Person of Interest: s04 e19 – Search and Destroy

Nice Wig

We’re a very long way into Person of Interest‘s fourth season without the usual sense of something building to either a conclusion or a cliffhanger, as we would normally expect. For weeks we’ve been experiencing individual stories without connecting threads. For the first time in a long time, this episode starts to deliver on its arc.

Not at first. New Number Suleiman Khan (Aasif Mandvi) is a man whose life has been destroyed in an instant. His company, Castellum, has grown from a garage operation to the world’s largest purveyors of anti-virus protection, automatically installed in 86% of the world’s computers. And it’s been hacked, in an instant, everything revealed, down to the nude photos of his estranged wife that he swore he’d deleted. Not just everything, but more than everything, including evidence of things he’s not done, like major embezzlement.

Khan’s life collapses like a souffle prematurely removed from the oven. Everything is stripped away, any avenue along which he might be able to fight back is closed off, practically the only thing they don’t remove is his expensive, hand-tailored suit.

What can lie behind this? Finch and Reese know but fantastic and arrogant as it may seem, Khan has worked out that he has been targetted, very specifically, but an Artificial Intelligence: Samaritan.

What’s the plan, Stan? It’s very simple, but before we go there, let us just collate the little semi-detached strands that decorate the episode. There’s Paige Turco making her final appearance as Zoe Morgan, fixing Castellum’s problems, twitting John about his relationship with his redhead, acting as his ear in a meeting. There’s John trying to teach Harold how to shoot a gun, since he won’t always be here and he wants to know Finch will be safe. There’s Root, going to great lengths to steal a virtually atom bomb proof suitcase, not for the beautiful Faberge egg it contains and which she chucks away, but for the suitcase: why?

But the plan is simple, and so in one sense, one fatal sense, is Khan. It’s his besetting flaw, his insatiable curiosity. Why him? Why has he been targetted? In the end it gets him killed. Rather than escape he goes back inside, is taken to Greer and Martine Rousseau. He wants to see the face of Samaritan, of God. His wish is granted, shot through the heart by Greer.

Because Samaritan has been using Khan’s code to search. Search the word for the presence of unknown code. For the whereabouts of the Machine. And it will find it. That is inevitable. And Detective Riley and Professor Whistler. How can one withstand a God forever?

14 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s04 e19 – Search and Destroy

  1. “Search and Destroy” [4×19]
    Written By: Zak Schwartz
    Directed By: Stephen Surjik

    “Search and Destroy” is a significant step up in intensity from the past few Person of Interest episodes, and it was definitely welcome to have Samaritan as a major presence again. And now it has a new directive–find The Machine. Before we get to that, though, we’re treated to a superbly executed thriller. “Search and Destroy” tells a story that Person of Interest has already told–from “No Good Deed” and “Root Cause” to “Nothing to Hide”. Someone’s life is ruined by a malevolent outside force. It just so happens that this type of story always happens to work like gangbusters for this paranoia-infused show. Repetition doesn’t sink this episode. Nor does the fact that it’s eventually pretty obvious who the perpetrator is. It’s simply written too well for that, and I’m extremely impressed by the fact that Zak Schwartz was a first time writer. He knocked it out of the park. From the pacing to the direction to the acting, every last drop of tension is wrung out of this scenario, and Aasif Mandvi’s Sulaiman Khan is one of the most interesting and engaging one-off characters the team has ever had to save–certainly the most compelling this season since “Prophets”. Not every episode needs to be as earth-shattering as “If-Then-Else”, and it’s great to confirm that this show can still pump out a first-class thriller that finally brings the main focus of the season back to the forefront. There’s even plenty of great character moments–It’s clear Reese still isn’t over the loss of Carter. It’s been simmering all season long, and it’s about to come to a head. Lots of great between him and Root in this one, and sadly we also get Zoe’s last appearance.

    Grade: A

    1. Not a problem. It’s fairly straightforward. But I found that it was interesting for me to look at why this episode was so successful nonetheless.

      You’ve got some really good ones coming up!

      1. That I know, but I’m even more conscious of the end being visible, and visible is just the prelude to nigh. Unlike DS9, I’ll miss this (until the next, much more bingeable watch). And I’m down to half a dozen Sunday morning ‘film’ sessions too….

      2. It really flies by, doesn’t it? Shows from the 90s don’t tend to do that. They tend to drag.

  2. I’m starting to feel like easing up a bit. I have five weekly series and one fortnightly and not much time or room for the more random stuff. On one of those series I am writing new posts that won’t appear for over a year on a weekly basis, I am that far ahead…

  3. Some people have claimed that Root shouldn’t have been able to best Martine in hand-to-hand combat. At the time, I agreed. But ya know what? Nowhere was it established that Martine was a Reese or Shaw-like expert in the area. She states in “The Cold War” that “all my hobbies include a gun”. Not that all of her hobbies involve Brazilian Ju Jitsu. She’s Root’s foil. Samaritan could have picked her out for her sharpshooting skills. Not only does it make sense thematically, it’s not even that much of a stretch on a logical level (by this show’s logic, I mean). Especially when you consider that Root has a special hatred for Martine because of the events of If-Then-Else. Probably gets an adrenaline rush every time she sees her.

    1. Excellent analysis. I’ve not seen such objections myself but I agree. It isn’t that Root bests Rousseau when they fight, since the two cancel each other out, it’s that Root produces the moment of surprise when she’s supposedly restrained, and takes one deadly step. Off guard, everyone is vulnerable.

      1. It ties into a larger criticism that I have seen around the internet a bit, that Root is an overpowered character by the end of the show. They will bring up this fight, the neck snap in Asylum, the scene in “BSOD” where she overpowers 4 big guys and an armed policeman, and a certain action sequence coming up, and claim that this makes her a poorly written character who’s skilled in too many things.

  4. Who has the Machine in her head predicting steps and feeding her moves before she knows why to take them. Who was a girl genius with computers and a highly paid assassin. Who would not get a fraction of this criticism if she were, say, a man. Pfah! I say to them.

    1. Also, if, as David Slack intended when he wrote ‘Honor Among Thieves’, Root and Shaw were spending long nights together ‘de-contaminating’, then why couldn’t Shaw have taught her some self-defense moves? Especially to take down 4 civilians (in BSOD)? I guess they would say that the Machine was down in BSOD and that her assassinations were done via gun and taser, not physicality, but I stand by the Shaw stuff. I’m no apologist for sloppy writing, of course–you pointed out plenty of stupid stuff in DS9 that I missed, and I agree–that was a show with pretty dodgy writing at points. I just don’t think this is show does.

      Her computer skills were more in line with reality than Finch’s, anyway–she was just a damn good hacker, not a god creator.

      But…this how speculative science fiction works. If the show says Finch is that good with computers, we accept it.

      The big chase in 5×10 I do agree is over-the-top, because the writers wanted to go all out nuts for the 100th, but we’ll get there when we get there. Suffice to say, I see why they did it but I can see why it pulls people out of the drama in that one. But it’s not exactly an issue with Root’s character I think.

      1. We’ll leave 5×10 out of this, if you please, until I get there. I’ve enough knowledge of things to come that i wish I could unsee in order to take things one at a time once again.

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