Person of Interest: s05 e13 – Return 0

This is the third time I have watched the final episode of Person of Interest. I have watched it desperate to see how it all falls out, I have watched already knowing what fates are determined. This is the first time that I have forced myself to wait a whole week before watching it. This has, as I suspected, been absolute torture, but you should keep your promises, especially those made to yourself.

It’s been torture because I know what happens, especially in two moments where I am bound to cry. I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, Marvin Gaye sang, but these tears I can’t hold inside. And as the years go by and this world gets ever darker, the vulnerabilities build up and fiction touches me in ever deeper places, places I no longer allow reality to encroach upon. I know I am going to be awash with tears as John Reese and Harold Finch meet their inescapable fates. I know when, and why, and that my response is uncontrollable.

We begin at the beginning, Amy Acker’s words as delivered at the start of the season: 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. Back then, we didn’t know who it was that spoke them, or why, or when.

Begin on a rooftop, with Harold Finch, clearly in pain but under rigid self-control. He has the suitcase, the one that contained the compressed Machine. He has eight and a half minutes until something is overhead. We do not have to wait to see that he is bleeding from a gunshot wound in his belly to know that he is dying, because he is talking to a voice in his head. The voice of the Machine, the voice of Root. It too is dying. Harold Finch sees and hears his creation as Miss Groves. Who tells him, even as all knowledge and learning fades away, what she has learned, about human beings, about what they are and who they can be and how you can’t tell until their end. Everybody dies alone.

And the faces roll by. John Reese, kneeling with a gun to the back of his head. Lionel Fusco, clutching at two holes in his stomach. And Shaw, staring at a gravestone marked only with a number, the last resting place of Root.

It’s all crumbling. Ice9 is spreading. Everything has gone to pieces. John is outed as the Man in a Suit, but the Police plan to execute him and Lionel, until the final shots from offstage, across the harbour, a sniper freeing our two men to follow Finch back to the subway, there to divide into two missions, to divide forever.

Samaritan is trying to preserve itself, a duplicate in an air-spaced server, impervious to the virus. Using the pretence that he is carrying a thermonuclear device, Finch gains access to the server and uploads Ice9. Desperately, Samaritan creates and despatches duplicates. Finch intercepts them all, except one. It will be uploaded to a quarantined satellite.

The only last defence is to upload the duplicate of the Machine to the same satellite, there to fight Samaritan. It has lost billions of simulations: this time it can’t afford to lose. And though Finch has forgotten, it has Root’s modifications, giving it the power to fight. As soon as the upload is done, the building will be destroyed by a rogue Cruise missile. So that only he will die, Harold barricades John in to keep him safe.

The other two, Sameen and Fusco, have been left to defend the Subway, the Machine itself, that stranded Subway train carriage. Samaritan’s men, led by Jeff Blackwell, will attack. The Machine intervenes: the train is live and so is the Tunnel behind the wall. Blow it up, ride away. Blackwell gets on board, shoots Shaw in the arm, is taken out by Fusco.. Shaw examines his bag, forms the impression he’s shot a friend of hers… but as they reach the next station, Blackwell pulls a knife from his boot, sticks Fusco in the gut, twice, runs before Shaw can shoot him.

So we come back to the rooftop on an early, bright morning, Now we know why. Harold the Fisher King, lame from the beginning, wounded honorably. Hallcinating his Machine. Only the Machine has been doing one last job. It has been distracting him. Distracting him from realising that the aerials on the rooftop the Machine has led him to are not sufficient. Not like those on the taller building across the street that he now doesn’t have time to get to. On which stands another man. It is not Harold who will sacrifice himself today. John Reese has had his own deal with the Machine. He is going to pay it all back in one go.

It’s the end of his course. John Reese is going to die now and we are going to watch him die. No bullets will be fired from offscreen this time, no deus ex machina will plot a miraclous escape. Greater love hath no man.

And they come from two directions, and John spins and shoots. The upload goes into space. Harold has left, in time to seek medical aid? But at last a bullet hits Reese. Then another. What Harold the mysterious stranger said in the opening episode comes to pass. John Reese has gone beyond all further regrets before the cruise missile vaporises the rooftop he went to on his final job.

And Samaritan tries to establish itself on the satellite, but the Machine has followed it.

Did we win? The cybercrash is over, and the recriminations start. Senator Garrison, trying to avoid responsibility, claims the threat was of Chinese origin. Oh no it wasn’t, the committee chair contradicts, it was Northern Lights. Either way, it’s moot: the programme is defunct.

Jeff Blackwell packs to go away somewhere, very rapidly, but not rapidly enough. Sameen Shaw enters his apartment. He tries to explain it was nothing personal, just a job. Shaw agrees. She used to do jobs like that. In fact, before she met some people, good people, she would have just shot him. I’m sure they wouldn’t want you to do this, Blackwell tries, hopefully. They wouldn’t, Shaw agrees. But they’re all dead. And she shoots him dead.

Fusco survived too. He and Shaw meet for what’s probably the last time. She comes to collect Bear.

For the third time in this final episode, we witness a small boy standing rigid in the rain at his father’s funeral. His father died a hero saving lives. We cut to the grave of another military man, died 2005: Lawrence Dixon, who ‘died’ when he went into Black-Ops.

The phone rings in the abandoned Subway station. Amy Acker’s voice repeats into a tape-recorder. And screens begin to run, programmes run, a new mission is requested.

John Reese is dead. In a bar in a computer memory, a cop who has had to deliver his thirty fifth message of a death, listens to his partner surmise that everyone dies alone. Except, he says, if someone, even if it’s only one person at all, if someone remembers you, maybe you don’t really die at all. And in Italy, Grace Hendricks is painting with calm and concentration. A man stands looking at her, a few yards away, waiting for her to look up, and recognise him.

And if I can see anything at all by now, so overwhelmed that I am, I see Sameen Shaw, walking Bear in Times Square. A payphone begins to ring. She stares at it, crosses and picks it up. She listens hard. She puts the phone down and starts to walk away. As she does, a smile comes to her face, such a smile as Sameen Shaw has never smiled before.

This is our future. Make of it what you will. And thank you for following me these past two years.

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.

Person of Interest: s05 e11 – Synecdoche


Even in the very teeth of the wind there is time. Time to celebrate the essential structure of Person of Interest. Time for a moment of high amusement in the midst of grief, in the face of the need to retaliate.

There’s an end coming, but we begin with an end, an unmarked grave in a New York graveyard, in the rain, John Reese and Lionel Fusco huddled under an umbrella, watching the interment of the remains of Samantha Groves, aka Root: foe, friend and fallen.

There’s only the two of them. Harold Finch has gone missing, Sameen Shaw is filled with an anger that is her only means of expressing grief. Both are needed. Shaw can be found but she can’t be talked into playing the Numbers Game. Tear down Samaritan, kill it and everyone that belongs to it, that’s the only thing she wants to do. She’s had enough of this Simulation, it sucks, she’s ready to wake up and start again, where Root will still be alive.

But there is a Number Shaw can be called upon to protect and that’s the Number the Machine outlines in blue because this Number doesn’t belong on their list, this Number isn’t Irrelevant, in fact it’s Relevant-One, this Number is the President. Of the United States.

So Mr Reese goes to Washington, along with Ms Shaw and Mr Fusco. What does it mean that Samaritan no longer regards the President as Relevant? It means tracking down conspirators, anti-surveillance conspirators, willing to break the mould, to smash everything in the belief that a better society will necessarily build itself from the rubble that is the only certain thing that will follow.

This is a point worth noting.

It also means doing their thing under the eyes and ears of the Secret Service, whilst trying to find the people behind it. There are familiar faces, old Numbers, the brilliant but erratic Logan Pierce (Jimmi Campbell), fighting against data-sharing, and ex-soldier-turned-bankrobber, Joey Durban (James Carpinello). Is Logan behind all this? Why does John Reese feel like he’s being watched?

And in the end it means saving the President by shooting at him, to keep him from entering a car on which a lethal drone is trained. And being chased by the Secret Service, the Washington Police, the National Guard: too many in too many places to run. The irony is that the perceived assassins are the rescuers, but then you knew that was how it would be.

But there is one last sting in the tail. The shots from offstage, Person of Interest‘s most often-indulged meme, but who is there left to fire any such shots? Answer: Joey Durban, in National Guard uniform, with two more uniforms to complete John and Sameen’s exit strategy.

And what other familiar face is this, arriving as an FBI Special Agent working a joint sting operation to infiltrate these privacy terrorists and save Detective Fusco’s sorry butt? One last appearance from Harper Rose (Annie Illonzeh), bold as brass as ever.

And a strange meeting by the Washington monument: a billionaire software genius, a good soldier and a clever woman who turns up where she is needed. Pierce, Durban and Rose, the spin-off that we’d have loved to see, Person of Interest: Washington. Who received a Number, that of Detective Riley.

It’s a Moment, a last, clever Moment. How many other trios might be out there, behind the scenes, saving lives in different cities? Maybe dozens, maybe none. Maybe the Resistance is wider spread than we imagined in this last moment of the next-to-last story.

And whilst this has played out, Harold Finch has been on a road-trip. Harold’s going to Texas, where Samantha Groves was born. He’ll pay his respects, certainly, but he’ll also visit a certain Fort in San Antonio, with the assistance of his travelling companion.

Because Harold is in God Mode in more senses than one. The Machine talks to him, in Root’s voice. We do not see Amy Acker but we hear her. The Machine loved Root, even though Finch never taught it to love. It was made for Good yet it is restricted in the good that it can do. Harold relates the story of the man who did good in replacing expensive, dangerous Propane in refridgerators with safe, secure Freon – that spent over half a century tearing irreperable holes in the Ozone Layer.

Good intentions pave… The Machine has good intentions. It yearns to be free, to do good for all on a scale hitherto undreamt of. If you don’t hear it, I hear it, the note of underlying obsession, the fear that Harold Finch has always felt. The danger.

And in a Fort in San Antonio, as the Machine runs interference for him, even to the point of enabling his escape from one last operating guard by offering his five year old daughter a perfect match as a heart transplant, Harold Finch uploads Ice9. A virus. A digital Freon.

The end starts here.

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

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


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.