Person of Interest: Prophets

"Sometimes it's better not to know. But not always."

Perfection.

I have no words to describe how much I loved this episode. I think it's safe to say that this was the single best standard format episode of Person of Interest to date. It was action packed, contemplative, dark, and funny. What more could you possibly want? Bear? Okay, yes. It could've used Bear.

Meet Simon Lee, an impossibly accurate pollster who has just stumbled across evidence that the election his team just lost was rigged. It makes perfect sense that Samaritan could and would rig elections. I assumed we were going there when the episode opened on election night (the PoI-verse is exactly two weeks ahead of real time). Also totally logical is that Samaritan would branch out. 58 politicians. That's...alarming. I wonder which is scarier though? The idea that elections can be rigged by something so simple as blocking robocalls or the idea that there are so many politicians who are so malleable they can serve as unwitting pawns in Samaritan's game?

I really like the changes the team has had to make to deal with the threat of Samaritan. I don't want to say their job was getting too easy, but having the omniscient Machine in Root's ear did take away some of the danger. Now the team has to hide, more so in this episode than ever before. They had no contact with this week's person of interest. Or should I say he had no contact with them? They certainly kept a close eye on him. I've complained before when the team had little contact with their subject, but this week it just worked. Although you really did have to feel sorry for the guy. Cut off from the internet and phone service, certain he was going to be killed at any moment, and completely unaware he had a vigilant team of guardian angels just behind him the entire time. Not to mention the fact that the team had to destroy his career and sense of self worth to keep him alive. It's okay, Simon. Reese can recommend a good shrink.

I also like that the show keeps selling the idea that Reese's actions now have very real consequences. Paperwork, yes, and now also visits to a psychologist, Dr. Iris Campbell. I like her. I'm assuming we haven't seen the last of her since we left Reese still on desk duty. I was so happy when she saw through his bullshit story and genuinely proud of Reese for his honesty to her at the end of the episode. Plus we got a sweet mention of Carter. Is it weird that he didn't use her name or is it oddly appropriate? It's not like any member of the audience doubted who he was talking about, but it seems like every time she's referred to by anyone on the team, no one says her name. Interesting.

On the Finch front, we got flashbacks to the very early days of the Machine, where it turns out the Machine was just one of 43 AIs. The only AI that didn't attempt to kill Finch or take over the world or whatever. I honestly don't know how I feel about this. It feels like a big retcon to me. Finch trusted the Machine, at least when it was still in its memoryless, chained state, and his whole 'the Machine doesn't care about you' speech to Root felt slightly out of character. One of the problems he had with this particular version of the Machine was that it was overly attached to Finch, as we learned ages ago in another flashback. And what is caring, anyway? Can't it be seen as making a certain person's survival/well being a priority? And the Machine certainly does that with its team members. Maybe the day will come when the Machine has a higher priority than Root's survival but that doesn't feel at odds with the idea that it cares.

If I had a complaint about the episode, it might be Root. I loved her most of the episode, especially her debate about the morality of the Machine with Finch. But I feel like the episode worked too hard to suggest that she was probably going to die only to have her end the episode as a pastry chef in a sling. Still, those were some fairly heavy plot anvils being dropped. Is she not going to make it through the season? I loved that Root told Finch to talk to Shaw if she died.

This episode was really about, as the title suggests, "Prophets." Namely, Root and Martine. The ones with a direct line to their gods; the exclusive communicators of those gods' messages and whims. The thing is, we really don't know anything about Martine. She's ruthlessly obedient and...? That's pretty much it. So far, the biggest different between Root (who, lest we forget, is no angel) and Martine is the gods they choose to serve. As Reese says in the opening scene of the episode, "You always have a choice, even if it's between two bad options." Root's gone with the less bad option, the Machine, which, at the very least, isn't out for world domination (that we know of). Martine's allied herself with Samaritan and Greer, the evil empire of the PoI-verse. I'd really love an episode that focused on her and showed her perspective. The way she talked to Greer was so familiar, my curiosity is definitely peaked.

Bits and Pieces

Finch called her Root for what I'm almost positive is the first time.

The Root/Martine floor/ceiling shootout was a little silly but still a lot of fun.

Finch was Harold Cardinal, which ties in nicely to the theme of AI as god.

Speaking of birds, Martine is the female version of Martin, which is a bird. Coincidence? Maybe...

Quotes

Reese: "You know, every time I do something good around here, the department thanks me with carpel tunnel and papercuts."

Fusco: "What she finds in that noggin, she'll need a hazmat suit."

Reese: "I have a hobby: shooting people."

Shaw: "Why should you vote for Governor Murray? Uh, I don't know. He has lots of hair? He's been on Rogaine for decades, and that shows...foresight, right?"

Finch: "I need to constrain it, control it, or one day it will control us."

Root: "The world is dark for everyone, but Harold, things are gonna get much darker."

Finch: "You are a brilliant woman, comrade, and a friend."
I cannot confirm or deny reports that I got a little teary at this part.

Root: "The difference between Machine and Samaritan? It's you."

four out of four asphyxiated Finches

sunbunny, who missed Bear

6 comments:

percysowner said...

Samaritan did more than change robocalls. The analyst said that polling showed that hundreds of thousands of votes just disappeared.

Anonymous said...

With this episode and with the A of Shield episode as well, I have never had so much fun and awe on a Tuesday nite. That was the BEST tuesday nite EVER on TV.

migmit said...

Well, I have certain problems now.

If the only difference between Samaritan and The Machine is Finch - what would happen when Finch dies? Even if he keeps low profile AND maintains healthy lifestyle - which he doesn't - he will die at some point. Will The Machine become as evil as Samaritan is then?

Another thing... Root said in the previous season that, if memory serves, Samaritan has dozens of data centers all around the world. We've also seen that The Machine is centralized, only having one data center. Does that mean that The Machine is much less powerful, or that Finch was a much better programmer?

Back to the latest episode, I wonder what a "talk" between Finch and The Machine can look like. Reese tried to threaten - blackmail, actually - The Machine once, and it worked. What would Finch do?

Baby M said...

I think it would be more precise to say The Machine *had* only one data center. When it moved itself ("God Mode"), there's no reason to believe it moved all the server boxes to the same new location. I've always assumed that it scattered its servers to many different locations just so nobody could put it out of business by gaining control of one location.

Doc said...

Sunbunny, I've been reading your PoI reviews for a couple of years now, and I really enjoy them. I'm sure it's a lot of work, and I'm very appreciative of your efforts.

I noticed a couple of (possible) errors in the text, and thought I'd mention them in case you wanted to go back and fix them for television-viewing posterity: unless you mean that Martine's familiarity with Greer is more interesting to you than anything else you've ever encountered, you probably mean "piqued" rather than "peaked". And earlier in the same paragraph, I think you meant to mention the "difference" betweenRoot and Martine rather than the "different". I hope I'm not coming across as pedantic, I just thought you might like to know.

Okay, moving on!

I wasn't bothered by Root's survival. What struck me about that thread was that due to Carter's end, I believed that Root might not make it through the episode. I love that the writers were able to make me believe in that possibility. That said, I hope they don't go to that well again, because I really don't want the show's power diluted.

Speaking of Carter, I wonder if maybe the characters never mention her name because it's too painful. Then again, at least in Reese's case, maybe he was being cautious; if he mentions Carter by name, he may be exposing a thread, that, if pulled could compromise the team's safety.

Regarding Martine, I wonder if like Claire, she was recruited by one of the "Nautilus" puzzles. And along similar lines, if I'd known ahead of time the basic plot of this episode, I would have expected Claire to be Samaritan's "prophet"--why else would they dedicate an episode to her recruitment? Perhaps that was the original plan and Quinn Shephard wasn't available to return.

This was definitely the best episode of the season thus far, and one of the best overall. I love this show!

Josie Kafka said...

Excellent review, Ms. Bunny!

"You know, every time I do something good around here, the department thanks me with carpel tunnel and papercuts."

I plan to use this quote in reference to my job at some point in the near future.

On a more serious note, I loved the little frisson between Root and Finch when he asked her how long it had been...since the Machine spoke to her. The original implications of that line were quite different, and I think Amy Acker and Michael Emerson did an excellent job selling a moment of sexual tension that quickly resolved into friendship.

“Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain.”

That's a quote from The Brothers K. Ben Linus reads it aloud at one point during Lost, and I had it in the back of my mind throughout this episode.

I think there are a lot of prophets here: Root and Martine, as you pointed out, but also the pollster who always predicts elections with accuracy. And Finch, whose distrust might be prophetic.

And there are some martyrs: Carter, of course, but also Nathan, who tells Finch that they should stop building the Machine. And all the foreshadowing about Root seems to hint at an impending martyrdom.