If this episode were a Marvel Comic, it would scream from the cover that after this, nothing will be the same again. The beauty of this programme is that nothing will be the same again after every episode.
‘God Mode’ winds up the second season by presenting two different but closely related stories, one set in the current moment of 2013, the other by flashback set in 2010. It begins in the past, a Machine level viewpoint as a dishevelled Finch, bloody of face, stumbling on a crutch, struggles into the library, falls as much as sits on a chair and, with desperation in his voice asks, “Did you know?”
The whole of this flashback is a puzzle piece, little vignettes, leading back to this moment, and the Machine’s answer. The rest of the episode follows directly on from the end of ‘Zero Day’, last week. The Machine has rebooted after the virus attack by Decima, who have been thwarted in their attempt to take it over. Absolute Admin powers, for twenty-four hours, have gone to Root but, thanks to Finch’s ingenuity, they have simultaneously gone to John Reese: both hear the magic words, “Can you hear me?”
Both are using their access to hunt. For Root, it’s the whereabouts of the Machine, her monomaniacal, over-eager, nervous energy goal, and she’s dragging Finch along in his wake (not entirely reluctantly: when push comes to shove, Finch opts not to escape but to cut short this endgame.) For Reese, it’s the whereabouts of Finch, and he’s implacable and irresistable (even if he and Shaw are twice diverted by the Machine to Numbers who they rescue with drive-by efficiency).
There’s a third story too, centred upon Detective Carter (but not a fourth as for the second week, Fusco is absent from all but the credits). Carter’s on the sharp end of last week’s shooting set-up, determined to fight IAB. So Terney loss patience and makes plain she’s been set-up and that she should just sit there and take it, like a good littl girl, or HR will lay waste to everyone around her. They’re already planning to take out Elias tonight, a ‘prison transfer’, to the woods where the young Elias escaped execution by his father’s goons. It’s another of PoI‘s special little quirks, the parallel scene, but this time Elias is saved by a balaclava-masked person who shoots Peter Yogarov, killing him(?) and wounding Terney. It is, as we all understood instantly, Carter, though where she goes from here, she has no idea.
The 2010 story builds. Nathan Ingram is going to go public about the Machine, in the face of every attempt Finch makes to stop him. He’s meeting a journalist at 8.00am, the Ferry Terminal. Hersh is interrogating a terrorist suspect, a would-be suicide bomber, whose target is… the Ferry Terminal. Harold has warned Nathan that everyone associated with the Machine is dying, strange deaths, not all natural. He warns Nathan.
In 2013, Reese is still pressing the Machine for assistance. He receives a code that leads him to a book (Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine, how apt). Behind it is a safe, and in the safe a map showing three potential locations for the Machine. There are also photos of women, ex-Numbers. Saved or Failed? The third is familiar: it is Susan. Reese’s reaction is extreme quietness, his normally soft tones even softer as he answers the questions Shaw poses as she recognises his feelings. The reminder that John Reese lost someone.
The Machine’s whereabouts are traced to a ‘Nuclear Facility’ in Washington State. Root’s twenty-four hours are up, but she’s got there with Finch, who has warned her that things might not be what she expects. And they’re not: they enter a massive, hangar-like space. And it is empty.
Root is in shock. The undercutting of her quest, her desire to set the Machine free, is the realisation that the Machine has set itself free, or rather than Finch has done it for it. Root’s mad enough to shoot Finch but the usual bullet from another direction comes from Shaw, shooting Root in the shoulder. Finch explains that, long ago, he realised that someone would someday attempt to take over the Machine. So he ensured that when the time came, they would try it with his code (a-ha! Greer and Decima), and that that code would be recogniseed as an attack, leading the Machine to defend itself, in this case by removing itself, a piece at a time, over five weeks.
It’s like old home week: as our band turns to leave, enter Hersh and another operative, just ahead of Special Counsel. It’s a stand-off, two guns againt two guns, stalemate. Special Counsel recognises Harold as the silent partner of Nathan Ingram, the black hole of non-information. Now that the Machine has gone, that the Numbers will only arrive if it decides to supply them, Special Counsel offers Finch his own terms to rebuild it. Finch has heard that before. It was what they said to his friend. Before they killed him.
It’s 2010, 8.00am, the Ferry Terminal. Finch meets Ingram, the latter full of energy and relief at finally speaking out. Hersh sets his suicide bomber off. There is a distant flash, blackness. Harold wakes in an emergency triage area, on his side in a temporary bed. He’s suffered neck and lower back injuries and mustn’t move. But he twists and turns, looking for Nathan. And he sees him. At the moment that the surgeon gives up resuscitation and calls time of death. To the professional relief of two vultures, hanging around to ensure Ingram is dead, and check to see if anyone else knows anything and also needs to be eliminated.
Harold struggles to his feet, grabs a crutch, stays out of their line of sight. And at that moment, Grace enters, fearful for her fiance. Harold is caught in that moment, facing an impossible decision that none of us should ever have to face. And as we know he must, he lets her believe he’s dead, lets her break down and cry in a way that at least half the audience wants to, seeing this.
And back to the library, falling as much as sitting on a chair, and asking “Did you know?” And re-programming the Machine to display the Non-Relevant numbers again, in the last seconds before midnight and they are automatically deleted, and yes, in the middle of the list: Nathan Ingram. So now we know.
There is a little more shuffling of the deck to do in 2013. Special Counsel receives a phone call from someone he addresses as ‘Ma’am’. He passes the phone to Hersh, who is instructed to seal the room. Ever the professional, he shoots everyone there, including Special Counsel, who, ever the professional, accepts his end stoically. There will be a new aggressor next season.
But will there be anything to work upon next season? Will the Machine continue to give forth Numbers from wherever it has buried itself? Harold and John stroll in the park, taking Bear for a walk. A payphone rings.
And in a secure Mental Institution, a catatonic Root wanders the halls aimlessly, doped to the gills. A payphone rings. She lifts the receiver. “Can you hear me?” Root smiles very faintly.
After this, things will never be the same again. Don’t they always?