“Maybe this isn’t the end at all.”
I started watching Person of Interest about halfway through season one. I don’t remember why I was on the CBS website the day I decided to click on one of those early episodes, but in hindsight, I am just so damn glad I made that choice. I am so glad that the show blew all my expectations out of the water, completely transcending the CBS crime drama mold as it evolved into something complex, original, and enthralling. I am so glad that a science fiction show like this is getting to finish on its own terms, going out on top after five incredible years and leaving its fans with something to remember. I don’t think “return 0” is a perfect series-ender, but it’s still an emotionally satisfying conclusion that brings the series’s big themes full circle. For the final time, let’s dig in.
This show isn’t just about an AI. It isn’t even just about two AIs. In the end, it all circles back around to the people, to the Machine Team and its mission to save others. Jonathan Nolan and co. filter their discussions of AI through the lens of humanity, using their central characters as jumping off points even as the show itself evolves around them. What results is a human/AI conflict that can’t be easily summed up like I just did. As I’ve mentioned before, this series lives in the grey areas, recognizing that human beings are more than a collection of body parts and that machines are more than a collection of wires. The two are entwined with each other, and neither can claim 100% independence. For instance, The Machine tells Finch early on: “You built me to predict people, but to predict them, you had to understand them…I had to learn why people die…the moments, the connections, the things that explained why they did what they did.” You can’t just build something that’s completely divorced from its creator or from the society it operates in, and that’s an idea that the show has been pushing for a while now.
In addition, what I love about Person of Interest is its unabashed appreciation of humanity. It understands that shitty things happen and that there’s lots of room for corruption, but it ultimately has faith in the human existence. “Human life is ephemeral, which makes it precious,” The Machine tells Finch in this episode. Near the end, she asks: “I made mistakes, but we helped people, right?” It’s honestly so refreshing to see protagonists be good people who make mistakes rather than stereotypical heroes or full-blown antiheroes, and I applaud this show for that. Yes, these people aren’t perfect, but understanding why they do the things they do–and seeing the moments and connections in their lives–is paramount to understanding their characters.
The climactic sequence on the rooftops is the perfect example of this idea. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful scene all around, and it emphasizes just how much these people mean to each other. “You gave me a job, a purpose,” Reese tells Finch as a small smile creeps onto his face. “Sometimes, one life is the right life…it’s enough.” This is what helps The Machine, a product of Harold Finch, endure, and it’s what holds Samaritan back. Perhaps progress isn’t the result of sweeping change across the globe; perhaps it’s the little things that count. “Everyone dies alone…but if you mean something to someone, if you help someone or love someone…if even a single person remembers you, then maybe you never really die at all.” Not everyone makes it out of this show alive, but maybe they don’t have to in order to live on. Maybe the world gets a fresh start of sorts, a reset to the status quo. But maybe, just maybe, everything that happened before that matters. The people and the battles and the victories and the losses and the mistakes…all of that means something. Shaw might seem to slip into the crowd at the end, but to some people, she rises above it.
Thank you, Person of Interest.
SEASON GRADE: B+/A-
SERIES GRADE: A-
-That small smile from Reese after seeing Finch walking away…man, Jim Caviezel just got better and better over the course of the series. He definitely doesn’t get as much praise as the Emersons, Ackers, and Shahis of the world, but he’s had some incredible moments.
-Music: Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis One”.
-Another wonderful acting moment: Sarah Shahi as Shaw is talking to The Machine.
– “I met some people, some good people…and they taught me the value of life.” “They wouldn’t want you to kill me.” “No, but they’re all dead.”
– “Is it really your decision to make?” “No, but I’m making it anyway.” Another big question that the series has covered: the necessity of action and whether or not someone has the right to curb or promote someone–or something–else’s power.
-Said it before, and I’ll say it again: it would’ve been cool to see Control one more time before the series ended.
-I have to give one more shoutout to Enrico Colantoni, as Elias was one of the main hooks for me early on.
-The burn-off was annoying, but I’d like to thank CBS for keeping this show on the air for five years.
-BEAR. BEAR. BEAR. BEAR. BEAR. BEAR. BEAR.
-Favorite episodes, anyone? I’d go with “Flesh and Blood”, “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, “Relevance”, “The Devil’s Share”, “/”, “If-Then-Else”, “YHWH”, and “The Day the World Went Away”.
-This is my 41st–and last–review for this series, and I’ve written more reviews for this show than I have for any other. I loved every minute of it, and trying to pick apart a POI episode and organize my thoughts coherently was a constant highlight of the week for me. Thanks to everyone who ever read a review and/or commented; I have to give a shoutout to Hepburn3, someone who consistently provided tons of insight every week and was always fun to talk to. Thanks for sticking with me over the years!
As for television on this site moving forward, I for sure plan on tackling Mr. Robot in the summer again and Westworld and Rectify in the fall. I might also check out HBO’s The Night Of, among others; we’ll see.
-One more time: He’s not the victim, he’s the perpetrator!
Photo credit: CBS, Person of Interest