Many happy returns is a birthday and anniversary greeting offering the hope that a happy day being marked will return many more times. As the title of this episode it's also an ironic reminder that Reese must live through the loss and death of his loved one again by helping Sarah Jennings to get away from her abusive husband.
Main Plot Points
The episode opens with the flashback of Reese, in February, 2011, returning wounded by Kara Stanton from Ordos, China, not caring about the wound, but heading to see Jessica as he promised.
Finch uses Reese's birthday as an excuse to exclude him from looking into the POI who is being abused by her husband.
The FBI's investigation on Reese leads Carter to the facts revolving around Jessica's death in New Rochelle in December, 2010.
Carter learns of Reese's history with Jessica and Peter Arndt and receives his personnel file. She chooses to shred it to protect Reese.
The ending suggests that Reese did not kill Peter Arndt, but that like Marshal Jennings, they are both in a Mexican prison. The warden says he has one or two other American prisoners.
The circumstances surrounding Jessica Arndt's death are revealed.
The board game Reese and Mr. Han are playing is called Xiangqi, a Chinese version of chess.
The military personnel file Carter reviews reveals that John's middle initial is H.
To celebrate Person of Interest airing on Netflix starting September 1, 2015, IGN.com asked Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman to pick a few of their favorite episodes. "Many Happy Returns" was one of the episodes they picked. Plageman stated that he enjoyed how emotional and moving the episode was, and with its flashbacks, gave a lot of insight into one of Reese and Finch's first interactions, as well as flesh out some of Reese's motivation for his actions. He also loved the use of the Danger Mouse song at the end of the episode. Nolan said that he was still new to television in the beginning of Person of Interest, as he was more accustomed to movies, and "Many Happy Returns" was originally part of the pilot episode that was shot. As they continued writing Season 1, they were given the opportunity to reshoot some of the flashback scenes to help nudge the characters in a different direction, since they knew the characters more.
"Many Happy Returns" was originally titled "Best Served Cold", which is a common expression often connected to revenge.
Bloopers and Continuity Errors
Though Reese's birthday is shown as May 1 on his dossier (the first day this episode supposedly takes place), Reese checks his phone for messages in his apartment, and the date is April 24.
The time 8:08am also conflicts with his early morning meeting with Finch, which took place at 8:09am, further proving the phone may have been an oversight by the crew. It is, however, more likely that this scene takes place the following day.
When Reese follows Marshal Jennings, who is taking Sarah out of the city, it appears that both go in the wrong direction. The GPS in Reese's car shows that the Marshall is going north to Poughkeepsie. When they arrive, they are at the Meadowbrook Motor Lodge, which is a real motel located in Jericho, NY, about a hundred miles south.
Before Reese attacks Jennings in the field office, he unbuttons his jacket. As he walks away, his jacket is buttoned.
In the flashback to 2011, Finch is shown to be in a wheelchair. While he did use a wheelchair after the ferry bombing, ("The Devil's Share", "RAM" and "Karma") he was able to capably walk/limp after the events of "RAM" in 2010. However, Finch could have had an operation that required him to temporarily use a wheelchair or he could have been using a cover identity.
"Revenge" by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - end of episode.