Person of Interest - S04E05 - Prophets
'It's time we had a talk, you and I.'
And at last, it looks like Finch is getting back in to the game, especially given the final words of the episode.
And it's about damned time, too.
This episode, like some before it, flicks between two seperate times, one is of course the present day and the new number that the Machine has produced in order for the gang to go save or hinder (but we'll get back to that later) while the other starts October 13th, 2001, with Harold Finch and Nathan Ingrams (Brett Cullen) in the development stages of the machine, and when I say development imagine a young child to teenager witht he powers of a God and the urge to go and fire it up some. It may also be worth noting that due to the implementation of the Gregorian Calendar (the one we use today) this day technically does not exist in the countries of Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain during the Year 1582 AD. Surely the irony isn't lost on the writers...
Meet Nathan Ingrams, as played by Cullen, who you've no doubt seen in all sorts of stuff, from being prolific in television series such as NCIS, Criminal Minds and Under the Dome while also making appearances in films as well, such as Ghost Rider, Red Dawn (the new one) and The Dark Knight Rises. Nathan has, to the best of our knowledge, been killed prior to the start of Season 1 but apparently instilled in to Finch a moral compass and a direction with which to go with the Machine (or is it the other way round? Send your Answers to the forum!).
We open with the first first thing that the Machine sees, a very excited Finch. He is designated as 'ADMIN' so the programmers out there felt a moment of heart-felt glee, especially when Finch is designated with the colour coded Yellow Marker, symbolising Asset or Contingency. This was a momentous moment for the series and it's lovely to have seen this keystone event and how tumultuous it became, not to mention how quickly. That glee is quick to dissipate over the course of the episode...
In the first test, the Machine writes its own line of code, specifically:
result = sub108BE(dword_124D0);
Which to the average viewer happens so quickly it just looks like jargon that says 'ooo, computery stuff is goin' down, yo!', but after doing a little extra digging, that code is in fact a reverse engineered source of Stuxnet, which really throws a very pleasant wink to those of us that have an eye for this kind of thing. One might even go so far as to call this 'fan service' but without the manga hottie, per se.
But I digress...
Writing its own line of code is all well and good; Finch is expecting that to happen (sooner or later) but Finch has determined that the Machine has just lied to him and shreds the program. He has effectively killed the Machine and is going back to a much earlier stage. When Nathan asks, Finch feels it necessary to remind him (and therefore the audience) that when this programme finally manages to access the various feeds from all the government agencies it will have hitherto unprescedented powers and ultimately unprescedented consequences...
'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!'... Stan Lee would be so proud... I wonder if he watches the show... I kinda' hope he does. There's a Superhero character in the Machine alone.
November 29th, 2001. Nathan is trying to log on to the machine but is having very little luck. He's acquired a white box, suggesting that the Machine considers him to be irrelevent.
He tries a second time to punch in, but to no avail. When Finch enquires as top what's happening, the Machine is happy to show him a picture of ADMIN (minus yellow box), the picture being of Finch. Nathan and Finch have determined that the Machine has somehow imprinted on to Finch, and so Nathan gives up and turns to his own laptop only to discover that his Wifi connection is being intercepted. Finch promptly freaks out and pours his cup of tea over the laptop and disables it entirely and then shreds the Machine, again. But that doesn't work. The screen fuzzes for a second but then the operating system is still active. His next course is to pull the plug. That, thankfully does it.
Nathan is sadly not sure what's happening (while a programmer, he's simply not as good as Finch is) and feels the need to ask 'How bad could that have been if it'd gotten out'. Finch's underlying tone suggests that the power the Machine would have had at this point would have been incredibly far reaching and it's decision making would have applications beyond their imagination. But Nathan is under the impression that Finch has figured out how to make the Machine see 'right' from 'wrong'. Finally, Finch tells it how it is with the Machine, and for the geeks and/or the science fiction buffs this may well come as no surprise but form the layman audience who really don't get this artificial intelligence mumbo jumbo it's laid out bare: right and wrong have no place with the Machine, only objectives. The Machine sees a problem and considers its resources and how to overcome, circumvent, negate or eliminate the obstacle: the Machine does not feel. There's no emotion about how it goes about its tasks. If there was ever a point in the show where Finch (Emerson) has to drive this point home as hard, yet as subtly, as possible, this is that moment.
December 31st, 2001. Still Day 1 for the Machine.
The last thing the Machine sees is its servers on fire and Harold spin around and start smashing its frame with a blunt instrument. For a split second, Finch's designation flips from Yellow to Red and then the screeens go black.
When Nathan turns up to see the chaos, Finch explains that in the last two months he had copies of the Machine working in tandem to see which one would work out best, maybe give it company?, but ultimately they fought and the surviving A.I. demanded to be let out. FInch obviously refused and it tried to kill him with the fire extinguishers. Good and evil are not variables and Nathan comes to the conclusion that this may actually be more hassle than it's worth. Finch however is prepared to give it one last push. Whatever comes of that we don't get to find out, but I suspect that it will be reflected in the last words of the episode...
To the present day...
Reese just can't help shooting people in the knees. Seriously. Even the ones he's trying to talk off a roof. Admittedly, this jack-ass is stealing from his own charity and then murdering folks to cover up the crime, but that's not the point. Fusco, unimpressed with having to run up 20 flights of stairs is willing to let the perp jump to his demise, while Reese tricks him in to drawing a firearm on him (a firearm he slid over to the perp) and puts him down for even thinking about it.
Back at the precinct, Reese is in for a small mound of paperwork, especially since he's relegated to his desk for the foreseeable future until the psychologist / psychiatrist from Internal Affairs decides he's fit to go back on duty. Fusco, however, thikns she's in for a really bad time of it, while Finch figures that a bit of therapy would do John some good; something John refutes given that his entire persona right now is predisposed to lying about who and what he does in order to keep them all alive. It also puts him out of the works for the new number that's turned up, one that Shaw has been enlisted to keep tabs on. Shaw however, really isn't the kind of person that will fit in to the office environement, certainly not in to telesales.
Meet Simon Lee (Jason Ritter, son of Nancy Morgan and the late John Ritter) who is a maths whiz who has the almost preternatural ability to predict the outcome of elections based upon his models of voting habits. He can even provide a near perfect figure forecast, a skill which impresses Finch. Shaw, on the other hand, not so much. She can't give you a good reason to vote for any of these candidates and she can't wait to get away from the phones. Her update on Finch happens to coincide with Lee and the campaign managers getting a new result: Simon's prediction for the campaign is not only wrong, it's way off the mark with absolutely no hope of survival, turning him from being Golden Boy in to Target / Suspect numero uno in as many minutes.
Bad news for the prospective Mayor of Manhattan, but then this is already looking a touch on the dodgy side.
For me, I've already called it: Samaritan is rigging the election. It's sort of obvious, really. One should just assume that if the numbers don't add up, especially when it appears they really, really should, it's appropriate to assume that Samaritan is cooking the books, whatever the scenario. And yet, Finch and Root have not recognised this. You'd think that this would be the most obvious leap of logic for both of them, and in previous series, they would have made that assumption, so why not now? Are we really having to pander for the audience that don't quite 'get it' yet? Are the show runners assuming that the audience simply aren't that smart yet? That's something I'm not really willing to believe, but hey, I'm hoping that maybe there's a twist left in the plot... like what if it was the Machine that was rigging the election instead (not something I would expect, but hey, that's the point, right?).
Speaking of Root, she turns up to have a wee chat and to provide a little out-of-focus fan service as she changes her guise for that of yet another fabricated persona. And while she's explaining away her constant change of face, she also imparts a couple of 'gifts': one is a 'Shadow Map' - a map of all the places that are essentially obscured from Samaritan's sight, a tactical update of the highest order, while the other is a message,
"Sometimes it's better not to know."
Whatever the meaning of this enigmatic phrase happens to be, silences them both quickly.
Back at the campaign office, Shaw gets to watch the manager and Simon slug it out. There are hundreds of people that have invested in to this Mayoral election and some of them may be considering killing Simon for his seemingly abject failure. Simon, however, has been checking up on the auto-loggers and the phone lines only to find out that there's been hundreds of votes that weren't registers and therefore, he concludes, the election was rigged. His boss, the not-Mayor, tells him to go. But Simon really doesn't look like he's given up don this, ego or diligence presiding, he wants to know the truth and to save his career.
John is in the counsellors office, looking at the photos and has a spare cup of coffee. He's sweetening the pot, but she's not buying in to it, even the fake story he throws in doesn't hold water and she's happy to remind him that according to the records he left narcotics and then he started shooting people a lot. Six shootings is a lot for any officers' entire career (a lovely little sub note right there for the audience - American police officers on average don't see that many shoot outs), and she wants to know why. She has the power to end his career. He argues that he's still saving lives and he hasn't killed anyone; she thinks he's either got a Hero complex or a Death Wish.
At the courthouse, Root has hooked up with Shaw and are bantering when Simon turns up with the intention of blowing the whole thing wide open and reporting to the comissioner that the election has been rigged, but the Comissioner is busy with a member of staff that's just been arrested. But Simon's arguement is persuasive and they are considering the issue as Finch discovers from the auto-logger what happened to he all the phone calls: they have literally all just gone missing. No sooner has he ascertained that Simon is bang on teh money with the rigging, but the man just arrested steals an officer's gun, shoots him and then makes his way back to kill the commissioner, and Simon to boot for being a witness. Shaw kneecaps him in due course and Simon is now thoroughly freaked out by the whole thing, realising that he would have died. Finally, Root and Finch have come to the same conclusion: Samaritan is behind the election rig and is now cleaning up after. Reese wants in on the action, but he's being tailed by Internal Affairs and everyone tells him to get back to the desk before he jepodizes the whole team.
Finch and Root are teaming up for a bit of hard core data mining: they've discovered that the new Mayor, Perez, is clean as a whistle and likely has no idea that the election is fixed in her favour. Nothing suggests that she's in on it, but she's Mayor now. So the pair start Googling and Yahooing until they can find something. Root is open and states that it's so nice to be working with him for a change. So Finch drops the bomb: how long has he known that the Machine hasn't been talking to Root? She calls it whispers from time to time, but otherwise she barely gets any contact for fear of Samaritan finding the Machine through their communications.
I absolutely love when Acker and Emerson get to be on screen at the same time, their intellectual chemistry and emotional weight really convey and they can bond with the fewest of lines that it's hard not to see their characters as The Machine's 'Broken Dolls'. They own that scene and possibly the episode for this short dialogue.
Add to that, they discover that the new Mayor had once been 'escorting' so she could pay her way through college, they design a method to get her to step down at her celebration party. But that's where the plot twist throws in at long last. At the party, they spot Simon intent on confronting Perez about the election rig, but Root also notices that there is a Samaritan Operative making her way through the crowd, seemingly about to intercept Simon.
You lot remember Martine Rousseau? She's the nut-buster that's been haunting each of the teams actions since the beginning of the series. Well, she's back and making for her impression of a Termintor, because, gosh-darn-it, she's going to start killing as and when she's told to. Starting with Perez. In fact, she's already killed Perez. Perez suddenly drops at her podium stone dead and Martine receives new instructions; as Root puts it, she's in God Mode, kind of like how Root was throughout Season 3. The new instructions: deal with Simon Lee. And she starts stalking him.
Shaw is well ahead of the game, though, she's already in the foyer and intercepts Simon, stealing his phone and letting him go without him knowing what just happened. Samaritan hasn't seen this happen because the foyer is old and there are no security cameras, and since they are tracking him by his phone, Martine is sent to the gent's toilet only to discover that he has eluded them.
Thus begins a stealth chase of epicness!
Between Finch and Root, they need to keep Simon off the camera grid long enough for him to disappear, and they'll even crash cars just to get him to change direction. Finch has to cut the hotel security feed to stop Samaritan getting another bead on Simon and, luckily, Simon figures he wants a room but bribes the clerk to give him a room off the books. This is all well and good, but when he gets up to his room, he acquires a phone and makes a call, and given Samaritan's current watch-words, not to mention that he uses his own name, a strike team is sent to kill him there and then.
While this is happening, Finch has discovered that Samaritan had no intention of putting Perez in to the Mayor spot, her second, Nick Thompson, is the man for the job. Finch then explains something to Root: out of 43 iterations of the Machine, only 1 of them didn't try to kill or trick him, and even then it was only because he had to cripple it: by removing all of its accrued data at midnight every night, every number is generated and then forgotten. Samaritan is not crippled, it is in fact, with the connection, the voice and the limbs to do whatever it wants, and finally, we can see for the laymen what Finch has been trying to prevent all along.
And thus begins Finch and Root's characteristic duel; Finch affirming that the Machine is code and is not getting attached to any individual, that there will be no emotion if one of the contingencies is killed. Root disagrees in so much that she believes that teh Machine picked her out of all of the other potential candidates. Both arguements are strong with synonymonous flaws paralleling the character's prediliction for Fact over Faith and vice versa. Let the audience decide who they prefer to follow. Personally, I'm a Finch man, myself. I utterly believe that when the time comes to prove the Machine's personal integrity and character development it will be an episode or two unto themselves.
ANd Finch finally confesses his change of heart about Root. It's heart-felt and it bonds the two of them like no other character has bonded through the program. Awesome stuff.
Simon Lee makes the 911 call and is promptly cut off by Finch, but not before Samaritan hears it and puts Martine and the strike force in to position, and they're already moving on the cameras.
Root can suddenly hear the Machine and gets out her guns and plenty of bullets.
Martine, acting like Shaw does, inquires at the desk about Simon Lee and when she doesn't get the answer she's looking for, kills the clerk without a second thought.
Root is now fully on line and the cameras are going back up online. As soon as it notices Root in the corridor, aiming at the floor, Samaritan and the Machine use their Proxys to do battle. And wow, it's a good watch!
Root vs. Martine (plus a few goons) with bullets aplenty and smoke grenades and some nifty foot work. Add to that, there is a moment when I actually thought we were about to lose Root. In the exchange, both Root and Martine are hit, and in order to stop the Samaritan mob from taking out Simon, Root drops her guns and makes herself the priority target and runs.
Outside, Samaritan has acquired Simon Lee and has sent another Asset to deal with him. Shaw, wearing a balaclava, on the other hand intercepts and knocks him out. She starts dragging him to the vehicle only to have the Asset draw down on her. Another gunshot rings out and the Asset is dropped and behind him is Reese, also in a balaclava, and assist Shaw. Time to get everyone off the grid. Reese's therapist isn't going to like him shooting another person, but then he wasn't going to tell her, I'm sure.
The following day, Samaritan finally finds Simon Lee, right after he's acquired all of his paper files and posted them off to the New York paper, one of which Finch has been intercepting for a while. Finch approaches him over the numbers he'd sent to the paper; instead of helping him, he plays a part in convincing the man that he had imagined everything and that there was no story what-so-ever. This is not a task Finch enjoyed doing, but this was the best, and probably only way to save the man's life. He is ultimately convinced that nothing had happened and Samaritan declassifies Simon Lee in to being Irrelevant.
Reese has is follow-up with the Counsellor and evokes the memory of Detective Carter. He reaffirms that maybe he is dangerous, and perhaps that does make him unfit to be a cop, but ultimately there's a lot of bad people out on the streets and not enough good, but if he needs to shoot some folks, something he is very good at, to make the world a better place, then so be it. It's not going to win him any internal Affair points, but finally the Therapist takes him seriously for not lying to her.
Root has changed persona again. A pastry chef who has been shot in a drive-by, an innocent bystander once more, but invisible to the panopticon, her arm in a sling and possibly putting her out of combative comission for a while. Finch is and Root consider the lack of intelligence and the lack of information that the Machine divulges, but as Root points out, the difference between Samaritan and the Machine is Finch.
Greer, introducing himself as Hayes, approaches newly appointed Mayor Nick Thompson and explains that they are prepared to provide him with a fantastic amount of support. Greer is consulting with Martine, stating they have over 50 other candidates and Samaritan wants them to 'Find the Machine.
And finally, with conviction, on a street corner somewhere, Finch looks up in to a camera, to whom he is addressing, The Machine or Samaritan, it is uncertain, he says with conviction and seemingly a plan,
'It's time we had a talk, you and I.'