SNAFU and TRUTH BE TOLD Episode Diagnostic | The Machine Age | Person of Interest Season 5
Once we satisfactorily established the new parameters of the numbers, the hideout, etc in the first episode of Season 5, the story flies through SNAFU and TRUTH BE TOLD, two episodes dealing with very similar ideas thematically and emotionally for the characters.
In SNAFU, the show considers how powerfully the past informs who we currently are. When other people’s reactions inform us about us, how do we know what’s true? And, similarly, how when perception informs action, we must also strive to see a more accurate picture than regarding people as merely good or evil, friend or threat. As Finch says, there’s a gray area.
SNAFU falls under a category of Person Of Interest episodes featuring tongue in cheek moments – where the writers seem to be having a laugh at the show, blending humor with the drama. Dealing with the damage to the Machine yields some delightful physical comedy from the ensemble of actors, including Amy Acker doing hilarious, spot-on impressions of the other cast, and John Reese in sassy glasses.
And from a viewing standpoint, it’s enriching to see how the events of the Season Four finale had consequences that ripple through the team, plus it adds some fresh material for the cast to play with and show new colors in their performances. The damage has rendered the Machine unreliable in giving relevant numbers and chaos ensues when she stops identifying the team as allies. Root and Finch get to play mother and father to the Machine in a different way, plus they have private emotional stories as well – Finch is seeing Grace and working through that pain and Root’s clearly hurting over Sameen. Fuscoe is finally catching the drift, but he’s alerted Samaritan to his presence and his potential alliance with Team Machine.
One of the Root and Finch’s dilemmas in parenting the new Machine is whether to keep the interface open or closed. The Machine’s lack of confidence in discerning key nuances when interpreting the information she’s perceiving makes Root fight for a continued open system, while Finch wants it closed for what sound like valid reasons, namely how badly Samaritan is being misused.
The Machine seems to need extra attention and for now has made it clear it needs to be open to learn from his human counterparts better. The Machine can’t differentiate between past and the present, so all of the violence is happening at the same time, much like people when reliving painful memories.
Finch is similarly glitching – seeing Grace in the Machine’s surveillance footage. This painful past reminder makes him afraid to ruin another relationship with the Machine. Though, he remains willing to sacrifice the Machine when she threatens his team members: when the Machine sends an assassin after Reese, Finch and Root plan a way to kill switch the Machine to save his life. Luckily it doesn’t come to that – at the lowest point, Finch and the Machine finally have a hard talk.
Finch and the Machine come to understand each other. “I’ll never hurt you again,” Finch promises. Finch reestablishes trust with the Machine and the system stays open for now, per Root’s suggestion. (Side note: How cute are Root and Finch and this episode? Cohabitating, coparenting both dogs, Reese, Fuscoe, and The Machine) (Side side note: Does Root seem super lonely to anyone else? You know how much she misses Shaw, and then the way she came back to the hideout to stay with Finch, Bear, and the Machine at the end of the next episode…)
Also of note, an ex-con identified by a Machine number is recruited by the precinct/woof Samaritan has found help in a corrupt police force. I suspect the ex-con character has more of a story to tell throughout this season, but Reese’s gut was that he was a good guy trying to do the right thing, so we’ll see if he joins the light side once he can identify the dark.
TRUTH BE TOLD is a more straightforward number of the week, but still offers an exploration of Reese’s character which allows for new shades in JC’s performance. Flashback sequences connect the number to events in Reese’s past plus a twist or two (in POI fashion). Reese’s mission is to trail a new number, a security analyst named Duncan who’s linked to the Department of Defense. Reese atones for killing Duncan’s brother in his past (at the behest of the CIA, see above for note on twists) by saving his brother, Duncan, from the CIA.
Reese tries to save Duncan in more ways than just keeping him alive. He tells Duncan that his brother was a hero. Reese wants to spare Duncan pain – heal the living to atone for the dead. I get the feeling that if Reese rescues enough people, he’ll believe he deserves good things and that he’s a good person. The problem is not that he has sacrificed the potential of a normal life—which is what we see unfolding in the opening scene with Iris’ parents—but that a normal life was never in the cards for someone like him.
Meanwhile, the Machine produces a poem about change and Root naturally interprets it as a sign that she should install Samaritan malware looted from a delivery truck. Root has isolated the malware but it begins to replicate itself within the Machine. Finch questions Root and she insists that taking risks is the only choice in times like these.
The Age of the Machine continues with new installments for every moment of Season 5. Person of Interest airs Monday and Tuesday on CBS.