Michael Emerson (CBS)

“A More Perfect Union” is a really goofy episode of Person Of Interest. The case of the week could’ve appeared on many other shows, and lesser ones at that. Let’s reflect on the ending, shall we? This procedural mystery involves a billionaire who owns a prized championship racehorse. It’s the type of episode where this premise leads to a hired assassin being knocked out by a horseshoe followed by the line, “It’s my lucky day.” The heroine then canters in atop a mighty steed to rescue the damsel in distress. There’s a wealthy family, a wedding, an inheritance, horses, animal rights activists, the potential for murder—the usual drill. There are several twists in the mystery as to who is trying to break the main couple up before their wedding can take place, but they don’t really resonate. None of the twists are especially surprising and none of the new characters are especially developed, so there isn’t much tension in the proceedings. The older sister was after the photographer all along in order to erase evidence of her father’s horse doping but none of it really matters. Reese cracks a few skulls, Finch sings an impromptu song with an Irish lilt at the reception, and the trio reflect on their own isolated outsider status as they observe a “normal” family event; essentially, all’s well that ends well.

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One of the few interesting moments associated with this A-plot takes place when Finch and Root slow dance at the reception. The discussion naturally shifts to their epic battle against a mighty supercomputer where there is concern as to the Machine’s potential to abuse its growing power. The discussion as to whether Team Machine are good guys or bad guys has been a long-standing one, and a new question arises: Should Team Machine itself be entrusted with absolute power? Each side’s true nature continues to be explored in the B-plot, where Greer leads Shaw on a journey exploring Samaritan’s philosophy, hoping to win her over. Samaritan’s mission has been established as one that involves taking over the world in order to save humans from themselves. Team Machine considers this a bad thing but Greer plants seeds of doubt in Shaw’s mind.

In scenes not unlike those from A Christmas Carol, Greer shows Shaw various examples of human evil in increasing magnitude and explains the consequences of each enemy’s actions if gone unchecked. His argument is that the Machine’s strategy of combating evil number by individual number is not enough; a force like Samaritan that’s willing to go nuclear in order to save lives is necessary, regardless of the casualties. The ethics concerning the concept of “the end justifies the means” has been a long-standing topic of discussion for the show. Now the idea of “by any means necessary” is also under consideration, since the Machine and Samaritan operate very differently. All along, Team Machine’s heroism has been in doubt, and now Samaritan’s supposed villainy is questioned. Shaw needs to decide for herself whether Team Machine’s mantra of playing by the numbers is the best way of doing things, or if more lives could actually be saved using Samaritan’s more extreme methods. To underline his points, Greer illustrates these methods with a sequence of attacks meant to save humans from themselves; these interactions turn out to be a part of a simulation, of course, but the dilemma and consequences are real.

All of the worthwhile elements of this episode are truly saved for last, as Fusco makes a major discovery in the final moments. Root has asked him to help track down the city’s rising list of missing persons, which could lead the team to Samaritan. Clues as to Samaritan’s plans such as Elias’ old associate, a civil planner working on underground tunnels, and the do-gooder chemist from the previous episode all turn out to be victims. Fusco discovers that they are all dead, lying among the missing persons in one of the underground tunnels. If these are the kinds of means that Samaritan considers justifiable, it has some explaining to do.

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