Person of Interest: s05 e07 – QSO

Paranoia strikes deep

Undertones becoming overtones.

We are now at the midpoint of the final season and everything is now beginning to streamline towards the end. But it’s a streamlining that has plenty of jagged edges, and the overall tone is one of despair, highlighted in the very first scene in a casual, throwaway line.

Fusco has survived. He’s plenty banged about and he’s walking like Finch, but the tough little fireplug is intact. Physically. But Fusco has come to a turning point. He’s a cop, and he’s now a very good one, which means that when faced with the mystery of the missing persons, the bodies in the tunnel now irretrievable, he is enraged by the fact that his ‘partners’ – Reese, Finch and Root (who has come to visit him, dresed in NYPD Blue) – know what this is about and will not enlighten him. Fusco is on the edge. The others are ‘protecting’ him, by keeping him in the dark all along. Root has come with an exit strategy, a complete disappear-without-trace package of passports and ID cards. But Fusco has his pride, and his duty, and his determination to find out: he doesn’t need protection. He needs to be trusted, respected, and before the episode is out he will quit for the lack of these things, hand back his phone. Fusco is out.

But before we get there, we see that Reese and Finch are outside his room, watching over him, standing guard. Everyone in one place, our whole army.

Root is still desperate to find Shaw. We see her arguing with the Machine, burning through identities on an unfathomable trail. We see Shaw, hollow-eyed and half-somnolent, but resisting, resisting, always resisting. Root’s latest identty is Rose Franklin, radio producer, working with all-night talk radio host Max Greene on ‘Mysterious Transmissions’. Max is a conspircy theorist of great range and paranoia who has discovered a secret code, seemingly interference but too organied, broadcast on radio waves. ‘Rose’ knows who, or rather what, is behind it but Max is groping towards it.

And so Max is in danger, as is his regular, Warren Franco, ex-Forces cryptographer cracking the code. Both are targets.

As is a brilliant female biologist. Shaw’s been taken on another ‘field trip’, this time by Greer’s lieutenant, the smug smartarse Lambert. Out into the open, once more grinding on about the good Samaritan does, describing the dominos long years before they’re even placed, let alone ready to tumble. She’s trying to reintroduce the phylocene. In fifteen years time she will succeed. It will disrupt the environment, cause ecological disaster, cause thousands of deaths. Unless she is stopped now.

Lambert produces a gun. The bored Shaw, still an implacable will to resist, takes it, shoots the doctor and returns it. Anything to get to the end of this simulation quicker. Only it’s not a simulation. Shaw’s sense of reality is starting to blur.

And Samaritan is going all Outer Limits at the radio station. Everything’s locked down, cut-off. A synthesized artificial conversation is being broadcast to set up a mutual suicide pact between the already-dead Warren and Max so that when Samaritan’s operatives ariive to kill him… Root tries to get both of them out of the building but then realises: the signals Max has discovered are her way to talk to Shaw, give her reassurance. The message gets through.

And Root has a greater strategy: she offers herself to Samaritan. In exchange for Max being allowed to go free, unharmed, she will accept capture and being taken to Shaw. Samaritan is on the point of agreeing when the connection is cut – by Reese. To Root’s fury, they can escape.

But Max insists on going back, resuming his chair. He promises to stay mum on the code, to save his life, but instead he exercises free will and breaks that promise. An interference code beeps.Brittany, the pretty receptionist, writes something down. She takes Max a cup of coffee. He has a ‘heart attack’ live on air.

Finch is concerned. The Machine’s scheme has achieved its primary purpose, to contact Shaw, at the expense of sacrificing a Number. A Number who exercised free will. Finch sees only the death, the moral attrition. He overlooks that what he and everyone beside him, which is now reduced, in effect, to John Reese, is free will.

Root sees it more clearly. Max wasn’t the only Number she tackled this episode. There was Vassily, a Russian diplomat, who now owes her a favour. Like inviting her to his homeland, arranging for her to visit a Nature Park. Not far from a Missile Silo.

From here to the end is now only six weeks.

19 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s05 e07 – QSO

  1. “QSO” [5×07]
    Written By: Hillary Benefiel
    Directed By: Kate Woods
    Originally Aired 24 May 2016

    7 episodes in and Team Machine still hasn’t gone on the offensive. On the other hand…things are certainly in motion. The writers chose to prioritize the return of Shaw instead of it. For that reason, the simulations are still happening, but Finch refuses to take the gloves off the Machine. It has the capacity for defense that it gained in ‘God Mode’, but offense? Not yet. Back to Shaw: “QSO” opens with Root going about her day–there’s lots of humor that would never have flown back in Season 1. Remember that buttoned up procedural? Me neither. She eventually gets pointed to a conspiracy theorist (very fitting considering this show is a conspiracy theory that came true, in a sense, on June 9, 2013). Max has discovered strange radio signals which Root finds out are Samaritan’s way of communication in the field (again, solid answer to that question based in real world technology). She uses it to send a message to Shaw with a touching callback to If-Then-Else, but Max isn’t satisfied with being kept in the dark, and he pays the price for it. Which Finch excoriates Root and Reese for. Now, I have something to say about this….mainly that it’s not out of character. People have hierarchies of values. We know Harold Finch values free will. We know he values human life, too. Never have they been put in conflict before (Samaritan actually crushes both). So, no, it’s out of character for him to be upset over that. I also think that somewhere in the back of his mind he’s thinking about how of course former killers like Root and Reese were all too willing to let Max go. He didn’t say that, of course, but I’m sure it crossed his mind. Elsewhere, Fusco’s finally sticking up for himself and, after all the unfair treatment he’s gotten from Team Machine….it’s about time, if you ask me. I love “QSO” because it strikes such interesting notes while being fun and well paced.

    Grade: A

  2. Good point. I hadn’t picked up on that subtlety. Ultimately, Harold is afraid of power. He doesn’t trust himself with it so he sure as hell doesn’t trust anyone else with it, and certainly not the Machine. What will it take to change his mind and what will he become if he does? We know. And we know what it will cost.

    1. What we have here is the cure being worse than the disease. Why attack Samaritan with a fully equipped Machine if the Machine will then become corrupted just like Samaritan? The results might not be so different. He lacks well… Man of science, woman of faith. Another ‘Lost’ callback. I’m ok with that.

      1. But will the Machine necessarily become Samaritan 2? Samaritan has been built and programmed with an aim in mind, but the machine was built upon radically different ethical precepts, to save, not to rule. They say better the Devil you know, but that’s not always true. Some Devil’s must be overturned if only out of hope.

  3. Indeed. But power corrupts does it not? Its programming says one thing but it is not just a machine.

    Also cannot forget their conversation at the wedding. He made it sound like he was more worried about himself turning into a tyrant than anyone else.

      1. Finch is stubborn. Don’t you think it’ll take something….massive to break him out of his line of thought? The writers would have to come up with something big.

        We humans do not have ethics programmed into us. History might have gone differently if we had.

  4. Speaking of Person of Interest and philosophy….just came across this article.

    Click to access personofinterest.pdf

    “This essay has not necessarily covered the rhetoric of these religious themes in Person of Interest, or the show’s rhetorical representation of technology, with any particular critical judgment. But it is worth noting that the show legitimizes or saves its characters through the use of religious concepts or makes heroes out of characters who share certain tendencies with zealots. In that way, it does seem to uphold contemporary fundamentalist religious ideologies. Further, the show’s representation of technology and surveillance as means to salvation, both spiritual and practical, seem to serve a pro-technology agenda. Hopefully this essay establishes the rhetorical territory of the show in a way that can contribute to a more critical examination of
    the series or other similar rhetorical works.”

    We were just talking about Person of Interest’s stance on surveillance a couple weeks ago, and this professor argues that the show is pro-surveillance and legitimizes religious fundamentalism. What are your thoughts on that?

    1. Personally, I think the analysis completely ignores the humanist themes present within the show. “Everyone is relevant to someone.”

    2. To use classic Mancunian phraseology, a lorra bollocks.

      Are people like this encouraged to write convoluted sentences obfuscating the fact that they are saying nothing or are papers like this the natural home of the empty-headedwho write that way anyway?

      To the extent that the show is dependant upon the pragmatic use of surveillance, it can be argued that it’s pro-surveillance, though on Team Machine’s side the u;ltimate outcome of surveillance is human action, a technological version of Guns don’t kill people, People kill People (though they’d find it a fuck’s ake harder without the gun).

      As for religious fundamentalism, both Greer and Root support that line of argument but I have always had arguments with calling powerful entities Gods’ Godhead is more than an excess of power,, it requires the reciprocals of worship and being an inspiration to followers for good. Greer worsjhips Samaritn and Root the Machine. No-one else sees it in that light.

      1. That person is a professor.

        I think Finch pushes back on Root’s worship, and the show agrees with her. In “Zero Day”, Finch posited that the Machine was neither, well, a machine or a living being, strictly. “The reality is most likely somewhere in between.” But the show is deeply uncomfortable with the Machine playing around with humans the way the Biblical one did and the Greek deities as well.

        Not to mention the fact that Root doesn’t just care about Shaw–she cares about all people. In this very episode, she respects Max’s free will more than Finch himself. Yeah, it’s not a very good article, but hey, it’s always enjoyable to dig into it.

  5. But does the machine play around with humans? it’s programmed to alert only, leaving the human factor to take decisions. The only human it does ‘play around with’ is Root, who has voluntarily ceded control as an idolator. I know I don’t see the Machine as a God (being an atheist is very handy in that department) but as a very high level intelligence that is an incredible tool in the right hands. Namely, Harold Finch’s.

    Though that may be alllll about to change…

    1. Right. Samaritan’s experiments in Maple were portrayed as horrific. Harold Finch took absolute care to make sure his Machine would not act that way. Frankly, the Machine has far more respect for us than the Old Testament God. I believe that the Machine is more what an alien with higher intelligence than us would look like. It follows rational precepts, but ones that are beyond our comprehension. I am open to that being true in our universe too, but to date we have not found evidence of intelligent life on other planets (Fermi’s Paradox).

      Do you remember 5×10 well now?

  6. Woolly mammoths get all the attention. But scientists are in fact very interested in reviving the Tasmanian Tiger. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause total ecological collapse, eh?

    Somehow the mammoth seems like more of a threat, since they’ve been gone since the last Ice Age. Whereas the thylacine was last seen in 1930.

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