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Person of Interest “Zero Day” 

Photo Credit:CBS
Photo Credit:CBS

As I am watching tonight’s episode for the second time, I am still amazed that this is only the penultimate episode, and not the finale.  With as powerful and intense as this episode was, it could have easily passed as the finale.  Several loose ends from all the way back to season one are wrapped up, new alliances are made, and a beloved character encounters grave danger with no one, including the Machine, around to help.

Ever since “Dead Reckoning”, my theory had been that Decima Technologies’ primary mission was to use a virus to simply shut down the Machine.  The idea at the time was if you can’t access the Machine and shut it down the old fashion way, a virus would certainly do the trick.  Of course, I turned out to be wrong, and honestly, this wouldn’t be Person of Interest if I were right because the writing for this show is nowhere near that simplistic.

The episode begins with the Machine having all sorts of issues as the time approaches for the virus to fully launch.  The Machine is still there but can no longer communicate, which means no new numbers for Finch and Reese, as well no new relevant numbers for the Federal Government.  The Machine is finally able to spit out one new number, that of Ernest Thornhill, a President of a data entry company.  However, this new number is really nothing more than mystery.  None of the employees of Thornhill’s company have actually ever seen him, and Finch can find only a single photo.  At first glance, it appears that Thornhill may be an alias for someone else, or possibly even a “ghost” – i.e. someone that doesn’t exist in the first place.  The latter turns out to be the truth, but it is far more complicated than any of us could ever imagine.

This is where things get interesting.  If you read my review of “Dead Reckoning”, one of the other things I had mentioned was the possibility of an alliance between Finch and Root (Amy Acker) for the purpose of defeating the virus.  After all, when you are combating a super-virus, two brilliant hackers are certainly better than one, right?  That much I was right about.  Root is one step ahead of everyone, including Finch, with her discovery of Ernest Thornhill as well as what happens when the virus officially launches at midnight.  With Root being fixated on finding the Machine, she offers to share with Finch the information she has, in exchange for what he knows.

What we discover is that the virus isn’t designed to destroy the Machine.  Instead, its purpose is to force the Machine to crash, thus causing a reboot.  The catch is that when the Machine reboots, it immediately goes into “debug” mode and in the process calls the “Admin”.  This “Admin” is supposed to be Finch, but in reality, anyone who answers the call is assumed to be the administrator and is given full control of the Machine.  This is how Decima Technologies is trying to gain access to the Machine, and this is what Finch and Root must stop.

While all of this is playing out, we are also fortunate enough to get a ton of character development, especially with Finch, Root, and even Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen).  I absolutely loved the flashback scenes showing Finch proposing to Grace (Carrie Preston).  It highlighted a softer side of Finch, one that is in sharp contrast to the geeky demeanor we have all gotten used to.  But, as the episode progressed, we begin to see a much darker side.  We have known since season one that Nathan Ingram was the conscience of the twosome, always wanting to help the irrelevants.  We discover tonight that Ingram had even been moderately successful in trying to save these people.

       I’ve saved 5 people.  I’ve lost 7.  – Ingram to Finch

But, this doesn’t phase Finch.  He doesn’t see the good that Ingram is trying to do, all he sees is the perceived stupidity of his friend “who drank away the last bit of engineering years ago”.  The Finch we see is almost a total stranger, completely cold, and as we probably can guess does not regain his humanity until he realizes his inaction cost Ingram his life.

But, the real shock was watching Finch face off against Root, as she realizes what Finch did to the Machine to supposedly protect it.  As we saw in earlier episodes, the Machine was evolving and trying to do things like watch over Finch.  Finch didn’t see this as an enhancement of the program but a defect, one that he corrected by wiping the Machine’s memories clean every night.

       You mean it’s reborn, because you keep killing it! – Root to Finch

While in the end we can argue that Finch was right, I couldn’t help but side a little with Root and empathize with the Machine.  Root might be a killer but in these moments she certainly appeared to be the more humane person in the room.

As if there wasn’t enough going on already, while all of this is playing out, Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) is being set up by dirty Detective Terney (Al Sapienza) while investigating Beecher’s murder, with no one in sight to help.  We all know that Carter is tough as nails and I’m sure will find a way.  But, until that happens, I suspect all of us will be on the edge of our seats.

All in all, this was a top-notch A+ episode.  So many loose ends from season one were wrapped up that I lost count, and as an added gift, we got a great deal of character development, even if it doesn’t shed a very good light on our main protagonist, Mr. Finch.  I certainly can’t wait for next week’s season finale, as I suspect the rest of the viewers can’t.

Most Memorable Quotes and Random Thoughts 

  • If this is becoming your version of ‘Are we there yet?’, no we are not – Finch to Reese
  • Simplicity was never my strong suit – Finch
  • She hacks human beings as easily as she hacks computers – Finch on Root
  • Have a little faith in your creation.  We don’t need a plan if Ernest Thornhill has one – Root
  • You mean it’s reborn, because you keep killing it! – Root
  • Be careful what you wish for.  This communion may not be what you think – Finch to Root
  • It’s so adorable how John follows you around.  I wish I had a pet – Root to Finch
  • So, where exactly was Fusco tonight?  They said he was “upstate” – update doing what??
  • In the screenshot where Finch supposedly shutdown Ingram’s “backdoor”, he only terminated the process.  Technically, it was not deleted and could simply be restarted.
  • So, we finally get a clue as to why in the hell Finch (or whoever he is) started using aliases to begin with.  Ingram stated “youngful transgressions, sedition, mayhem”.  I wonder what trouble Finch got himself into, illegal hacking perhaps?
  • The title of the episode was “Zero Day” which was supposed to signify the very first day Finch stopped with the “pseudonyms and lies”.

The Person of Interest season two finale airs next Thursday at 10 p.m. EST on CBS.

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