Tuesday, May 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'Person of Interest' - Reese, Finch & Root Fight to Stay Alive and Save the Machine in 'B.S.O.D.'

CBS' Person of Interest - Episode 5.01 "B.S.O.D."

Reese and Finch attempt to rescue the Machine's source code before it deteriorates beyond repair. Roots fights for her life against an onslaught of Samaritan's agents. Fusco is faced with hard questions following the deaths of Dominic and Elias.

It has been about a year since Person of Interest aired its fourth season finale. CBS benched the show on its schedule this year in order to make way for new and more promising shows. And now, the network is hastily airing the drama's final 13 episodes in just two months. It's a rushed treatment for a very good show. But it's also just so great to have the show finally back and being just as exciting to watch as ever. The tension is at an all time high with the war between the Machine and Samaritan. The fourth season finale backed the heroes into a corner and forced them to do a devastating act just in the hope of living to fight another day. It was a thrilling conclusion to the season and the show isn't letting up on that creative energy in "B.S.O.D."

Reese, Finch and Root are fighting to stay alive against dozens of Samaritan's agents. They downloaded the Machine's code into one box in the hopes of being able to restart the program once they've survived this onslaught. The stakes are incredibly high throughout this premiere. It's just so thrilling seeing this trio throughout the city trying to outmaneuver Samaritan's agents just to get back to their base of operations in the subway. It creates a very precarious and intense first act for the premiere. Sure, it's a little weird that the three of them have been separated. They emerged from the building last season as one united front. The separation of them here continues to show just how committed all of them still are in this war. They aren't going to surrender just because it looks like Samaritan has won. They can't give up hope yet. They need to protect the Machine's code at all costs because that's the only thing keeping this world safe from the threat that Samaritan poses to everything.

Samaritan continues to prove just how strong an enemy it really is. It has so much power and influence in this world. It exerts itself in a number of really interesting and engaging ways just in order to stop the Machine's team. They are still protected from Samaritan's system. It can't see them the same way it sees other people. That is able to help them out on a number of occasions. But the agents are still coming and won't stop until this threat to their master plan has been terminated. Reese and Root are able to take care of themselves quite well in the field. Plus, Finch isn't by himself for very long. In fact, it doesn't take long before Finch is back at the headquarters trying to save the Machine from complete destruction. And that is perhaps the most thrilling aspect of this entire premiere.

Over the entire series, the Machine has really become its own unique character in this show. It has as much of a personality as the human characters do. It has a deep relationship with all of them. They are all willing to protect it against this new A.I. threat in Samaritan. And now, the Machine needs their support more than ever before. But the Machine has been the root of so many problems in this world as well. It's always learning but it was hindered by Finch implementing that code that erased its memory every day at midnight. This episode even features flashbacks that show how agonizing that choice really was for Finch. He did it and immediately wanted to take it back. But that was something that could not be undone. That is now what the Machine is. It's been a huge hindrance in the war with Samaritan as well. Samaritan has no limitations and was just able to outsmart the Machine by the end of the season. Even though it has survived this devastating battle, the Machine wonders if it deserves to die for its inability to do its job and protect the team. That's a genuinely heartbreaking moment that works because of all the previous character development with the Machine.

"B.S.O.D." plays as an episode where hope seems to be fleeting at every moment. Reese and Finch have to race back to the headquarters because the Machine's battery is dying. Finch is knocked unconscious when the Machine makes a break for his computer that can't hold all it. Root is betrayed by colleagues she figured owed her for helping them a long time ago. And yet, even without assistance from the Machine, the team is successful in staying alive and bringing the Machine back to life. It's very satisfying in that regard. This team has united because of their shared goal to protect the Machine. Reese makes it important to go back into the field to find Root before Samaritan's agents kill her. Root makes it important that Finch has the required hard drives to build a super computer that can support the Machine's code. Everything is building to that final moment where the team is able to resurrect the Machine. It's a tense sequence. None of them really know if this will work or if the Machine will return the same as it was before. And yet, it's simply something they have to do in order to protect the whole world. The future is uncertain. But they stand a much better chance at defeating Samaritan if they have the Machine on their side. It survives the transfer process. Now, it just needs to be revealed how this adventure has changed the Machine.

Elsewhere, Fusco is dealing with the aftermath of Samaritan killing Dominic and Elias while they were in his custody. That action may be the thing that finally brings Fusco in on the truth about artificial intelligence. He's been in the dark for way too long - even though he trusts Reese and Finch. But now, he is being forced to take the blame for Dominic and Elias' deaths. That's the story that an FBI agent is telling. He can't speak up against that narrative because Samaritan will eliminate him from the equation. Fusco is now on Samaritan's radar and that leaves him in a very precarious position for the future. It's meaningful that Reese's cover identity is still able to hold once he returns to the police precinct. But Fusco doesn't have an identity to fall back on. He's out there in the open knowing that something nefarious is happening. And that could be the thing that quickly unravels this entire story around the Machine. Either way it makes for an engaging and enticing story for what promises to be an excellent final season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "B.S.O.D." was written by Greg Plageman & Tony Camerino and directed by Chris Fisher.
  • The use of flashbacks in the past have been very meaningful in developing the characters. In this episode, they are important when Finch gives the Machine the new code and he desperately wants to take it back. But the rest are largely playing out dynamics - Finch's relationship with Nathan and Grace - that the show has well covered previously.
  • The show also didn't need to remind the audience why Finch is so hesitant to get on a ferry - even though it's the only way to keep the Machine alive. Trust us that we remember Nathan died during an explosion on one which also led to Finch ending things with Grace.
  • The team is no longer safe from Samaritan in the shadow zones of the map of New York City because it has learned how to turn even old technology into a listening device to track down people. That shows how powerful it has become.
  • How in the world was Root able to just walk out of the subway station and down the street with that officer's shotgun? It made for a cool image. But Samaritan proved itself with activating civilian assets. Why should this be any different?
  • So much of this premiere is tense and filled with action. And yet, it does have a very solid moment of levity too when the entrance to the secret base of operations is being blocked by a man who just wants a candy bar.
  • Reese is getting credit for helping take down Dominic and Elias as well. But neither the FBI nor internal affairs presses for more details about where he is right now. Also, why does Samaritan want the two heads of the city's criminal organizations dead?
  • Finch refers to the Machine as "she" which is the biggest gesture that he intends to approach things differently moving forward.