Person of Interest Recap - S05E01 - "B.S.O.D."

If you can hear this… you’re alone. The only thing left of us is the sound of my voice. I don’t know if any of us made it. Did we win? Did we lose? I don’t know. I’m not even sure what victory would mean anymore. And either way… it’s over. So let me tell you who we were. Let me tell you who you are.

And how we fought back.

With these words spoken by Root, over the shot of the team’s subway hideout, now empty except for the signs of a gunfight, we begin the first episode of the final season of Person of Interest. The monologue, seemingly directed at the reborn Machine, sets the tone for the rest of the the season, promising a desperate fight against an all-powerful being with unlimited assets.

The season four finale saw Reese, Finch and Root leaving their temporary place to hide with the Machine compressed in a set of high capacity ROM chips in an impregnable suitcase, dozens of Samaritan operatives ahead of them. B.S.O.D. (fittingly named after an error screen displayed in older versions of Windows after the system suffered from a fatal error, commonly called Blue Screen of Death) opens sometime after that, after they split up in an attempt to reach their subway hideout. Reese and Finch manage to lose Samaritan’s assets following them and meet up at the docks. Good timing too, since during the shootout the suitcase was hit, which seems to have damaged the battery for the ROMs keeping the Machine alive. They get on the river ferry – which is especially hard for Finch, suffering from PTSD flashback from the last time he was here, when he was crippled in a bomb attack during which his friend Nathan Ingram died – and in the end manage to reach their destination, welcomed by the worried Bear. We missed you too, puppy!

Root meanwhile is having a much harder time getting where she needs to be. She’s got the most resilient Samaritan operatives hunting her, is constantly having the least ammo of every gun she gets her hand on – and is the subject of Samaritan’s newest tactics. When she tries to reach her destination via a subway, Samaritan manages to identify several people with a history of making citizen arrests and sends them information identifying her as a wanted shooter, armed and dangerous via a news alert. Finally, she manages to find a safe haven – a fellow hacker named Bela Durchenko, whom she helped out a few years back during her mercenary hacker days. She wants him to get her a new identity from the equipment his employees are mining for data, which he agrees to for old times’ sake. He also informs her that they’ve been finding malware in the equipment they got their hands on – malware that’s impossible to reformat and reinstalls itself after every reboot. While he just thinks it’s the NSA, Root (and we) knows it’s definitely Samaritan’s work, to get even more of a control over ordinary humans.

Meanwhile Fusco is having his own share of problems. At the end of last season’s finale he was part of a convoy carrying the rival gang bosses, Elias and Dominic. However both men were killed by Samaritan operatives during the Correction – an operation that took care of every potential threat to the AI’s rule. Now two major gang leaders are dead and Fusco is the only survivor of the event. Not surprisingly, it draws the attention of internal affairs and the FBI – neither of which seems to believe his story about a sniper. In a surprising twist, the FBI agent later brings a ballistics report connecting the bullet found in Dominic’s body to Fusco’s gun, and seems to interpret from this a scenario in which Fusco has attempted to stop Dominic and killed him in self-defense. Fusco keeps his mouth shut, but is very suspicious of this whole situation. Rightly so, as we later learn that the FBI agent is one of Samaritan’s assets, trying to keep Fusco from sharing what he witnessed. He failed – Fusco has had enough of being kept in the dark and when the visiting Reese (on his way to find Root) doesn’t share anything yet again, he decides to start his own investigation. He manages to find the shell from one of the bullets that killed Elias and Dominic. Unfortunately, he’s also noticed by Samaritan and marked as a potential disruption. And as it already killed the IA officer assigned to Fusco’s case by hacking his pacemaker and causing cardiac arrest just for pestering its asset in the FBI for the ballistics report.... Fusco is in big trouble, and he has no idea how big.

Root is in big trouble herself – her hacker buddy is contacted by Samaritan (or one of its operatives) via one of the phones his employees have been data-mining. When offered a substantial reward for turning her in, without a beat he double-crosses her, bringing Samaritan operatives to his hideout. Sadly for him, Samaritan isn’t interested in fulfilling its end of the bargain and has him and his men killed. Luckily for Root, that’s when Reese arrives and the two manage to defeat the Samaritan assets present.

Meanwhile Finch is trying to fix the battery keeping the Machine’s main heuristics alive. Problems start as soon as he hooks the ROM chips to the computer – because the Machine starts decompressing. That’s a huge problem, because the only reason they managed to fit the terabytes of its data is thanks to a compression algorithm and high capacity ROM chips developed by Finch’s one-time pupil from the season 2 episode 2πR. To function properly it would require a supercomputer. Finch’s workstation doesn’t have enough memory to hold the Machine, so he decides to rip the cables off – which knocks him out and sets the entire desk on fire. As he comes to and puts out the fire, it seems that everything is lost. That’s when Root and Reese bring their truckload of Playstation 3 consoles, taken from Durchenko’s warehouse (the real reason she went there). The suitcase battery has enough residual energy left that they have time to build the necessary supercomputer.

Throughout the episode Finch has experienced flashbacks to 2006, the time he made a huge and morally debatable decision regarding the Machine. In the season 2 finale we learned that he decided to impose a limitation on it – he implemented a code that had it delete all of its memory every day at midnight in the hopes of containing its growth. This episode flashbacks to the day he chose to do so. The Machine has already grown up enough to find out about his father, who died 25 years before on the same day, after suffering from Alzheimer’s for a long time. This, coupled with the fact that 42 previous iterations of the Machine tried to kill him and Finch’s general distrust of the potential evil an artificial superintelligence might bring about, has him spooked enough that he decides to impose said limitations. Throughout the day he discusses it with his friend and coworker Nathan Ingram, and Grace (Finch’s fiancée) – with the latter it’s veiled enough that she doesn’t learn about the Machine’s existence. Ingram points out the cruelty of submitting the Machine to the same fate Finch’s father suffered, as Finch considers how his father lost all his own memories due to Alzheimer’s, on the actual day he died. Finch says that a supercomputer capable of thinking a hundred times faster than the smartest human is automatically a potential threat to humanity (echoing recent voices in the science community like Stephen Hawking). Nathan counters that Finch has no way of knowing that, and that if the A.I. has even a sliver of human compassion, it could help mankind. He also warns Finch that someday someone is going to create an uninhibited superintelligence. It's not a question of if, but when. And that intelligence might not be friendly. Now we know Nathan was right, and Finch very much regrets his decision. He regretted it immediately as soon as he implemented the code, and just after midnight the Machine greeted him by asking him whether he is its Admin.

As the team gets ready to connect the ROM chips to their homemade supercomputer, Root gently chastises Finch for choosing to inhibit the Machine and not trusting the being he created in his image. The Machine is their only hope – and history is upon Finch to make the right decision. They begin the decompression and for a while, as the supercomputer overheats from the strain, it again seems as everything is lost, until Reese saves the day with a container of liquid nitrogen. After that, the Machine finishes decompressing and, as the episode ends, it begins to wake up.

I’ll see you next week for two episodes of the show (on a Monday and a Tuesday). Meanwhile, I’m going to try and post a Bear Moment of the Week, where we catch a glimpse of the best dog on science fiction TV. This week, Bear the Firefighter!

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.