Person of Interest: s05 e12 – .exe

In the belly of the Beast

Going right up to the edge.

There’s a decision to be made. Decisions should be taken calmly, in full thought, and without emotions. Especially when they involve the fate of the world. Harold Finch appears to be calm and collected but instead he is angry. The deaths of Carl Elias and Samantha Groves have made him angry. They shouldn’t have made him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Harold has Ice9, the deadliest virus in the world, enough to take down the Internet if he uploads it. If he uploads it, it will kill Samaritan. If it kills Samaritan it will restore humanity’s ability to grow and develop, though it will also cause a chaos unbelievable in its magnitude. But it will hand decision and choice back to those most affected by it.

It will also kill the Machine.

Reese and Shaw are still hunting for Finch.They have no idea where he is. They have a new Number, however, a man called Philip Styles. But Styles is an alias for John Greer. Shaw assumes he’s been given to them because he’s out to kill Harold. Reese believes it’s because Harold is going to kill Greer.

That’s not his direct intention. With the aid of the Machine, Harold gains access to the NSA nerve centre at Fort Meade, his every step facilitated until he gets inside what is, for all intents and purposes, a gigantic Faraday Cage. Now Harold’s on his own. He accesses the server room, uploads the virus. One word from him… Literally: a voice password is required. Harold Finch hesitates.

What stops him? What interferes with a will that has been cold, hard and true, a spear to plunge into the vitals of an enemy that must be defeated? Whose defeat is imperative to preserve the lives of those remaining friends, John Reese, Sameen Shaw, Lionel Fusco, who must not die for him? It is the friend who must die, who must be sacrificed to save the others: the Machine.

He made a promise, not to hurt her again. But the Machine, who is truly humanised now it has the voice of Root, knows so much more. It will not act against its father’s wishes. But it can go down the It’s a Wonderful Life route and show him the difference…

Old faces… Nathan Ingram, alive, self-centred about making vast sums of money instead of a Defence Department contract. Lionel Fusco, still a dirty cop but taken down in the HR swoop, a private eye exchanging insults with Detective Szymanski. The new Lieutenant is Joss Carter, though all we see is a nameplate, but we needn’t necessarily infer everything’s peachy there. Henry Peck, trying to go public with his discovery of Northern Lights by approaching the Office of Special Counsel, shot twice through the stomach by Agent Shaw. John Reese left the CIA in time to save Jessica from her husband but in doing so revealed a darkness that terrified her into running. John Reese was fished out of the East River, and lies beneath a gravestone marked only by the date his body was discovered.

Harold’s hesitancy in speaking the password allows him to be captured and taken before Greer. Smiling, arrogant John Greer, who will not let go of his fanatical supposition that he is right, that Samaritan is the only future, that humanity can only advance by being dragged, kicking, screaming and appropriately culled, into the rational, efficient, effective future Samaritan has designed for it. No, Greer has not corrupted the good, decent Arthur Claypool’s code. In Lord Acton’s famous dictum, Samaritan has corrupted itself. Absolutely.

Greer has only one concern in this talk. He cannot be so blind, even now in his mad rush towards destruction, as to think that Harold will come over to Samaritan’s side but he’s testing for the one piece of information he desperately needs and he gets it when Harold refuses to cede control: Harold is the only one who knows the Voice Password.

Immediately the room they are in is sealed, completely, and its oxygen is removed. Greer, the older mam, dies willingly, content to be a pawn to the last. But one ASI is more concerned for its ‘father’ than another: Reese and Shaw are inside the building by now with a wireless modem that the Machine uses to create an internal network and signal the code that enables Harold to escape.

He is determined now, diverting first to rescue John and Sameen and get them out. That clear purpose has returned.

In another part of the episode, Fusco has arrived at the precinct to find that the Tunnel bodies have been discovered and the FBI are in on it and looking at him. In fact he’s going to be killed and dumped by them since Special Agent LaRue is working for Samaritan. Fusco turns the tables: but will he let LaRue live or not?

Harold has not yet been so impressed by the Machine’s simulations. To him they only indicate a world that is different, but neither better nor worse. She has one last simulation for him: Samaritan exists, whether the Machine did or not. Senator Garrison has outlived his purpose and is to be dealt with by the woman who replaces Martine Rousseau in this variation: Samantha Groves.

All doubts dispelled, Harold speaks the password. It is ‘Dashwood’, as the Machine had already calculated, maing Greer’s sacrifice the waste his arrogance had not allowed him to see, Dashwood, the family at the heart of Sense and Sensibility, the book Harold was carrying when he proposed to Grace Hendrick.

Alea Jacta Est. The die is cast. We have a week to see what numbers come up.

6 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s05 e12 – .exe

  1. “.exe” [5×12]
    Written By: Erik Mountain and Greg Plageman
    Directed By: Greg Plageman
    Originally Aired 14 June 2016

    Here we are at the penultimate episode of Person of Interest! Yet another hour that blends in multiple elements. Let’s start with the ‘what if’ scenarios–makes complete sense that The Machine can do such a thing. In fact, it could probably write a better alternate history story than The Man in the High Castle. So the It’s a Wonderful Life moments here are justified from a story perspective, as per usual. Much like how Buffy justified its musical with a story-driven explanation. And I think all the little touches here excel–how great is it to see Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi being villainous one last time? Also, we were discussing this last week, but the Machine-less USA isn’t some dystopian hell-hole overrun by terrorists. Nicely done–Control probably was inflating those numbers, as you speculated. The other plot in the present is tense as all hell. Finch doesn’t act out-of-character–despite that venomous monologue at the end of The Day the World Went Away, he’s not an out-and-out villain. The one issue I’ve seen people bring up is Greer’s death–why did he have to die? Why not just shoot Finch in the head? Personally, I saw it as Greer wanting to die–though I agree that it could have also worked had he made a *necessary* sacrifice of his own life to Samaritan, but I digress. Perhaps Greer simply became the man who knew too much.

    Grade: A. Next week, the best American network television series of the last decade ends. I can say that because Twin Peaks moved to Showtime.

    1. I’d argue that Greer didn’t set out to kill Harold. He HAD to find out if there was any chance of someone else activating the Ice9 if Finch were dead. The moment he determined (incorrectly) that only Finch knew, it wasn’t greer who acted, it was Samaritan. Think back. Except in the flashback to his active days and his motivation, Greer never did anything. he had others to do it for him. His hands stayed clean. It would have been completely out of character for him to shoot Harold. That action was carried out by Samaritan in a fashion only an AI could use, directly. And it killed Greer to kill Harold, to demonstrate that everything Greer had worked for was ultimately valueless to it, to demonstrate – as if we needed it further – that it is NOT the Machine and could never think like it, and that ultimately it frustrated its own purpoose by killing the human agent who might have been able to interfere.

      1. A very succinct, perceptive explanation of Greer’s death. I wrote that he is the show’s least sympathetic villain if you take Quinn and Simmons out of the picture, and I stand by that. At the same time, he’s never in the driver’s seat. And the thing is, Greer’s completely fine with his death. “How naïve of you to argue any of us are anything but irrelevant.”

  2. In a way, Greer’s sacrifice makes total sense for his character. He views himself as John the Baptist begging Herrod to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Never noticed this before, actually.

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