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Person of Interest “SNAFU” Review (5×02)

9 May

SNAFU1“There are no heroes or villains…just people doing the best they can.”

See, these kinds of ideas are exactly why this show is one of the best on TV. The central conflict in Person of Interest could very easily throw all its marbles into some generic “good guys vs. bad guys/good AI vs. bad AI” setup, but the writers understand how to transcend the basics and really delve into the complexities of the human experience. The above quote wonderfully captures the show’s understanding of not just human beings themselves, but also human beings as they relate to the technology they craft. Finch, Root, and Reese are all just trying to do the best they can, trying to utilize The Machine to save as many lives as possible. They’re trying to change, and that counts for something even given their histories. However, one could also easily take a look at their actions sans context and condemn them, and that’s what “SNAFU” spends its runtime exploring.

“How did you teach your machine to be good?” Root asks Finch early on, and the response is interesting: “By example.” This is consistent with the premiere’s big point–that The Machine is a reflection of Finch–but it also raises the question of whether a good or a bad example was set. This episode’s big point is that it’s a reflection of Finch and all his flaws, that context matters when evaluating situations like these. It isn’t excusing any of the team for the hurt they may have caused, but it acknowledges that they are looking to change by helping people. “He’s fighting his hardest to be good,” Finch tells The Machine about Reese.

So, it’s more complicated than what Finch says in the flashbacks, and he certainly realizes that as this episode progresses. He talks about how The Machine was supposed to “separate the bad people from the good”, how “everything was so clear then.” “We were waging the grand campaign: good and evil,” he says. “These days, black and white just dissolves into greyscale.” The show occupies this complex middle ground of sorts, still siding with its heroes but recognizing that they haven’t always done heroic things. They can do their best moving forward, though. I’ll let Finch close out my review, considering he says it best at the end of the episode:

“There is good and bad in all of us, but this action–saving lives–is a pure good. I can’t promise you that we’ll always do the right thing, but we’ll do the best we can.”

Damn right they will.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-This is also an extremely entertaining and light-hearted episode, even given it getting pretty heavy at the end. In particular, having everyone do impressions of each other is so much fun to watch.

-Michael Emerson is so damn good. His best acting comes out when he’s reacting to a computer, and it’s impressive to watch.

-I’ll be reviewing tomorrow night’s episode as well. See you then.

Photo credit: CBS, Person of Interest

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2 Responses to “Person of Interest “SNAFU” Review (5×02)”

  1. Hepburn3 May 10, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I love this show and watching this episode made me realize that I will so miss it being gone because all that we have and get are the lowest common denominator in tv shows like all of the CSI, NCIS , Chicago, Medical Fire, Police and Gas Station shows and the Marvel superhero films where no one wants to be challenge, to think, or to have a mirror held up to them. It is getting brutal watching tv of late but Person of Interest has always been a saving grace for me.
    What I loved about SNAFU was that the writers are really making the Machine Harold’s child. Now the child like most children, is growing up and seeing that their parent(s) is not perfect, they make stupid mistakes and sometimes bad choices. And when a child realizes that it is alarming, scary and it makes you a bit angry at your parents.
    When the machine shut out Harold and Root and tried to have John killed it was angry and scared and having a ‘teenage strop”. It was great to see! And yes Michael Emerson is wonderful when he is talking to the Machine. His interaction with the Machine is the crux of what makes The Machine better than Samaritan. It is the difference between two children who both have parents but one actually loves, talks to, listens to, teaches and plays with their child and the other who does not really engage their child but lets it do what it wants, lets it be the parent/boss and just buys it everything to placate it.

    I also really loved the facial recognition malfunction and the actors playing each other’s characters, it was so funny and so well done! I would have LOVED to see Shaw and Carter as part of that for that would have been outstandingly funny!

    So Samaritan is getting that ex con to work for it, sad and creepy, and I do wonder why Harold was seeing Grace in the feed and the Machine did not know what he was talking about.
    Like I said I am so going to miss this show when it ends (I wish Netflix would pick it up!)but I will always have my DVDs. 🙂

    Nice review PB! 🙂

    • polarbears16 May 10, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

      That is an excellent point about The Machine being Harold’s child. I’ve definitely picked up on that as well, so thank you for articulating it so beautifully (so glad to have you back again!). Machine and Samaritan are the same without context, but oh yes they are different.

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