The thing that immediately struck me was the new opening with narratives from Finch and Greer. This isn’t the first time such a method has been used (“Root Path“), but it’s still quite an interesting change. The Person of Interest Wikia has it transcribed with Greer’s dialogue in bold:
“You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a system you asked for, to keep you safe. A machine that spies on you every hour of every day.You’ve granted it the power to see everything, to index, order and control the lives of ordinary people. The government considers these people irrelevant. We don’t. But to it, you are all irrelevant. Victim or perpetrator, if you stand in it’s way we’ll find you.”
Aside from being glitchy as hell, the graphics are similar to that of season four’s but slightly upgraded. All of the shots of the characters are the same and it is still seen from Samaritan’s point of view, identifying them as “primary threats“. The intros have always been something I have greatly admired from an aesthetic point of view and this doesn’t disappoint. Props to the sound team for distorting the music too and giving it a creepy cyber effect.
After the intro, the episode flashbacks to 2010 with Reese and Stanton at the CIA, tasked with a mission from their boss, Terence Beale, to go to Afghanistan to investigate a guy who was suspected of making dealings with the Taliban.
Jumping to 2015, Iris is waiting for Reese to show up for their impromptu date at a pirate themed place. He’s busy on a mission while she tries phoning him, duh. Eventually, he casually answers and not long after, he meets with her and her parents.
A nice and casual conversation takes place between Finch and Reese regarding the date. Reese figures that most of The Machine (or as he calls it, “The Machine 2.0.”) bugs seem to have been sorted out. On the other hand, Finch claims that while The Machine is being reliable with its delivery of numbers, it’s still being frequently unreliable with the processing and delivery of other information. He then shows Reese a sheet of binary code from The Machine which he writes off as an error. Finch gives Reese the number: Alex Duncan, who works in security systems management.
Dressed as a mail courier, Root joins Finch and comments that not all of her identities can be bears or brides―great references to season four.
Undercover, Reese meets with Duncan and keeps eyes on him, only to see that Beale has found Duncan and is taking him for investigation.
In another flashback to 2010, we see Reese and Stanton undercover on the CIA mission in Afghanistan, meeting with the suspect and beginning their investigation.
Back in 2015 and it is completely apparent that Reese’s shadowy past has now caught up with him. He is left with a serious risk of blowing his cover and needs to tread extremely carefully.
At the delivery depot, Root calls Finch about the mysterious tracked packages from electronic companies and she suspects that Samaritan is behind it. I have a feeling that this will likely link into future episodes; nothing in Person of Interest is random, after all. In true Root fashion, she delivered a beautifully sarcastic smile and a shake of her head to another delivery guy checking her out. Bless.
While Reese tries to rescue Duncan, a large shootout follows. As they get away, Beale recognises Reese. Ruh-roh.
Another short 2010 flashback following where the last one left off and the suspect maintains his innocence.
In 2015, with Reese and Duncan, the latter claims he wasn’t looking for state secrets, but rather for information on his deceased brother, Paul.
Finch comes to assist Root, where he notices a body on the floor in the van, asking her if he’s dead. Not dead, but unconscious; Root had knocked him out as he kept making unwanted advances on her. Her and Finch work on finding the malware from Samaritan and Finch quickly manages to copy the code. Once he has left and the sleazy guy wakes up, Root sweetly asks if he’s okay and what happened. My precious, psychopathic cinnamon roll is at it again, y’all.
In an exchange between Reese and Duncan, Reese lies about not having any siblings (you may have noticed how in “SNAFU“, The Machine showed he has a sister, Sophie). Duncan confides in Reese, telling him about how Paul had pretty much raised him because their dad was busy in the army. Reese establishes a semi-heartfelt connection when he says how his was, too. Duncan explains how Paul died in service but they wouldn’t say how other than heroically and that it was all classified. Later, Duncan found out he wasn’t much of a hero and was under investigation for treason.
Excellently, Reese then puts the pieces together and remembers that Paul was the guy who him and Stanton investigated. A flashback immediately follows, showing Reese shooting Paul dead.
In Times Square, Finch then hacks the CIA database, attracting Beale’s attention in a rather epic way. Obviously he leaves without leaving even a single trace.
At the subway, Root and Finch discuss how Samaritan’s malware is also a form of spyware: it connects its host to Samaritan and then once active it attempts to access all the files in that infected device and send all of that information to Samaritan. As if that’s not worrying enough, Finch says that it actually has more advanced functions that he hasn’t yet been able to decipher. Root tells Finch she was able to solve the binary that The Machine had sent him, which turns out to be a poem by Emily Dickinson about change and metamorphosis. For those who are interested in reading a brilliant breakdown of the poem, read this as it helps add even more context.
Reese realises that the CIA operation, known as “Desert Rain” was being conducted off the books and without congressional approval. Therefore, when Duncan looked up Paul’s records, the CIA assumed he was trying to dig up information about the operation. The CIA turn up again and Reese gets knocked out by Beale and taken into a car.
In the car, Reese lies to Duncan and says that they questioned Paul and left because he was innocent―Beale also confirms this.
Back to Reese and Finch and Root says she got fired for safety violations. Without Finch’s knowledge, she ran the malware on an isolated system as she interpreted the poem as The Machine wanting them to let the malware run its course; a change. Through doing this, Root discovered that the malware is replicating itself and overriding the laptop’s existing code, working towards something. As you’d expect, Finch isn’t thrilled at this. Root shuts him down by insisting that taking risks is important to (in this order) find Shaw and stop Samaritan, because they have already lost.
Beale finds Reese (who already made him three blocks back) out and about. Smoothly, Reese threatens him that if anything happens to Duncan, he and his associates will make the Desert Rain operation details go public. They develop a quasi rapport, ending with Beale ensuring him that the CIA will still think that John Reese is dead.
In the final flashback of this episode to 2010, Kara talks about how they don’t get to have normal lives and how you can’t miss what you never had. Personally, I felt this was particularly relevant to Team Machine also.
Reese and Iris go on a date again and Iris tells him how she’s noticed Reese’s long hours, random cuts and bruises, and blood on his shirt cuff at lunch the other day. After commenting that she can read him better than just about anyone else has, he tells her he can’t have a normal life. They then depart.
With Reese watching her as she walks away, he is interrupted by his phone ringing with Finch calling him and telling him that they have a new number. The episode ends with Reese walking away alone.
Although this episode in many ways was reminiscent of the more simpler storytelling in the early seasons, it was elevated by the effective flashbacks and Root and Finch still setting up further plotlines by working on the Samaritan situation together. A huge highlight for me was seeing the new intro as I had been speculating on what it might be for a while (I had figured Greer might have some involvement). I didn’t find this episode quite as engaging as the previous two, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and will likely re-watch it again before next week’s episodes.