Person of Interest s5 ep 1

We start with what sounds like the end: Root, in voiceover, wondering “Did we win? Did we lose?… I’m not even sure I know what victory would mean any more”. All of which serves to reassure us that we’re returning to the moral ambiguity which has been Person of Interest’s stock-in-trade ever since it changed from a superior procedural into a show about the pros and cons of a surveillance society, and a dozen other things besides.

Anyway, Reese, Finch, and Root are all on the run from Samaritan. Reese has the compressed Machine in a briefcase which has taken a few bullets, much to Finch’s horror, and it’s losing power. Or dying, if you want to look at it that way, which Finch undoubtedly does. They manage to get back to their subway lair, and while Reese goes to find Root Harold tries to save the Machine, which starts to decompress on its own, causing a fire. Meantime, in flashback, we see more of the genesis of the Machine (and a welcome appearance from Carrie Preston as Grace). I found the scenes in which Finch and the Machine converse to be intensely moving: it will be recalled that at the end of season 4 the Machine called Finch “father”; the Machine is, once more, adopting the persona of a child, wondering how it will be able to grow, and remember Finch, if he adheres to his plan to have it delete its memories every night. It might actually be exhibiting emotions, or it might simply be manipulating Finch; either way these are human characteristics, and Finch knows it.

As for Root: well, she’s running around New York City wearing dark clothing and toting a series of guns. The liberal handwringer in me should disapprove, but frankly she’s hot as hell; and her snarled “You can just call me Root, bitch”, to a Samaritan camera is fan service of the best kind. There’s a simple but devastating moment when Samaritan decides to turn members of the public into its operatives: I wondered how it was going to achieve that, but it does so simply by flashing up a picture of Root on mobile phones and labelling her as a danger. I don’t need to labour the point about how that might be read as a metaphor for what’s going on in society today.

While Fusco is being obliged to explain away the events of the last episode, in which Elias and Dominic were killed, to Internal Affairs, Root is betrayed by someone she thought was an ally, but Reese appears in time to save her. And help her to steal the three hundred PlayStation 3 consoles they need to provide enough processing grunt to save the Machine, with some handy liquid nitrogen to cool it. Which means that by the end it looks as if Finch’s child, The Machine, has survived for the final battle with Samaritan. This continues to be TV of the highest quality.

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2 thoughts on “Person of Interest s5 ep 1

  1. Tim February 28, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    We’ve come to take it for granted with PoI but the pace at which this episode unfolds and the complexity of the various narrative threads is astonishing. Samaritan’s ability to manipulate surveillance infrastructure and everyday media to bend anyone to its will feels even more chilling and zeitgeisty in the current climate of alt-right policies and alternative facts.

    All the serious stuff aside, this was just great fun. Great to see both Grace and Nathan again. Great to see how far Finch and Reese have grown as characters. And always great to see Root at her ruthless best. Just plain great. We know the end is coming, so I’m going to kick back and enjoy it while it lasts. No way PoI is going out with a whimper …

  2. Jed Bartlet February 28, 2017 / 1:05 pm

    “Samaritan’s ability to manipulate surveillance infrastructure and everyday media to bend anyone to its will feels even more chilling and zeitgeisty in the current climate of alt-right policies and alternative facts.”

    I thought that was perhaps the most striking part of the episode. I can’t remember exactly the dialogue which preceded it, and I’m not going back to check, but I think it was something about activating civilian operatives. I wondered if I’d missed something about Samaritan’s recruitment policy. But no, we’re the civilian operatives in a surveillance state: once more PoI is asking just how much intrusion we’re prepared to accept in order to feel safer. I still think the answer is “quite a lot”.

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