Person of Interest s5 ep 13

Machine vs Samaritan spoilers


“Everyone dies alone. But if you mean something to someone, if you help someone, or love someone. If even a single person remembers you. Then maybe, you never really die at all.” – The Machine

The final episode, and therefore the final battle between The Machine and Samaritan, which it would be reductive to call a fight between good and evil; as we have seen, Person of Interest, and real life for that matter, are more complex than that. The Ice-9 virus is causing worldwide havoc, but Samaritan is scrambling to stay alive: first, it uploads a virus-free copy of itself into the Federal Reserve, then to a satellite, with a view to downloading itself back to Earth when Ice-9 has run its course. Meantime there are Samaritan agents everywhere, with Jeff Blackwell having established himself as a particularly nasty little piece of work: he stabs Fusco and shoots Shaw, with Finch also taking a bullet from a Samaritan operative.

The Machine tells Finch that the only way to kill Samaritan once and for all is to upload, from a building in New York City, a copy of The Machine to the same satellite as Sam, where they can kill each other off. Only problem: Samaritan is aware of the plan, and has targeted a missile on the building from where the uploading is to take place, meaning that whoever does it will end up dead. Finch, of course, won’t allow anyone else to offer themselves for a suicidal task, so locks Reese in a vault in the Federal Reserve and heads off. But when he gets to the building specified by The Machine he realises that he’s on the rooftop of the wrong one, and looks over to see Reese on top of a neighbouring building: with the help of an unusually playful Machine, Reese has arranged to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and for Finch.

And this means that, perhaps surprisingly but nonetheless gratifyingly, everyone in Team Machine does get a happy ending, of one sort or another. The Machine itself destroys Samaritan and then manages to download itself from the satellite back onto Earth. Although Root is dead, it’s pretty clear that The Machine, with her voice, is really just Root reborn, a point which is driven home this week by having Amy Acker appear as, well, The Machine. Fusco lives, and as we saw in last week’s Sliding Machines counterfactual history, his life has been transformed for the better by his encounter with the team. Shaw has also survived, unrepentantly shoots Blackwell in cold blood, now seems to be The Machine’s go-to human (in a scene which takes us full circle from the pilot), and gets custody of the dog.

But the show’s OTP, Finch and Reese, get the happiest endings of all. Reese doesn’t survive his act of sacrifice; in fact, Samaritan’s foot-soldiers get to him before the missile does. But he, more than anyone else, has been saved and redeemed by The Machine and by Finch; his work for The Machine has been a resurrection of sorts, and he knows it. Little on this show has been more moving than Reese’s satisfied half-smile on getting his final sight of Finch, which is Finch accepting that his own destiny is to survive. And Finch himself does what he’s been spared to do: Samaritan having been vanquished, he can allow himself to return to something like normal life, part of which means revealing himself to Grace.

It’s fitting that Person of Interest finish its run with yet another remarkable, memorable, and emotional episode. Everything works: it’s no surprise that the acting and writing are terrific, but on top of that ‘return 0’ is given a subtly different look and sound (the evocative and haunting Philip Glass music is quite something in the context of the episode) which gives the episode an additional significance befitting the series finale of a show as great as this one. In the network TV hierarchy I’d put Person of Interest in just behind The West Wing and The Good Wife, although you could argue that its exploration of complicated and important ideas was, at times, even more challenging. Either way it isn’t going to be forgotten, which, as The Machine told us, means that it’ll never really die.


7 thoughts on “Person of Interest s5 ep 13

  1. Tim May 22, 2017 / 11:22 pm

    Looking back, PoI has taken us on quite a journey. For its first half-season or so it was an above-average procedural with a natty victim-or-perpetrator twist but once it really hit its stride it so quickly became something really quite special and unique in the TV landscape – still a procedural for the most part but tackling proper high-concept stuff like the role of AI and surveillance in a post-9/11 world while giving us some truly memorable character dynamics – Finch/Reese, Finch/Root, Reese/Carter, Carter/Fusco, Reese/Fusco, Root/Shaw and ultimately, beautifully, poignantly Finch/Machine-as-Root.

    I loved this finale. I know the show could only hint at the far-reaching impact of Ice-9 due to budgetary constraints but in many ways it was the better for it. The resultant small-scale intimacy of much of this story was simply beautiful, right down to the score, cinematography and colour palettes. As you say, Reese’s half-smile as he watches Finch accept his final gift to him is a perfect moment, as is the final shot with Shaw and the payphone.

    Exiting God mode for the final time. I’m really going to miss PoI.

    • Jed Bartlet May 25, 2017 / 1:12 pm

      Yes – PoI will always stand as an example, perhaps the best one, of how a procedural can change itself into something else. Although it never really lost sight of the need to have a good Case of the Week on which to hang its mythology.

      And as you say it was always a show which understood when less is more – sometimes, for sure, we got the fight scene; but sometimes we just got a body flying through a window, or Shaw tidying up in the aftermath.

  2. e May 22, 2017 / 11:34 pm

    `return 0` means exit with success. The process has completed and done so properly. It’s a little extra nod.

    I loved this show.

    And yes, it was all about redemption.

    • Jed Bartlet May 25, 2017 / 1:07 pm

      And it was actually *about* redemption, rather than just *saying* it was about redemption.

  3. #ReeseLives May 26, 2017 / 6:54 am

    “Reese doesn’t survive his act of sacrifice; in fact, Samaritan’s foot-soldiers get to him before the missile does.” < — Actually, no they don't. In Reese's final scene (despite his bloody chest) you can clearly see him sitting upright, still moving and breathing. That's after the far away wide-shot of the three Samaritan agents shooting at him and before the missile is shown to hit *something*… Could've been another building, it's up for various interpretations.
    FYI, in interviews and comments post-series finale (in 2016):
    – Michael Emerson hinted in an interview that they cut a scene from the finale that was of "a dark haired guy on a motorcycle".
    – Amy Acker at a convention mentioned that they filmed scenes in which JohnReese is alive (but obviously those scenes were cut from the episode)…

    • Jed Bartlet May 26, 2017 / 7:00 am

      Fair points all, #ReeseLives – the inference is there to be drawn, I’d say, but maybe it isn’t conclusive. Particularly as no-one on TV is actually dead unless we’ve seen the body, and sometimes not even then…

      • e May 28, 2017 / 5:16 am

        I’m glad they dropped that scene. Reese earned that finish.

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