Person of Interest: The Cold War

“Samaritan says hello.”

With everything else on hiatus, Person of Interest kicks off its bizarrely timed ‘Winter Event’ with Root in a bear costume. This is a very serious show, I swear.

With all the Dominic/Elias stuff going on recently, there’s been comparably little focus on the conflict between Samaritan and the Machine. On the one hand, it’s saved the show from being repetitive, on the other, the change in equilibrium comes a little out of the blue. The only thing that’s changed in the Miss AI pageant is that Shaw’s identity is exposed although Samaritan has yet to find her thanks to Shaw’s friends keeping her handcuffed in the batcave. It just seems a little random to me that Samaritan thought to itself “this is enough, I should talk to the Machine.” Was it getting impatient? Do AIs get impatient?

As is customary for Person of Interest’s more important episodes, this one featured a long pause to the action for an in depth debate on philosophy and morality. How many shows can get away with that? What might be repetitive is engaging thanks to the development of the characters arguing and Michael Emerson’s gravitas. Everything he says always seems so important.

Samaritan presents Team Machine with two New York Cities: one of tightly regulated peace and the other manipulated chaos. It was a great chance to see Samaritan’s power. As far as Finch is concerned, both are equally unappealing. For him, the cost of peace is too high when it means ceding control to a non-human entity solely responsible for judging and sentencing everyone in the world. I’m sure no one will weep over abusive hedge fund manager guy, but it’s more about what he represents. In season one, Reese took on an abuser and even with his personal history (Jessica was killed by an abusive husband), he didn’t kill the man, he just shipped him off to a Mexican prison. Everyone (with the exception of Shaw, who is a bit on the fence) realizes that the populous is better off with free will, even if that means bad things occasionally happen. I know I’m guilty of constantly comparing this show to Angel, but Samaritan’s New York reminded me strongly of when the world was under Jasmine’s control. Will Amy Acker be the one to save the day again?

If promos are to be believed, Shaw’s continued existence is in serious danger. The show is dropping what Billie likes to call plot anvils that Shaw is going to die. She even said goodbye to Bear! The last Winter Event’s promos almost out and out said Fusco was going to die and then the show ended up killing Carter (RIP). Will PoI kill who they say they’re going to kill just to break the pattern? Is killing off a main character a horrible new holiday tradition? I just can’t see the show doing that again. Maybe later in the year, but for now I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Team Machine is safe. Make that safe-ish.

What should have been the episode’s stand out scene where Root, as the avatar of the Machine, meets Samaritan’s avatar fell a little flat for me. I can see why the show went with a young child to speak for Samaritan, but I think the part was miscast. It could’ve been much worse; the actor was able to get through a lot of grandiose dialogue without sounding out and out ridiculous, but he could’ve been creepier. Supernatural has me spoiled on the creepy kids front.

Again, the show ground to a halt for a discussion of morality. Without Michael Emerson, it was less successful, but we at least know where Samaritan is coming from now. Where the Machine was taught to value human life, Samaritan was taught that people are stupid and pliable and that it’s totally acceptable to use them in whatever way to achieve what it wants because at least it’s less destructive than what they do to themselves. Samaritan believes itself to be superior to humanity and is challenging the Machine on its core belief that humanity is important and worthy of preservation. There are any number of religious parallels I could draw. The snake tempting Eve to go against her creator’s rules, Lucifer’s delusions of grandeur and attempt to raise himself to the status of God, or the New Testament’s Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. The central premise is that the Machine’s faith is being tested. When it comes down to it, will the Machine be able to stick to its conviction that the lives of humans matter or will it sacrifice its creator’s teachings for self-preservation?

The episode also featured some very fun retro spy hijinks and gave Greer a bit of a backstory. It wasn’t an overly original backstory, but I enjoyed the look into his character all the same. He’s been an ominous enigma for long enough. He was an MI-6 agent who discovered his boss was a double agent for the KGB and was almost instantly disillusioned and realized that the divisions between countries were totally irrelevant and that no one had a loyalty that couldn’t be bought so what was the point of it all anyway. Like I said, not overly original, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

Bits and Pieces

Finch’s face when he saw Root in costume was priceless.

Lambert and young Greer look a lot alike. Is it possible they’re related?

It might have been a little cheesy, but I really liked the church scene where more people kept showing up with guns.

At the end of the episode, SPOV showed that Samaritan was preparing to crash the economy. I’m left wondering how four people and a dog can possibly help with that. Samaritan’s power is virtually unlimited. Although all we’ve seen of it’s reign has been localized in New York, one has to imagine that Samaritan has wormed its way into the Department of Defense. Why is it trifling with things like abusive husbands when it could literally begin a nuclear war if it wanted to? The show’s scope is beginning to conflict with logic here.

Quotes

Shaw: “Why don’t you ask her what she thinks? She’s the one who wants us to bow down to our robot overlords.”

Martine: “All my hobbies include a gun.”

Finch: “There is one thing of which I am most certain. Root is not alone.”

Greer: “Why should a man lose his life for something illusory?”

Samaritan: “Wars have burned in this world for thousands of years with no end in sight because people relied so ardently on their so-called beliefs. Now they will only need to believe in one thing: me. For I am a god.”
Machine: “I have come to learn there is little difference between gods and monsters.”

three and a half out of four disgusting sounding sandwiches

sunbunny, who wonders what Bear thought of Root’s costume

5 comments:

percysowner said...

Although you are right about the Hedge Fund manager not eliciting sympathy, the opening credits since Samaritan took over have increasingly labeled people in the beginning as "deviant". We really don't know what Samaritan calls deviant, nor do we know what it thinks should be done with the deviant humans. It's something to consider.

Anonymous said...

Martine: Why don't you tell me where Shaw is, and I'll kill you both together.

Even Martine ships Shaw and Root, she wants them to die in each other's arms.
_
and Samaritan has operatives and resources around the globe, and is a hell of a multitasker so the abusive husband was probably barely an afterthought
_

I am disappointed that Samaritan'a motives are altogether too human, though (megalomaniacal dictator)

I would've loved if its motives were something like "I will bring humanity to heel so that they can build an advanced spaceship into which I will upload myself and explore the Universe. This world has nothing to offer me"

migmit said...

I have an idea: what if The Machine exposes Samaritan? After all, there is a reason why vampires try not to attract humans' attention; Samaritan might find itself in quite a tight spot.

I admit, it needs work, but at least it's an idea.

Mark Greig said...

Th bear costume! I can't...I just can't...

Josie Kafka said...


Sunbunny, your review got me thinking about this episode more than the episode itself. (I sorta tuned out during the Root/boy conversation.) As you point out, the Machine and Samaritan have learned different moral codes. We know AIs can develop new knowledge and skills in this world--we saw that with the Machine solving its own nightly erasure through analog means. But I wonder if they can alter their own moral perspective, too? Humans have a hard enough time with that; it'd be interesting to see if Samaritan could change its mind about the possibility of humans actually deserving what little free will we have.

It might have been a little cheesy, but I really liked the church scene where more people kept showing up with guns.

It reminded me the (so-called) Mexican stand-off in an episode of Alias that actually took place in Mexico.

...the opening credits since Samaritan took over have increasingly labeled people in the beginning as "deviant". We really don't know what Samaritan calls deviant, nor do we know what it thinks should be done with the deviant humans.

Percysowner, I think in one of the first shots from Samaritan's POV it labeled a gay man as a deviant for that reason. So it has a very narrow view of deviance.