Today I (re)watch: Person of Interest, 2.21

HOLY SHIT, we’ve arrived at the 2-part season finale. It’s such a journey, that I don’t know how I’m going to pack it all in. Let’s go.

The Machine appears to have shut down or something by the virus Kara uploaded, so it creates a fake person instead. So Harold and  John are trying to find this non-existent person, and Root is back, because she is interested in getting to Harold and The Machine, and Sameen Shaw is back, because she is interested (don’t say it, don’t say it) in Root.

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.

The opening credits get interrupted with random symbols and more BSoDs! The Machine is clearly a Lil’ Stressed. Poor little AI, that flu of hers is getting outta hand.

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John meets up with Carter, who is done with everyone’s shit. She wants to know why the hell John and Harold aren’t preventing all the homicides that are knocking on her door, where the hell is Beecher’s killer, how the fuck it is possible that she is hoping for Elias to come back – because the Yogorovs make bigger and bloodier messes – and nobody is on top of their shit. Man, they both look like crap. Nothing seems to be going well for any of my babies.
On another end of things, it seems like the relevant side of the numbers has also not gotten a new number in over a week, and Special Counsel also looks like crap. He asks Miss May (Root) for some privacy, but she has a better idea: hold him at gun point and milk him for information! That always does the trick when I’m failing at my job, too. She leaves him tied up, and moves on to better things.
John and Harold set out to investigate Ernest Thornhill, the only number they’ve been able to receive. And suddenly Root calls Harold and asks him what he did to the Machine that it/she can’t fight a virus. She has a point, why can’t an Intelligence out-smart this?

Root: May I be blunt, Harold? John is capable at… certain things… but his skills are not gonna cut it this time. He will never completely understand the larger picture, not like we do. Have you two even found Ernest Thornhill yet? He’s an interesting guy, isn’t he?

Okay so, first of all, I love that Root doesn’t even say “he is capable at many things”. No, *certain* things. And second of all, how the hell does she know about Thornhill? Spooky.

[2010] Harold is ready to propose to Grace and talks to Nathan about what he’s gonna tell her, about how he wants to come clean to her and live without secrets. Sweet summer child. His youth charges are sedition and mayhem, and the government has no idea he exists and participated in creating the Machine. This is a very interesting flashback because we see that before Nathan died, Harold had some hope he could escape his past, live a normal life. Sweet summer child.

Nathan *raises his glass*: Harold becomes himself again. Which would make this day one.
Harold: I haven’t actually asked her yet. So technically it would still be Day Zero.

Wait, how did Nathan die again? Oh, right, y’all don’t know yet. We’re finding out very soon.

John: How did Root get your number?
Harold: How does she get anything, Mr Reese? Subterfuge. She hacks human beings as easily as she hacks computers.
It’s true. Which makes her both creepy and my favorite Slytherin. And very hot.

John and Harold realize Thornhill doesn’t exist, he is a fake person the Machine made up to be able to buy payphones, and to be able to record her own memories. (Whaaa? In a moment.) A product of a survival instinct, Harold says, as if that’s supposed to clear things up. “Ernest Thornhill *is* the Machine.” Harry, dear, explain yourself or get the fuck outta here.

John: Don’t answer the phone unless it’s me. I won’t let Root get to you. Not again.
… he says in a very serious committed tone. Sweet summer child, it’s not up to you. Root gets any fucking where she wants, and we both know it.

[2010] Grace is painting Harold, and then Harold takes Grace somewhere further from the Machine (well, from surveillance cameras, but really) and proposes to her. Bittersweet music plays in the background, ’cause the Machine is saying goodbye to her dad.
Is it weird I catch more feelings about the AI than about the proposal? It’s just more subtle, unexpected, interesting. I dig it. (Wait, would human-machine relationships count as queer?)

Root sends Harold a message to meet near Grace’s place, so of course Harold has to say yes. Who knows what “friends” Root might make around the neighborhood. He gets rid of John by sending him to Thornhill’s apartment. He makes a 911 call as well. Huh?

Carter is still looking into Cal’s murder, but is also worried about what the hell is going on with Thornhill. John tells her they got it covered, and my heart fucking explodes in gratitude for friendships this pure.

Carter: Maybe I could help.
John: I know you could, Joss. But right now, maybe Beecher needs your help more than we do. Good luck.

And just as John is snooping around the fake man’s apartment, a gun clicks. Who is it that is always pointing a gun at John from behind? It’s his sister, of course! My wife. I guess that makes Johnny boy and I siblings in law. Shaw was looking into Root, which led her to Thornhill. Fired and presumed dead or not, she still believes in “the program” (the Machine, really), and as far as she knows, the biggest threat to it is Root.

Speaking of Root, she is meeting with Harold now. She knows what’s happening with the Machine better than we do, which is unnerving. And she points out that Harold already knows all this, which is also unnerving. Apparently Harry programmed the Machine to do a hard reset if compromised, which results in a phone call to a specific payphone, which grants whoever answers it unfettered access for 24 hours. And what’s creepiest and most disturbing? Decima Technologies – the employers of Ominous British Man and the ones responsible for the virus as far as we know – knows about this too.

Harold: If I go with you, Mrs. Groves, you will not kill anyone.
Root: Please, Harold, call me Root.

Yes, please Harold, fucking call her Root. It takes him 3 seasons to address her by the name she introduces herself with. It bugs me to no end. Anyway.

[2010] Harold is very paranoid about everything even since then, so he follows Nathan out of a restaurant and into a derelict library, one that looks familiar. I guess Finch was right to be paranoid, since he walks into Nathan’s base of operations for irrelevant numbers, which he has been hiding from Harry.

The police arrive to Thornhill’s address and Shaw flees the scene, but they catch John and arrest him.
But she doesn’t just leave him, oh no. John is her future brother! She pretends to be his lawyer, and shows John the 911 call that Finch made, which was to report John breaking into Thornhill’s apartment. So that’s weird. In any case, Root is probably with him, and they both have an interest in finding them. How will they do that?

John: I’ve lost people before. So when I care about someone, I plant a tracking device on them.
This in most other circumstances would be really creepy, but in this one it’s actually very sweet.

Shaw takes two guns out of her bra and a suitcase that’s actually a grenade.

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I present to you: The Mayhem Twins!

In another side of town, Harold begrudgingly shares tiny bits of information with Root, most of which Root correctly guesses anyway. As they walk around midtown NYC, they see Decima operatives watching over most payphones, so they need a plan.

Root: Have a little faith in your creation, Harold. We don’t need a plan if Ernest Thornhill already has one. 

This line right there is just a teeny tiny window we get into the vast and powerful and fascinating faith that Root has in the Machine. It’s one of my favorite relationships in the show, one that I am looking forward to talk with y’all.

They arrive to Thornhill’s office, and it becomes obvious Harold knew more about what’s going on than he was letting on with John. Thornhill enterprises needs to type back code every day because the machine self erases every night.
This is one of many great moments between Finch and Root. Gosh, I love them so.

Harold had no reason to share all of this with Root other than to advance the plot and to let us (the audience) know, but I’ll accept. And Root is so genuinely horrified, disgusted, at the cruelty of what Harry did to his child!

This is also a good time to note that I had never been interested in the philosophical/ethical/whatever conversations about AI before this show, or since. The way they manage to slowly but surely personify the machine and give it character development almost exclusively through other characters is genius, and effective. I will never in my life care about an oversexualized anthropomorphic robot and its motives (staring intently and bitterly at Ex Machina here, but also at countless AI’s in TV and movies) but I will always care about my precious daughter whose face or voice we never need in order to care.

After Root and Harold leave Thornhill’s offices, John and Sameen arrive. And who do they find there? The motherfucking Ominous British Man! Why they don’t shoot him and save us all years of stress is beyond me – besides, y’know, plot. And the fact that he wasn’t armed so John would never shoot him, but Shaw could have.

Ominous British Man continues being cryptic and disturbing, John Nolan (the actor who plays him) continues being super good at his job. He informs them that the virus he uploaded wasn’t created by Decima, but was found in the laptop John and Kara were sent to Ordos for, and that that laptop originally belonged to Harold Finch. Harold Finch!! Is Ominous British Man pulling our leg? It doesn’t look like it. Mother of HECK, you did not see that coming.

So that’s why Harold did not tell John he knew exactly what the virus was going to do, because he would’ve had to explain why he knew.

[2010] Harold confronts Nathan about the numbers, about changing the Machine, about the security risk. Nathan tells Harold that when he created the backdoor, it was “like it wanted him to, like it was waiting”. Harold decides to close it immediately.
Nathan: What about the next person whose number comes up? Are you gonna look that person in the eye and tell them that they were irrelevant?

And just as Harold initiates shut-down and walks away…

221 nathan number.gif

Uh oh…

In the meantime, HR gives the kill order on Carter – for looking into Beecher’s murder – to Terney, who instead decides to frame her in a “bad shoot” – she shoots at this guy who was pointing a weapon at her, but then he hides the weapon, making it look like she had no right or reason to shoot. That’s not very nice.
Harold finally gives in and takes Root to where the Machine will make the call that puts whoever answers in God Mode (meaning, direct access and communication with the Machine): the New York Public Library. Of course. Harold insist this is not going to be some magic communion with an AI, but Root is feeling festive about it regardless. John and Shaw soon catch up with them.

Root: It’s so adorable how John follows you around like that. I wish I had a pet. 
I love you, Root. Never change. Not in calling John dismissive nicknames, anyway.

Root instructs Harold to re-route the call to the phone nearest to them, so he does. But he also splits it, so that John can get a call downstairs too. He doesn’t want Root to be the only one with superpowers, which is fair.

The Machine: Can. You. Hear. Me?

Hell fucking yes.

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