Spoilers. The series finale is approaching. Shit’s getting real.
Finch is at a cafe where the waitress claims to recognise him, a suggestion he deflects somewhat unconvincingly. But something else has seen him there: this time, Finch is the Number of the Week, as he discovers when, as Professor Whistler, he turns up for work at his college, and Reese appears seconds before several carloads of Samaritan operatives. And his cover has been blown in spectacular style: the safe house has been compromised as well. Finch is reluctant to accept the offer of help and put others in harm’s way, but Reese won’t hear of it: “I’m just protecting a number, Harold. It’s what you hired me to do”.
To start with, though, it’s Elias, now essentially a part of Team Machine, who takes Finch to a disused meth lab in a high rise. This is an Elias stronghold, and – not coincidentally, in an episode which makes so much of the crossover between past, present, and future – the place where “Charlie” the teacher was living, a long time ago. Not for the first time, it’s striking that Elias – originally presented as nothing more than a gangster – has considerable hidden depths, and an ability to generate the most remarkable loyalty among those who know him. But nothing’s going to stop Samaritan this week: wherever Finch goes, he’s followed by wave after wave of gun-toting Samaritanites. He’s captured, and Elias takes what looks like, this time, a fatal shot to the head.
Finch readies himself for his fate. But, as Greer explains, Samaritan doesn’t want him dead, but is instead anticipating a time when he, Finch, will work for Samaritan. This doesn’t look particularly likely to Finch, but Root and Shaw have ascertained his whereabouts. And this leads to a quite magnificent bastard of a shootout, culminating in Root driving away with Finch in the passenger seat, arming herself with a “really big gun… and a hair scrunchy”, and firing shots out of the sunroof while steering a car with her feet. Fuck yeah. But then she, like Elias, is fatally wounded. Still, what a way to go out.
And this time a visibly weary Finch is taken by the New York police, who of course have to expend a certain amount of energy trying to work out who he is: he’s been around a large number of deaths, they know that, and he seems to have an outstanding treason charge in his record, but who is this guy? Well, he’s the guy who’s going to deliver a chilling monologue in which he threatens to kill – well, it might be the cop interviewing him, it might be Samaritan, it might even be the Machine, who the hell knows? But it’s gloves-off time for Finch, who this week has seen quite enough death. In order to free him from police custody the Machine opens the cells, leading to hundreds of criminals escaping, and Reese suddenly realises that the Machine didn’t give him Finch’s number because he was in danger – after all, Samaritan doesn’t want him dead – it’s because of what Finch is going to do. He’s not a victim, he’s a perpetrator.
As ever with the best episodes of Person of Interest, there are a lot of very big topics being explored, and theology is at their heart. Picking a couple: the way in which death might be the end of your corporeal existence, but not necessarily your presence in the lives of those who remember you (the Machine’s new voice, for one). The fact that the person most willing to sacrifice themselves might also be the person who most needs to remain alive. And the loyalty which can be inspired in followers, even to the point of their own death. We know that the Machine – Finch’s creation – is, on one view, a god. So what does that make Finch? Extraordinary television on every level, down to Nine Inch Nails’s towering ‘The Day The World Went Away’ providing both soundtrack and episode title.