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Person of Interest Season 3 Finale “Deus Ex Machina” 

Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CBS
Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CBS

In case you haven’t noticed, a great deal of television has become, well, boring. It seems that the industry has hit a creative brick wall, and it’s a rarity for a television series to project a truly refreshing idea. You have to look no further than the slew of re-boots and all of the comic book adaptations to know that there is a big struggle for the next big television blockbuster. And, even if the premise of the series is new and fresh, it’s even more difficult to surprise the audience simply because nearly everything has been done. Well, Person of Interest has achieved both things. Nearly three years ago, the series premiered and offered one of the few original ideas in a long time. And, in last night’s season three finale, it stunned us all with a plot twist that none of us could have anticipated.

Last week’s episode “Beta” ended with Vigilance taking center stage and putting essentially the entire United States government on trial for its unfettered invasion of privacy of the American people. Honestly, with that ending, I expected a somewhat anticlimactic season finale. We’d go through the motions of a mock trial, everyone would of course be found guilty, some people would die, and in the end, Samaritan would go online and face off against Finch’s Machine in a Terminator: Judgment Day sort of way. And, some of this did happen. One by one, each defendant is called to the stand, with Rivera being the first and also the first to die. Control is next, but she gets a reprieve when Finch (Michael Emerson) finally stands up and admits to Collier (Leslie Odom Jr.) that he is the one, and the only one, responsible because he is the man who built the Machine. Finch has been somewhat sidelined this season with Root (Amy Acker) taking the lead on several of their cases, and this scene reminded us of the unwavering integrity of this man. Finch had said all the way back in the Pilot that he knew what he was doing and he fully understood that one day this mission would cost him his life. He hasn’t forgotten that because he was willing to offer his own life if it would save the lives of the rest of the hostages. Very nicely done.

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

Beyond this, everything else in the episode was completely unexpected. Vigilance’s location had been compromised, forcing them to relocate the trial, and it was at this point, I began to get suspicious. First, I began doubting 12 million+ viewers were watching the trial because the only television set we saw on was Vigilance’s. And, second, Greer (John Nolan) seemed way too calm, almost bored. Well, all of this was explained very quickly once they fled the courthouse, with Greer and Decima stepping up and showing their hand. The punchline comes when Greer very arrogantly confronts Collier and informs him that Vigilance, in fact, had been created by Decima and that he was just some pawn in the scheme to get them to do exactly what they had just done. Greer knew all along that it was going to be extremely difficult, maybe even impossible, to get the government to hand over their NSA feeds to a private corporation. So, he had to do something that could potentially force their hand. And, what better way to do that than with a terrorist act that would cost them dozens of lives – lives that could have been saved if Samaritan were online and watching. The entire scheme worked because the endgame happened to be detonating a huge bomb killing all of the hostages at the courthouse. Of course, this also resulted in Collier’s death because he had served his purpose and was no further use to Decima.

The final two puppets in Greer’s little show were Control and Senator Harrison, who did what Greer planned from the beginning and that was to hand over the NSA feeds and get Samaritan up and running as soon as possible. Wow. What a brilliant move by Person of Interest. Keep in mind that Greer had been introduced all the way back in the Season 2 episode “Dead Reckoning” when he recruited Kara Stanton to work for him. This means the writers have been meticulously planning this for nearly a season and a half. A storyline of this magnitude is very rare, and kudos and plaudits to Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and all of the writers for pulling it off perfectly.

The second big reveal in last night’s finale was something that I mentioned at the very end of my review of the episode “Death Benefit” – Finch will come to regret not listening to the Machine and killing Congressman McCourt. And, boy, did he ever. Finch was so fixated on saving a single life that he refused to see the big picture and trust the very entity that he had created. The Machine had much more information than Finch had, and there had to be a very good reason why it made the decision to take such a drastic action of sending Finch on a mission to actually kill a man. Now, we know those consequences. Root knew from the moment that Finch decided not to kill McCourt that there was nothing that could be done to stop Samaritan from coming online and the catastrophic loss of life that would result. The best she could do was to try and save the people closest to her, and that resulted in her using the 7 stolen Decima servers to give herself, Finch, Reese, Shaw and her 3 hacker minions new identities making them invisible to Samaritan. Unfortunately, it was too late for everyone else that may be targeted by Samaritan.

Photo Credit: CBS
Photo Credit: CBS

So, Finch – I hope you are proud of yourself. You may have stood up and tried to do the honorable thing by throwing yourself under the Vigilance bus, but in the end, it didn’t matter. You are directly responsible for Samaritan’s onslaught on the American people, and all you had to do to stop it was to take a single life. This is heavy shit. And, I’m sure this big moral dilemma for Finch will carry over well into season four.

All in all, this was a stellar episode and a prime example of why Person of Interest continues to be one of the best shows on television. Sure, we didn’t get the happy ending we were hoping for, but this shocker of a twist was well worth it, and honestly, it’s something that needed to happen. Finch and Reese have been playing Batman and Robin for nearly three seasons, and at some point, we had to see that everything wasn’t going to be all roses. As wonderful as a system that can stop violence before it actually happened, we were bound to find out that there are consequences and a price for that protection. In this case, the price turned out to be pretty hefty.

Most memorable quotes and random thoughts

  • Are you about to kamikaze into a fortress with only a bunch of nerds – Shaw to Root
  • Who’s ready to tell the truth and nothing but the truth – Collier
  • Where you were when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon? Because I was inside it. I carried out the wounded. I covered up bodies. and I have spent every day since putting bullets in the people responsible and in anyone else who even thinks that they can do that to our country again. You want to shoot me because I had to tap a phone calls, read a few e-mails, then you go right ahead. But you’d better turn that gun on yourself next, Mr. Collier, because you have broken just as many laws, and the only difference is I didn’t wrap myself up in the American flag and try to convince people I was a hero. — Control to Collier
  • What machine?! – Fusco (Oh, God bless you, Lionel! Still the only one who is completely clueless!)
  • Why would you ever choose a career where this is an occupational hazard? – Finch
    Well, I tried to quit. But some jackass told me I needed a purpose.
    — Reese
  • By all means, let there be light – Greer
  • Absolutely loved Hersh in this episode. I’m a big fan of stories of redemption and loved how the teams’ biggest nemesis ended up helping and laying down his own life.
  • Also loved Root and how she has grown so much as a character. This new-and-improved Root went to great lengths to protect her hacker buddies. The old Root would have just killed them once they served their purpose.

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  1. MByerly

    I agree with most of what you said although I am less than happy that Samaritan is online so Teams Finch and Root must go underground, and there will probably be fewer stories about rescuing the innocent.

    Some of my own thoughts on the show.

    If the Machine is so smart, why did it ask the one person who won’t kill to kill? Root would have been more than happy to off half of Congress if the Machine asked. I see that as more as writer nonsense than a failure on the Machine’s part.

    I’m not sure that I’d call Root’s changes personal growth as much as blind adherence to her God.

    What is really amazing is that POI is telling a science fiction story to a mainstream audience, and they aren’t aware of it. If the show had been classified as SF in its first season, it wouldn’t have had a second season.

    And for those who aren’t SF geeks, a computer AI who takes over is called a singularity. Just so you know.

    1. Kinno

      Well, I think the reason The Machine did not send Root after the congressman was because it was teaching her to be more… human. Like, if you’re teaching a person to be kinder and that the whole humanity is important, would you ever ask them to do the killing? That’s just agaisnt the common logic of The Machine I suppose.

  2. Mary Powers

    I’m actually not entirely convinced that Team Finch will have to stay underground that long. Sure, they may want to lay low for a while to make sure Root’s little trick with the Samaritan servers worked. But, beyond that, they are invisible to Samaritan and should be safe. Of course, Finch will need to find a new bat cave, but hey, that shouldn’t be too hard. He can just scoop up another abandoned building, and he’s set.

    And, thanks for the AI info! I’m a computer geek, but I really haven’t delved into SF for quite a while.

  3. Conor S.

    I loved the episode as a whole and agree that the show is well above average compared to many other tv shows. Nevertheless, the overall quality of TV shows has been quite terrible for a significant period of time, not something that has become evident in recent years.

    I’d argue that the overall quality is has been getting better in recent years, which can be seen by many typical film actors returning to TV work.

    Furthermore, while I agree with most of your review, the big ‘plot-twist’ was quite definitely not unexpected for fans of the show. The theory that Vigilance was being controlled by Decima has been discussed and considered on many forums and discussions groups for a while now. Especially following the previous episode which revealed Colliers backstory.

    Am really looking forward to the new season and am curious how they are going to undermine Samaritan while trying to live their ‘ordinary’ lives.

  4. penemuel

    I’m not 100% positive from your wording – did you think Collier planned to use that bomb? It was Greer (& Decima) who planted it, since Collier’s plan to hold the trial wasn’t “bad” enough a terrorist act to achieve his ends.

    1. Mary Powers

      Thank you for your feedback!

      No, no, that’s not what I meant to say at all. I have changed the wording some to make it clearer.

  5. iw.a

    Didn’t Greer say “life,” not “light,” at the end?

    1. Mary Powers

      At first I had “life” in the quote, but then I changed it to “light”. The reason is I thought Greer was making reference to the Biblical quote of “Let there be light” when God created the earth in 7 days.

      I do see how it could have been “life”, though.

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