SP: Person of Interest 123, Fire Wall

Episode Summary

Our Number is psychologist Caroline Turing. Someone has hired HR to kill her. As Our Heroes try to protect her, Reese gets trapped in a hotel with both FBI and HR closing in. Carter and Fusco realise they are both on the side of Our Heroes, and as the episode closes Finch is confronted by a figure who wants to know more about the Machine…


Surveillance Report


This episode shows a kind of narrative self-awareness that is not common in procedural television, and is very fun to boot. It doesn’t advance the themes of the show but it serves a stark warning that those themes are more than the balance between liberty and security. There are stranger things than patriots in these waters.

Spoilers coming…

#root #root #root #root

The faceless hacker from Root Cause returns, and gains access to Finch by hiring HR to kill herself. All of Turing’s insight into Reese’s psychology and probing questions into his identity and methods has only been Root making fun of Our Heroes. Root is partly defined by her playfulness, her sense of almost naive joy as she manipulates and kills people. And that is shown very clearly by her elaborate game here in her first real episode.

The episode itself plays a game, signalling by its editing that Corwin is the mysterious person who has put a hit on Turing to get access to Finch. But then Root shoots Corwin in the head and an interesting character is gone – only one last exhausted soliloquy to her name. This abrupt swerve at the end of the season signals that Corwin and her ilk are not the main concern of the show; the ISA and so on are not the primary antagonists. But Corwin does give a hint as to what the show’s becoming. She says to Finch:

You’re the man who made God. And now you’re going to help me shut it down.

Corwin has encountered and processed the difference that a real AI makes to living as a human; she has this in common with Root. But Corwin responds with the desire to destroy, to unmake what technology has done; Root responds with eschatological hope. All next season will be about Root trying to set the machine free and accept it as her new God.


Narrative signalling

Many shows say things about their themes through what characters say and choose. It’s less common for the entire structure of the plot to help articulate the theme. In this episode we see that all the forces of corrupt Western society – Our Heroes’ vigilantism, HR, the FBI, Corwin – are pieces being moved about or captured by something infinitely alien.

Root can’t be predicted by these existing institutions because she doesn’t exist within them. And this is communicated by the way she comes out of nowhere within the procedural structure of the episode. Just as Root exploits Our Heroes’ methods, so the episode exploits our grasp of the show’s fundamental premise. You thought it was about helping people but it’s actually about the creation of a superior form of being – AI.

But really it’s about helping people.


The future of this series

It’s obviously not sustainable to do one entry per episode. I am planning to cover future seasons by examining a series of themes per season.