Tuesday, December 16, 2014

REVIEW: 'Person of Interest' - Samaritan and the Machine Meet as Chaos Roars Throughout the City in 'The Cold War'

CBS' Person of Interest - Episode 4.10 "The Cold War"

Samaritan shows its power by erasing crime from the city for a day in an attempt to force The Machine out of hiding.

Samaritan going online has forced a lot of changes on Person of Interest this season. The entire team has been forced into hiding while still being sent out to track the numbers the Machine provides to them. They've been acting very carefully not to be detected by Samaritan. And yet, the world is changing around them. They are the underdogs who are severely outmatched. To their benefit though, the war between the Machine and Samaritan has largely been a cold one. That is until Samaritan decides it wants to meet the only other of its kind.

The amount of power Samaritan can wield is impressive - for both good and bad purposes. It can stop crime just as easily as it can send the city into chaos. Harold, John, Lionel and Root are trying to catch up to whatever Samaritan is doing for the entire episode. But there is very little they can do to stop Samaritan's plan. And Samaritan's only goal is to have a sit down with the Machine. It needs to show this amount of strength in order to show just how outmatched the team actually is. It's pretty brutal. The regular characters are often the human components of this city. And yet, "The Cold War" makes sure that the prime focus is on The Machine and Samaritan as two characters with their own identities and agendas.

That quality is what makes their eventual sit down so special. With Root and a young boy as their human interfaces, we are able to see the war between two gods through their eyes. Both human representative is the perfect metaphor for each AI too. Root refers to the Machine as a she and it has been in existence for much longer. The young boy presents a wonderment of how simple the world could be if it could take control. Samaritan is fresh to the world and yet is already so powerful in shaping human connection. Both realize that they need mankind in order to thrive in this world. The pretense of this meeting is to call a truce between the two. It's quite the opposite actually. Samaritan basically just wants to declare that it is more powerful and will crush the Machine. More importantly, the Machine frankly knows that. They both see the same exact things and yet Machine simply doesn't have the same reach because it resets on a daily basis. But the Machine also has humanity in its programming. Harold helped it see that free will amongst humanity is a necessary component of human existence. The Machine is willing to fight for that belief and will continue to put the team in harm's way in order to keep Samaritan from getting its way. Samaritan wants to give humanity a structure that will present a much better way of life. The only cost of such is free will. It's a chilling debate.

"The Cold War" also features flashbacks to Greer's time in the early 1970s working for MI6. After a mission reveals that his boss is actually a double agent for the KGB, Greer comes to the realization that loyalty to the mission and to one's country doesn't mean anything. As humans, we've given ourselves distinctions because of national divides. This is the turning point in his life where Greer set out by himself in the hopes of creating a world that operates as a whole instead of as a million separate parts. With Samaritan guiding the mission, Greer is one step closer to seeing that ideal become a reality. His smile at episode's end is that of years spent working towards making this all happen. And now, it is and he couldn't be happier.

And yet, this final episode for 2014 is just the beginning of what's to come. As Harold notes during the day of peace, it is the calm before the storm. The next day the streets of New York City are thrown into chaos. Everyone of the team is tracking down multiple numbers. After the Machine and Samaritan's meeting, things aren't getting better any time soon. This war is no longer going to be a cold one between the two entities. Samaritan is being forceful in order to get its way which is a strong change-up to the dynamic that has been working so far this season. Chaos is a good realm for Person of Interest to live in. So I'm eager to see how this arc continues when the show returns in the new year.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Cold War" was written by Amanda Segel and directed by Michael Offer.
  • This is a dire episode with the team racing against time. And yet, I appreciate the opening with Harold dealing with the food preparer in order to get the exact order that Shaw would want.
  • Shaw also spends most of the episode sidelined in the underground station. But by episode's end, she has decided to resurface in order to help John and Root deal with the chaos happening throughout the city.
  • It was also especially fun seeing Root, John and the Samaritan agents pull out guns on each other. And in a church of all places.