Person of Interest s4 ep 14; s4 ep 15

Finch, in ‘Guilty’, has been summoned for jury service. He tries to get out of it by tampering with online records, which The Machine won’t let him do; then, during voir dire, he makes clear his belief that we’re being watched by hyper-intelligent computers, thus giving the impression of flakiness. But even a summary of Person of Interest doesn’t get past The Machine, and Finch finds himself sitting on the jury, next to a retired teacher, listening to the trial of a man accused of murdering his wife.

Emma, the former teacher, is the Number of the Week, and it looks as if she’s being coerced by someone to ensure a particular verdict. But the team’s a bit light on numbers: Shaw is missing; Root has taken some personal time, or something; and Fusco is deliberately being kept out of things, because Finch doesn’t want him to get hurt as well – a decision which Fusco, when he finds out about it, does not like.

Fortunately for Finch and Reese – and for us all, really – Zoe (Paige Turco) is hanging around the court, and – gosh – totally available to help. She also offers Reese their usual hookup, but he declines; because, she deduces, he has feelings for someone. Presumably that “someone” is his counsellor, who he’s now going to voluntarily, and even laughs when he’s talking to her – and I’m not going to rewatch the whole series, so I’m happy to be told I’m wrong, but I’d say the number of times Reese has laughed is in the low single figures. Until now, that is. Zoe thinks he’s making a misjudgement. I think they’re both outstandingly attractive; so, y’know, whatevs.

‘Guilty’ is something of a POI throwback, in many ways; a Case of the Week, a bit of light and shade, not too much about the bigger arcs. By contrast ‘Q&A’ plunges right back into the show’s mythology. The Number is Anna Mueller, a programmer at an online search company (Fetch and Retrieve, which probably got its name from the same brand identity company that came up with Chumhum).

Anna has two secrets in her personal life, neither of which, in the final analysis, are of huge relevance. But in the workplace she has discovered a problem with the the company’s star product, VAL, a kind of Siri-a-like. VAL was asked for the number of a suicide prevention hotline by a man with depression; instead, it gave him links to sites offering painless ways to end one’s life, and he killed himself. As it happens, the reasons for this are commercial rather than anything else, but that sort of manipulation is, of course, of very considerable interest to our friends at Samaritan.

Meantime there’s another Nautilus puzzle on the streets; this one with a hidden message leading to Claire Mahoney, the young genius we first saw in episode 2 of this season being recruited by Samaritan. She’s run away, she tells Finch, and she has a USB drive with Sam source code on it; all he needs to do is plug it into a laptop and he’ll be able to bring them down… Now, this is an extremely obvious trap, unless of course it isn’t, and Michael Emerson convincingly portrays the confusion being felt by at least one member of the audience.

And, not for the first time, we get to see the educational wing of Samaritan’s, uh, outreach programme. It’s not just there for the nasty things in life, you see; it also runs excellent schools. This keeps the level of ambuguity nicely high: we might know that it’s ultimately amoral at best and evil at worse, but if what Samaritan is offering is for the greater good, should society just shut its mouth and accept it? Two very good episodes, with Q&A perhaps marginally the better.

 

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2 thoughts on “Person of Interest s4 ep 14; s4 ep 15

  1. Tim April 19, 2016 / 11:15 am

    Guilty was a mundane episode by PoI standards – as you say, a fairly routine Number of the Week with a trademark twist – but still a strong episode by anyone’s standards. I enjoyed Q&A though – even though I think I always knew that Claire was firmly on Team Samaritan, it plays out cleverly and Michael Emerson gets a chance to really show off his acting chops.

    I liked the ending – not least because of Root’s all-guns-blazing return – showing exactly how a young idealist like Claire could be beguiled by what Samaritan has to offer and adding still more shades of grey.

    And while the Anna story is pretty routine, it quietly underlined how Team Machine’s focus on saving individuals sometimes plays into Samaritan’s hands, opening the door for Fetch & Retrieve’s sudden demise and making their manipulative algorithm an easy acquisition target for it. No matter what Finch and co do, Samaritan’s influence spreads ever wider.

  2. Jed Bartlet April 19, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    I think I was more easily fooled by Claire than you were, Tim. Or maybe by Michael Emerson. To start with, I thought she was obviously setting a trap. But as the episode wore on, and Finch was clearly being swayed, I was as well. At least he hedged his bets with the tracking device, I suppose.

    As you say, though, there was enough ambiguity in the ending to suggest that she might yet reconsider, particularly given that Finch had already been sowing seeds of doubt even before then – she now knows that she’s expendable in pursuit of “the greater good”. Some people could live with that. I wonder if she can.

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