Michael Emerson, Jim Caviezel (CBS)

Person Of Interest is back for a final hurrah and the fan service is in full gear. Throughout the episode, the show’s acolytes are blessed with a well-executed chase sequence set to another well-chosen song, car crashes galore, Root with a gun, Reese with a power drill and a liquid nitrogen tank, the reappearance of Grace, and Bear of course. What more could fans want? Ethical dilemmas and philosophical ponderings regarding parallels between technology and the human condition, what else? After beating up some baddies, Reese and Finch are on the run with an ailing Machine and they make the conscious decision to leave their teammates behind for the sake of humanity. Common courtesy is thrown out the window, but at the same time, they know that Root, at least, can probably handle herself for the time being. The fact that the decision is articulated out loud means that team dynamics are at the forefront of the episode’s themes once again, as we are back to basics.

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Reminders of the powerful bond between the teammates are peppered throughout the episode, but it’s the relationship between Finch and the Machine that pulls the most focus. Much of the tension of the premiere revolves around efforts to revive a dying Machine. Flashbacks to Finch’s memories with the Machine reiterate that the very act of saving it is an ethical dilemma in and of itself. Would it be better to let such a powerful instrument die or fight for its survival so this kind of inevitable technology is at least being wielded by the right hands? That’s not an easy question, and the Machine itself doesn’t make things any easier.

In the same way that someone is playing mind games with Fusco in regards to his involvement with the shooting of Elias and Dominic in the finale, the Machine has shown itself to be an expert player as well, doing whatever it takes to ensure its survival. Faced with the possibility of having its memory erased, the Machine knows which of Finch’s buttons to press in order to prevent him from pushing that delete button. The close-ups of Finch’s head and eyes during this interaction reiterate the idea that his resolve to control the Machine is being tempted as each heartstring is tugged one by one. In the end, mind trumps matter but the guilt remains.

Decision-making is difficult, especially when the future is at stake. There’s no way of knowing the impact of Finch’s decisions; he has a heavy burden to bear. The special connection between Root and Finch is reinforced when she supports his decision to revive the Machine, saying that she believes it is a good entity because it’s a reflection of Finch himself. Her efforts also contribute to the cause, as her quick thinking to grab some powerful tech allows the team to do some major surgery and revive the Machine. The ramifications of that decision are yet to be decided once again. The only thing that’s certain is that Samaritan is one step ahead, per usual. Samaritan hardware is being installed into citizens’ personal devices and a force as powerful as the Machine is the only way to stop it, regardless of the consequences.

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Overall, this is a solid premiere that delivers on crowd-pleasers, reunites the gang and revisits the show’s themes in a coherent fashion, but it also feels very safe for a show as supposedly ambitious as Person Of Interest. The writers know that this is the final season; they know the episode count. The real meat of the season is obviously yet to come, but time is also of the essence. Either go big or go home because this is it. Fans are probably thrilled to see the show’s signature group dynamics, ethical dilemmas and moral quandaries again; the problem is that the word “again” can be applied in way too many of these cases. Samaritan has been threatening to control humanity via the same tactics for a few seasons now. “Back to basics” doesn’t have to be executed in a basic way. The team successfully revives the Machine, as would be expected. There’s a conspiracy against Fusco because of course there is—he’s one of the good guys battling an evil supercomputer.

Hopefully, the show has some final surprises (besides the inevitable return of Sarah Shahi) and larger ideas in store. For now, the writers are playing coy and unfortunately, that approach isn’t giving the final season that initial thrust of energy it could use to propel viewers’ interest in these final episodes. The usual somewhat awkward reintroduction is over, however, so Peron Of Interest has many opportunities left to get in gear and make the most of its remaining time.

Stray observations:

  • ”You can just call me Root, bitch.”
  • “What? Sugar’s bad for you.” I missed these gems.
  • “like it or not, Harry, history is upon you
  • Welcome back, Team Machine.

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