Warning: Spoiler Alert
Although “The Machine” provided a number in the second episode of the fourth season of the CBS series “Person Of Interest,” the case came off as secondary in many ways throughout the hour. The true focus of this episode was about whether the machine’s creator Harold Finch would end his 13-year mission to protect ordinary Americans, due to the danger of a new Artificial Intelligence system that eventually take over the planet, or refuse to give up? Although Reese, Shaw and Root want to continue their mission, Finch’s taken a more cautious approach since Samaritan received an unfiltered feed of all United States intelligence. Unlike Finch’s machine which the Government controlled through the Northern Lights program, Samaritan decides what it will share with the Intelligence Bureaus and the White House.
The episode began as we watched somebody with a blow-torch, wearing a welder’s helmet, stop work to answer his cellphone and it’s Harold whose just received a text message from Reese inviting him to a diner for a late night snack. Finch goes to the diner, but sits in his booth alone when the phone rings, and John tells him he’s too tied up doing paperwork in his cover role as NYPD Homicide Detective John Reilly, to make it. Harold says it’s a shame the food’s going to waste and Reese responds that he should give it to his new number, whose sitting just a few tables away in the diner.
Finch expresses his frustration to Reese that he and Shaw keep attempting to get Harold back on board, but John says that he’s contacted Harold because Finch and the young lady named Claire Mahoney, seated in the diner have so much in common. She’s a math major with a 4.0 GPA and a chess prodigy at 16, beating three computer programs simultaneously. However since she came to New York from her college in Ohio, she’s acted abnormally, buying a pistol and doing some breaking and entering in the last 48-hours. Reese forwards the information to Finch if he’s interested.
How can a compassionate person suddenly stop caring for their fellow human beings? The answer at least for Harold, is he can’t so he starts following the college student. Finch starts to detect a pattern of her actions, she’s involved in some sort of game or contest, looking for clues and attempting to crack a code. However, Mahoney’s also observant, as she pulls her gun on Harold and asks if he’s trying to beat her in the game and of course Finch’s clueless to what she’s referring to. She tells him that she’s noticed him stalking him for some time and she thinks he’s cheating by following her.
He tries to explain he just wants to help her, but she thinks he’s lying. Just then a Porsche drives by and she says he can keep playing the game but she’ll get a big head start and shoots out the car’s back window. Two large men come out of the car and Claire plays the scared victim saying Finch just tried to shoot her then runs off. The two guys approach Harold menacingly, but just then Detective John Reilly shows up and says he’s taking Finch into custody on another matter. The driver asks what about his window and Reese says that he’s sure the man will pay for it. Harold takes the cash out of his wallet and the driver grabs it all.
We soon find out the “game” got put into play by Samaritan as a recruiting tool for possible operatives. However, Samaritan put Mahoney in mortal danger as they had her hack the website of military contractor Silverpool and she stole secret documents that the contractor doesn’t want the public to know about. So while Claire’s playing the game a group of mercenaries are hot on her trail trying to take her out, although Mahoney’s unaware Reese and Shaw have stopped a bunch of operatives whose mission’s to end Claire’s life.
Reese, Shaw and Finch track Mahoney to the to of the New York observation center on top of the Empire State Building. While Shaw and Reese are busy subduing potential assassins, Harold talks to Claire on the observatory deck. He tells her that her life’s in danger by Silverpool and the game she’s playing’s designed by an Artificial Intelligence System bent on ruling the world. She talks about the death of her parents in a car accident on Thanksgiving and they died in a meaningless way. Harold tells her that many times the world stops making sense but we need to keep going. She asks why he’s helping her and he looks in the distance for a moment and says because he believes in having a choice. He looks back and Claire’s gone, left for the Octagon building where the clues tell her to go.
She gets to the building and once again deciphers a code that spells out “SWYCH,” she goes up to the roof and finds a power junction and pulls the switch but nothing happens. Then she looks up and sees she’s surrounded by gunmen from Silverpool, but from out of nowhere it seems someone or something shoots them all to death. Claire then hears a phone ring and notices a smaller box under the junction circuit and opens it. Inside’s a phone displaying a text message from Samaritan saying I will protect you now.
Reese apologizes to Harold about involving him in a case that ended without satisfaction, but Finch stops his apology and tells him he has something to show him. The scene’s almost light less as we hear Harold apologize as he’s yet to turn the power on, then flips a switch and we see that he’s turned the Panopticon that The Machine sent him to in the previous episode into a new command center for their operation. Shaw arrives just as Harold starts showing John around and asks if he’s back and Finch confirms he is.
Person Of Interest always contained Orwellian undertones, after all the show’s premise from the start was about an ever-present Government surveillance system, long before many Americans realized that the system they evoked truly existed. However, this episode may have hiked the stakes higher than they’ve been portrayed in this series, as Finch had the epiphany that standing up for all Americans rights is a job none of us can shirk.
The Story Continues Next Tuesday at 10:00pm on CBS.