Person of Interest: s05 e10 – The day the World went away


I’ve been not looking forward to this episode for weeks. When I was watching Deep Space Nine for three years, I had the advantage of ignorance, of not knowing, not remembering. I have been aware of this week’s episode for all the two years since I started watching Person of Interest again. Known it was coming, known what it brings. Known by how much we lose.

The sign is in the credits. If your Number’s up… The red box captures a known face, Harold Finch.

Harold is in fatalistic mood. He plans to close the Machine again but first he wants a talk, not that the Machine has a voice with which to respond. They are losing, they have lost, he will soon be dead. What pains Finch is that his helpers, John, Samantha, Sameen and Lionel, will all be dead too. Is there any path that can save them? No, almost certainly not. Harold is tired, tired of the fight. And he has, because he is human, because he has thoughts and feelings and a desire to give himself a momentary veneer of the life that once was, he has gone to a cafe that he knows. Where he took Grace ten years ago on their first ‘date’. Where the waitress recognises him and brings him the order they used to have. Harold has blown his own cover. From there it’s nothing but a countdown.

Root argues the case of the Machine, but Harold still resists. There are Rules, Rules he has imposed, and about which he has thought long and hard, and he will not bend. Nothing can make Harold Finch bend, nothing. He will allow the Machine a voice, and will let it choose the voice it wants. Against his will, Ms Groves has given the Machine the ability to defend itself but, in acknowledgement of Harold’s primary status, only if he asks it to do so.

John and Lionel are on the street. A phone rings. A Number is read out. It is Harold’s.

From this point the episode becomes an escalating battle. John and Root retrieve Harold from Professor Whistler’s office ahead of the goons, take him to the Safe House but that too has been blown. Carl Elias deals himself in. He will take Harold to a place of safety. Harold wants none of this, none of his friends to risk themselves helping him. Let him face his fate. Just doing the job you hired me for, John replies, saving a Number.

Elias takes Harold back to the Projects, where once John set out to save the life of teacher Charlie Burton. The gangs that war over it agree a truce out of respect for Elias and the man he respects: the goons won’t get past them.

Root and Sameen stay at the Safe House, fending off goons. John and Lionel visit Temporary Resolutions, the company employing the goons. The office is cleared in silence to create a trap for them but they blast their way out.

The goons get into the project. They don’t fare too well. The gangs act as a screen as Elias gets Harold out, to a waiting car, his driver William. But William is dead of a shot to the head. Carl Elias tells Harold to get in the car, he will drive himself. The door into the Project opens and Carl Elias turns to face it. He is shot through the forehead. Elias is dead. Harold is taken.

Taken to see John Greer. Harold refuses to give any information, demands he be killed now, his friends spared. But Greer’s certitude of his and only his rightness is swollen into fanaticism. Harold will be taken away. One day he will see, and will work for Samaritan, to develop and improve it, of his own free will.

Root and Shaw arrive in the street to start a pitched battle, guns and bullets everywhere in unfeasible numbers, one of the shows most impressive – and convincing though totally unrealistic – shoot-outs. Overlaid by one of Root’s most tangled philosophical arguments that, as they usually do when it’s Sameen, ends as a piece of outrageous flirting that brings a smile to our favourite lady assassin’s face.

Sameen stays behind to hold them off as Root drives away with Finch. But there’s another factor coming into play, Jeff Blackwell, under the robotic like directions of Samaritan, to travel down suburban streets, climb stairs to a vacant fifth floor apartment, assemble a high-powered rifle. He has a primary target, a passenger in a car that will shortly speed down this street near the river. At the last second, the driver sees him, swerves the car, fires a shot. He misses the passenger. But he hits the driver.

Though she pretends she’s alright, we know that Root has been hit, and hit bad. The Police stop the car. Harold is arrested and taken to Central. Samantha Groves is taken to hospital, in critical condition. Lionel follows her, John and Sameen head for Central, where Harold has fallen into the System. Reports of being seen at fifteen Homicide sites, fingerprints taken, attracting the FBI over a forty year old charge of Treason.

Can things get worse? Faced by an FBI Agent, Harold is silent. He’s at breaking point. As much as a warning to what may be listening as it is an admission to himself, he talks about playing by the Rules. All his life. He set Rules and he kept to them. They won’t tell him how Root is but Harold knows it’s bad. And so he will break his Rules. All that is left to decide is how many of them. But he will kill the ‘person’ listening. He is not talking to the FBI Agent but to ‘someone’ else.

We ave already gone through so much. We have lost one ally, one friend. Surely not… Surely not. But on his way to Holding, as Agencies argue over who is to have him, Finch is interrupted by a payphone ringing. “Hello Harold,” says a very familiar voice. Harold almost chokes with relief, asking with incredulity, “Ms Groves?” But this is the day the World went away. “No, Harold,” the Machine says, regretfully. “I chose a voice.” Samantha Groves, Root, is dead.

“Can you get me out of here?” Harold Finch asks. And it all goes black. To the quiet backdrop of the Nine Inch Nails song that gives this brutal, hope-slaying episode its name, John and Sameen arrive to a scene of chaos. Someone cut the powercable, six hundred prisoners are out of their cells. John reads it correctly when he says that Finch is no longer there. But in how many senses is that true?

This is not the end, but the beginning. At a very late hour, something new is beginning. We will watch it very carefully over the last three weeks.

not really now not any more

18 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s05 e10 – The day the World went away

  1. “The Day the World Went Away” [5×10]
    Written By: Andy Callahan and Melissa Scrivner Love
    Directed By: Chris Fisher
    Originally Aired 31 May 2016

    He wasn’t the victim. He was the perpetrator. That has almost become a punchline at this point. At the end of this episode though, it’s probably the biggest gut punch of the series so far. “The Day the World Went Away” swings for the fences, and, for me, smashes it out of the park. This is one of the most intense and crushingly bleak episodes of action tv that I’ve ever seen–you love to see it. It all starts off with Harold Finch foolishly blowing his cover. That’s right–this disaster was his fault, and he knew it. We have to keep that in mind when considering his speech in which he spits venom to an FBI agent, in what may be the best scene of Michael Emerson’s career. It matters because all of his friends willingly joined him in crusade. The fact that they’ve all been on Death’s Door since 4×01 didn’t mean as much because he could tell himself it was their choice. But this? This is solely the result of his “playing by the rules”. So the end of this episode, after providing some of the most blistering pacing you’ll ever see, two character deaths, and some metaphysics, is Harold Finch’s ‘no half measures’ moment. Despite the fact that I understand why some don’t like OTT action scenes inserted into such a heavy episode, “The Day the World Went Away” is an absolute triumph from my point of view. Despite being criticized from many directions by claims of rushed pacing, ludicrous action, or what have you…..I disagree with most of them. I still love almost everything about this one, despite the fact that, yes, Root and Harold’s car should have been torn to shreds.

    Grade: A

    1. This was what I meant, as you well knew, by wishing last week for some excuse to stop there, with everyone together in the afternoon by the river. But it was not to be. Only loss, and loss that Harold knew to be his own fault, could tap into the darkness necessary to force an end.

      Who cares what the fucking car should have looked like? The best stories shape the world around them, they are not shaped by the world. We’re in over our head now.

      1. I have to address all criticisms, no matter how much merit they have! The action in this show I always thought was stunning, but many people felt its lack of realism broke their immersion.

        I don’t give grades higher than that. For consistency’s sake. If I were to make a super-scientific ranking….this episode would be in the top 5. If I were to grade on a 100 point scale, where 65 is the baseline for a good show….this would be in the 90s. AKA, top-tier tv. Some of the episodes I’ve given As would be in the 80s–‘merely’ exceptional, rather than ‘up there with the best episodes of tv I’ve ever seen’. So fine–A+.

        Word of advice: If Florida or North Carolina go blue, you can go to bed. It’s over at that point.

      2. Glad to see you busting out the A+. But you know if I was going to do that, I’d have done it for If-Then-Else. Consistency! This episode is 10/10 though.

  2. Reminnds me of when I used to rate Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books out of ten. So many 10s, runsof book after book that got 10. Until Night Shift. had to think long and hard about that one. I ended up giving that 11 out of 10.

  3. About the bullet holes in the door thing……the entire point of art is to evoke emotions out of an audience. So analyzing art this way, e.g. ‘how many plot holes does it have?’ is like trying to discover how a mathematical equation makes you feel. Yeah, you can do it, but to me it’s sort of missing the point of math and art. While logical errors can certainly break immersion if they’re big enough and I expect that writers try to avoid them, they are not the be-all-end-all for me. I accept that ‘Person of Interest’ takes place in a heightened version of reality (similar to Batman always beating up about 15 armed goons at a time without a scratch). I think it’s fair to say that emotion trumps logic when it comes to art, though of course not entirely.

    1. The most important truth is always emotional truth, not factual truth. You can’t totally disregard the latter but you can’t exist if you disregard the former.

      1. Factual truth matters when it interferes with emotional truth. For example, when out-of-character behavior happens, I notice big time, and it really prevents me from getting invested. But…it’s not a scientific algorithm. Media just doesn’t function like that! It’s not designed to.

      2. If plot holes didn’t pull me out of whatever I’m reading/watching, etc., then they don’t matter that much to me. Hitchcock said that many decades ago, and I think he had a point.

  4. I concur for the most part. Those that don’t press themselves on you on first watching are more forgivable. But some of them, once seen in retrospect corrode by the very knowledge of them. I once had to rewrite over half a book because I got off the time-track and needed to shave a day from the story. I knew it was there, I couldn’t ignore it.

    1. Of course! There’s nothing but good things that can come from making your story more coherent, more well thought-out, etc. It’s just that to solely claim a work’s quality based on that…well, I think it’s on a case-by-case basis.

  5. Another reason why the action scenes don’t bother me too much is that very early on “Person of Interest” decided to embrace its pulpy roots (all those gun fights on the streets of NYC? ha!). So for me, the elements of the show that for prestige tv purists held the show back from greatness in a way added to its charm. And certainly didn’t hold the show back from being my favorite of the 10s. (Minus Peaks’ return).

    I will admit that I love some cheese in tv shows, especially when they’re so well executed.

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