Given the limited amount of time that season five of Person of Interest has to not just further its main story, but wrap it up, “Truth Be Told” was a very workman like effort. With the Machine in a semi-functioning state and handing out numbers, this episode was fairly standard so far as episodes of Person of Interest go, which is, sad to say, rather dull given the even escalating stakes. The straightforward story contained some hints of intrigue though, a little bit of flare meant to suggest that Reese might have a friend on the inside when he and the others comes to loggerheads with Samaritan again.
The number this week belonged to Alex Duncan, a computer security specialist looking for answers about the circumstances of his older brother’s death in Afghanistan. The twist is that Reese knows the answer to that question because he’s the one that killed Duncan’s brother, who was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists. I’m not sure if seeing Reese’s CIA partner Kara Stanton in the flashback was part of a pre-planned parade of recurring characters for a farewell tour, but I suppose it gave context for a version of Reese who has a man that was all about the job, a man that had separated himself from the idea of normalcy for good.
If the point was to make Reese dump Iris, his former therapist turned love interest, then I’m okay with that. Seeing Reese in a bowling t-shirt is funny normal, but seeing Reese as a perspective romantic partner, walking in the park with his girlfriend and meeting her parents, seems like a little much. Not that Reese doesn’t deserve to find a nice girl, but it’s more believable if he makes small moves in being like a normal guy, like when he came into the subway saying, “What’s shakin’ Finch?” That was both humanizing and hilarious.
The referral back to Reese’s CIA days also had the added benefit of introducing us to Terence Beale, the man that recruited Reese into the agency. Keith David played Beale, and there seemed to be something of a twinkle in his eye playing the elusive M to Reese’s Bond. Despite Reese’s intervention in saving Duncan, an operation that exposed Reese to real danger since the CIA thinks he’s dead, Beale expresses admiration and gratitude that Reese is still out there doing what needs to done. You’ll recall that Control, if she’s still alive, is Samaritan’s prisoner after uncovering that the A.I. has ulterior motives beyond keeping the country safe, so, if it comes to it, Team Machine might need future help from friends in government.
Speaking of Samaritan, the Machine sent Root and Finch on a mission to find out more about the evil A.I.’s plan to fill all electronics with malware; not only is Samaritan collect all the data on any particular device, it’s doing something to the device for some grander ulterior motive. Finch fears the implications of screwing around with Samaritan tech, but Root makes the point that fortune favors the bold, and that there’s no reward if there’s no risk. Root’s reasoning comes from a poem that the Machine shares with Finch in a binary code, a poem by Emily Dickinson called “Cocoon above! Cocoon below!”
Cocoon above! Cocoon below!
Stealthy Cocoon, why hide you so
What all the world suspect?
An hour, and gay on every tree
Your secret, perched in ecstasy
An hour in Chrysalis to pass,
Then gay above receding grass
A Butterfly to go!
A moment to interrogate,
Then wiser than a “Surrogate,”
The Universe to know!
It’s fairly easy to read the subtext there, a metamorphosis has begun as either the Machine, the team, or both, are now forced to change if they are to have a chance at beating Samaritan. More than that though, there are lines in the poem like “Stealthy Cocoon, why hide you so” and “Your secret, perched in ecstasy, Defies imprisonment!” which implies that this is about more than strategy, but about the Machine stretching in its power and asserting itself. While Finch may have reservations about keeping the Machine an open system, perhaps the Machine is telling him that there’s no going back, and it’s in the process of becoming something else.
The main storyline of the episode was almost pointedly ordinary, but stuff like this highlighted a strong sense that there’s still something bigger going on underneath. As the new opening sequence, which is a struggle for balance between Finch and Greer’s voiceover, infers, the struggle between the two A.I.’s is coming to an equal footing, but that can only happen when the Machine emerges from its chrysalis and takes whatever form its meant to take.