A review of last night's Person of Interest coming up just as soon as I remember what happened to that fat German kid in Willy Wonka…
Until recently, PoI hadn't seemed too hampered by having only 13 episodes for its final season (and by having to fill several of those hours with Number of the Week stories). “.Exe,” though – the conclusion of the war between Team Machine and Samaritan, and the penultimate episode of the entire series – definitely felt hampered by a lack of proper set-up time, and by having to squeeze too much story into the hour because there was no place else to put it.
Huge things happened last night, most notably Finch destroying Samaritan – and sacrificing the Machine itself in the process – but much of it felt rushed, or simply too easy, given how powerful Samaritan and its forces had been presented as for multiple seasons. That Finch has to destroy his own creation in order to stop the bigger threat – and that the Machine herself had to nudge Finch into killing her to save the world – also didn't have the emotional kick I would have expected. Oddly, the Machine wound up having less personality – or, at least, less gravitas – when it switched from figures on a screen, or odd coded messages via pay phone, to talking like Root.
Maybe these developments would have had more power if the show had as much time to build to them over the course of the season as it did when, say, Carter took down HR. Or maybe it would have if the episode hadn't also featured an underwhelming subplot where Fusco found the man who killed the people in the tunnel, on top of those It's a Wonderful Life-style glimpses of a world where Finch never created the Machine in the first place. The Fusco story suggested that the whole missing persons arc might have been better off forgotten, or at least resolved a few episodes earlier. The alternate-reality material, while a nice trip down memory lane (including as satisfying an ending the show could give alt-Carter, given Taraji P. Henson's absence), and the kind of thing other shows have tried in their final seasons (at ATX Festival over the weekend, The O.C. creative team recalled their own version), seemed a distraction at this particular point in the story. The Machine was using it to try to teach Harold that its own existence ultimately wouldn't have made the world dramatically better or worse, but that Samaritan needed to be stopped at all costs. But the simulations all came and went too quickly, while also taking up too much time in an episode that needed to feel more epic than it ultimately did.
There were some strong character moments – Greer proving his ultimate commitment to Samaritan, the password for the virus (Dashwood) being a callback to Finch using a copy of Sense and Sensibility to propose to Grace – but the show has done much better apocalyptic climaxes. That we largely wrapped up the Samaritan war with one episode to go suggests the creative team has something big, and surprising, planned for the series finale, so let's hope for a strong finish.
What did everybody else think?