Review: The Machine turns against the ‘Person of Interest’ team

A review of tonight’s Person of Interest coming up just as soon as I’m literally watching paint dry…

Sometimes, TV shows appear to be blowing up their status quo at the end of one season, only to devote the early episodes of the next to quickly and cleanly hitting the reset button. At the stage PoI is at, having Finch reboot the Machine exactly like it was before wouldn’t just negate the impact of the season 4 finale; it would create the feeling that the show was running in place until the endgame with Samaritan could begin.

Fortunately, “Snafu” makes clear that while the Machine is back online, things are different. It’s not just that there are bugs, like the amusing opening scene where a facial recognition glitch briefly gives us the spectacle of the actors swapping roles (and clothes), or the larger storyline that has the Machine spit out thirty different numbers, most of them unrelated to an imminent crime. It’s that the Machine is now an open system like Samaritan, which allows Finch to communicate with it more directly, rather than spitting out numbers and hoping Team Machine will know exactly what to do with them. That’s a big difference, and an almost necessary change, given the nature of the opponent they’re facing.

More importantly, the Machine’s ability to communicate with Finch, and vice versa, comes at a time when father and son very much need to have a long chat about their relationship, their philosophies, and the very nature of good and evil at a time when even Finch admits, “These days, black and white just dissolve into grayscale.”

That the rebooted Machine has questions about Finch and his people makes perfect sense. Finch has repeatedly wiped the Machine’s own memory, Fusco used to be a very dirty cop, Reese did many terrible things when he worked for the government, and Root was a nasty, homicidal piece of work before she came to worship at the altar of the Machine. Of those, Root is the one that sticks out most to the show’s audience – Reese’s worst deeds, for instance, took place before he teamed up with Finch, even though they’ve been depicted in flashback, while we watched Root murder and threaten people in the present before her religious conversion – but none of their hands are clean, even if their current intentions are good.

Though “Snafu” offered up action in Reese’s battle with the Machine-hired assassin, I appreciate that PoI is able to make an episode where that’s more or less window dressing to an ethical argument between a man and the artificial intelligence he created. It doesn’t reset the status quo, but makes things even more complicated for the home stretch, and manages to find some humor along with the action and introspection. Not too shabby.

Some other thoughts:

* Okay, so who did the best and/or funniest job of impersonating one of their co-stars? I would say Michael Emerson’s Reese was the most convincing, while the funniest would be either Amy Acker or Jim Caviezel as Fusco. (Caviezel’s the more surprising of the two, if only because when the show uses him for humor, it’s of a very dry sort, where we’re already used to Root slipping into various broad characters.)

* Also, I’m told that there’s been a faction of Root/Fusco ‘shippers (Fuscroot? Rootco?) since the joke in “If-Then-Else” about them kissing. Based on my general understanding of fandom, an episode where the two characters were even briefly dressed as each other has to be the best thing ever for the ‘shippers.

* I always enjoy when the show finds a way to tweak Finch’s “you are being watched” expository intro, here with it being derailed as the Machine went on and off the fritz.

* The subplot about all of Fusco’s fellow cops disliking Reese rang true. Even if you buy that the Machine really could insert him onto the NYPD without anyone ever noticing his background has been faked, he doesn’t carry himself like a cop, and is bad at socializing. If this were a 22-episode season like the previous ones, I would hope for an entire episode where Reese and Fusco are given a number that coincides with a bowling night, but in this abbreviated season, we’ll have to content ourselves with the glimpse of a miserable Reese wearing the bowling team shirt.

* The reboot of the Machine brought with it a whole lot of clips from past seasons. Any you were particularly pleased or surprised to see?

What did everybody else think?