First things first: Most of the people whom you’d most want to check in with on a Person Of Interest season finale but who were only name-checked last week do show up tonight. Mainly, that’s Elias, whose enemies in the police department turn him over to his mobster rivals. Driven out into the woods in the dead of night with a hood over his face, he looks around and says, “Oh, it’s that kind of prisoner transfer!” Elias, the principled crime lord, is useful in laying out the perimeters of the show’s moral judgment. He shrugs that, of course, he can’t begrudge the man whose father he killed for wanting to kill him right back, but he turns up his nose at the crooked cop serving as delivery boy; the piece of shit swore an oath. He’s rescued in the nick of time by Carter, who’s dressed as a ninja for Halloween. After she shoots up Smokey the Bear’s territory, the two of them sit together in a car, Elias chummy as ever, Carter staring straight ahead, lost in her personal heart of darkness. It’s a measure of what an unapologetically kick-ass episode this is that I only mildly resented the fact that we didn’t get to spend the rest of the hour eavesdropping on what must have been a doozy of a conversation.
The bulk of the episode is taken up with a race to find and reach the actual physical location of The Machine. In the lead position is Root, still talking cyberpunk babble about releasing The Machine and setting it free. (As usual, Finch is her willing captive, eager to keep pace with her so that he can dissuade her from murdering half the population of the tri-state area. When the two of them are scuttling about together, side by side, they're the creepiest TV couple since Gomez and Morticia, though it's doubtful that the sex would be as good.) Following close behind are Reese and Shaw, guns at the ready, father-and-daughter rapport firmly in place. (Early on, Shaw announces her intention to shoot Root the first chance she gets and adds that she isn’t going to shoot her in the knee, either. When she does get her first chance, she honors her word by shooting her in the shoulder. Parents and others who have been in the position of mentoring a hothead will know enough to celebrate this as a compromise solution.)
There are some terrific action set-pieces, and even as the show hurtles along, it finds time for an excellent sick joke involving a nut with a gun disrupting a wedding. (The punch line: “Congratulations.”) At its core, though, it’s Finch’s origin story, and the story of his friend and partner Nathan’s last hours after The Machine spit him out as a “Non-Relevant.” The flashbacks include Nathan’s death scene and the moment when Finch decided to let the woman he loves believe that he’s dead; these scenes account for Finch’s limp and are folded into the information that the government actually killed off all the engineers who were in a position to know anything about The Machine’s existence and how it was put together. The nice thing is that, even as the actors are able to use these moments to deepen the show’s emotional power, they don’t stop the show and hinder its propulsive momentum as a thriller. The not-so-nice thing is that everything we’ve learned this season about the circumstances surrounding The Machine’s invention serves to justify Finch’s paranoia.
Person Of Interest premiered a few months after the series finale of Lost, and before the show appeared, people grasped eagerly at J. J. Abrams’ and Brian Burk’s names in the credits. It’s since become more clearly a Jonathan Nolan show, especially in those episodes, such as this one, that Nolan had a hand in writing. But intentionally or not, this episode—which ends with the show seemingly on the verge of rebooting itself—feels a lot like a Lost homage, especially when Root and Finch arrive at the door that should lead them to The Machine, like the entranceway to the chamber of the great and powerful Oz. Root says, “Time to meet God,” a Lost line if ever there was one. Michael Emerson, who has some experience in these matters, warns her, hopelessly, not to get her hopes up too high.
- The characters most missed last week who don’t show up at all do at least get their names dropped. Leon is minding Finch’s dog, an idea that would qualify for its own webisode if CBS went in for that sort of thing. As for Fusco, he must be out romancing some Ukranian supermodel, but Carter does bring him up as a reason for her tormentors in HR to worry about the consequences of framing her. The bad cop listening to her sneers and tells her that, if necessary, they’ll just have him killed, and maybe Carter’s son, too. Elias would say that this kind of thing is vulgar but professionally understandable. But the mouthy bastard also refers to Fusco as Carter’s “recovering dirtbag partner.” There’s really no excuse for that sort of thing. I was sorry she let him live after that.
- I’ve said this before, but given what kind of show this is, it’s a sign of Person Of Interest’s generosity that it sometimes allows detestable characters whom you might expect to whimper and cower at their moment of reckoning to instead end their time on the show with some crackerjack last words. Thus the moment here where a powerful and cold-blooded man who has casually ordered the death of countless people realizes that his own name has been added to the list of expendables and goes out with the line, “Fair enough.” In its bone-dry way, this tops Shaw’s greeting to her former supervisor: “You should have killed me better.”