Synopsis: *slow claps*
I’ve put off writing about Person of Interest because I just don’t know what to say. The episode was everything I wanted it to be. I’m continually amazed at the quality of the storyline because it isn’t something that I would ever expect from a show on CBS, especially one that started with a procedural swing. It is a far cry from its start but in the best way possible, in my opinion. They’ve finally stopped hiding behind the curtain of a procedural drama and have embraced the epic science fiction nature they’ve been building up to.
Season four is going to be crazy.
The episode begins with a continuation of the state-wide New York City blackout and the trial of everyone involved with the Machine. Collier claims it is ‘the trial of the United States Government’. As the trial is occurring, team Machine (consisting of Reese, Shaw, Root, and Hersh) is attempting to figure out where Finch is being held and what they should do next. They’ve got to get to where Finch is before something miserable happens, like someone getting dead.
Collier has pulled out all the stops for the trial. He’s brought in a jury (people he’s captured off of the street and is holding against their will), members of the media (who he, again, is holding against their will), and a lawyer who is supposed to act in honor of the defense but gets one miserable line because Collier isn’t actually looking for a fair trial. Vigilance is looking for an excuse to kill people, and I think this is my one criticism of the movement and the writing behind the trial.
For a while Vigilance seemed to have a decent cause. They were willing to do what needed to be done to protect the American people from the government spying on every one to the point of wrongful accusations. They had merit, but it feels like they lost that merit and just became a terrorist group at the end. Under the guise of a trial, Collier kills people. He shoots a presidential advisor as he sits on the stand in the middle of questioning without a second thought. Even though he claims he wants justice, what he really wants is to kill everyone who gets in his way until he finds out what he wants.
Honestly I was a bit disappointed in Vigilance and what it became. It makes sense, given what we learn later in the episode about it, but I was still disappointed that they stopped being a ‘real player’ and just became a bunch of barbarians.
Root and the Machine help the team from a distance as she prepared her seven Samaritan servers for installation, though Shaw leaves Reese and Hersh behind in order to go help her. After all, Root is about to go into a DECIMA installation on her own and Shaw doesn’t want to see her killed. Their relationship is almost akin to Reese and Finch; they have a weird partnership that balances on a thin line of trust but they both obviously have affection for one another. They look a lot like Reese and Finch in the early days and I sort of like the parallels.
After all, this show isn’t just about Reese and Finch anymore. They’ve created more partnerships which in turn help people find themselves and their purpose in the world. The cast is always shifting, consistently dynamic, and even though it means there are deaths it keeps them interesting. It keeps the characters progressing toward growth.
During the trial there are a lot of flashbacks to the birth of Vigilance. Some mysterious being sets Collier up as the founder of the organization and it takes off from there.
In what is probably my favorite scene of the entire night, Fusco runs into Reese and Hersh on the street in order to deliver Bear. They have a bit of dialogue and Reese claims that Vigilance has set up a ‘Kangaroo court’ to find out who the creator of the Machine is.
Fusco replies, “What Machine?”
It was a great reminder that the world outside of their little bubble is still oblivious to what is going on. The nice thing about Fusco is that he gets to represent the rest of the world in this episode arc leading up to the finale. I think the writers pulled him back and gave him less screen time because, while he’s part of Team Machine, he isn’t necessarily a part of the bigger picture. Fusco still has plausible deniability. He had issues when HR was still a big player but now that it is all about DECIMA, Vigilance, and the Machine? He’s not really there anymore. He’s not as big a part of it because his life isn’t directly tied to the Machine; he’s just indirectly associated with it due to the people he works with.
There is a lot to be said about the show as a whole in Fusco’s appearance in this episode. It definitely demonstrates a decided shift away from what it was – a procedural with a heavy emphasis on police work which required Fusco and Carter and run-ins with HR – into something that is now focused on the bigger picture regarding artificial intelligence and the Machine. The show has changed, and as it phases out of its third season into the fourth, I think we’re going to see a lot more of the bizarre as it slips away from present realism into a heavier emphasis on the science fiction aspect they’ve been alluding to from the beginning.
This show is getting damn good, people.
A lot of the things that happen in the middle of the episode are just building on what has already been demonstrated. The pieces are finally beginning to slot together. Hersh and Reese are kicking ass and taking names in an attempt to find where the trial is being held, Root and Shaw have infiltrated a DECIMA installation and have seven servers that have been tampered with they are going to add to Samaritan, and all the while the trial is putting Control and the rest of the crew through the ringer.
Unfortunately Finch is provoked to action and in the face of another potential death (that of Control) and admits who he is. He admits he’s the one who built the Machine and he begs for the lives of the other people in the room. The consequences of the Machine he’s built have finally caught up with him in their fullest form. He is a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and Michael Emerson plays the part almost too well. Taking the stand, Finch spills everything in detail to a broadcast he believes is being seen at least all around New York City if not the entire country.
His ‘sentencing’ is interrupted by a move against Vigilance from DECIMA private forces and this puts everything in motion to bring this season to its conclusion. Greer’s people take control of the situation and give Finch the big reveal: Vigilance was a ploy by DECIMA to appeal to the United States Government. Vigilance was a created villain, something to prove that Samaritan was necessary and useful. After all, if Samaritan had been in use then Vigilance wouldn’t have happened; all of the issues could have been avoided. Greer gives a beautiful speech, equating the Machine and Samaritan to the gods of the Greeks. They are super intelligent beings that will use humans as their agents to keep the world in check.
Greer understands what artificial intelligence is and there are echoes of Asimov’s works in his speech. I think about the machine that Asimov created, one that gives people the answers to all of their questions. It knows when people are going to become criminals; it knows who should marry whom and what jobs certain people should hold. It determines what the government should look like and, unfortunately, in the end it uses a boy to try and end its own life. The Machine and Samaritan are echoes of that, super machines that the world is going to end up depending on when perhaps they as cognitive beings don’t want that.
You know that death I predicted last week? I was completely wrong and even though I’ll miss Hersh, I’m happy that Root has survived another season and will live on in season four. Let’s take a moment to remember Hersh, though, because he was a bad ass who loved his country. He did his job, he did it well, he cared about Shaw, and he died trying to save a lot of innocent people.
A bomb goes off, which was part of Greer’s plan, and Samaritan is given the green light. Root and Shaw, on the other hand, are finishing up the installation of the servers into Samaritan and Root’s ultimate plan is revealed. It was never about turning Samaritan off, which Shaw is surprised to find out. Rather, it was about creating blind spots in the system. There are seven identities, corresponding to seven people (Root, Shaw, Reese, Finch, and the three tech nerds) and the team has to separate and disappear by being seen alone as their new identities.
The library is abandoned, destroyed. The team is given new lives.
This was never about winning, it is just about surviving. The Machine and I couldn’t save the world; we had to settle for protecting the seven people who might be able to take it back. So we gave Samaritan a blind spot, seven key servers that hard codes it to ignore seven carefully crafted new identities. As the whole world is watched, filed, indexed, numbered, the only way to disappear is to appear, hiding our true identities inside a seemingly ordinary life. You’re not a free man anymore Harold, you’re just a number.
We have to become these people now and if we don’t they’ll find us and they’ll kill us. Sorry Harold. I know it’s not enough. A lot of people are gonna die, people who might have been able to help. Everything’s changing, I don’t know if it will ever get better, but it’s going to get worse. But the Machine asked me to tell you something before we part. You once told John the whole point of Pandora’s box is that once you’ve opened it you can’t close it again. She wanted me to remind you about how the story ends. When everything is over, when the worst has happened, there’s still one thing left in Pandora’s box: hope.
Root sums it up and the thing that gave me goose bumps was the last part: the Machine understands hope. This thing Harold created, this collection of wires and electrical currents, understands hope and encourages its creator to remember that. It is going to fight for that hope.
The episode ends with Greer standing in front of Samaritan as the new AI, a new baby god in the world of men, asks what the command is. Greer turns it around and tells Samaritan it is about what it commands and it calculates a response.
Hello cliffhanger, goodbye season three, holy shit everything is broken and I can’t wait to see how much of it will be fixed come fall.
Congratulations to the writers, producers, crew, and cast for finishing three seasons and acquiring a fourth. This show deserves some serious critical acclaim that I don’t believe it is going to get and I couldn’t love it any more than I already do. Bravo.