Person of Interest Season 2 Finale Review: Run Free, Little Machine

By Tim Surette

May 10, 2013

Person of Interest S02E22: "God Mode"

I'm of two schools of thought on Person of Interest's Season 2 finale. On one hand, some of the series-long questions that have been nagging us forever were answered spectacularly through flashbacks, and their answers tied in nicely to what was happening in real-time. On the other nitpickier, never-satisfied, spoiled hand, some of the present-day action felt a bit underserved, and the impact didn't quite reach the heights of Season 1's stellar closer, "Firewall." But "God Mode" did leave us in a fantastic place—a frightening place, too—for Season 3 and broke new ground on the importance of the show's most intriguing character... The Machine.

Picking up where last week's excellent "Zero Day" left off—after the two most important phone calls ever made—The Machine created multiple admins and gave Root and Reese access to its goodies. And one of the perks of being the Mayor of Computertown is you get all sorts of help that only an all-knowing super machine can provide. Free cars, building plans... this thing could probably also order you a pizza if you asked it to. It's like Google Glass but you don't have to look like a dork, plus it actually works. And most importantly, it lets you do this badassery:

Person of Interest is no stranger to moments that leave you panting and saying, "Whoa." But a bluetooth headpiece connected to The Machine giving Reese the whereabouts of imminent threats through clockspeak was ridonkulously awesome. And it turned the series on its head again. The Machine as an active participant in Reese and Finch's lives had been teased before, like when Reese spoke to it in "Firewall" and demanded help from it, but The Machine acting as Reese's eyes and ears opens up an entirely new relationship. Suddenly The Machine's ability to save lives—which seemed distant and disconnected when all it did was survey the world and type out social security numbers—is now right at hand. It's no longer a database of suspects, it's the next step in super-soldier integration! Reese powered by The Machine? YOU HAVE NO CHANCE, BAD GUYS! I can't wait until it starts talking to Bear.

From there, the episode spent most of its time on the hunt for the whereabouts of The Machine, the idea being that Root was attempting to set it free like it was Mumia Abu-Jamal or something. Root and Finch formed one team; Shaw and Reese comprised the other and set out in hot pursuit of Finch. And unbeknownst to all of them, madman assassin Hersh and his boss Special Counsel were the uninvited third party.

But despite some great action capers from Shaw and Reese, the search for The Machine's whereabouts was wasn't as thrilling as it could've been. Maybe it's because I felt like the exact location of The Machine didn't matter much from a viewer standpoint. What did matter to me was who got there first, and that important fact didn't translate as well in the hunt for clues. Reese played "Where in the World is The Machine?" but Finch knew where it was all along; Finch created one thread that had Reese stumbling onto Finch's old clues and another that relied on Finch changing his mind and revealing what he knew. It wasn't as exciting as the cross-country chase would've had us believe, when you think about it, but that bar was raised pretty high in "Zero Day."

When Root and Finch arrived at The Machine's supposed location (in my neck of the woods, the Pacific Northwest), the big secret came out: It was gone. The warehouse in the nuclear storage facility it was supposed to be housed was emptier than Reese's gun clip at a Bad Guys in Shorts fashion show (oh those delicious un-shot legs...). And that's when Finch revealed the truth: He had already set The Machine "free," or at least given it the ability to set itself free. When she saw that her sole purpose in life was crushed, Root was pissed and turned her gun on Finch, but she was stopped just in time by Shaw and Reese (phew!). I love Amy Acker, and her performance in this episode was outstanding, but for some reason I really enjoyed seeing her get shot. No one points a gun at my bud Finch and gets away with it! Don't worry, it was just in her pretty little shoulder, which is a nice contrast for Shaw relative to Reese's limb of choice. Those two could travel the country making quadriplegics out of everyone.

Finch had some 'splainin' to do to ALL of us. And his plan to save The Machine was a crafty (and slightly hokey, but I expect that from this show) solution. Finch explained that The Machine was no longer accessible by anyone, but it could defend itself and alter its code if it was under attack. Knowing that someone would eventually try to control of The Machine, Finch coded the only kind of virus that could attack it—the virus Decima used—and included a sneaky virus within the virus to give The Machine the ability to sprout legs and roam the countryside. Well, sort of. The Machine was able to draft orders, by faking it was Special Counsel, to have itself shipped piece-by-piece to a new location entirely, in order to keep it out of the hands of the wrong people. That would have seemed ridiculous without last week's idea that it created its own fake persona, but now it not only works, it's genius.

Those wrong hands for The Machine to end up showed up to the warehouse in Special Counsel and Hersh. Some tough talk and a remarkably peaceful exit by Root, Finch, Shaw, and Reese later, Counsel got on the horn and rung up his boss, a shadowy female figure that we met for the first time. There's always someone above, and this particular someone likes to wear lady gloves. (This should be a highly sought after role next season, and I'm sure they'll get someone great.) With Counsel's mission a failure, lady boss asked Counsel to pass the phone to Hersh and gave Hersh orders to kill everyone because the government is efficient like that. Counsel took the job termination like a champ, understanding the program and giving one of television's great farewell lines: "Fair enough" before Hersh plugged him in the chest. That is a GREAT employee. If he wasn't being lowered into the ground, he would deserve a raise.

So now The Machine is hitchhiking across the country or something, enjoying its freedom as a sentient being and crimefighter. But Finch doesn't have an idea of how it will respond to this freedom, and the question remained whether or not it will continue to spew out digits, and if so, to whom? We got our answer quickly in the final moments, as Reese and Finch, the government's "research" team, and Root–now comfy in the robes of an insane person at a mental institution–all got a call from The Machine. Apparently The Machine isn't done stopping bad guys, even when it's rogue. And apparently it doesn't mind having three admins!Intriguing!!!

In my opinion, the flashbacks were stronger than the present-day story and finally detailed the death of Nathan Ingram and the limp of Mr. Finch. But more importantly, we learned a lot more about what drove Finch to become the person he is today and why he freed The Machine. We knew Nathan was desperate to use the irrelevant numbers to help people and that Finch needed some convincing. And when Nathan attempted to blow the whistle on the existence of The Machine, Finch was understandably reluctant to join him. The government had been killing anyone tied to The Machine, and Finch figured it had its sights set on Nathan, and probably him too.

Using a terrorist found by The Machine, Hersh set him on the site where Nathan was going to meet a reporter and blew him up along with Nathan and everyone else around there as a cover for their own naughty deeds. Finch survived, but had no choice to make everyone else believe he was dead to keep the government from killing him. Those people who needed to believe he was dead included his fiancee Grace, answering how that relationship ended. HOW SAD IS THAT? But the best came later. Following Nathan's death, Finch stumbled upon The Machine's most recent irrelevant list and saw Nathan's number right there and realized that he could have prevented his partner's death. And when The Machine rebooted and erased its list of irrelevant numbers, Nathan's included, it was like the truth and the opportunity went with it. Finch wasn't going to let that happen again. It's great inspiration for Finch to think Nathan's crazy dream of using The Machine to save innocents wasn't so crazy after all. We knew a lot of this information already, but seeing it play out and fill in the gaps did more to define Finch and why he's turned into the vigilante computer nerd we see today than anything else, and that's as important to the series as anything.

This is as "kooky conspiracy theory" as the show has ever been, painting the government at its most untrustworthy and touching on what it presented earlier in the season when it introduced this other half of The Machine. And that's a good thing. When Jonathan Nolan pitched Person of Interest before it aired, he talked a lot about the abundance of digital information that's readily available and how scary that is. Now, we're entering the next obvious phase where we see how this information is used, how the government is already using it, and what could happen if the wrong people were to get a hold of it. Whether it ends up in the hands of a zany cybergeek or a shady government organization, it's a cautionary tale to ease up on the secrets you share on Facebook. As we head into Season 3, Person of Interest is at its most paranoid. It's also just as good as ever.


NOTES OF INTEREST

– I didn't want to spend too much time on Carter's storyline this week, which basically saw her keep doing what she's been doing all season long: crazy things that are at odds with her job as a cop. But unfortunately the juiciest part of her story, sitting in a car with criminal mastermind/part-time friend Elias after saving his life, didn't get much time. I hoped that the HR storyline might get more of a wrap-up in the finale, but instead it's still wide open for Season 3.

– One major nitpick I think we can all agree on is the complete absence of Fusco in the final two episodes. That's inexplicable, but I guess there just wasn't enough room.

– But we did get some Bear!

– That Ferrari was totally rad. Such a perfect Shaw car.

– I loved that car flip off the freeway even if we didn't get to see it. How freaky would it be to witness a car careen off an overpass, land on its top, and then have two people, including a hot chick with a giant shotgun, crawl out of it like it was NBD? My question: Did they helicopter over to the Pac NW?

– "Okay look, I already broke you out of jail tonight, I'm not springing you from the funny farm." Shaw, after Reese started speaking to light poles. But Shaw, you would break him out of a looney bin if you had to. You know you would.

– I want a lot more Shaw next season, and I think we'll get it. But I wouldn't worry about a Shaw-and-Reese romance... I think Nolan and company are smart enough to know that isn't what we want. Besides, Reese has Zoe and apparently Shaw is into Bear.

– As a final thought, I'd just like to say that Person of Interest has been a real treat, especially when compared to the rest of the dramas on network TV. And Season 2 was just as thrilling as Season 1. Gotta love this show!


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom
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  • SamLim Aug 01, 2013

    I'm late to the party as well but hearing about all these scheduling problems CBS has with POI makes me glad that I'm late so I could watch all the episodes at one go without an agonising wait in between episodes.

    Anyways, thought this is a pretty good finale but definitely didn't match up to the penultimate episode. It's like all the intensity was reserved for the penultimate episode like what Game of Thrones always does.

    I liked how The Machine was still spewing out 'Irrelevants' for Reese to help, and they're no longer whole episodes of Reese & Finch doing research & stalking to find out what the threat to these 'Irrelevants' are. We've graduated to drive-by shootings! I certainly laughed when John & Shaw pulled up at the soon-to-be-married couple's wedding (outside a church?), shot the perp in the knee and smiled (OMG THAT SMILE <3 <3 <3) and congratulated the bemused couple.

    I have some issues though - I have no idea why Shaw didn't kill Root as promised, and why the Finch team didn't shoot up the Special Counsel team. Pretty sure the latter was outnumbered and outqualified - Finch team has Reese (who has kicked Hersh's butt once) and Shaw, and ok, maybe Root who has proven herself pretty adept at shooting people. Special Counsel kind of only has Hersh. It was an easy way of just wiping out the Special Counsel team and getting rid of killbot Hersh. Understand that Reese and Finch don't really kill but Shaw and Root wouldn't hesitate to.

    Also, a little confused about what the Special Counsel wants with The Machine. Don't they have access to the "Relevant" side of it? So why have they been tracking it? I might have missed it so it would be great if someone could explain?

    Carter certainly seems to have forsaken that high-&-mighty moral compass of hers from Season 1 and have gotten her hands dirty. I did love her broken look after she dug up Stills to cover for Fusco in a previous episode. This was a woman who has had her entire identity shredded into pieces. The line between good and bad isn't clear - there's always a grey area and I suppose Carter realises that a lot of people belong in the grey area more than being arbitrarily categorised in two extreme ends. She also said the Russians were worse (than Elias) so Elias is probably the lesser of two evils. If organised crime HAS to stick around, perhaps having Elias in charge is better for the city. Where will Carter go from here though? We're looking at possible suspension from the force (since she was set up by HR) and harbouring a master criminal & fugitive. Also, tracing down ex-lover's killer. So much to do, so little time. Plus, I like Elias for sort of helping Finch & Reese. He respects Finch's intellect and Reese's kickassery and I kinda hope he'll become an asset in the future. Too much to ask for?

    Sorry for the long comment. I know it sounds rambly but omg, POI is just soo good. TV shows usually sort of stall a little in Season 2 but POI doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing down. I can't wait for the third season!

  • JayAtkinson Jul 30, 2013

    Probably massively late to this party, having only discovered and rocketed through Person of Interest in the last few weeks..... But was nobody else disappointed at the way Reese discovered Finch's involvement in his whole Ordos mission ordeal and the subsequent traumas - most specifically, the love of his life dying whilst he was away, thus missing out on being with her and leading to his depressive spiral? And even more disappointed by the way he just shrugged it off and forgave Harold? I sure am. As much as I adore their odd couple bromance, this was the perfect time to develop some tension between the two going into season three, which I think the show and their dynamic could have benefited from.

  • SamLim Aug 01, 2013

    I wouldn't want any tension between them because their unwavering friendship & loyalty to each other is just so riveting, and so damn sweet, it makes me tear. :(

    Who let out a massive 'awwww' in the previous episode when Reese said to Finch, "I won't let Root get to you. Not again." (or something along those lines, can't remember word for word). I did. Their bromance is more believable than some of the romances on TV.

  • Devon39219 Jul 02, 2013

    I want Allison's (dead) mom from Teen Wolf to be the woman with the gloves :))

  • SweetMissJaye Jun 25, 2013

    I don't understand why Root wasn't killed off...I'm still bummed because she annoys me so much.... I love this show so much, however, and I can't wait for season three.

  • Devon39219 Jul 02, 2013

    Yes! I thought Shaw said she wasn't going to shoot her in a non-deadly place??

  • Javadude54 Sep 08, 2013

    Shaw said she was going to shoot Root the next time she saw her, and not in a knee. So she did exactly what she said shed do.

  • SweetMissJaye Jul 03, 2013

    Yes, Shaw did say she was going to shoot her... It still aggravates me. I can't let it go. Two season finales with Root in them and she's one of my least favorite characters on television.

  • Devon39219 Jul 03, 2013

    same here! nobody messes with my bromance between Reese and Finch! maybe Bear..

  • SweetMissJaye Jul 04, 2013

    Yes, Bear is the exception :P

  • xubxerox Jun 13, 2013

    I just realized, after rewatching some of the episodes, after what we just learned about "Prism" and the NSA watching us.... it seems we are not to far away from this "Sience fiction" any more.

    Welcome to the future ! :O

  • erinahbing Sep 02, 2013

    I just hope that all this reality won't ruin the universe of the show :D (
    (= they do not try to push real life elements and change any of their concepts, story lines)

  • BijoyKb May 31, 2013

    The machine moved itself!! That was totally FAB!!!!!!!

  • JooPaulo3 May 25, 2013

    Amazing finale, clever in all kind ways..............POI close the season perfectly.

  • bluemorphotat May 22, 2013

    Well it looks like I got very late to the party! I just finished watching the last 4 eps of POI! By the gods!!! What a treat!!!
    I have to say that there hasn't been any Sci-Fi/Thriller show in TV in a long time that has managed to come up with a couple of ideas that surprised me.
    My problem is that I have read in excess of 1,5 k Sci-Fi books so everything I usually watch in movies or TV is but a mere pale copy of what I have already read... and imagined in my head!
    Plus I never get tired of saying that the chemistry between Finch & Reese is A-MAAAA-ZING!
    Thank you writers, producers, entire cast & rest of the crew!

  • bluemorphotat May 22, 2013

    BTB: Forgot to mention that when Reese & Shaw came out of the car after "taking a right" I expected some sort of Terminators to come out of it instead LOL!

  • GreyMinerva May 19, 2013

    Fantastic season all round, with great development on the previously forgotten main character - The Machine.
    You know the writers are doing it right when you FEEL for a machine that you have never seen, which doesn't have a visual interface OR its own voice!

    Also, Shaw is a great new addition to the roster, and I hope they'll keep her around for a good, long time - not necessarily as a 24/7 addition to the team, but as a recurring star, definitely! She has the same sort of deadpan sass and snark that Reese does, and the two of them together are just GOLD.
    "What's this for?"
    "To help you feel less inadequate while I drive this thing."
    What's not to love? :D

    I too missed Fusco, but I'm guessing there may have been IRL reasons why he was absent - it was so conspicuous.

    Elias' "famous last words" were pretty good too - like Mr. Counsel, he acknowledged that it was a fair cop; he killed Yogarov's father, Yogarov kills him, "Fair is fair".
    I really like Elias as a "bad guy" - he's brutal and ruthless when needed, but he also has a sense of honour and a private code as strong as any of the other characters on the show. The way he clearly despised the dirty cop, while respecting his mortal enemy, was very telling - and the statement that "I'm true to what I am" was so quintessentially HIM that it would have made a perfect epitaph.
    I found it very fitting that he was saved by Carter - someone who comes from the exact opposite side, but is slowly meeting him in the middle because she too has come to realise that sometimes, you just have to do what YOU believe is right, and try to make peace with your own moral code afterwards.

    All in all, a great setup for season 3, which is FAR too far off right now! :)

  • amelie88 May 19, 2013

    Amazing finale!! Like you said, the flashbacks were the best (but the bridge-jumping moment was great too). It was difficult to live up to the previous episode, but I cannot wait to see season 3!!!

    PS. I love your POI reviews, I always look forward to reading them after watching the episodes!! And the same thing with your GoT reviews. Great job!!

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