If you’ve watched the show since its premiere you probably once had the same thought I did, “What do the yellow boxes mean on Person of Interest?” We caught on quickly to the way The Machine detects faces and assigns them a box based on their classification. Yellow boxes know about The Machine, white for regular people, etc. The Person of Interest wiki has them all listed, plus other boxes for cars, boats and more. Check it out for a good background on POI’s most mysterious character.
I am not going to repeat the information from the wiki, but I do have several screenshots from the first five episodes of season three that provide insight on how the machine works. Some of them have probably been present since the beginning. Some are new to this season and really open up the way The Machine picks out numbers and judges threats.
The Opening Sequence
The opening sequences features Finch explaining The Machine over a series of shots showing the cast.
The Machine taps into everything to gather information including a camera on this NYPD helipad.
This slideshow shows the records The Machine will analyze when it tracks someone. In this case the lucky subject is Fusco.
These shots show The Machine classifying subjects. Reese, of course, is not missing just like Shaw is not dead. These shots were from the season premiere when The Machine may have believed she was but it still identifies her that way five episodes in.
The Machine doesn’t just find a camera, it identifies it. In this case it accessed the wifi in Reese’s camera to determine what it was shooting and details about the camera itself.
Being able to access so much information in its databases allows The Machine to identify the type of gun this threat is holding (it is hard to see the red triangles around the weapon). Like Reese’s camera, The Machine reads all kinds of information about the gun.
This slideshow shows four ways The Machine gathers its information and uses it to connect dots between subjects.
Episode three was Root-centric and gave us the best look into The Machine we’ve ever had. First it showed how it identified her and connected her to her different aliases. The Machine then went into its archives to show her walk with Finch last year when he neutralized her threat, albeit temporarily.
This sequence is interesting. It shows Root answering the yellow phone at the end of last season from The Machine’s perspective. Notice how her box goes from yellow to yellow and black. According to the wiki: Possibly indicates individuals who not only know about the Machine, but have the ability to communicate with it. The Machine internally designates these individuals as “Analog Interface.” The third photo shows it in her meeting with Dr. Carmichael.
This is the shot that prompted me to do this post. I don’t recall the show ever giving us a look at exactly how The Machine goes about determining potential outcomes and their probabilities. It is The Machine on all cylinders, tapping into all of its databases and its vast amount of predictive ability.
These are the initial predictions. Violence at 30.19 percent, asset activation at 28.44. I’m not sure which asset it means, I assume Root?
The predictions begin to branch out. Notice how they maintain the color coding system. Red for violence, yellow for assets. Blue is labeled “OPERATIONAL RELEVANCE.” Blue boxes are for government agents pursuing numbers, so this could mean The Machine predicts an outcome where Root will cross paths with someone pursuing The Machine’s true purpose. Note that the percentages have changed. Violence is now more likely, Dr. Carmichael is in serious danger, an administrator may die and asset activation has edged up slightly.
The predictions really begin to sprout. Dr. Carmichael is marginally more likely to survive and a mass casualty event is now predicted at 9.54 percent. Look at all the yellow predictions. Almost 63 percent odds that the asset gets captured, 17.56 percent the crisis is averted and 2 percent for something called Aux Admin. Notice, too, the probability of violence eeks upward.
While The Machine predicts a small chance Root will trigger global thermonuclear war look up in the left corner. The Machine covers all possible outcomes, even the 0.04-percent chance that Root and Dr. Carmichael will get married and have kids. Aww! ❤
The Machine sees a good chance that Root will successfully escape the hospital and a small chance she will die. It’s not pictured but Dr. Carmichael’s percentage changed to 19.9. Things are looking up for the doctor! In the final scene before her escape Root tells him she won’t kill him. The Machine is giving her instructions not to kill people, including Hersh.
A new and very likely outcome is predicted: Asset interception.
This is big. The Machine predicted a 97.23 percent chance of violence and determined an intervention is necessary. It then found Harold near a pay phone and alerted him. Look at all the lines connecting to various bits of information The Machine relied on for its predictions!
Look at this slideshow as The Machine continues to analyze data and make predictions. The data connects different subjects and even identifies the possible death of a subject who’s name is redacted. Hmmm.
Having determined Root is in danger, The Machine plots her location on a map with Hersh’s as we see Hersh leaving a hospital after failing to find Root. The Machine identifies other places he might look before finding the quickest route between his location and Root’s. Another great example of all the information The Machine can pull, process and interpret.
The Machine has gone back in time throughout the series to show us things that happened before the show began. This slideshow tracks The Machine as it scrolls through its timeline to tell Shaw’s story. Again going back to the wiki, when The Machine sees this old footage it analyzes it for the first time, but I’m more interested in where the information comes from. Harold began to train The Machine in 2001, it didn’t go online until 2003. Is it accessing some vast archive? Could it be linked to previous attempts at mass electronic surveillance and data gathering? We don’t know.
Thank you for making it to the end of this marathon post. I appreciate it. I really enjoy these little details they drop into TV shows. Lost did it all the time. It gives fans something to examine that yields a better understanding of the show and shows the producers take the most minute details seriously.
This post took the better part of a Saturday to put together. I reviewed all five episodes this season and went slow-motion through every image we saw through The Machine’s eyes, pausing to scour the screen and take photos. They are iPhone photos and it wasn’t always easy to pause the show at exactly the right moment for the text to be sharp.
I’ll have a future post about what’s going on with Root and the unique relationship she has with The Machine.