Almost one year to the day of the closure of season four, Person of Interest has begun its fifth and final season, and to add insult to injury, you regret the fact that there are only 13 episodes left in the show within the first 50 seconds of “B.S.O.D.” Root’s narration and the corresponding shot of the subway hideout, where it looks like something highly consequential has gone down, certainly was a compelling lure, which we now realize may not be fully realized thanks to CBS’ shortsightedness. Still, the season premiere sent a pretty firm statement that if Person of Interest has got to go out this season, then it’s going to go out with a bang!
Picking up the next morning from season four’s last stand with Team Machine’s computerized benefactor preserved in a briefcase full of hard drives, Reese, Finch and Root have split up in effort to evade the pursuing Samaritan operatives and make it back to the safety of their subway Batcave. Set to the tune of “No Wow” by The Kills, our heroes get to be their bad ass best, and though they may be down, the message of the day is that they are far from out.
But there is also an emotional heart to the story of “B.S.O.D.”, which, of course, is computer jargon for “Blue Screen of Death” or the universal sign that your Windows computer has (perhaps irreparably) suffered a systems crash. The feeling evoked in the title is that things have hit a dead end, the system you’ve come to depend may be corrupted beyond all repair and whatever information you had stored there was lost. In essence, it could be characterized as a crisis of faith. In this case, Finch’s faith, and it allowed Michael Emerson to do some heartbreaking work.
The flashbacks were an interesting mix of new insights and past trauma into Harold’s current headspace. In trying to escape with Reese on the ferry, Finch flashes on the the day the ferry bomb killed his friend Nathan. After the first attempt to reboot the Machine, Finch sees his creation’s last words before the download and remembers a time in 2006 when the Machine asked him about death, why Harold insisted on taking her memories nightly, and whether or not Harold was killing her every day at midnight, drawing comparisons to the dementia suffered by Harold’s father.
The script revisits Harold’s periodic self-doubt in creating the Machine, but does so from an interesting new angle: for once Finch isn’t questioning whether he went too far, he’s questioning why he didn’t go further. Did his “crippling” of the Machine purposefully make it vulnerable to the next A.I. to come along? In the flashback, Grace makes the point (to Harold’s cover story about his troublesome “protegee”) that sometimes the student exceeds the teacher and must be allowed to fly free. Harold learned that lesson too late, but it seems to have only hit him now just how restrictive he was in those early days of the Machine. How scared he was of her. And that’s why it was so telling with Harold started referring to the Machine as “Her” by episode’s end.
In conjunction with the Machine’s current uncertain condition, seeing the show through the eyes Samaritan this week showed that the newer machine is still growing in power. Proving how advanced it has become, we see that Samaritan has expanded the classification of people beyond who’s relevant and who’s irrelevant as poor old Detective Soriano gets pegged as an “Obstructionist” because he was investigating the shootout that killed Elias and Dominic, and, by proxy Fusco, who himself was labelled a “witness.” Soriano’s pacemaker “shorts out” shortly afterward, killing him, thus ending any further inquiry. Then Samaritan also shows that you don’t need to pass a Nautilus test to be an asset as it turned a whole subway car full of people against Root.
It’s to Root that goes the credit for saving the Machine, because while Harold was struggling to come terms with what’s past, Root is more determined than ever to get the team back in the game. Linking together a bunch of Playstation 3s to create a super-computer, which is a real thing by the way, the Machine is restored to functionality, but how much is lost, and can the Machine’s programing be changed in a way that will allow her to keep her soul while turning the fight against Samaritan into something that could be won by the good guys? Something tells me that this will be the question repeatedly addressed in the weeks to come.
Another question in the coming weeks that needs to be addressed, how long till Fusco learns what’s really been going on? Samaritan was keeping a close eye on him this week, but despite Reese’s efforts to keep his NYPD partner off the A.I.’s radar, Fusco still tries to discover the who and what that saved him in the season finale, and discovers a spent bullet casing from a sniper rifle. Clearly, despite being cleared of wrong doing in the shooting of Elias and Dominic, Fusco’s still interested in the truth. I laughed at Reese telling Fusco that he’ll “fill him in later.” It reminded me of all the times on 24 when Jack Bauer promised people that they would talk “when things settle down.” Jack never talked to those people again.
Despite the raised stakes it was nice to see Person of Interest keep its sense of humor though. The scene where Finch changes hats and then knocked out Zachary with a metal pole let the typically computer-bound Harold be a man of action for a minute. And what a delightful turn when after a tense chase across the five buroughs, Reese and Finch get back to the entrance of the subway to find a janitor poking at the candy machine. The look on Finch’s face when Reese knocks out the janitor was good, but it was raised when Reese shrugs it off and says, “Sugar is bad for you.” Of course, it’s worth noting that Reese is also the name of a candy.
So overall, this was very strong start for Person of Interest, a thematic flipside to the season four premiere, which was about struggling with the idea that all hope is lost, but the statement here is that there’s still hope. How the Machine will reorient itself now, and how the team will work with it to make the fight against Samaritan more fair will be an interesting story to follow, and in the midst of tonight’s action there was also a mention of Shaw, who will be returning sometime soon. With one excellent episode down, it’s rubbing salt in the wound to know that there are only 12 more left, but at least the show’s not taking the easy way out.