“Synecdoche” is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, like when a sportscaster says “New York won!” when they really mean “the New York Yankees won!” This grammar lesson is brought to you by this week’s Person of Interest, which sneakily in its title suggested that Team Machine is part of a whole effort, and not alone in the fight to bring balance to the scales of universal justice. In the wake of last week’s sudden death, the show dealt with the loss with humour and pathos, and it dared to show that there’s still hope for our heroes even if they don’t know it. Synecdoche.
For the antepenultimate episode of the series, Team Machine got their biggest number yet: the President of the United States of America. Although Reese and Shaw discussed it a couple of times, it seemed weird that the idea of the Machine giving its assets perhaps the most Relevant number possible wouldn’t be given more attention. How could Samaritan not tip off the ISA that POTUS was being threatened? What is it getting at? Did Michael Gaston never get Li’l Gabriel that meeting that Samaritan wanted with the Commander-in-Chief last season? I assume these ideas will be explored more broadly in the remaining two episodes.
It was also somewhat disappointing that the threat was a lamer, amateur version of Vigilance. Perhaps something was lost in trying to cram so much into the hour, but it was, for a minute, kind of hard to believe that these losers would get so close to being able to kill the President. I also feel that the rogue drone angle has also been a bit overdone – the climax of Furious 7 comes to mind – even though it’s a poetical way for anti-surveillance domestic terrorists to make their point. Ultimately, as the work of Marvel Studios proves, sometimes the villain is just a way to give our heroes something to do besides sit around and quip.
Of course, Team Machine desperately needed something to do after Root was killed last week, and the grief was bittersweet as the gang said their goodbyes in their own way. You both laughed and cried as Fusco said “Rest in peace, Coco Puffs,” and the sight of Shaw riding on the merry-go-round looking surly was as funny as it was sad. Usually when a team member falls, the show lends some time to allow the survivors feel the impact, and while that wasn’t possible timing wise here, it was still nice that the show allowed some real moments of reflection. The final battle is barreling down on them with the speed of a runaway freight train, but they will face it, just like Root would have wanted.
And with the final battle coming and Team Machine now two members down with Finch MIA, it would not be unrealistic for the Machine to send its primary assets some help. Enter some blasts from the past: ex-soldier turned bank robber Joey Durban (from season one’s “Mission Creep”), eccentric tech billionaire Logan Pierce (from season two’s “One Percent”) and con artist extraordinaire Harper Rose (season four’s “Blunt”). The Machine has put them together to do what the original Team Machine does, like a kind of West Coast Avengers to the originals.
I’ve often wondered since Caleb Phipps did his bit to save the Machine in “YHWH” if past numbers saved by the team might become future assets. Note again the difference between the Machine and Samaritan. The Machine recruits people based on loyalty, the ones shown a new path by the altruism of the team’s intervention. Samaritan, meanwhile, recruits people through games, false promises and coercion. Seeing the Logan/Joey/Harper Team Machine was cool, and in a different world this might be a backdoor pilot for a POI spin-off, but that will largely be left to fan fic writers to fill in this blanks in the years to come. It does make me curious though what other old faces may occur in the final fight as new assets.
It was an interesting deke though for the show to say, “Hey, the number this week is the President,” when I think it could be argued that the real number this week was Reese. In the episode’s opening, note that it’s Reese that’s featured, and although we see the White House in the background, the emphasis on the shot was definitely on our main hero. You could say it’s “synecdoche,” we’re meant to think that the President’s the whole story, but it was Team Machine that really needed to the help since only four people now stand between Samaritan and total world domination. It’s enough to make you think that the President is irrelevant, at least so far as the ASI war is concerned.
As for Finch, it seems he is now truly on a suicide mission, both in terms of the recklessness and viciousness with which he’s pursuing his current mission. Not only that, but in listening to his new dialogue with the Machine, Finch also seems to be getting a lot of things off his chest. Finch’s story about Thomas Midgley Jr. and the invention of freon is perhaps the most elegant way to explain Harold’s trepidation about building the Machine. Midgley thought he was doing a good thing achieving refrigeration without the use of explosive gases, but in the process he unleashed chlorofluorocarbons onto the world. When you put it that way…
Then there was also the Machine’s point that Finch has shackled her, that there’s so much more she can do to help people, and in that moment you couldn’t help but hear shades of Samaritan. What tempers that though is when the Machine says she chose Root’s voice because she loved her. How can a Machine love, Finch asks. Because he taught the Machine how, she says. Although he’s initially somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the Machine speaking with Root’s voice, Finch tells the Machine later that he’s glad. In the end, Root wanted nothing more than to be a voice for the Machine, and now that’s literally what she is.
But while Finch finds some piece in terms of his relationship with the Machine, his war is far from over. He steals a virus from the servers on a military base, one that the Machine says will kill Samaritan, but cause wide spread collateral damage as well. It’s a bit scary that Finch is considering a scorched Earth policy in regards to the war, but perhaps he’s just been pushed that far. Perhaps that’s the way it’s got to be considering the Machine’s been on the losing side this whole time. But surely, Person of Interest won’t end with Finch basically blowing up the internet to stop Samaritan, right? Right?!?!