Today I (re)watch: Person of Interest, 2.01

Wheee! You made it to Season 2. What a time to be alive and watch television and let fiction consume your very soul.
This is a long one. There is so much going on! It’s so great though. Harold is kidnapped by Root and taken on a road trip, while John gets a fabulous number to save.

I have watched the whole show before, so SPOILERS MIGHT HAPPEN. Big spoilers will be blanked out but references and irrelevant spoilers are going to be out in the open.

I adore cold opens. Especially season opening cold opens. They’re so fun and get the adrenaline going so good.
Season 2 of Person of Interest opens on a flashback to January 1st, 2002. We are looking at Harold from the MPoV (Machine point of view), through a computer screen, and the screen reads Day 1. Harold is asking the Machine if it can see him, and if it knows who he is. It is the Machine’s first day. So it’s a birth scene? We are then treated to a sequence of snippets, significant moments in the Machine’s and Harold’s existence since its birth: all of which we’ve seen before in season 1, with their respective day #, all of which lead to the present. In other words, it is a clever way of summing up season 1 the way many shows do, like a “previously on” but through the Machine’s eyes. 

We are now in the present, the very same place and time season 1 ended, with John on a crowded NYC street, answering a ringing payphone.
The Machine (through the payphone): Uncertainty. Romeo. Kilo. Family. Alpha. Mike. Reflections. Juliet. Oscar. 
Well that clears everything up, everyone! Right..? No? Don’t worry, John is confused too.

With the Machine searching for Harold, we travel to Delaware, to a diner where Root takes our wonderful sugar daddy. He looks at a cop that is sitting nearby.

Root: Every system has a flaw, and I’m pretty good at finding them. You care about people, that’s your flaw. So if you try to call out to that police officer over there, I won’t shoot you. I’ll shoot somebody else. Please don’t make me do that.

The show writers did a really good job at introducing Root and making her, if not *likeable* because that’s not necessarily the word, but definitely *captivating*. Whether you like her or hate her at this point, you want to see what she’s up to. She weaseled her way into their operation in the season 1 finale, and she is now clocking Harold “very private person” Finch pretty damn well.

She is scary. But also entertaining as hell. What does she want? How did she figure out what Harold does and how he does it? How is she so perky about kidnapping and murder? Does she have my (phone, not social security) number?

Back at the library, John is trying to figure out what the words he got from that payphone mean and how they can help him get his husband boss back. Turns out Harold and the Machine use the Dewey Decimal System, which I know nothing about, except that it uses books and numbers and that’s how Harold gets the SSNs of the people they help. These numbers in particular, the ones John deciphers, belong to another one of the many treasures this show brings us: Leon Tao.
Did Leon kidnap Harold? No. Does he know anything about Root? No. So what the hell does he have to do with anything then? I don’t know if you recall, but in No Good Deed, in a bit of foreshadowing, John asked Harold to tell him more about the Machine, since if something happened to Harold, he wouldn’t know how to access new numbers. Harold cryptically alludes to a contingency plan that is in place. Well, this is it, friends. Root was right, Harold didn’t program the Machine to protect Harry specifically (although it/she still does), but to give John the numbers if Harold wasn’t around. John is the contingency.

[February 16, 2002] Harry is playing hide and seek with his child – The Machine, that is. Out on the street, inside coffee shops, etc., to see how much access she’ll have no matter where anybody is. Harry is pleased at how well his child can creep on every body, every where. #ParentingGoals

Leon had apparently stolen a lot of money from the Aryan nation (who he used to work for before realizing they were the aryan nation). And so now they were about to kill him, before John stepped in his usual kneecap-shooting glory.
Leon: You wanna call that greedy? I call that payback.
Bless his soul.
John has him arrested so he’ll stay out of trouble, but Leon escapes police custody, with handcuffs on and all.

Meanwhile Fusco is jealous and petty about Carter and John being friendsies. It’s kind of embarrassing, but cute.

So he goes out searching for Leon, and finds him just in time to get himself beat up and captured by the aryan bros along with him. Oh Lionel.

On the other end of messes that Root caused, we are introduced to another very special frienemy of ours: Hersh. He isn’t given a name in this episode, but he is Special Counsel’s (remember him? he manages a lot of Machine related government things) very special hit man, or something. He has an official title, I’m sure. He is like the John of the government, and handles some ISA agents, like the ones John killed to protect Henry Peck. He, Hersh, is now determined to block any discoveries in the Alicia Corwin murder case, and to kill John as well. For funsies I think.

[September 6, 2003] Harold takes his child to the casino (“But she’s only a toddler!”, you screech. Yes, but she is also a machine.) to test her math skills playing blackjack. Don’t be so moralistic, my father would have probably done that if my mom hadn’t known better. jk. Probably jk.
Harold keeps winning and winning money – and no security person is breathing down his neck, oddly enough – by having the Machine text ‘stay’ or ‘hit’. 
Another player: Somebody up there must like you, my friend.
Well he’s not *wrong*. In the next play, and to show us how Pure of a Cinnamon Roll ™ he is, he goes against the Machine’s instructions, losing all the chips he’d gotten from cheating.

John manages to track down Fusco and Leon (how? by being Reese? I don’t know) and catch up with the aryan bros. And we are introduced to another favorite character in this episode! This episode has so many treasures, and this one is a puppy! The bros call him Butcher, and they’re a military trained dog, who only knows Dutch commands. Guess who else knows dutch commands? John motherfucking Reese, of course. After shooting most of the aryan bros probably, John gets Fusco, Leon, and the dog out. A dog he names Bear.

The team now has a puppy! Yay!

[September 7, 2003] Harry and the Machine are out playing blackjack again. On the way out in the parking lot, the Machine keeps sending Harold texts saying ‘stay’, which Harry assumes is a glitch. But then as he is about to cross the street, a drunk driver rushes by and crashes at the end of the road. Harold goes back home, and tells his child that she isn’t supposed to protect him specifically, which ties to what Root is asking him in the present: how did it limit the Machine’s “imprinting” on him?

Meanwhile, Root takes Harold to a pharmacy to get some drugs, then to a restaurant where he drugs a seemingly random lady, and delivers a quote that runs deep throughout her character development throughout the series. Pay attention, kids:
Root: One day I realized, all the dumb, selfish things people do, it’s not our fault. No one designed us. We’re just an accident, Harold. We’re just bad code. But what you built? It’s perfect. Rational, beautiful. By design.
Harold insists it’s just a machine, but Root knows better, and so do we. It’s an intelligence. Root calls it a life, a life Harold then locked and muted and handed over to corrupt asshats. She’s not entirely wrong.
So, who was this random lady whose phone Root just stole to send a text? Well, it’s Denton Weeks’ (remember him? he works for the government and tried to hack the Machine at some point?) mistress. Root and Harold get to Denton’s mistress’s house and wait for him. What’s some kidnapping without some good ol’ B&E?

John is running around town, trying not to get killed by nazi boys, while looking into the few clues as to where Harold and Root could be. They run into a guy Root killed, and Leon, the good thief that he is, looks into his computer. Turns out Root paid the dead guy with his own money, that she stole, creating an untraceable loop. I don’t know how possible this is, but I love her for it. Paying men with their own money – amazing! Or bad, very bad, if the one doing it is a murderous hacker with zero remorse and not all that much of a moral code as far as we can see. Anyway. John is tired of going around in circles so he tells the Machine he is done: if she doesn’t give him a clue, he’ll just stand there in the middle of the street and wait for the aryan bros to kill him and Leon. A negotiation/game of chicken! The first one we see in the show, but not the last.
John: I know you’ve got your rules, but I am guessing they don’t account for everybody being dead. No one answering your phone calls, no one saving anyone. No contingency.

I love that John talks to the Machine in a way that lets me think he knows the Machine understands human behavior and emotions beyond just categorizing them. Everyone (including fandom) sort of treats John like he is only muscle and that everything is dumbed down when it comes to him, but he knows. He knows it is an artifical intelligence, not merely a machine. He knows that it can break its own rules. He knows it understands and assesses risks, and that it can help if pushed a little, like any person would. And so the phone rings.
The Machine: Ayacucho. Golf. Papa. Deterministic. Hotel. Sierra. Camera. Kiosk. Kilo. 
So anyway…

The aryan bros are still after Leon, and almost kill him and John, again. But then, just as the tall scary dude is babbling about how John is an embarrassment to his race, my queen, Joss boss-ass-bitch Carter, shoots him in the back with a gas round. Bless her. And bless the writers for making the black woman, out of everyone there, defeat the nazi assholes once and for all.

Leon: Your friend, I hope you find him. He’s lucky to have you.

Yes he is! They both are so very precious.

In the meantime, Root is chatting with Harold about the nature of humankind, like hostages and kidnappers do. Harry confesses that the reason he sealed the Machine wasn’t to protect it from the people he gave it to, but from people like him and Root, and what they would do with it if it was an open system, how they’d try to control it (being they both think humanity is a bunch of rotten apples that need fixing or getting rid of and all).
But Root doesn’t want to control it, oh no, she wants to set it free. And (SPOILER TO SEASON 5), in the end, she kind of does get what she wanted.

Next episode, we are going to Texas! Well, John and Joss are. To investigate into Hanna Frey, the number the Machine gave John just now. Is Hanna Root? Well, you’ll have to read on next time (or watch the episode! or both!) to find out.

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