Tuesday, May 31, 2016

REVIEW: 'Person of Interest' - Finch's Number Comes Up and Two Characters Die in 'The Day the World Went Away'

CBS' Person of Interest - Episode 5.10 "The Day the World Went Away"

Finch's number comes up when a fatal error blows his cover identity and sets off a deadly series of escalating encounters with Samaritan's operatives.

The work that Harold Finch and the machine have created together has always been very dangerous. That's why he has enlisted many allies to fight on their side and help make a difference in the world. Finch took up the mission with the numbers in order to help people. He was able to pull John, Fusco, Root and Shaw out of some dark times because of the hopefulness of the mission. This work has given all of them a purpose. And now, all of them stand united in the war with Samaritan. They've been able to survive for so long because of their skills. And yet, it has just been survival. It has not been living. They've been in hiding from this nefarious A.I. for two seasons now. They've suffered many devastating defeats. The team is still standing strong. Things are looking up now as well because Shaw has returned to them. However, they are still engaged in a war they cannot win which sets up a fantastic premise for the 100the episode of the show.

Finch's number is the latest person of interest that the machine gives the team. He's the reason why they've all come together. He's the reason why there is a war between two artificial intelligences. He has molded the machine into being a servant of good. She recognizes that free will needs to be a part of the human condition in order to help existence thrive as its own unique thing. She doesn't want to control humanity like Samaritan does. She protects the citizens of the world. But she doesn't actively change things for some grand agenda. Finch taught her all of this. He wanted to build a machine that understood the creatures it was watching and analyzing. He wanted her to understand what made this world so unique and special. The team has been able to do a ton of good because of the machine's capabilities. But now, that's not enough. Finch is faced with a choice of whether or not to allow the machine to go on the offensive. Samaritan has only gotten stronger. The machine has been rebuilt. The team still gets numbers and protects the people who need saving. But the end goal of this war is still the same.

Finch has always known his work would lead to devastating consequences for him. He understood what he created and the ramifications it would have on the world. And yet, he has also formed so many meaningful relationships as well. Everyone on the team has chosen to be a part of this endeavor. They will all fight to protect the machine. But now, Finch worries that death will be coming for all of them as well. Samaritan is only getting more powerful. Now, it's able to analyze the past. That's what leads to Finch's cover getting blown after he returns to a cafe he went to 10 years ago with Grace - with a waitress who has a really good memory. He made a simple mistake. And now, it costs the team so much. They would all do anything to protect Finch. They understand just how important he is to the machine. Even though he has put rules and limitations on her, they respect the reasoning behind it. Root doesn't always agree with what Finch has done and how it may be hurting them in this war. But she respects the connection Finch has with the machine. She understands just how important they are to each other.

Unfortunately, it is death that forces Finch to re-evaluate his rules. He has always figured life would end with him in a prison cell. He has committed treasonous acts. But now, he has so much to lose because of all that he has built over the last five seasons. This episode is so tragic and brutal. It's one of the more stunts-heavy episodes the show has ever done. It does so to great effect as well particularly in the car chase sequences. But the heart of the story is still the characters and what they mean to each other. It was interesting to see Elias as a part of the team this season. He has helped guide Finch on his journey. Elias represented all of the opportunities to bend the rules to one's own benefit in order to survive. He is still alive thanks to Finch and the team. And now, he's working with them against their common enemy. But he has also been key in Finch embracing more dangerous actions in this war. Finch allowed Elias to kill the Voice in yesterday's episode after he refused to turn himself in. That was a key shift that set the stage for this episode. And now, Elias is killed because he was trying to protect Finch.

But more importantly, Root is killed as well during this battle to save Finch from Samaritan. It's a truly badass way to go out too. She has evolved so much because of her connection to Finch and the machine. She started as a violent loner desperate for connection. And now, she's a part of a team who would give her life in order to save the greater good of this mission. The machine needs to win in this war. It can only do that with Finch by her side. So, Root has to protect him at all costs. It's thrilling watching as she shoots at the Samaritan operatives while also still driving a car. That's a fantastic shot. But it's also so meaningful that she swerves in front of a bullet in order to save Finch's life. She sacrifices herself to save him. It's a tragic end for a fantastic character. But she goes out as a hero. It's a brutal reality check for all of the characters. They've lost two more of their allies in this war with Samaritan. And now, Finch is going to do something about that.

All of the rage and anger inside Finch boils up into action following Root's death. Tragic circumstances force him to re-evaluate all that he has done with the machine. He now finds himself isolated and lonely. He's in police custody finally having to face his various crimes from over the years. The team is still fighting to protect him from the uncertain nature of his situation. Samaritan has proven it can strike from anywhere. He's no safer in an interrogation room than he is on the streets of the city. It does offer him some time to reflect though. He doesn't sit in a room face-to-face with someone who understands the changing reality of the world. Instead, he's there with an FBI agent who wants to understand how limited Finch's record is despite him playing a role in a number of crime scenes. He doesn't understand this world. In this moment, Finch's entire world has been rocked. He stands defeated with one of his dearest friends killed in the line of duty. She wanted him to change his rules. She wanted the machine to adapt in order to win in this war. He didn't listen. And now, he'll have to live with that.

But Finch has an even more crucial turning point in the final moments of this hour as well. When he's broken down and defeated, the machine reaches out to him yet again. But now, it's unlike any previous time. She has finally chosen a voice. It is Root's. That ensures that she will never be gone. It will be a fun way to keep Amy Acker a part of the show through the final three episodes of the series. But it's also enough for Finch to come to terms with what needs to be done in this war. He is now willing to break all of his rules in order to kill Samaritan. He has come to accept that that is what needs to happen. It's pivotal shift in Finch. One that he has been so hesitant to make. But now, it's what he is choosing to do. The machine helps him escape from prison. Meanwhile, John and Shaw come to understand that this shift in Finch was what the Machine was trying to warn them about. He has become the perpetrator in Samaritan's demise. He is now plotting a way to kill this other A.I. Yes, he has had a target on his back this entire episode. But it's all setting up that twist in the end that hints at even more tragedy for the series' final few episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Day the World Went Away" was written by Andy Callahan & Melissa Scrivner Love and directed by Frederick E.O. Toye.
  • So much has been rightfully said about the "Bury Your Gays" trope over the past few months. It's a cliche and very problematic storytelling device that has been way too prevalent with LGBT characters. And yet, I really don't have a problem with the way Root is killed here. She is a total badass and sacrifices herself for her friend while also having some great closure with Shaw.
  • It is pretty amusing to see Root banter to Shaw about how maybe all of this reality is just one big simulation and that they are just a bunch of shapes. All while both of them are engaged in a gunfight with Samaritan's operatives.
  • Samaritan wanted to capture Finch because it believes it can turn him into being compliant with its mission. But now, all hope will probably be lost with that endeavor moving forward after Finch makes his intentions known.
  • John and Fusco got in on the action sequences as well. Though it was very clear that the show was having more fun and purpose with the stuff with Shaw and Root.
  • Jeff seems deeper into Samaritan's operation than ever before. Now, he's become a trained assassin for the A.I. He's the one tasked with taking the shot while Root and Finch are driving away. Its his bullet that kills Root. That will likely come into play later this season.
  • Elias' relationship with Finch has always been very interesting. The symmetry in this episode is very appreciated as well. He takes Finch to an abandoned apartment building in the heart of gang territory just like the place he was first found in back in Season 1.