Person of Interest: s05 e09 – Sotto Voce


Victim or Perpatrator? One last time…

Where do I begin?

Firstly, I’m not going to start delving into the storyline of this episode in my usual depth. It was taut, it was complex, it brought everyone into play in separate missions that, before the end, tied into a single story, and it ended on a note of poignancy made all the more plangent by my knowledge of what is to happen in the next episode.

In essence, this was a Number of the Week episode, a good, old-fashioned, more or less self-contained episode, with next-to-no involvement from Samaritan. Reese, operating as Detective Riley for practically the whole episode, is following the number, Terry Eastern (Neal Huff), a locksmith breaking into an investment firm to plant a bomb. Reese defuses it, takes the terrified Terry back to the precinct, learning that Terry’s been coerced into this by the kidnap and threatened murder of his wife. The true culprit is the mysterious criminal, the Voice (s03 e15 – Last Call). Do we know what Voce means in Italian?

The Voice has planted bombs all over the precinct. Reese/Riley’s trying to protect Terry and find the Voice. Fusco won’t help. They’re not partners anymore. he’s helping get a lot of gang members into the holding cells, whilst an unregistered gun found on frightened taxi-driver Amir Saddiq (Rupak Ginn) links back to two of his unsolved murders. Not just two: four, and more. Saddiq is a professional hitman. He works for the Voice. He knows who the Voice is.

Finch is trying to track the Voice. He has back-up, Carl Elias, determined to take a hand despite the risk to him. He has lost his two friends, he will not lose another. He leads Harold to the Voice’s bombmaker, coerces locations out of him. They’re all in the Eighth Precinct, stretching resources, drawing Police from the station. Where Terry has been frightened into unlocking all the cells, letting the gang out to barricade themselves and the remaining cops inside.

I haven’t mentioned Root yet, nor Shaw. Shaw’s in Mexico, heading for the border. Root’s in the Subway with a Number of her own, supplied by the Machine directly, a radio engineer working to extend the bandwidth for Samaritan’s coded radio messages. But someone shoots him, and the goons. Root follows, into the Park. More shootings. She comes face to face and gun to gun with the assassin. It is Shaw.

But Shaw won’t go back with her, to the Subway, to the rest. She’s been put through over 7,000 simulations, her sense of reality is indeed broken, she is unsafe. At any moment, she might turn and kill everyone. Better she quarantine herself, continue her mission to kill Samaritan, one agent at a time.

Everyone? Everyone but Root. Root she could never kill. She would put the gun to her own head instead. Shaw puts the gun to her own head. Root swears this is real and not a simulation. Shaw won’t listen. So Root does the most simple and obvious thing, the one twist Samaritan’s simulations could not imagine: she puts her gun to her head. If Shaw pulls the trigger, Root will pull the trigger. A simple paradox. Shaw can’t kill Root. She can’t end the scenario by killing herself which kills Root. Impasse.

The pieces fall together. Reese/Riley and Fusco fight side by side in the precinct. Finch traces the signal to the Precinct, discovers Terry’s ‘wife’ is an actress. Yes, that’s right, Terry Eastern is the Voice. He kills Saddiq and walks away. In the street, he’s confronted by Finch who warns him this will end. Terry can’t kill Harold because Elias has got a gun on him too. A truce. The Voices drives away. I saw it coming, each and every time. ‘I think that’s far enough, don’t you?’ Elias says, and presses the detonator in his hand. Over Finch’s shock, he protests mildly that Harold must have known he would do something like that. Subconsciously, Harold has summoned this. Harold’s inner darkness has undermined his rigid surface code.

It can’t go on like this. We are getting very near to the edge, the tipping point. Reese, who saw Fusco take a bullet for him despite their differences, tells Fusco the story. The full story, all the truth, a private enlightenment. And there’s one last appointment, under the bridge, staring across the city, the point where burnt-out derelict John Reese first met extremely private software developer Harold Finch, there is a reunion, Root bringing back an almost bashful Sameen Shaw. The gang reunited. The Five Musketeers back together again, in sunshine and shy silence. One Last Golden Afternoon before…

If only it could all end here, in this moment of peace and warmth, this projection of hope. But there are four episodes more. The point of One Last Golden Afternoon is that it is the last. The end starts here.

Person of Interest: s05 e08 – Reassortment


Look familiar?

What we have here is a great spinal story that, in the show’s early days, would have made a magnificent standalone episode, a story of chilling prescience for this year of our terror, 2020, carrying with it three peripheral stories of varying momentum that lead towards our impending end, the whole thing being a textbook example of combining multiple strands.

Just your average, everyday episode of Person of Interest then.

At the centre was a Number of the Week, international negotiator James Ko, flight diverrted to New York ‘due to maintenance reasons’. Ko’s not too well so he checks into a local hospital. He’s given a standard anti-viral only for him to collapse and die abruptly, bleeding from the mouth. The label on the anti-viral has been switched: he’s been given an injection of live flu. Ko already had avian flu: the two strains combine in a unique manner, unique amongst millions of combinations, to create a superflu of lethal proportions. The hotel has to be locked down to prevent the contagion spreading. Yes, four years before the fact, we have a COVID19 orecursor story. I am no longer surprised by things like this.

Also locked down in the hospital are ‘Detective Riley’ and, joining the fray to assist, ‘Professor Whistler’. The attack is self-evidently but why? What could Samaritan possibly want in this scenario?

One answer is equally self-evident: two disruptors’, two ‘obstacles to progress’ to die as part of this. These are Doctor Mason and Nurse Carroll, who have filed complaints about the new automated medical database and mistakes in sending drugs. The database is controlled by Samaritan.

Meanwhile, first of three, there’s Jeff Blackwell. He takes the girlfriends who’s waited for him during twelve years in prison, since she was seventeen, out for a meal at an upmarket restaurant, but she’s full of doubts and statistics about recidivism, and she leaves him, unable to face the fear of his winding up inside again. Jeff expresses doubts about his new employment to his supervisor, Mona, and is asked to complete one last task, after which he can quit if he chooses. He’s to go to a particular hospital…

Meanwhile, second of three, Fusco is not letting go on the bodies in the tunnel. He beards Carl Elias in the safe house, tells him Bruce is dead, gets his assistance. Fusco’s a detective. He works his way through leads, identifies Jeff Blackwell, traces him to a hospital…

Meanwhile, third of three – but let’s save this one for the end as it alone has no direct connection to the hospital or the contagion. Blackwell’s been sent there to kill the Doctor and the Nurse, two of the three complainants who might expose what it is doing. No need to kill the third when he’s taken your shilling, envisioning a future of automated diagnosis and dispensing, cutting out the human errors that cause 400,000 deaths each year.

Working together, Team Machine save the days. Finch and Bear stop the collaborator. Blackwell’s about to inject the Doctor when Reese tackles him. Fusco intervenes to save Reese but gets a syringe himself, Blackwell jabs the nurse and escapes. But Root, continually extolling the benefits of an open system, identifies and steals an antidote, saving the day.

But there’s fall out. Reese doesn’t chase Blackwell out of concern for his partner. Like Spider-Man and the guy he didn’t stop, there is a consequence to this, as we who have watched this before are all too aware. Fusco however has put in for a transfer, a new partner, someone who will respect him, share information with him, will trust him. Fusco has been kept in the dark too long. Fusco has washed his hands of things.

And Finch, displaying as much anger as he ever has, rounds on Elias, forbidding him to ever speak to Fusco again. And Elias, as calm as he always is, explains that in war you have to use all your forces, and that in war there are always sacrifices. Sacrifices: that word so abhorrent to Harold Finch. But, Elias warns, it’s the quiet ones you have to beware of. Harold, inside, is the darkest of them. It’s a foreshadowing.

But we have a meanwhile to return to. It’s Shaw. It’s another escape, starting from when the next sedative is to be administered: overpowering the doctor, injecting her, knocking a glass of water off the stand. Disabling security card systems. Accessing tunnels. Emerging in a cell in a South African prison, in Johannesberg. Breaking out of that. And being confronted by Lambert, mini-Greer, as smug as always. Why bother? It’s just another simulation. Any moment now the technicians will remove the VR headset. Isn’t she tired yet? Has she any hope of telling what was real? Sameen wavers, her grasp on things breaking down. If Lambert wants her to believe this is a simulation, why doesn’t he prove it by shooting himself in the head?

From the moment he doesn’t do it, we know. We know this is not a simulation. We also know what Lambert doesn’t know, that Sameen is carrying a gun behind her back. If this is a simulation, she might as well do this. She pulls the gun and shoots Lambert through the heart. Oh dear. She steals his keys and heads off into the night of Johannesberg. Shaw is coming. But she needs to be quick…

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.

Person of Interest: s05 e06 – A More Perfect Union


The moment before…

Take a line from the American Constitution, add in a wedding (Ahhh), cross-pollinate it with both a seduction and the groundwork for breaking a relationship, and what we have is an episode that tries to ofer itself as a Number of the Week but which also embodies the fragmentation of Person of Interest‘s primary goals.

The wedding is that of heiress Phoebe Turner and underpaid Public Defender Will O’Brien. Finch suspects someone, probably Phoebe’s racehorse owner father Kent, doesn’t want to see Will come into a share of the Turner fortune, so he contrives, in an amusing manner, to get both himself and ‘Detective Riley’ invited to the wedding to ensure the marriage goes ahead. Root, who’s feeling lonely, gatecrashes as a supposed caterer.

The seduction is Sameen Shaw. Her rejection of the simulation has now reached over 7,000 iterations and the smooth, urbane, arrogant and utterly despicable John Greer is finally starting to realise that he’s getting nowhere. So he releases Shaw for a field trip, into the real New York. He shows her men making deals, corrupt deals that will enrich themselves but which will lead to deaths on a far larger scale than the individual lives the Machine plans to save.

And the broken relationship is Detective Lionel Fusco. Fusco’s gotten involved with the missing persons angle after last week’s disappearance of Krupa Naik. Root, via the Machine, gives him an angle, Howard Carpenter (Russell G. Jones), dispenser of permits, on the take to see these go to construction companies owned by the mob. Howard has received a permit request, no. 44802, without a payment. He’s having a meeting in the Park with Bruce Moran (James Le Gros) about the payment. But it’s not one of the Five Familes’ companies.

And so we go towards our endings. The Victim at the wedding is not Phoebe or Will, nor even her father Kent, whose house is surrounded by protesters over his alleged dioping of his horses. The doping is real but it’s not Kent but his elder daughter Karen and the victin is family photographer Maggie (Purva Bedi), who accidentally snapped Karen in the act. Reese and Root save the day.

Sameen remains resistant to this softshoe shufflle of an approach, to Greer trying to get her to see Samaritan as the good guy. But she doesn’t try to escape And then there’s a shock ending, a demonstration of the outcome from not stopping Chechen militants from bombing the Russian Consulate; a hyper-rapid escalation to all-out War and a nuclear weapon strike on NYC. Because this too is a stimulation, one in which Shaw hasn’t died by her own hand.

And Fusco, patient, persistent Fusco who’s had Bruce plant in his head the idea that his loyatly might be misplaced if it’s given to two people who have never told him the truth, good cop Fusco traces Permit 44802 to the demolition of an underground tunnel. Where he finds dead bodies, laid out in a row like the photographs on his pin board. Carpenter’s there. So too is Krupa Naik. But the first one he sees is Bruce Moran. And then the demolition starts, with Fusco still inside.

One last scene, back at the Wedding. All’s gone well, the day’s an idyll, Karen hasn’t spoilt it. Root asks Harold to dance. She tells him she knows his experiment with the baby AIs is not going well, that the Machine is losing heavily. Once again she urges him to make the Machine open, give it the tools it needs to survive. Once again he is cautious, fearful of how having such a Machine might corrupt him, them.

Three faces at a table, relaxing with fine bourbon, enjoying a wedding. Three faces fallen in anticipation of the crash that is to come. There is no room in the world any more. Everything has gone wrong. And seven weeks to put it right.

Person of Interest: s05 e05 – ShotSeeker


How many more ways can you describe an episode of Person of Interest as being brilliant?

We’re already nearly halfway through the season, nearly halfway to the ultimate fallout. It seemed strange that with so little time left the programme should still be concerning itself with a Number of the Week that seemed to be detached from everything. But sound specialist Ethan Garvin (Will Manning) was far from detached from our primary concern, and before the day was out we were even more deeply entangled, and for those who have been here before there was a large thread of irony, woven scarlet. I’ll refer to it but I won’t spoil it.

So, Garvin. Garvin works for ShotSeeker, a private company running a surveillance programme used by NYPD. Aural transmitters cover the city, looking for gunfire, seiving out the false positives: firecrackers, car backfires etc. Garvin has remarkably sharp ears, was born that way. He is the resident genius on determining what is what, better even than the software. With which he is at odds over Krupa Naik.

ShotSeeker says that it was firecrackers that went off in Ms Naik’s apartment at 2.00am, Garvin says it was gunshots. Krupa is missing. It’s personal to Garvin because, even though he didn’t like her, they were at school together. She’s not just a name. But Garvin’s going to get himself killed if he pursues this one. Why? Because, in Greer’s words from the newly-mixed opening monologue, he’s standing in the way.

There are two other stories going on. These are not B and C stories, they are integral to the developing narrative. Bruce Moran, Carl Elias’s accountant and business manager and the sole remaining Musketeer of the three friends, has come up from underground, threatening Fusco’s kid. He wants answers, the truth, about what happened when Elias and Dominick were assassinated. and he wants revenge.

Mr Reese steps in to shut down the threat but Mr Moran is adamant. He intervenes to take control of Reese’s person, extracting him from the pursuit of Krupa Naik’s fate, causing the loyal Fusco to call out an APB and full NYPD response to the disappearance of one of their own.

And there’s dissension and trial going on down in the subway. Finch has run the rogue programme from the Samaritan coding, in a Faraday Cage. He is keeping Root out of things. He has set up a miniature Machine in a second laptop, baby AIs at play. All to pit the two against each other, for the Machine to find the flaw in Samaritan that can be exploited in the real world to destroy it.

What everyone is after in the case of Krupa Naik is a formula, a code for freeze-drying food to preserve it for starving people for two extra years. She offered it to a non-profit global charity, refusing a fabulous sale to a big company, Harvesta (think Monsanto). At the same time those shots were fired in Krupa’s apartment, the file was hacked by Harvesta’s ruthless and self-entitled CEO. Everything begins to merge.

Krupa’s colleague and friend, Mary Mulhall (Julie Cavaliere) has a hard drive, for which she is attacked and killed. Root goes to Mary’s apartment where she finds the hard drive. She also finds the creepy Jeff Blackwell (Josh Close) ransacking the place. The two satnd-off, face to face, Root with a un, Blackwell with what looks like some kind of fencing sword. Root gets away. She and Finch have Krupa’s programme.

But everything, everything, except Bruce, is a Samaritan operation. The hacking, the encryption, the false trail to Harvesta. For some reason, Samaritan does not want Krupa’s code to be released. Over Finch’s concerns as to what problems it might cause, he and Root send it out. Garvin ceases to be a threat, his life is secured.

But Detective Fusco might now be targetted as a Disruptive. Fusco isn’t being told everything, he never has been. For all his faithfulness and loyalty, he remains on the outside, untrusted. No-one has found the answer aout Krupa Naik. She’s still a Missing Person. Homicides are down but suicides are up. So too are Missing Persons. Fusco is a cop. Something is going on. He’s going to get to the bottom of it.

And John Reese tells Bruce Moran the truth, or rather shows him. Giancarlo Esposito’s name was excluded from the credits to preserve the surprise but Carl Elias is still alive, rescued from the shooting by Fusco, Finch and Reese, slowly recovering and kept hidden in the Safe House. Elias knows enough now to know his time, the time of the men like himself, Anthony and Bruce, is over. They have an enemy that cannot be defeated: go back underground and stay there until you die, he counsels Bruce, meaning it. But Bruce won’t listen. He knows Carl is alive, but he will still seek revenge on their enemies, even if Samaritan can’t be beaten.

Can’t be beaten? The Machine is searching for away to beat Samaritan, locked in their playground fight. Root wants to change the Machine’s coding, teach it how to push back but Finch demurs. But the Machine has fought over ten billion simulations. And lost every single one. Some wars cannot be won. This is one of them.

There are eight episodes left.

These are not good numbers

Person of Interest: s05 e02 – SNAFU


Foreshadowing

Step two in the latest and last reconstruction of Person of Interest. The Machine’s existence has been saved physically, and it is now in the room, down in the Subway, where Ms Samantha Groves is currently a permanent resident, shorn of cover identities that will keep her alive overground.

But the Machine may have been saved in ‘body’ but what about its mind? In short, is it still sane?

This was the subject of this episode, which broke itself down into ill-fitting parts, comic and dramatic, in order to illustrate the confusion in the mind of the Machine as Harold Finch brings it back online. There’s a tinkering with the monologue – not for the last time – as Finch’s words blur and crash and reverse, and a frenetic sequence where facial recognition goes decidedly out of kilter. Heads get swapped, or appear multiple times over, a blur of silliness linking Finch, Root, Reese and Fusco, as the cast play each other in changed heads.

But there’s a serious point to be made. Reese is super-frustrated, they’ve been out of the game for two months now, lives have been lost. In the Police world, Homicides are down but Suicides are up. Beware the foreshadowing line. The Machine responds by offering thirty numbers at once, giving Reese and Fusco something to do whilst they catch up.

But there’s something seriously wrong. The Numbers include a kid who phoned in a bomb threat to get out of a school test, an actor in a Victorian play, a long-dead Mafia boss, an ex-con painting a house. Beware the foreshadowing moment.

Only two – is it only two? – Numbers on that list are valid. One’s a guy with massive gambling debts who earns Fusco special praise when he saves the man’s life. The other is Oklahoma tourist Laurie Grainger (Paige Patterson), who walks into the Precinct and straight up to John ‘Riley’. One’s a Victim, but the other’s a Perpetrator. Nice looking Laurie, the pretty girl with the big smile, is a hitwoman, a professional, hired to take out Reese. Has Samaritan penetrated his identity at last?

Of course it hasn’t, as a moment’s thought would tell you, if the episode stayed still long enough for that moment of thought. (They’d have come in truckloads of men in dark suits, none of whom can shoot straight, you know that).

So who did hire Laurie? The same one who locked Finch and Root in the now-wired-for-sound Subway carriage: the Machine.

Because the Machine is full of glitches still, the biggest one being that it is lost in time. Everything it has ever seen is happening Now, because the Machine can’t distinguish one day from another. It has re-uploaded its memories, including Finch’s original teachings about things that are unforgivable, such as murder and assault. By it’s current lights, John Reese is a monster. So too are Harold Finch and Samatha Groves.

Whilst John fights off his assailant, Finch fights off his (Root is too vulnerable, the Machine is literally in her head so, to remove herself as a bargaining chip, she places herself under anaesthesia). How to persuade a Machine that he has personally ‘killed’ 42 times, each one of which said Machine is reliving in its eternal Now is a hard task, and it is done by resetting the parameters of Good and Evil by reference to the common condition of all of us: trying to do the best we can. And the history of multiple Numbers saved helps establish a viable context.

So all is well, so well that our quartet can enjoy a picnic in the park (and Amy Acker can wear a modestly short skirt: mind you, Reese turns up in the violently yellow polyester of a Police Bowling league team). It’s a moment of sunlight marred only by the remembrance that these four are in an underground war that no-one around them could understand if they knew. Let them enjoy the respite for a moment.

Thirty Numbers and only two that were valid. Or was it two? I recognised the ex-con as soon as I saw him, Jeff Blackwell, played by Josh Close. The Machine was unmoored in time but no-one thought that it might be detecting a future threat that belongs to more than just the immediate future. Jeff Blackwell needs a job. An employment agency has one for him, ready-made, no application, no HR meetings, just start straight away. A Samaritan-style box appears round his head: Asset 702. Potential for Violence: 70%. Something is coming towards us.

Person of Interest: s05 e01 – B.S.O.D.


[beep] If you can hear this, you’re alone. The only thing left of us is the sound of my voice.

I don’t know if any of us made it. Did we win? Did we lose? I don’t know. I’m not even sure I even know what victory would mean anymore.

But either way, it’s over. So let me tell you who we were. Let me tell you who *you* are… and how we fought back.

It begins at the end, the very end, twelve long weeks from here. Root’s voice, in darkness, coming from a telephone message to an abandoned, almost destroyed Subway. No equipment, no people, a demolished wall… no train. Then we pull back to start the full story of how we got from, here to there. And where there is.

BSOD stands for Blue Screen of Death, that fatal error screen that suddenly screams out of your laptop. I didn’t know that before starting to watch this episode so I didn’t know its appropriateness to this episode. Originally, this was not broadcast until almost a year after the final episode of season 4 and though it starts almost immediately after that, it doesn’t fel like it. There’s a massive urgency to everything and this is because the name of the game is now survival. Reese, Finch and Root are classified as Enemy Combatants, assassins and death squads are tracking them, the Machine is a set of RAM-chips in a damaged briefcase and can offer no aid let alone protection. Run rabbits, run.

Manwhile, Fusco is investigated by IAB  Detective Soriano (Ned Eisenberg) and FBI Special Agent LeRoux (David Aaron Baker) on suspicion of killing Dominick and Elias. He idn’t, we know that, but nobody believes him about the rooftop sniper, Reese asks him to pay this down and an FBI ballistics report that LeRoux won’t let Soriano see, ‘confirms’ it was Fusco’s gun: he stopped  major crime figure fleeing custody: he’s a hero.

He also finds the sniper’s casing on the rooftop afterwards. And the dissatisfied Soriano, re-classified by Samaritan as an ‘Obstructionist’, dies of a heart attack. We understand that it wasn’t natural.

But what of Reese, Finch and Root? And the Machine, compressed into a supposedly indestructible briefcase whose battery has been damaged and is dying. The first two team up and make it back to the Subway after a couple of adventures: a trip on the East River Ferry brings flashbacks to Harold of Nathan Ingram’s death and the vending machine that, Batman-style, conceals their access to the Subway is being serviced. Reese drives forward, obsessed with restoring normality, getting back to the Numbers. But once ‘home’, the problem of saving the Machine arises. And they are too late and they don’t have the equipment…

Root’s on a different path, much more of a chase sequence, that leads her to an old client who really doesn’t get what’s going on. He thinks it’s a better deal to sell her out to Samaritan. Is there no honour among thieves any more? Because everyone knows from Second One that the price he’ll be paid will be measured out in lead, not gold. Still, John’s here for the deus ex machina rescue, but Root wants to take a little souvenir back with her: 300 games consoles.

Finch’s though is the loneliest path. He has to try to save his child. There are flashbacks, to 2006, steps in the creation of the Machine or rather reservations and limitations leading to the dumping of all the Machine’s memories every night. Nathan protests the step, warning that if Harold doesn’t create the first free and unhindered AI, someone else will. Grace Hendricks tells him to follow his heart. The Machine in its last moments, reminds him that losing its memories is the same as the ‘death’ of Harold’s father, longer than its 25th Anniversary of the death of his body, but rather when the Alzheimers took his memories. Alea jacta est: the die is cast.

And in 2015, Finch tries to save the Machine by reviving its batteries. It gets iut, it tries to decompress but there is no room Finch pulls the plug. But 300 games consoles can be wired up to create a super-computer big enough to house the Machine. Finch apologises to her, saying that he would not make certain decisions the same now. It comes on-line. “Can you see me?” he asks.

More next week.

Person of Interest: s04 e22 – YHWH


An appropriate word

If it had ended here, it would have still been a good ending. It would have been an ending in defeat, almost like the infamous and controversial ending to Blake’s Seven almost forty years ago, the nature of which still rankles with me. The difference is that the ending to Season 4 would have left a shaft of light, a glimmer of hope, that it wasn’t completely over.

Ratings fell during Season 4. The nature of the show changed, it slid from series to serial. Some people hated Samaritan, some just didn’t like change, there’s always some. Person of Interest was in danger of cancellation. Once upon a time and not very long ago that would have been it. Networks are commercial entities, governed by income from advertising. Without eyeballs there is no advertising, without advertising there is no show. Person of Interest would have died then.

But things have changed. DVD box-sets give shows a long tail. Who, though, will spend for four box-sets of a show without an end?

If Person of Interest had ended here, where would it have left us? Like last week’s set-up, there were three elements: Control’s attempts to divert the Correction, Reese, Fusco and Elias’ capture at the hands of Dominic and the Brotherhood, and Finch and Root’s attempt to rescue the Machine.

It began with a revelation, as a Thornhill Industries box is fixed to a telegraph pole. What it was for we had to wait to see, though it’s later description as a Line Modulater was meaningless to me. whatever it was, we, or at least me, instinctively understood that it was the Machine, that all of them were. Two years ago, when the Machine vanished, it didn’t go somewhere, it went everywhere. Into the National Power Grid.

And now Samaritan knows where it is. Power surges and brown-outs are occurring all the way across the United States, the Machine’s visual feeds are fritzing and blurring. It is being driven East, until there is nowhere left for it to go, until it can do nothing but die.

Root goes into god-mode, constant communication starting from a telephone built into the walls of the Subway, walled over (Amy Acker swings a mean sledgehammer). This sends them on a helter-skelter scavenger hunt, for an improbable collection of things whose purpose is unguessable. It also has them break into the offices of Caleb Phipps (Luke Kleintank), reintroduced in episode 16, who was once a Number. The moment Finch steps forward to be recognised, to congratulate Caleb with genuine pleasure at his success, Caleb gives him the compression algorithm, no questions. Whatever the man who saved his life in season 2, episode 11 (2 Pi R) wants, he can have. Caleb’s belief is absolute.

Elsewhere, the Reese situation is relieved with almost bathetic simplicity. Dominic continues to rule the roost. He demands from John the same arrangement Elias has, with Harold as his inside man. What Dominic doesn’t understand, or believe, because his life and career conditions him to see things only within one pattern (he’s not the only one we’ll see doing that this episode) is that there is no arrangement.

And it falls apart rapidly. Dominic sends Floyd to kill Fusco, but Harper (no, sorry, still can’t stand her) has picked the lock on his handcuffs, he’s got away and he returns with the FBI to arrest everyone, including Dominic and Elias. It’s the pugnacious little fireplug’s moment of glory, and it earns him a handshake from John, who’s now free to slip off to first warn Iris Campbell to get out of the city for a few days, then join Finch and Root, the faithful muscle guarding the techsperts, the core of Team Machine on one final wild ride.

So that’s that. But it’s not. We’ll return to this. But for now, Control is fighting back against the Correction. Shipman, her right hand woman in the nerve centre, cannot detect any potental flashpoints, Senator Garrison regards her as paranoid and unbalanced when she wants Samaritan shut down and areversion to Northern Lights, which never lied to them. She and Grice (Nick A Tarabat) invade a Quarantined house in Washington where they find evidence of massive bomb-making. The target is the Supreme Court, hearing an anti-surveillance docket. Control steers greer into a private meeting at which she triumphntly advises him that it’s all over, in a moment he will be black-bagged and taken to a hole so deep and dark that Samaritan can’t see it, where he belongs. But remember what I said about people whose life and career have conditioned them to see things only in a certain pattern? It’s a bomb. It has to be  bomb.

Team Machine has reached its destination, an electricity sub-station concealed in a suburban house. Here at last Finch understands where the Machine went, and explains for us. Thornhill Utilities. Thornhill. The company that, in ‘God Mode’, exactly two seasons ago, was the Machine’s human alias. The Machine is dying. it is being forced out of existence. But with Caleb’s compression algorithm, a part of it, a ‘strand of DNA’, can be downloaded via a series of laptops, into a collection of high capacity RAM chips, stored in an indestructible briefcase. It can live.

No-one knows if it will work, if the Machine can survive wiithout the equivalent of brain damage. A screen lights up. The Machine talks to its Father, to Finch, its creator, who it feels it has failed. Father to son/daughter to Father, a completeky human exchange. With its last power, the Machine puts Reese into god-mode too, continual direction that enables him to take down an entire army of Samaritan operatives. Then it’s gone. God in the Machine becomes God in the Briefcase. If it’s worked. A shaft of light. A glimmer of hope.

Elsewhere, Greer is his usual superior, unconcerned self, despite Control and the gun with which she will kill him. It’s a bomb. But it’s not a bomb. Greer explains in his philosophy that the vast majority of human beings are docile and do not cause trouble (he doesn’t quite call us cattle or sheep but the words hang in the air). There are only a few hundred trouble-makers at any time, the ones who disrupt, who question authority. After a year, Samaritan has identified these people. The Correction has been a colossal bluff, a careful manipulation and a loyalt test. It is a surgical strike, nothing so crude as a bomb.

And the wagon taking Dominic and Elias downtown is rammed by one of Elias’s men, who helps him out of the wreckage. Dominic hauls himself out too, having grabbed aweapon. He is about to shoot Elias when he is stopped, again, by Fusco, who has his gun on him. Who will shoot first? in true PoI tradition, the shot comes from offscreen, a bony-faced man we’ve seen in the street before, a sniper’s rifle set-up on a rooftop. Corrections. He kills Dominic. Elias makes it into the escape vehicle ut is shot through the window. He appears to be dead.

Shipman’s dead, lying on the floor in Control’s nerve centre. Grice is dead, sat behind the wheel of a car outside the Supreme Court building. Others are dying. Control is black-bagged, to be taken to a hole so deep and dark, only Samaritan can see it. Where you belong, Greer states, with relish.

It would have been a good ending as it was. A week after this episode was broadcast, it was announced that it had been renewed, for a final season. That’s where we go next week. Now we are on the countdown

Person of Interest: s04 e21 – Asylum


It’s all gone pear-shaped

This is how it’s done. This is how to go from a standing start to a cliff-edge climax in which everything is placed at risk in only 43 minutes. This is how to race, headlong, at a brick wall, and still not show the impact. That comes next week, in the season finale.

‘Asylum’ took what felt like half a dozen weeks of story and crammed them into one episode, without short-changing any aspect of what was needed, whilst touching upon a million angles, whilst flirting with the greatest of disasters, and bringing in a host of guests, only one of whom was new to the series. Control, Greer, Rousseau, Elias, Dominic, Link, Harper, without cramping or overload.

Instead of the by-now-common two stories there were three. A middle-aged primary school teacher named Shelley Spencer (Erin Dilly) had her brakes cut and crashed on a deserted parking garage ramp. She’s black-bagged, a dead blonde is placed in her car, it’s blown up. Shelley Spencer is dead, and she’s going to be, unless she admits what she is to Control. Admits she’s an agent-handler for Samaritan, including moles in the ISA. But Shelley is merely a frightened middle-school teacher, a mother of two, the victim of a desperate mistake, doomed to be killed for being unable to give answers she doesn’t have.

Detectives ‘Riley’ and Fusco are called to a murder scene, four dead Brotherhood soldiers, without warning from the Machine: how could that happen? But the Machine has a warning, a Number, two Numbers: Carl Elias and Dominick. The War is coming to a head. It needs to be averted for the sake of the innocents between who will be killed. There’s a canister that explains everything and gives away Elias’s whereabouts, a pneumatic canister, a relic of the pneumatic tube system of communication that underlines Manhttan Island, incapable of electronic interception or surveillance, because it isn’t in any way electronic.

Riley and Fusco visit Elias’s headquarters. They are not welcome, nor are their efforts to intercede. But before they can leave, the Brotherhood attack in force. They take the bank, they take everyone. Dominick is leader but can he lead? He wants ‘Riley’ and Finch working for him now. He wants Elias to acknowledge his leadership. He taunts him over his role in Anthony’s death: what does that feel like? Be careful what you wish for, Elias replies.

Dominick also wants Harold and his network. How does he even know about Harold? Someone told him, someone for whom only money matters, who constantly lies, cheats, twists and who has not an atom of loyalty in her body except to herself. Harper Rose will sell out nyone for the right price.

And this, not either of her first two appearances, is why I loathe Harper. She has no conception of Good or Evil, just of Me and Them, and by her actions she has betrayed half our team to death, destruction and the end of the world.

But that leaves Finch and Root, the cerebral half of the battle. A message rings through on Sameen Shaw’s phone, a half-line, a plea for help. Shaw is alive. It’s a trap, the most obvious of traps, but that doen’t deter Root. Shaw is out there, she has failed her once, she will not do so again. It takes playing chicken on a ledge thirty floors up, placing her own life in the most proximate of danger, but Root forces the Machine to give up Shaw’s location, a government-run Asylum. Just like the one Finch put her in. Now, Root commits him as a means of getting both into the building.

Which is Samaritan’s base of operations. Rousseau confronts Root. They are both captured. Greer will have Root’s cochlear implant cut out to locate the whereabouts of the Machine. Rousseau will torture Harold. Everybody will die, the whole thing is over, Samaritan will win.

And the future will be a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

But we are not done. Control proves Shelley is lying. Shelley’s character turns in an instant. The Correction is coming, on May 6, something that will change the world forever. It’s nothing more than Control has done all her life. Shelley says “Go home to your loved ones. Hold your daughter tight, because a new day is dawning. And those who impede progress – the disruptive, the aberrant – will be systematically purged from our society. There will be no mercy. No stay of execution. For some, this will be the end. But for others, a rebirth. A second chance to live the life they were designed for. Every life given a purpose. Samaritan will build a new world. A better world.” Control says “Too bad you won’t live to see it.” and shoots her through the chest.

Dominick realises Elias has a rat in the Brotherhood. He tortures Elias, he tortures ‘Riley’ and Fusco. He threatens Elias with having all his loyal men killed unless he gives up the rat. Elias painfully accedes, provides a bank account number. It is traced. Dominick asks Link, his right-hand-man, his trusted lieutenant, his oldest friend, what to do about this traitor. Link repeats his already given advice: you don’t just hit back, you put them in the ground. Dominick guns him down. Link was the rat.

But he wasn’t. There was no rat. It was a beautifully executed play by Elias, knowing he was going to lose the War anyway and undermining Dominick first. Dominick can’t trust anyone now, he’s killed the only one he did. His men won’t trust him.

And he knows what it feels like to be responsible for the death of a friend.

In the asylum, Rousseau will make Finch’s torture painful. Root warns her not to lay a hand upon him. In response, Rousseau carresses Finch’s face. Then she leans over Root. Who, in a moment of shocking brevity, pins Rousseau’s hand to the bed, grabs her neck and snaps it. Harold is shocked by Greer’s complete indifference to the loss of an ally, threatens him with the prospect that one day Greer will be found dispensible by Samaritan: Greer sneers that Harold is arrogant to think that any of them are indispensible. He’s about to get a lesson.

There’s a deal on the table: Harold and Root’s life for the Machine’s location. Despite Root’s imploring not to do it, that Harold is right to say she and he are interchangeable for the Machine’s purposes, the Machine disagrees. It apologises for failing Shaw. It will not fail Harold and Root. They must be released first. Samaritan accepts the offer. The Machine reveals its location. Samaritan marshalls its forces. It is the end. Everybody lost.

Forty-three minutes.

Person of Interest: s04 e20 – Terra Incognita


Now? Then? When?

We’re now only two episodes from the end of Person of Interest‘s fourth and last full season. Based on the pattern of the past two seasons, I have long been expecting some form of overriding arc but this has not materialised, except in little, background moments. Against such concerns, ‘Terra Incognita’ is an unusual choice of story, coming so late and, except in a little-pursued B story that occupies Finch, Root and Fusco, in keeping them off screen, is detached from any progress. And it’s one of the best, most deeply hypnotic, and saddest episodes ever produced.

The episode digs into your emotions in several ways. It lays John Reese bare for us, and shows us the man, the living, feeling man, beneath the hard-armoured shell that he wears to allow no-one near him. It brings back Taraji P. Henson as a guest star, for what is essentially a two-hander, to remind us of how much we miss her, and to point to a present that never existed, a phantom limb of life never expressed, a could-have-been that never could have been. And it points to a future that never would be, a phantom path through the woods ahead that had to be choked off the minute Person of Interest received a qualified, do-what-you-can-with-this renewal for a half-season to bring it all to an end.

The structure combined undated flashback, a present winter day and hallucination that allowed those so minded in the audience to incorporate the supernatural.

It began in the past, Reese and Finch on stakeout over a number, a bar owner in danger from HR. There’s a third person in the car, Detective Joss Carter. Finch leaves to walk and feed Bear. Reese and Carter talk as they wait. Or rather they don’t talk. Carter wants to know more about the Man in a Suit, who he is, what and why.

In the present, two members of the Brotherhood are shot dead without Numbers coming up. Is the Machine defective? No, it was murder by oportunity, not pre-meditated. A hint, no more. The Machine has been distant this season, in hiding, delivering mainly offscreen. We see everything through Samaritan now, though there’s one brief moment when the Machine’s eyes become ours again.

But there is a number and John Reese makes it his own business, his and his alone, all others excluded. Because Chase Patterson, former junkie, suspected of killing his parents and sisters, is a cold case, removed to the freezer when he fled the country. He was Carter’s case, her first, working with Detective Tierney. Hohn wants this to himself, to close the case in Carter’ honour. And to be close once again to the woman he liked, admired, felt an affinity for and who, in another life without the walls he has built, scared and alone in War, he might well have fallen in love with.

Reese follows Carter’s trail, the episode flipping between then and now, distinguished by a colder, bluer, more washed-out colour scheme for the past. it ends at a remote family cabin, in the snowy Catskills, off grid. No-one, not even the Machine, knows where John has gone. Long ago, Carter disturbed the real killer, who didn’t have the courage to kill a cop. Now, Reese finds Chase and the set-up for murder by drugs overdose. This time, the killer shoots John, badly.

The killer? An out-of-left-field older half-brother, son to a mother abandoned by Chase’ father for the woman who was Chase’s mother. An embittered psycho, of no importance, a nobody, a nothing. is this going to be the man who kills John Reese?

Another flashback to Reese and Carter, on stake-out, in the car. John unbends to start talking about Jessica, the real and unbelievably sad reason why he pushed her away, the woman he loved and who loved him. This cannot be fiction, it cannot come out of even the most sophisticated and deepest of writers, only real life can produce thoughts like this: two dead platoons, one from each side and every man carries a picture, a girlfriend, wife or kid they would never come back to, and the man who would become John Reese thinking that if he had no picture, no future he longed to last to see, it might make him more invulnerable. The heart cries at that thought.

nd we realise that we are no longer in the flashback, that like the Pacific Ocean canoists and the NASA astronauts in Pete Atkin’s ‘Canoe’, we have moved between times. John has killed the killer. He has broken into Chase’s car for refuge. He is bleeding to death, though he’ll die of the cold far sooner. And Joss Carter’s next to him, digging at him, poking and prodding, continuing a conversation they never had in life, despite John’s hazy recollections, opening him up. Keeping him alive long enough for someone to come out and find him.

Is Carter really there? Is John so close to the border with death that she can come back for a time, fighting to keep him from crossing over? Or is John’s mind constructing for him an hallucination, by way of self-preservation, not merely of his body but of his… well, would you call it soul? Forcing him to understand that he cannot remain so detached, so concealed from anyone and everryone that he is literally killing himself, seeking a death that he sees as inevitable, determined from the start?

There’s a mention of his psychologist, of Iris Campbell, a story that would have gone far further in the season 5 that wasn’t to be and which had to be abandoned, as we shall see in the season that was. Phantom relationships, stretching forwards and backwards. Elsewhere, people are looking for John. Headlights approach. he won’t die. Neither will Chase Patterson, who will reach a hospital before the pills his half-brother forced him to take can end him. No music, just a fade to a Person of Interest caption card.

And a long, silent ascent towards our own reality, full of thought.