“Your Machine can serve a greater purpose.”
So, it comes to this: two gods facing off, each embodying a different perspective on the world as security, power, and legacy collide in the center. What really is the “greater good”? What should an AI’s purpose be? Is this all progress and evolution, or is it dangerous proliferation? “.exe” is centered around questions like these, exploring the conflict between Greer and Finch as it tackles some of the most fascinating questions currently posed on television. It’s a great penultimate episode overall, and it effectively sets the pieces up for what should be a fantastic series-ender (sob) next week.
What’s been consistently nice about this show is that it doesn’t paint things as black and white. Greer and Finch aren’t pushing completely different ideologies; there’s still quite a bit of room for gray area here. For instance, in the first alternate trajectory of the episode, Finch tells Nathan that he wishes he did “something more meaningful”, i.e. a greater good. Finch and Greer both want humanity to thrive, but they have different perspectives on that idea and go about it in very different ways. The former cares about the people around him and doesn’t want to sacrifice humanity for efficiency, whereas the latter is willing to sacrifice others in the name of evolution. That makes his death so fitting; sure, it’s not him going out in a blaze of glory, but it fits like a glove when it comes to what we know about him.
Delving more into that aforementioned gray area, Greer makes a good point when he points out that Finch doesn’t want to “cede control”. Finch likes to push the idea of free will as an argument against Samaritan, but one can argue that Finch is an overbearing master, unwilling to let his child roam free. Greer would also argue that Finch is letting certain well-meaning ideas cloud his judgment, causing him to buy into humanity without realizing what they would inevitably create. In the end, though, Finch comes to a key realization: if Samaritan would arise no matter what, then maybe it’s a good thing to have the Machine there as well. Power unchecked can become power corrupted, and it’s at that point when humanity becomes second fiddle to “progress”. The episode’s narrative structure–with the alternate trajectories–brings with it a nice illustration of that idea.
The structure also leads to a really powerful moment near the end of the episode. I’m talking specifically about John’s simulation and how the Machine says that he’s “always been on borrowed time”. Greer might sacrifice these types of people for the “greater good”, but Harold will choose to save the people he cares about. “My Machine,” he tells Greer, “her purpose has been constant: to protect and save humanity. It’s what she’s doing now.” Greer can argue that this is all holding humanity back–that these lives aren’t worth saving–but we’ve seen enough over these last five seasons to know that that’s just not true. The Machine Team will be together all the way ’til the end.
-Finch’s password is “Dashwood”, the last name of a character in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It’s the book Shaw’s reading early on in the episode.
-Always nice to see Jacob Pitts. Oh, Tim Gutterson, how I love you.
-Edward Snowden’s wireless modem!
-Predictions/hopes for the last episode? Comment below.
-One last episode to watch and review. As you can probably tell, I’ve cut down quite a bit on television coverage, but this is one show I just could not drop. I’m looking forward to writing my last POI review next week, and I hope you’ll all join me.
Photo credit: Person of Interest, CBS