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 e04 – 6,741


A resourceful woman

Shaw is back!

There’s a twist to this episode, hinted at throughout and not quite as concealed as it might have been, and thus not so much a surprise as in a perfect world it would be. I’m going to reveal it at the bottom. But not here.

Helter-skeltering through Person of Interest first time, I read somewhere that Sarah Shahi was originally going to be absent for something like eighteen months, which would have meant her return somewhere either late Season 5 (would have made for a brilliant season finale) or early Season 6 on Earth-2. Which became untenable with the reduced final order, so here we have her back, as intense and cynical as ever, and every bit as active.

‘6,741’ is Shaw’s show. It starts with her undergoing an unwilling operation, to have a microchip implanted in her skull, to make her compliant, turn her into a good little girl who’ll tell kindly old John Greer where to find the Machine. It fails, in wonderfully dry, undemonstrative manner: Shaw, after nine months imprisonment (nice touch there), is still Shaw.

Indeed, she’s more so. After a second operation, implanting a second chip, Shaw sits and broods and calculates, as a result of which she escapes. It’s a proper, wonderfully destructive escape, Shaw at her most Shaw-like, improvising like crazy, breaking things, breaking people, stealing a boat and returning to New York.

Of course, she needs to get the chip out of her head, and she needs to find her friends. So she phones in a call suggesting she’s about to murder an innocent and ineffectual drugstore clerk, knowing it will attract Samaritan. It does. Shaw defends herself, but she is not totally Shaw: she’s crippled with bouts analogous to epileptic fits, flashing lights, flashback visions, mental distraction, physical unsteadiness. Is she alright? This one lets the last Samaritan retriever get the drop on her. No need to bring her back actually alive… until the traditional offscreen shot fells him.

Enter two familiar figures, responding to a Number. Not expecting to find a friend. Root is almost overwhelmed.

But even without her confession of having been chipped, Root and Reese are cautious, paranoid you might say. They won’t take Shaw to a safe house or to the Machine: is she compromised? Rousseau said she’d been broken.

They take Shaw back to Root’s place, for Root to look after her. This leads to some wonderfully passionate and excited love-making (or, as one imdb reviewer puts it, nasty lesbian sex, and he/she doesn’t mean nasty in a favourable sense).

But Shaw feels her team-mates’ distrust and won’t put up with it. She’s still having the fits, even after her chip’s been extracted. Shaw will not be controlled by anyone else. She leads everyone in a direct attack on Samaritan that seizes Greer. Greer, the Primary Asset, the ex-MI6 Agent who won’t do anything without an out. Greer will have a kill-switch and he will have it on him. Or in him: a chip implanted in his arm.

But it’s all a trap. Greer talks his usual, imperturbable, self-satisfied bollocks but this is directed to Shaw, his ally, his asset, the one who set up this trap to murder all her friends.

It’s breaking down. Shaw shoots Greer. Escaping, she and Reese wind up in a dark alley. Reese suspects Shaw of warning Greer. She shoots him in the back, kills him. This is absolutely the last point at which you should have realised where we are. Shaw is nervous, sweating, disoriented. Root comes to her. Shaw takes her to a kid’s playground. She fought being broken by constructing a safe place to go to in her mind: this park, Root. Root was her safe place. But not any more. Shaw is driven to kill Root. Her only escape is to put her gun to her own head and blow her brains out.

We return to Samaritan’s hospital. The simulation has failed. Once again Shaw fried her own brains without getting them anywhere near the Machine’s whereabouts. At least it took her a whole hour longer to kill Greer this time. They try again, from the beginning. This one is simulation 6,742…

This is one dark, intense and horrific episode of Person of Interest. Sameen Shaw hasn’t just spent nine months strapped to a bed, she’s spent that nine months under intense psychological torture intent on breaking who she is and re-creating her as an ‘asset’. Just think for a moment: this simulation, taking place in her head, is the six thousand, seven hundred and forty-first time she has been induced to believe she has escaped, has been taught to see herself as suspect and unreliable, and been driven to destroy herself to protect her friends. Sameen Shaw has experienced dying 6,741 times. So far.

This is more than frightening. How many of us could survive that a handful of times?

I’d also like to come back to the love scene between Root and Shaw. Their relationship, Root’s flirting, was the cause of much adverse comment during the season, from unreconstructed types who didn’t want to think about such things let alone see them. Root and Shaw were women, and that was enough for the neanderthal brigade. They shouldn’t even be in an action, macho show, they’re girls!

So this scene, and that’s as far as you’re going to get, was always going to be an intolerable provocation. And all you get is Amy Acker in a black bra, the visual metaphor of crockery being knocked off a dining table and smashing on the floor (??!), and a side-by-side face-down scene in orgasm afterglow. And it never really happened. Some people…

Person of Interest: s05 e03 – Truth be Told


A normal life

Within this episode, Person of Interest came as close as it could to reminding us of the sleek, elegant, tightly-plotted procedural we first discovered. There was a Number of the Week to be investigated, Alex Duncan (Stephen Plunkett), to be tracked and traced at close range by John Reese in a secure cover prepared in advance by Harold Finch. Why was he taking photographs of classified documents? Was he a spy, betraying people who will die? Was he in danger from his actions? Questions we used to relish finding answers to.

But this is season 5. It’s short. What would have been twenty-two, twenty-three episodes have to be got through in thirteen. Phantom branches, stories set in motion, have to be cut off. Nothing is what it seems to be any more. Even Finch’s monologue to introduce the episode is perverted, intercut with the voice of Greer, twisting the words to speak them from Samaritan’s perspective.

The episode started in flashback, to 2010, Reese still a CIA agent. He and Kara Stanton are assigned to investigate a Major in Afghanistan, suspected of involvement with a missing shipment of Stinger Missiles, Major Brent Tomlinson. They’re assigned by Special Agent Terence Beale (Keith David).

In the present, Reese is trying to lead a more normal life. He’s late for a lunch date with Iris Campbell and her parents because he’s punching out a would-be killer in the toilets. Then he’s trailing Alex Duncan, until the Number is picked up off the street. By the CIA. By Beale.

Root is working too. She’s sent by the Machine to become a UPS package deliverer, wearing those dark blue mid-thigh length shorts that could make anyone look ridiculous. Why is she doing that? Because a massive number of packages from electronics companies are being diverted to an incorrect address before being re-routed to their proper destination.

Reese has a problem. The flashback is moving forward inexorably. He and Stanton invade Tomlinson’s quarters. She does the talking. Reese stays still and silent. Tomlinson talks, cynical but straight, the innocent man, until he starts to bluster and Reese shoots him. Only afterwards does Stanton find the money. Reese didn’t know where it was, obvious as the hiding place had become. But he knew that Tomlinson doth protest too much.

And he’s determined to pull out Duncan, despite the fact that if Beale makes him – and we know he will – it will spell disaster. John Reese is dead, and he’d better stay that way. But Reese has a Number to protect. He will not be deflected by considerations of his own safety. He gets Duncan out, temporarily.

But for long enough to find out why Duncan was snooping. It was about his older brother, Paul, dying ‘heroically’ in action yet in circumstances the military won’t reveal. Why? How? Time and again the questions that demand answers. The answer was that Paul Duncan was on assignment under a false name. That of Brent Tomlinson.

It’s an answer Reese can’t give him. But it’s an answer Terence Beale might, capturing Reese, a Ghost, and Duncan, with intent to quiz. Beale taunts both, coming close to spilling beans that Reese is determined to keep in the pot. Duncan knows his brother was under investigation. Reese tells Duncan that his brother was innocent, and did die, heroically, in a late air-strike. Beale, for reasons of his own but, on the face of it, a mixture of surprise and amiration, backs him up. Alex has the answer he wants, the only one that will shut him down, end his quest, allow him to move on. Reese gets him away.

Root enlists Finch to check one of the packages now heading to the right address. They discover malware, serious malware, that steals all a computer’s data and sends it to Samaritan. It does more but what it does is unknown. Finch doesn’t want to touch it, fearful of the risk. But the Machine has sent another Number, a long one, all in binary. It’s an Emily Dickinson poem, about metamorphosis. About Change.

Root runs the malware on an isolated laptop, to see what it will do. They are in a War. They have to change. They have to take the Risk or they’ve already lost. A strand put in place.

Beale pops up at the end, on the street. Duncan is far away and if he’s ever hassled again, the story of ‘Brent Tomlinson’ will come out. As for Reese, Beale’s omitted him from his report. What for? Good question, to which there is no real answer. Respect for Reese. An understanding that what he is doing is not far removed from his old job but directed towards saving, not taking lives? Beale likes the idea of knowing that Reese is out there, a Ghost. Pity Beale never comes back.

One final flashback, to set up the ending of a phantom branch. Kara Stanton tells Reese why he was chosen: because he has had no family since his adoptive mother died. Because he has no-one to go back to. Neither does she. People like them, they don’t get to lead a normal life.

So John Reese puts an end to his attempt to lead a normal life with Iris Campbell. She accepts with rather more equanimity than I might have expected, but then she reads people for a living, and anyway, time is running short, both in this episode and in overall terms. No time for this story, a thread laid in planning for six seasons, to be cut off when all you get is four and a half. Mr Reese, we have a new Number. You don’t get to lead a normal life.

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.

Person of Interest: s04 e19 – Search and Destroy


Nice Wig

We’re a very long way into Person of Interest‘s fourth season without the usual sense of something building to either a conclusion or a cliffhanger, as we would normally expect. For weeks we’ve been experiencing individual stories without connecting threads. For the first time in a long time, this episode starts to deliver on its arc.

Not at first. New Number Suleiman Khan (Aasif Mandvi) is a man whose life has been destroyed in an instant. His company, Castellum, has grown from a garage operation to the world’s largest purveyors of anti-virus protection, automatically installed in 86% of the world’s computers. And it’s been hacked, in an instant, everything revealed, down to the nude photos of his estranged wife that he swore he’d deleted. Not just everything, but more than everything, including evidence of things he’s not done, like major embezzlement.

Khan’s life collapses like a souffle prematurely removed from the oven. Everything is stripped away, any avenue along which he might be able to fight back is closed off, practically the only thing they don’t remove is his expensive, hand-tailored suit.

What can lie behind this? Finch and Reese know but fantastic and arrogant as it may seem, Khan has worked out that he has been targetted, very specifically, but an Artificial Intelligence: Samaritan.

What’s the plan, Stan? It’s very simple, but before we go there, let us just collate the little semi-detached strands that decorate the episode. There’s Paige Turco making her final appearance as Zoe Morgan, fixing Castellum’s problems, twitting John about his relationship with his redhead, acting as his ear in a meeting. There’s John trying to teach Harold how to shoot a gun, since he won’t always be here and he wants to know Finch will be safe. There’s Root, going to great lengths to steal a virtually atom bomb proof suitcase, not for the beautiful Faberge egg it contains and which she chucks away, but for the suitcase: why?

But the plan is simple, and so in one sense, one fatal sense, is Khan. It’s his besetting flaw, his insatiable curiosity. Why him? Why has he been targetted? In the end it gets him killed. Rather than escape he goes back inside, is taken to Greer and Martine Rousseau. He wants to see the face of Samaritan, of God. His wish is granted, shot through the heart by Greer.

Because Samaritan has been using Khan’s code to search. Search the word for the presence of unknown code. For the whereabouts of the Machine. And it will find it. That is inevitable. And Detective Riley and Professor Whistler. How can one withstand a God forever?

Person of Interest: s04 e18 – Skip


Frankie and Johnny

So much contained in one episode, yet again, so impressive overall that it couldn’t be spoiled, well, not that much, by the early reappearance of Harper Rose (Annie Illonzeh) in one half of the story.

We’ve been getting a few of these separated stories in recent weeks, and I can’t decide whether it’s because the show has so many plots it wants to squeeze in at a point when the question of renewal for a fifth season was up in the air, or that the stories lacked the internal complexity to sustain a standalone episode without other entertainment.

On the one hand, we have ‘Detective Riley’ gambling with the Team’s remaining cash resources at a semi-illegal club, his eye (and who wouldn’t?) on new hostess Francesca ‘Frankie’ Wells (Katheryn Winnick). But Frankie is not victim but perpetrator, a bounty hunter tasked with retrieving the club’s manager, Ray Pratt (Ato Essandoh) to answer to his bail in Florida by Wednesday: not many tall, blonde hostesses have martial arts skills like that. Unfortunately, John’s at the wrong end of the stick and his intervention allows Ray to escape. John and Frankie make an uneasy team for the rest of the episode.

Quick interlude: Dr Campbell drops in to tell ‘Riley’ she’s handing him off to another psychologist for future sessions. Is it because of his recent unbending and the violence in his past? Her refusal to say why tells us instantly it’s not that, and what it actually is.

Over to Harold, who has a morning coffee date with an old friends, another returnee, this time Beth Bridges (Jessice Hecht, from episode 6 of this season). This is payback for Finch’s plan in Hong Kong to get certain software installed in her laptop. Now Beth’s algorithm has progressed to the stage where it’s going to be used. In a very few days it will be installed in Samaritan. It will function, once, as a very narrow back door, a trojan horse that will transmit a few megs of data before it is discovered and obliterated, but that data will include Samaritan’s ‘DNA’. It will give Finch a chance in an impossible to win war.

And the moment he sits down with Beth, she becomes a Number.

So ‘Professor Whistler’s association with Beth is to cause her death? Yes,but not for the reasons you might expect.

But back to John. Ray Pratt is going to need a fake ID to get out to Brazil, which takes him to the best in the business, a lady named Athena but who we better know as Harper Rose. Here I have to apologise: I remember three guest shots for our Lady of the Perpetual Scam but actually there are five, so this is not the ‘second appearance’ that prejudices me so irreversibly against her, though it does foreshadow her final appearance when it’s revealed, in passing, that Harper was led to Ray by contact from the Machine itself.

We’re winding deeply into this story, going through several action scenes in the show’s signature mode. Ray’s former boss, Carlton Worthy (Jeff Lamare), from whom he stole both money and a thumb drive with two years of crooked evidence, arrives to complicate matters. Frankie mentions a brother, Deke, now dead. Fusco, investigating Ray, uncovers a Florida killing, ascribed to a mugging, an accountant who got his throat cut, that he connects to Ray. The accountant’s name was Deacon…

And Root has reappeared to shadow Harold, and offer her assistance about Beth. She admires his plan… but we have another reversal. The threat to Beth is not Harold but Root. Harold’s plan to invade Samaritan is ingenious, worthy of his genius. She won’t let it happen, she will kill Beth before Harold can activate his Trojan Horse. Because if it goes through, Samaritan will kill Professor Whistler within minutes. And Root cannot allow that. She’s already lost Shaw, but Harry is the one person she cannot lose. She is not even acting on behalf of the Machine (which gives Harold no little relief): it has told her not to.

Harold is distraught. Some of it is his affection for Beth, who does resemble Grace Hendricks a little, but more than that he will not be responsible for the death of another friend. Root assumes he means Shaw, tries to deflect blame onto herself, it was her who recruited Shaw to get involved, but Ms Groves doesn’t know as much about Harold as we do, and we know to whom he refers.

And he heads her off by swallowing the chmical that will give Beth a heart attack. Only when Root promises not to kill Beth will he allow himself to be treated.

John’s story nose-dives into a three-conered shoot-out with Harper in the middle: John and Frankie, Ray, Worthy and his men. Typically, Harper negotiates a deal. Worthy gets the thumb drive and Riley lets him leave. Ray gets to choose between death or prison and Worthy lets him live. John and Frankie get Ray to imprison and don’t kill him. Naturally, there are multiple double-crosses; Harper hands over the wrong thumb drive, Riley has Worthy arrested before he leaves the city and Ray tries to shoot his way out only to be kneecapped by John. Right beats Might.

A coda and another quick interval. We’ll take the latter first: Frankie’s interested in John but tells him to call her when he’s free. John looks puzzled but here’s Doctor Iris to ‘fess up the real reason she has dropped John: she has developed feelings for him and that’s the complete no-no. John, on the other hand, knows how to keep a secret. Cue snog.

And Harold calls on Beth only to be thrown out. She’s been on the end of a reputation-destroying internet attack, claiming she’d falsified data five years before, an attack that came from ‘Professor Whistler’s office. Root only promised not to kill Beth but she has neverheless destroyed her. And she’s destroyed Finch’s activator, and thus destroyed months of planning and the only chance Team Machine had.

She’s done it even at the cost of the friendship that means so much to her. Professor Whistler is still alive. And whilst he doesn’t want to see Root at the moment, they are still friends.

Leaving me only to wonder. Finch’s scheme was set up twelve episodes ago, a great mystery. At this stage it was all in vain. By now I know enough to understand that it wasn’t just implanted then with the hope/intention of deciding what it was later on. But was it always intended to be a false trail, to set up the changed relationship between Finch and Root, or was it a casualty of lost opportunities, when the projected Fifth and Sixth seasons became improbable? We have seen other possible strands implanted by the series that were never followed up upon, for whatever reason that may be. I’d love to know if this episode was the regretful snuffing out of something that might have been prominent in another world’s version of Person of Interest.