After waiting for what feels like an eternity for Person of Interest‘s season five, it’s finally back and with style.
“B.S.O.D.” opens with an ominous ringing of a phone (not dissimilar to the end of season two’s “God Mode“) and a beautifully eloquent monologue from Root which you will have heard in the first season five trailer. Things look very grim with the subway in tatters and honestly, it made my heart hurt a little. The episode is set on the same day as the season four finale, “YHWH” so if you haven’t seen that episode in a while, a refresher may be in order. Essentially, our beloved remaining three members of Team Machine are in a bit of trouble, to put it mildly—Finch, Reese, and Root are all split up and on the run from Samaritan operatives. Reese is carrying the decompressed Machine in its indestructible briefcase and thrilling antics ensure with him breaking into and stealing a car not even five minutes into the episode. In typical POI fashion, there’s also a glorious shootout thrown in, not that we were expecting anything less, of course. More drama unfolds with Root behind the wheel of a car, carrying a rather nice ‘piece’ with a bloodied wrist. Almost as soon as she has finished talking to The Machine in vain, Samaritan operatives crash into the car and there’s yet another epic shootout before she escapes and goes underground to the subway (not the subway).
Meanwhile, at the NYPD, Fusco sees a front page report about Elias and Dominic being killed and he is paid a visit by the FBI and IAB. More on that later.
Back to Reese and he is in yet another fight at the ferry, still with The Machine in his possession. Finch saves the day and rather brilliantly hits the pesky operative with a pole before taking The Machine into his own hands. He then has a flashback to where he was injured, featuring Ingram and Grace. Finch insists he can’t continue, but after a quick pep talk from Reese, he goes on ahead.
There was no real intro for this episode and whether or not there will be one at all for season five is unknown. There’s a similar title card to last season with some slight graphical modifications towards the end. Naturally, the cameras are still from Samaritan’s point of view.
Finch and Reese engage in a most illuminating conversation about how it is now a Samaritan world and we learn that it is now able to activate anyone. The state of The Machine is then elaborated on, revealing that it is highly compressed and is running out of power. Reese briefly mentions finding Root and getting Shaw back and is very optimistic about the whole ordeal; a glimmer of light among the darkness. Finch confesses that had he known what they’d be up against now, he might’ve handled things differently.
In a flashback to 2006, we see Finch and The Machine conversing. It starts off innocently with the latter saying good morning and asking Finch if he had his green tea, but evolves into something more concerning with The Machine offering its condolences for Finch’s loss (identified as the 25th anniversary of his father’s death). Ingram enters and he and Finch have a somewhat heated discussion regarding the ever-blossoming sentient state of The Machine, and AI in general. After Finch comments that The Machine’s “burgeoning intelligence is a little unsettling”, Ingram jokes that he spoke like a true parent―a highly pertinent line when you consider Finch and his creation’s relationship. Finch essentially states that AI needs to have reigns on it and serve humans, not supersede them. Ingram, on the other hand, disagrees and views AI far more optimistically. Interestingly, this dynamic reminded me of some of Root and Finch’s conversations, with the former being strongly in favour of uncontrolled AI. This flashback feeds into the overall theme of the episode: Finch realising his errors. There is then discussion between Finch and Ingram regarding Finch clearing The Machine’s RAM every day at midnight. Ingram calls it cruel and comments that memories make us who we are. Once again, this harks back to Root and Finch’s heated discussions regarding the memory wipe at the end of season two.
We’re now back to following Root on the subway. We see, for the first time, Samaritan activating people (which it calls “enlisting civilian assets”). Said asset is given a push notification on their phone showing Root with her large gun. Hearing the sounds of the notifications and observing the passenger’s stares at her, Root catches on and soon realises she’s in deep trouble. She, of course, is attacked, but fights back hand-to-hand (in quite a Shaw-esque fashion) and delivers a scathing “you can just call me Root, bitch” to Samaritan’s cameras once the ordeal is over. Stepping off, she is immediately confronted by a police officer.
Meanwhile in Chinatown, Reese and Finch head back to the Subway with Reese delivering some zingy quips on the way. We see Bear (a personal major highlight for me) and The Machine is in a critical state. While Finch works on cracking open the case, Reese and Fusco discuss the Elias and Dominic situation over the phone, with Reese telling him to check the incidents reports.
Root is now on the move with a gun stolen from the police officer, avoiding operatives and heading to a computer recycling place. She is followed and runs out of ammo, but fortunately has two other guys as back-up who shoot them for her. Inquired as to why she’s there, she informs them she is looking for a guy called Bella. As it transpires, Bella got tangled up with some Russians and hired an online hacker-assassin to take out the Russian who was after him, and escaped to Latvia only to never be heard from again. Bella asks Root how she found him and she cryptically tells him the same way she found the Russian, which is why he hired her. Inadvertently using one of her lines against her, he tells her it’s nice to “finally meet” her.
Now we’re with Fusco again and he is still being grilled by the FBI agent and IAB agent. In a twist, he is labeled a hero by the FBI agent and is told he will be recommended for a commendation.
Ever the faithful watchdog, Reese wants to look for Root but Finch tries to dissuade him by saying it’s too dangerous. Insisting that they don’t leave their comrades behind, Reese leaves anyway, leaving Finch alone to try and put The Machine back together. We see yet more of Finch’s guilt as he confesses to the RAM chips that though he has a habit of alienating people he employees, he isn’t prepared to lose either of them just yet. Clearly, he’s referring to The Machine and Reese.
Another 2006 flashback and Grace, accompanied with their dog (actually Michael Emerson and Carrie Preston’s dog, making his first television debut, Chumley) meets Finch with ice cream for him. In a touching encounter, Grace tells Finch that he has a good heart and should go with it and let it steer him. Finch tells her that his father said the same thing to him.
Root’s notoriety as a hacker-assassin is further explored when Bella refers to her as “the underworld’s most elite assassin” and that there was a rumour that she was taken out by the so-called “man in the suit” but he had always thought she was too clever to be done in like that. Nonchalantly, Root claims she just needed a change and that she got a new job and fell in love (with Shaw, of course). Bella suggests that the bug on the data encrypted on the drives in the recycling compound is from the NSA. Root’s old connections seem to come in handy when she tells him she needs a new identity and he agrees to create one for her.
At the subway, the rebuilding of The Machine seems to be coming along nicely, but it soon gets out of hand. It begins to decompress and the power goes completely haywire. It overloads and Finch desperately tries to unplug it all, but a wire sparks knocking him out and causing a small fire.
Reese finally joins Fusco at the NYPD and asks for an update on the incidents report. Fusco refers to a “nutjob assault on the subway” and Reese immediately identifies it as Root. Demanding to know what the hell is going on, Fusco is clearly sick of being left out of the loop. Reese tells him he’ll talk later and then leaves to find Root.
While the fire at the subway has grown, there is another flashback to The Machine apologising and saying maybe it should die. Back to 2006 and The Machine asks Finch what death is. Finch talks about a biological death for humans is when the heart stops beating. The Machine tells him it knows the purpose of the code; to erase its memories.It then further elaborates back to its original question and tells Finch that he told Nathan that his father’s death was when he lost all of his memories. Finch promptly tells it that the conversation is over and The Machine asks why. His answer is that The Machine is not a human and is a machine. The Machine apologises if it has violated boundaries because it watched him and Nathan. Heartbreakingly, it then asks how it will learn from its mistakes, how it will continue to grow, and most devastatingly of all, how it will remember him. Seriously, this episode is The Machine feels central.
In the present day, Finch extinguishes the fire, only to find the RAM chips are smoking. He apologises, saying that he is now the one that failed it.
Fusco has a flashback to the shooting of Dominic and pockets the bullet. He is then almost immediately identified by Samaritan as a “potential disruptor”.
Bella appears to give Root her identity, only to the renege and claim he got a phone call before he destroyed it and got a better offer. Unphased, Root keeps her cool, seeing Samaritan operatives invade. Bella gets shot and Root is confronted by the operatives who then tell her that the data was Samaritan and that it is even logging keystrokes now. Heroically, Reese once again saves the day and another shootout follows. He tells her she should get back to the subway, but Root insists that the fight’s here and so is she. Once the operatives have been taken care of, Root collects PlayStation 3’s and tells Reese to go steal a truck, having come up with an idea for rebuilding The Machine.
Finally, Reese and Root are reunited with a forlorn Finch who says he has failed and if he hasn’t crippled The Machine from the start, it might have stood a chance against Samaritan. The battery is revealed to be dead, but Root pipe up and says they’ll just have to build a supercomputer of their own, revealing one of the PlayStations. Finch asks her if she’s being serious and she confirms she is.
Breaking up the scene is a short snippet of the exterior of an ambulance with Samaritan’s feeds revealing marking him as dead.
Root discusses the tech, explaining how it all works, with Reese dryly telling her he doesn’t “speak nerd”. Interestingly, Finch refers to The Machine as “she” for the first time, eliciting an impressed facial expression from Root. Finch promises The Machine that if it survives, he won’t make the same mistakes again—Root agrees that things will definitely be different this time. She goes on to tell Harold that he has built something better than us [humans], that it is intellectually and morally superior and that he didn’t feel comfortable with it. He asks how anyone can be and she simply tells him that she is because it’s a reflection of him and our [mankind’s] last hope.
The Machine overclocks and there is now no way of going back. Root unsuccessfully tries to cool it down and without even telling anyone, Reese races out and returns with a canister of liquid nitrogen. He successfully cools The Machine down and it appears to be up and running.
Something tells me that it won’t be The Machine we have grown accustomed to and somewhere down the line fell in love with, especially judging by this.
“B.S.O.D.” was a strong start to the season and offered interesting backstory for Finch, Ingram, The Machine, and Root, while also providing thrilling on screen action. My favourite part of the episode was Finch and Ingram’s exchange regarding sentient AI. What I have always loved about Person of Interest is how it portrays technology in a deeply complex way with varying viewpoints. I am interested to see further conversations with Finch and Root and seeing him listen to her more.