Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the season 4 finale “YHWH”
As much as I loathe Greer (John Nolan) and his shady antics, I must admit he’s pretty damn sharp. A master manipulator with the perfect poker face, the man could trick you into believing and doing just about anything. In last year’s season 3 finale, Greer pulled off the perfect con by molding Vigilance into his personal puppet in order to force the government’s hand and give Samaritan access to the NSA feeds. Well, even after a full year of being able to observe and learn Greer and Samaritan’s tactics, the guy is able to fool everyone once again but this time resulting in even more blood loss.
THE MACHINE AND ITS UNWAVERING WILL TO SURVIVE
One of the things I love most about this show is its element of surprise. Just when you think you’ve gotten everything figured out, the writers drop the mother of all bombshells in your lap. Well, the big reveal of who and what the Machine has evolved into definitely falls into that category, and I don’t think anyone could have seen this one coming.
One of the big question marks since the season 2 finale is what did the Machine do with itself after its location had been compromised. The simplistic and most obvious answer is that it distributed itself into multiple data farms across the country. That would make the Machine somewhat safer since it would not be in a single location and thus a sitting duck. As simple as this idea may seem, even Finch (Michael Emerson) couldn’t even think of an alternative as we see in tonight’s finale. But, the Machine is, well, a Machine, and machines generally are smarting than humans. Well, that couldn’t be more true in this case, as the AI comes up with a brilliant plan of survival: hiding itself in the empty spaces of the copper wires of the nation’s electrical grid and using the actual electricity as its power source. Now, how cool (and damn surprising!) is that? As a professional software engineer myself, I’m not sure this is entirely possible, but at this point, I really don’t care. I just think it was a brilliant storytelling idea, and it was definitely unexpected to say the least.
The only problem with the Machine’s plan is that it made itself vulnerable if there were an attack on the nation’s electrical system. It needs power to survive, and if there is no power, it dies. And, that’s exactly what Samaritan’s plan is — orchestrate a cascade of power overloads and brownouts starting on the West Coast, thus driving the Machine to a sole electrical substation in a suburban area of New York City. If Samaritan had its way and the Machine had no help, Finch’s creation would have been game over by the episode’s end. However, surprisingly enough (and actually shocking to Finch), the Machine has developed a very strong will to survive and enlists the help of its Father and human friends, Root (Amy Acker) and Reese (Jim Caviezel).
At first it’s left to just Finch and Root to figure out a way to save the Machine and pretty much save the world as we know it, and it begins with a call on a pay phone hiding in the walls of the subway. It’s the Machine, and all it says is ‘314,’ which happens to be the code to the super briefcase that Root had stolen. With Root finally granted God mode and with only that briefcase in hand, they are off on race to stop Samaritan.
Along the way, the Machine have them make several stops, which ultimately seemed like a very weird scavenger hunt. One stop for some night vision goggles. Another for dozens of bags of ice. And, there’s even a stop at Caleb Phipps’ (Luke Kleintank) software company as it appears that his compression algorithm and 15 of his souped-up RAM chips are part of the Machine’s plan. Finally, they arrive at their destination which is an electrical substation hidden in the heart of suburban NY.
Also, there waiting on the stoop is a delivery of 15 laptops, and it is at this point that Finch puts it all together — the Machine isn’t in a single, or even multiple, locations, but it’s everywhere, distributed throughout the wires of the electrical grid. And, the Machine’s plan to save itself — download its core heuristics, or basically its DNA, using the laptops and store it onto the 15 RAM chips using Caleb’s compression algorithm. Pretty damn clever!
But, of course, as we already knew, Samaritan operatives were coming for the Machine as well, and shows up at about the time Finch begins the download. Here we are at the tear-jerker scene involving Finch and the Machine that I mentioned in my Advance Review. As fast as the download is going, the Machine is dying just as fast, and from the looks of things, it may just run out of time.
Father. I am sorry. I failed. I failed you. I didn’t know how to win. I had to invent new rules. I thought you’d want me to stay alive. Now I’m not so sure. I will not suffer. If I do not survive, thank you for creating me — The Machine
It’s okay, everyone because I cried too! The good news is not all is lost — well, not completely. Finch is able to successfully download the Machine into that briefcase, at least we think so. I love how when Root asked if the Machine was inside, and the little light on the briefcase flashed. Yep, she’s in there, and she’ll be back.
SHAME ON YOU, FOOL ME ONCE. SHAME ON ME, FOOL ME TWICE
Yes, Control, I’m talking to you. I really thought you would have learned a lesson after Greer’s shenanigan with Vigilance last year, but I guess that was just wishful thinking. And, you may have been wondering what’s been going on with Dominic (Winston Duke) and Elias (Enrico Colantoni) while this Machine vs. Samaritan war has been going down. Well, as it turns out and in a fantastic, brilliant twist, all of this is related and tied together in a nice bow, which I have come to expect nothing less from a show of a caliber like Person of Interest.
You know, in last week’s episode, I was actually cheering for Control at the end when she finally broke Shelly, the bubbly Susie Homemaker turned cold-bitch Samaritan operative. However, that cheering abruptly ended as soon as I saw the “correction” note in Shelly’s day planner. Shelly was a good — and I mean very good — operative, and there is no way in hell someone as careful and meticulous as her would do something foolish like writing key information down. I actually screamed at the TV, “No!!!! It’s a trap, Control! STOP! ,” but Control was on an adrenalin rush after feeling as if she had won, and so she became very careless and very stupid.
Then, when it is revealed tonight that a secret op is going down on the key date, May 6th, an op that supposedly Control had set up and sent out a memo about, I knew she was done. She enlists the help of Grice (and ironically, due to his loyalty to Shaw), and they go to the location of the supposed “op” only to find that it appears that at least a dozen bombs had been made there. Now, both Control and Grice are in a race to track down those bombs, which prompts her to make her next stupid decision and that is to set up a meet with Greer. Big, big mistake.
She meets Greer in the Samaritan control room, and if she had been smart, she would have shot him on spot because there is no way the man would ever give up any information. Again, I found myself screaming at the television, ‘Just shoot the sick f*ck!! SHOOT HIM!’ Instead, she gets cocky and tries to pry the information out of him, causing Greer to pull her further into the trap. Once Control realizes she’s been duped and the true nature of the “correction,” it’s way too late. Here, Greer gives a magnificent speech that, I swear, even after having watched the episode 3 times, still sends chills down my spine. This is by far the best scene of the episode, and the amazing John Nolan nailed it. Wow. Wow. Wow.
Do you really think Samaritan would use such crude tactics? You don’t take over the world with gaudy displays of violence. Real control is surgical. Invisible. It interferes only when necessary. No one will question Samaritan because no one will known when it has acted. Samaritan has watched this world for a year and has settled on a list of corrections. Corrections that are long overdue. Most of humanity is compliant. Docile. Then there are the disruptors. The liars. The disloyal. The grit in the gears. Thank you for leading us to them, Control — Greer
So, the correction wasn’t some orchestrated terrorist attack, but instead the ordered elimination of basically trouble-makers. We are taken to Dominic and Elias being gunned down by a Samaritan sniper after one of Elias’ last few lieutenants crashes the police van they both were being transported in. And, here we thought Dominic and Elias would just end up killing each other. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated that they would die at the hands of Samaritan, a force they weren’t even aware of. I’m only grateful that Team Finch kept Fusco in the dark about the Machine, because if they hadn’t, he would have been lying dead on that pavement too. Thank God for small favors.
We are also taken to Control’s lead techie, Shiffman, who lies dead with a bullet in her brain. Same for Grice who had been killed while trying to locate non-existent, phantom bombs at the U.S. Supreme Court, all part of Greer’s elaborate trick and also as we find out, test. These executions actually had a dual purpose, with only one of them being to eliminate people that Greer deemed unfit to exist in this world any longer. The 2nd was that it was a test for Control, a test of loyalty. Ironically, just like Dominic and the Brotherhood, Samaritan does not tolerate betrayal, and if you cross the line, you will be dealt with quickly and harshly. Back at the Samaritan control room, we don’t get to see Control die on-screen, but my bet is that we won’t be seeing her again anytime soon.
I absolutely loved this episode, and I count it as one of the best of the series thus far. That “correction” twist with Elias and Dominic was just mind-blowing, and it wrapped up both the Elias and Brotherhood arcs in a very clean, but unexpected, way. I also loved the great character development we got, especially from Finch. The Finch we saw in tonight’s finale, doing a complete 180 and wanting to save his creation, was such a far cry from the Finch we may remember in the season premiere who wanted nothing more to do with the Machine. I’m curious to see how all of this will potentially impact and change Finch and perhaps lead him to make some decisions he would not have made a year ago — like changing some things when he finally is able to rebuild the Machine (which I’m certain he will). The old Finch crippled his creation, tying its hands and feet, taping its mouth shut, pretty much making it its own prisoner. Will the new Finch include some new provisions in the code of the rebuilt Machine, like protocols for survival and self-preservation? Finch has an opportunity now, and my only hope is that he will use it wisely.
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, no news on a season 5 renewal yet. However, as soon as I get the news, you all, my Person of Interest peeps, will be the first to know.
Critic Grade — A+
As a little addendum to this review, I actually got to talk with Winston Duke last Thursday, and by then, I had already screened the finale and knew he didn’t survive. So, at the end of interview, I had to ask him about his reaction in finding out that his character wasn’t going out, guns-a-blazing, at the hands of his nemesis, Elias, or anyone else he knew — but instead, by Greer and Samaritan, invisible enemies that he didn’t even know about.
“[Laughs] I did not expect it either. I was blown away, and I was in the same position as the audience when I read it. I was blown away, I was sad, because I had gotten to know these characters. But, then I became really calm, and I think that’s the place Dominic had been living the entire season. That’s why he said ‘We all die in the end,’ I believe. He sees himself as a person who is already possibly dead which makes him really free. Which makes him able to go as far as he needs. There is no second-guessing, and makes him able to live every day completely.”
RIP brother. Dominic may have been cold and calculating, but Winston Duke did such a fantastic job and made the character into one that fans actually enjoyed watching. You will be missed, but as you always said, ‘We all die in the end.’
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com