on, killing Reese and the agents. Reese's sacrifice enables the Machine to finally destroy Samaritan. Finch honors his sacrifice by returning to his fiancée and a normal life.

Later was seen a grave in a military graveyard, with the name "John Tal...", implying to be Reese's resting place.(“return 0”).


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”). He has also shown a great deal of dislike towards men who abuse their wives. This is most prominent in “Many Happy Returns” where Reese takes an active interest in stopping Marshall Jennings pursuing his wife. There was a point in the episode where both Finch and Carter feared that Reese's anger would get the better of him and he would kill Jennings. In the end, Jennings was framed and imprisoned in a Mexican jail.

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 own curiosity (“Identity Crisis”).

While strapped into 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”). During his time in the CIA, it was clear that Reese was unlike most of the other operatives employed by them- often questioning his partner, Kara Stanton, about the reasons behind carrying out executions. This nature of his has been exemplified when he spares Daniel Casey, telling him that he stared at the eyes of traitors and that he is not one of them. Finch overhears the conversation which is most likely what prompts him to recruit Reese in the future (“RAM”).

Skills and Talents

  • 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 for sixteen hours 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”). In one incident, while in a gunfight, he is struck in the armoured vest and simply stops for a moment before continuing to fight.
  • 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. Not surprisingly, he can quote from Sun-Tzu's The Art of War (“Wolf and Cub”).
  • Pickpocketing: Reese has been shown to be able to pickpocket people to determine who they are or grab keys to information. He lifted the wallets from three other candidates for a bodyguard job, thus showing them to be incompetent (“Masquerade”).
  • Lock picking: Reese is skilled at lock picking 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 order to get information about a kidnapping, he captured one member of a gang and threw him in the trunk of his car and drove around an open track recklessly. 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 (“Judgment”).
  • Weapons Maintenance: Reese is shown to be accurizing or cleaning multiple weapons through the series, including handguns, automatic rifles, and even bolt action marksman rifles.

Awards and Decorations

Pilot” and “Many Happy Returns” both offer a glimpse of Reese's uniform. The following are the awards and decorations visible on it, in order of precedence:

Profile foto reese.jpg
John's uniform.jpg
Combat Infantryman Badge
1st Row Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for Valor
2nd Row Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal
3rd Row Joint Service Commendation Medal Army Commendation Medal Joint Service Achievement Medal
4th Row Army Achievement Medal Good Conduct Medal with bronze clasp with loops (numerous awards) National Defense Service Medal
5th Row Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Service Star devices 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 (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait)

Right chest:

  • 1st Special Forces Regiment distinctive unit insignia (DUI)
  • Army Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Reese's name plate

Left sleeve:

  • Special Forces Tab (Special Forces qualified: i.e., successfully completed the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course)
  • Ranger Tab (Ranger qualified: i.e., successfully completed the U.S. Army Ranger School)
  • Special Forces shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) (Note: The "Airborne Tab" is authorized and worn as an integral part of the SSI)


  • The U.S. Army Special Forces (popularly known as the "Green Berets") have a prominent history with recent distinguished service, including Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among other areas of operations.
  • To apply to the U.S. Army Special Forces, a Soldier must be at least 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 attending assessment and selection for Special Forces.
  • John's uniform shows the green leaders identification insignia that is issued to senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) 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, it can be inferred that Reese served during Operation Desert Storm.
  • John's unit in Tikrit, Iraq used Belgian Malinois dogs. They only use Dutch commands and John knows some of those commands (“The Contingency”).
  • John is also tagged as "Primary Asset" by The Machine (“If-Then-Else”) (“YHWH”) (“SNAFU”).


I offered you a job, Mr. Reese. I didn't say it would be easy. — Harold Finch, Pilot


  • Reese can speak fluent Spanish (“Cura Te Ipsum”) and seems to understand Chinese, Russian and Dutch (“Matsya Nyaya”) (“Masquerade”) (“The Contingency”).
  • Reese’s main motorcycle is a Triumph Street Triple 675. Other motorcycles John uses can be seen in this list here.
  • Reese's weapon 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. As a detective of the NYPD, he is sometimes seen using a Glock 17 along with a Glock 26 as a backup weapon (“Prophets”) (“Terra Incognita”). Detective Fusco and some NYPD officers are also armed with the Glock 17. In reality, the Glock 19 is the only Glock approved for onduty carry by NYPD officers.
  • 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.
  • Reese writes with his left hand (“Pilot”) (“Panopticon”). He displays a certain level of ambidexterity while handling weapons, efficiently switching the grip to the hand that provides tactical advantage, e.g., to his left hand just before securing a right turn.
  • It is probable that Reese was a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (MOS 18B - usually Sergeants First Class), as he shows extensive knowledge of firearms and can wield many types of firearms. During his time with the Special Forces and 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 driver licenses from South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, and 2 from New York (“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.
  • Reese tells Adam Saunders that the four months he lived in anonymity in a homeless encampment were the safest of his life (“Risk”).
  • 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”).
  • Reese was one of The Machine's admins when he and Root were in 'God Mode' for 24 hours. (“God Mode”)
  • 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 lock picking and picking pockets.
  • Reese and Root are the only two characters to use what Root terms God Mode where they are guided by the Machine in their actions. While Root is almost constantly in God Mode, Reese has been put in it three times, including for his last battle (“God Mode”) (“YHWH”) (“return 0”).
  • Reese tells Shaw and Fusco that he once considered joining the Secret Service but they work around the clock, have no choice in who they protect and the threats never stop coming. Fusco points out that he's basically doing the same job now after Reese explains himself (“Synecdoche”).
  • Reese is clausterphobic as realized by Shaw when they had to climb up a shoot into Fort Meade. When asked about it, Reese tells Shaw to "remember what happened to that fat German kid in Willy Wonka (“.exe”).
  • Its indicated in “return 0” that Reese's foster father sacrificing himself to save four others in Vietnam is what inspired him to take such a heroic path. The Machine, in the form of Root, revisits this moment when trying to understand the value of human life and watches him with sympathy as it does so.
  • In his final battle with Samaritan's agents, Reese is guided by the Machine in picking targets. In their final moments, Reese and the Machine fight together to protect others with the Machine at one point putting its hand on Reese's shoulder in a gesture of solidarity.
  • Reese was killed in 3 separate simulations: First, in If-Then-Else, when he used a grenade to kill himself and several Samaritan agents. The second was in 6,741, when, Shaw shot him behind his back and left him to die. The third was in .exe, where is revealed that he killed himself after losing his purpose to live. All those deaths could be a presage for Reese's death at the end of the series.
  • In "God Mode", it is revealed that Reese gives away (presumably to charity) ninety percent of what Finch pays him.

Nicknames and Aliases

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".
    • The nickname "man in a suit" is first mentioned by Detective Kane in “Pilot”. It is being used throughout the series when characters, for example Nicholas Donnelly, refer to Reese.
  • 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”)
  • In order to hide from Samaritan, the Machine created a completely new alias for Reese, John Riley.
  • John Riley's SSN is 498-00-3145.
  • His real SSN (380-00-0050) can be seen in Finch's list from Pilot.

Notable victims

POI 0502 Reese Primary Asset Identified.png

In “SNAFU” it is revealed that Reese is responsible for 62 deaths.