Person of Interest “Prophets” Review (4×05)

21 Oct


“Sometimes, it’s better not to know.”

The POI team, for the most part, spends this episode on the outskirts of the action, never directly interacting with the case of the week subject–Jason Ritter’s Simon Lee–until the end of the episode; rather, they resort to tactics such as crashing a random car in order to get him to turn a certain way, and this all serves to highlight the necessity of keeping a cover, of avoiding Samaritan’s watchful eye. However, this is also an episode that clearly delineates the mindsets of our main characters, forcing them to confront the idea of Samaritan, of the past, the present, and the future.

We, for example, observe Reese in his therapy sessions, and we see a man who is still haunted by–yet also driven by–the death of Carter. He is a man who takes it upon himself to save those around him, who tries to grasp onto what semblance of good he can find in the world, and when Campbell remarks that he “either has a hero complex or a death wish”, we recognize that perhaps the answer is: all of the above. When the doctor says that Reese is “simulating trust and closeness”, we recognize that it ties into the pervasive idea of artificiality. Therapy sessions are staples of television dramas, but they’re so widely used because they serve as a simple outlet through which to observe a character, and that’s the case here. In an episode in which everyone’s outlooks of the world are laid bare for all to see, it makes sense that we’d spend the time we spend with Dr. Campbell.

When I say “laid bare”, I’m referring to one of my favorite dynamics on television now: Root and Finch. We clearly see how Finch’s views of the Machine developed, as the Machine is not really something that he threw everything into, leading to him experiencing the fruits of his labor, as much as it is the idea that only one out of many machines didn’t try to kill him. The Machine is the odd man out, and right from the beginning, that breeds wariness within Finch because he doesn’t know with whom its allegiances may lie. He insists that they’re “all numbers to the Machine”, that they “cannot understand these intelligences”, that he needs to “constrain and control” in order to prevent escape. He assumes the worst about the Machine and places it in chains, whereas someone like Greer allows Samaritan to ascend above him and to freely go about business; interestingly enough, Samaritan’s idea of “humanity needing to be governed” draws parallels to Finch’s efforts to control.

Yet, the true contrast in this episode is not between Finch and Greer, but rather between Finch and Root. In simplest terms, the former is a pessimist and the latter an optimist with regards to the Machine, and the conversation they have about the Machine is easily one of the best scenes this show has ever produced. Finch picks up on the fact that Root hasn’t been spoken to in a while, looking at her as lost, but that is countered with: “I’m not lost; I’m scared. We’re losing, but I know where I’m heading.” There’s a difference between ‘lost’ and ‘losing’, as the former implies that it’s all over and in the record books, while the latter implies that there’s still a chance. Here, we see two people with very different philosophies debating–essentially, this is a major discussion surrounding God, just without explicitly using religion–past and present and future fusing as they assert their varying ideas, and at the end of it all, we’re left with the following: “You are a brilliant woman, a comrade, a friend.”

It’s a beautifully played moment by Emerson and Acker, for one, and there’s something heartwarming about seeing these two people acknowledge their friendship. They’re more similar than earlier episodes may have had us believe, and like the rest of the team, Root has had to constantly shed her skin in order to avoid detection. However, she’s also still the Root we know and love, and after a pretty damn awesome shootout through the floor, she essentially taunts Samaritan, telling it to kill her if at all possible. The war is just getting started, and not everyone will make it out alive.

It’s about where you end up, not where you begin.



-Please, though, Root. Make it out alive.

-That’s Wrenn Schmidt as Dr. Iris Campbell, and she’s previously played Kate in The Americans and Julia in Boardwalk Empire. Between her and Root’s Sarah Cook, it is a good week in the POI universe for redheads.

– “Whose car was that?” “Someone who needs a good mechanic.”

-I would definitely watch a spinoff about Root as a pastry chef.

– “I want you to give Shaw a message.” “I think she already knows.”

-I was seriously afraid for Root’s life in this episode, and that definitely exemplifies more of the humanity of her character now; beforehand, we didn’t see much of it–she was more akin to Martine and the God Mode–but now, she is also like the rest of the team.

-I didn’t even talk about the case of the week in the main review, but election rigging is definitely a nice shakeup from the first few COTWs this season. Jason Ritter is good as Simon Lee, and his character is tied in with the Machine plot through the sentence: “Sometimes, it’s better not to know.” He ends up not knowing that he was right all along, and with that in mind, Finch poses the following question to Root: “Are you comfortable not knowing the Machine’s aims?” And, in response, we get one of the biggest points the episode makes: the difference between the Machine and Samaritan is Harold Finch.

Photo credit: CBS, Person of Interest


3 Responses to “Person of Interest “Prophets” Review (4×05)”

  1. 13mesh October 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    “I want you to give Shaw a message.” “I think she already knows.” – what do you think is the message? This is such a great episode of POI!

    • MagusG October 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      I believe Shaw and Root might have a romantic thing going on…

  2. Hepburn3 October 23, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    Another faceted review from you!
    I really love watching PoI and your reviews always give me pause. 🙂 So thanks ever so for your insight!
    I have of late been re-watching past seasons, a local channel has be showing reruns. From watching from season one, they are into season two at the moment, I can see just how layered and nuanced this show is. One of the devices that I love that the show utilizes is the time line and going back and forth via the past to the the present to show what has happened has much onus on the what is currently happening. This is really nifty when in this episode we learn the Harold went through many different incarnations of the machine in trying to teach it to ‘understand feelings’ and why they are paramount in choices the people/numbers make and why this should matter to the Machine. I have to admit that when Harold said the Machine tried to kill him I did laugh but it just brought back to my mind something that I mentioned in a past review of this season, that Samaritan WILL go all Sith and kill its keepers because of the free reign because everyone is just code and means to an end to it, and the Machine will have to destroy and it will be EPIC, but that is getting ahead with my guesses. 🙂
    The fact that Harold took time to ‘nurture’ the Machine by teaching it about people and itself in relation can be seen throughout all the season. (One thing that I loved from season 2 was how the Machine gave Harold the cue to go meet his love Grace, The Machine knew she was just right for him and I think SHE wanted him to be happy. This shows SHE has come a long way from wanting to kill Harold because he was in HER way, SHE wants to fix things/the code make them right per se.)
    One of my favourite scenes from this episode was seeing Root again and finding out why she has changing personas, this fits with her past because she was always changing to do and get what she wanted, now Root is doing it to stay alive and to help. She has grown and changed and this is because of Harold ( and Reece, Shaw Bear and Fusco). I loved their mutual hacker moment and what Harold said to her, it made both of them happy for a brief moment and they ARE friends now. But what Root said that about Harold being the difference is so right, he was the difference in Reece’s, Shaw’s, Bear’s and her life and by proxy Carter’s and Fusco’s lives they have a purpose. Harold being the”Father”of the Machine and its teacher is the difference, Samaritan does not have that and never will and that will be its downfall I think. Harold is going back to his “prodigal Machine” by going to HER and saying “we need to talk”, or is Harold the Prodigal in this case? This may sound far flung but this whole show to me is like a morality lesson or an ongoing parable on life and human nature. And I LOVE IT! Thanks for your review and for indulging my point of view. Read you next week! 🙂

    p.s. I was so relieved that Root survived! I want her to kill that blonde Samaritan agent/lackey so much! And yes I would watch a Root as a pastry chef spin off show! 😉

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