The ethics of its creator

Harold and Reese
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As I observed in January, the storylines in season three of Person of Interest are so different you could split it into two separate seasons.

Season 3A brought the HR story to a close and unfortunately took Detective Carter down with it. Seeing her go was a shock, but the writers felt they had to do it in order to maintain their credibility with the audience who needs to believe that Harold Finch’s team is truly in danger.

You can see why they wanted to drive that point home as season 3B enters its final three episodes. Decima, which first appeared rescuing Kara Stanton last season, stole an artificial intelligence system called Samaritan online. Developed by one of Harold’s friends at MIT, Samaratin differs in one crucial way from The Machine:

“It’s not compromised by the ethics of its creator.”

The Machine is a one-way surveillance system. That is, it only looks for what it is programed to look for – threats. The show drilled into our heads early and often that Harold took every precaution to protect The Machine from being exploited. John Greer, the head of Decima, views that as a fatal flaw. Samaritan can give the same information, but it can also listen. Greer can tell it to find Harold Finch and it will find Harold Finch.

That’s where the writers’ credibility comes in. When Harold goes white as a ghost telling Reese they will be the first two targets if Samaritan comes online, they want you to believe it. Do I think they’re going to kill of either of them? Of course not. What matters is I buy into the notion that they are in danger, and I do.

But I’m not wild about the direction the show went with Vigilance, the anti-surveillance group that disclosed Northern Lights to the public. As the Edward Snowden story grew to look more and more like the United States government has a real life Northern Lights I feared it would work its way into the show, and it has. I’m watching the Snowden story play out in real life, I don’t need them replicating it in my favorite TV show.

The final three episodes also figure to reveal what Root has been doing running in and out of the story all season. She’s taking orders from The Machine through her (The Machine’s, not Root’s) analog interface, but all they’ve given us is that it’s to prepare for what’s coming. Whether that’s a physical showdown or a technological one, it should be good.

What exactly has been up with The Machine anyway? They’ve given us some new looks lately.

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One last thing. The title for the season 3B finale is “Deus Ex Machina.” In its original Latin:

God from the machine.


UPDATE after tonight’s episode:

I didn’t think this was all that great. Everyone racing from place to place following The Machine’s orders like a game of Simon says doesn’t make for great television. They could have compressed that to half the time they gave it. The scene with Harold and Grace on the bridge was the mirror image of Desmond and Penny’s phone call in The Constant. I could barely handle.

What did this sub-par episode tell us?

It was short, but during the conversation between Gracie and John Greer they referred to Harold as God. Deus Ex Machina. God from the machine. Maybe this all ends with The Machine gone and Harold assuming control of Samaritan. He’s been adamant to say that it cannot fall into the wrong hands. What if it fell into the right hands? Wouldn’t Harold with all that power be a god to Samaritan? It would also add a new dimension to the show that needs to keep coming up with them.

Decima is fanatical. The way Greer’s techie pulled the trigger on John’s gun to shoot himself created a good contrast to what happened to the techie in the empty warehouse that used to house The Machine at the end of last season. He was shocked to be killed, Decima’s guy did it to himself out of devotion. This reinforces Harold’s assertion that these people cannot be trusted with the power Samaritan gives them.

Harold found his limit. The music on the show this season has been fantastic. Last week’s ended with a caressing melody sung by a woman with the lyric, “You can still be who you want to be, who you said you were, when you met me.” I thought that was meant to symbolize The Machine telling Harold he didn’t have to sacrifice his ethics to do it’s will. Maybe that was wrong. When Harold told John and Shaw to avoid taking any lives but to kill them all if they harmed Gracie I had a different idea. Harold never revealed himself to her before he chose to disappear. To her he is always what he said he was the day they met. Maybe the song is supposed to be a message from her, reinforcing to Harold that he doesn’t have to change. In fact, he can let it all go – The Machine, Reese, Decima, everything – and be Harold Martin, husband to Grace, for the rest of his days. Time will tell.

Root is going to do something big. Okay, like, duh. But she now has a freight of massive computer power she stole from Decima. What The Machine tells her to do with it will be pivotal, I think. Her little missions have taken her to Alaska, Miami and El Paso, I can’t see them mentioning that without it tying in some how. We still have the guy she shipped to South America to be heard from.

Person of Interest drew out its first two season finales into the beginnings of their following seasons. I expect the same to happen here. Trying to think where the break point might be for what they resolve now and what they spill over. Hmm.

3 thoughts on “The ethics of its creator”

  1. “Medicine” by Daughter.

    What was the last time you watched an episode “live?” From following you on Twitter it always feels like you’re tweeting on a DVR-delay so it was really weird seeing some live tweets from you tonight. (I don’t usually watch it live either, but they’ve been showing just enough reruns for me to be able to catch up on the first-run stuff.)

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