Person of Interest s3 ep 22; s3 ep 23

In the first of this season-closing double-bill, ‘A House Divided’, Finch is still being held captive by Greer, meaning that the week’s tasks have to be divided up among the rest of the team. And with the stakes rising, as they always do on Person of Interest at this stage of the season, the tasks aren’t trivial: the Numbers of the Week are Control, Senator Garrison, a presidential aide, Greer himself, and a fifth unknown person. (Although since it’s the person currently sitting across from Greer, it doesn’t take too much working out.) It’s Peter Collier and Vigilance who are after the Numbers: Reese and Shaw are, therefore, in the uncomfortable position of trying to save Control’s life – with some unexpected help from Hersh, who turns out to be a nicely droll yet vicious addition to the team – while Root and her team of hacker fanboys try to stop Samaritan.

Added to that we get Collier’s backstory, which provides the detail of how he became radicalised: we go back to 2010, in which his brother is interned after being photographed talking to someone who had terrorist connections. Collier complains to anyone who’ll listen, but without getting anywhere: “Surveillance”, he’s told, “doesn’t lie”. And on one, very superficial level, that’s kinda sorta true: there are indeed photographs of someone standing next to someone else.

But it’s what you make of that information, of course, which counts. And here Person of Interest grapples, as it has before, with a fundamental question for the West in the 21st century – just how much freedom are we prepared to surrender in order to be safe? Or, at any rate, to feel safer? I suspect the answer to be “quite a lot”, and anyone who has recently been in an airport, watching demoralised queues of passengers shuffling around without shoes and belts, might agree. Governments are unlikely to lose votes by promising to keep people alive, even if that means collateral damage when innocent people are imprisoned without trial, and followed by innuendo and suspicion even after release.

In case this all sounds too cerebral, it should be said that there are lots of guns as well, and a cool sequence in which Vigilance manage to turn off the lights across New York City, allowing them to hoover up the Numbers – now including Finch, of course – and put them on trial, using a feed to broadcast it to the world.

Which is where we pick up in the season finale, ‘Deus Ex Machina’. Collier promises the five Numbers a fair trial, including a bussed-in-at-gunpoint jury and defence counsel, although since his first act as prosecutor is to call one of the accused as a witness, then shoot him, even the Roberts Supreme Court would probably regard it as oppressive. Reese and Hersh are trying to find out where the trial is taking place, Root and Shaw are still tinkering with Samaritan, and just as Collier is about to shoot another “accused” – Control, this time – Finch admits to being the creator of The Machine. He then defends his intentions, while conceding that it’s perhaps not a world he would want to live in, all things being equal: it is, he tells Collier, by this stage priapic with righteous ideological fury, “the best I could do”.

But Collier himself has been duped: Greer and Decima have been calling the shots all along, with the intention of false-flagging the Government into giving them – and therefore Samaritan – access to the information it needs to work. And Greer’s purpose is much bigger than simply stopping the occasional terrorist. His view of the technology is essentially the same as Root’s: Samaritan is nothing less than a god, and the question for humanity is how best we can serve him.

Root has known this all along, mind you, and recognising that she can’t kill Samaritan she’s aimed for the next best thing: compromising the servers so that Samaritan won’t recognise her and her colleagues as threats to its existence. Thus Finch, Reese, Shaw, and Root are obliged to leave the library – for those of us who have been watching since the start, poignant in itself – and take on new identities. (This is all soundtracked by Radiohead, which is always worth an extra point or two in my book.) And, with Samaritan now fully operational, Greer is able to ask it the question he’s been waiting to ask: what commands does it have for us?

It goes without saying that both of these episodes, ‘Deus Ex Machina’ in particular, are extraordinary, and round off a season which, as far as I’m concerned, is up there with the second season of Scandal and the fifth of The Good Wife as representing the best of recent network TV. For British viewers, though, accustomed to Channel 5’s inexcusably shoddy treatment of Person of Interest, it might be a while before we get to see season 4, if we ever do: I didn’t hear a “will return next year”, or anything like that, from the continuity announcer. Perhaps Netflix will take pity on us: this terrific show deserves better.


One thought on “Person of Interest s3 ep 22; s3 ep 23

  1. CJ Cregg September 12, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    I thought this was superb tv, but I did have some issues with it, most of which will not come as a surprise.

    First, the positives: hugely ambitious, exciting, intelligent stuff, with weighty themes and ideas, and some genuinely interesting, perplexing questions about society, surveillance, humanity and the future. And some super-cool twists and turns, with Hersh and Control both being unexpectedly brilliant (Control may be a terrible person but she’s a great character and she was freaking AWESOME during the trial) – I loved how they were used this week.

    I also loved Fusco’s complete bafflement and total, refreshing ordinariness – “What Machine?” Everyone else is fighting over the fate of humanity, while poor Fusco is doing his day job dealing with the fate of shops on Fifth Avenue. He needs more screen time to just be all normal and ace. Not everything has to be some epic apocalyptic showdown.

    I love Reese and Shaw, as well, so I would like for them not to die, please. And the ending was very bleak but also very brave for network tv, and for the show. Where do we go from here? I genuinely can’t guess the answer.

    The not-so-sure-abouts: who the eff did Collier *think* he was taking orders from on that mobile phone? For someone so concerned about the danger of everyone taking orders from a machine telling everyone what to do and who to target, his entire leadership was built on…. taking orders from a machine telling him what to do and who to target. Idiot. I thought it was pretty obvious he was being set up from the start but this supposedly bright guy never questioned who was sending those texts? Or why? Just went all out anyway? WTF?

    The negatives: the “trial” – disappointing that they rolled out such a tired trope. Bizarre that someone who went to law school made such a big show of pretending it was fair while calling accused persons to the stand and shooting them. Either be a killer and kill or be a prosecutor and present evidence, but you can’t be both at the same time, fool. However, Control, Greer and Finch made those scenes work well, even if I just wanted to slap Collier for most of them.

    And obviously, EFFING ROOT, whose smugness has reached astronomical proportions. Who died and made her the boss? I hate how she’s in charge of everything, I hate how she doesn’t tell anyone anything but they do everything she says anyway as if they’re her minions, and I hate that she got the voiceover at the end, which is confirmation, as if we needed it, that she is now the central character as far as the show is concerned and everybody else is playing second fiddle.

    But you knew all that anyway. I’m still on board for season 4, if we ever get it.

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