Person of Interest: Can You See Me?

POI - s5.01

When Person of Interest (CBS, Mondays/Tuesdays, 10/9C) concluded its fourth season, Samaritan had won and The Machine had been seemingly destroyed. Harold finch had compressed the codes that created his artificial intelligence into a single unit and his team appeared to be finished.

Season five opens with Harold, Reese and Root on the run and dodging Samaritan operatives – while Fusco is facing Internal Affairs over the deaths of Elias and Dominic.

B.S.O.D. (Blue Screen of Death) opens with Reese (Jim Caviezel) on the lam with the suitcase containing the compressed code for The Machine; Root (Amy Acker) working her way to an unassuming industrial block; Harold dodging assassins on a bus and Fusco facing both a member of IA and an FBI agent.

Flashbacks take us to 2006 where Harold is torn over letting The Machine grow and develop and learn from its mistakes, and forcing a reset every twenty-four hours. The decision wears at him because The Machine reminds him of his father’s death 25 years earlier – and his father’s real death occurred years earlier when his Alzheimer ’s disease took the last of his memories.

The Machine wonders why it should lose its memories every 24 hours. How would it learn from its mistakes? How would it remember its creator?

Person of Interest has always been a stealth science fiction series masquerading as a procedural. It asks questions about the nature of humanity; the concept of identity and even the ethics of global surveillance. It asks whether the development of a true super computer AI is a good idea.

Harold voices his concerns in the first flashback, ‘A supercomputer that thinks 100,000 times faster than the smartest human would automatically be a potential threat. Once it surpasses us, we’d be foolish to think we had the means to control it. If an unbridled super intelligence ever saw us as a threat, it could lead to the extinction of mankind.’

At one point, Root tells Harold that she could never have a problem with The Machine becoming autonomous because, ‘she’s a reflection of you.’

B.S.O.D. plays on the ideas the series has always explored – with Samaritan as the embodiment of Harold’s concerns from 2006. It also explores the idea of faith in something greater than ourselves – in the form of Harold’s Machine (interesting note: Harold has begun referring to The Machine as ‘she.’)

In his first attempt to see if The Machine is still viable (its/her case has been damaged), things go wrong and she tries to decompress into too small a space and a fire results. As Harold lies unconscious nearby, The Machine’s screen flickers ‘I’m sorry I failed you.’ The beginning of her becoming an autonomous entity is continuing.

The question is whether she can be completely rebooted – and Root has a crazy, perfect way to help that happen.

Writers Greg Plageman and Tony Camerino have set the stage for the final battle between The Machine and Samaritan by both taking the themes of the show from its beginning and by setting up the possibility that The Machine is evolving into a feeling entity.

Director Chris Fisher does a great job of weaving the present and the flashbacks into a coherent single piece with past and present supporting and expanding on each other. It’s a great start to the show’s final season.

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