We Reach the End: Person of Interest Series Finale

S05E13 - "return 0"

This is it. The end of the line. The final episode of one of the best science fiction TV shows of recent years.

Here we go.

If you can hear this - you're alone. The only thing left of me is the sound of my voice. I don't know if any of us made it. So let me tell you who we were. And how we fought back.

As the Ice-9 virus Finch activated last week is causing some problems on a global scale, the man himself enters
a building rooftop with a suitcase - out of breath, raising a gun at every sudden noise. As he nears a control panel, he talks with the Machine. She is in a bad shape herself, with only 8 minutes left of her life and very limited capacities - when asked by Finch what happened to everyone else except Reese, whose fate he knows, she is unable to tell him. He asks her if she managed to learn anything from keeping track of everyone - and her response is that everyone dies alone. There was more to it than that, but she's struggling to remember it. She tells Harold that he built her to predict people, and the only way to do that is to learn about them. And over the years, she learned that the moment when you truly find out who a person is, often is their last.

As she tells him that, she recalls a few images that set the tone of finality for the rest of the episode. An old person on a hospital bed. Shaw looking over Root's grave. A man lying on the ground, surrounded by EMTs. Fusco, badly wounded. A little boy at a funeral. Reese, kneeling as someone aims at the back of his head.

"Fair enough. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts, then. Because, in addition to this being now, it's also probably the end." As Finch says those words, the camera pans down to reveal his gunshot wound.

After we move some time back, we see that Samaritan, dying from the Ice-9 virus, is searching for the people who killed it, to have some good old fashioned revenge in its final moments. Shaw, standing over her loved one's unmarked grave, is saved by the Machine as she reveals she took Root's voice (also, Samaritan operatives robbed the grave of Root's body for her cochlear implant. Fuck those guys). Reese and Fusco are not so lucky, the latter arrested for the mysterious disappearance of Agent Leroux (the Samaritan operative he had to deal with last week), and John for his past as the Man in the Suit vigilante that Samaritan spitefully tips off their Lieutenant to. Instead of taking them to Rikers, the group of New York's Finest decide to kill them at the docks, as there's a substantial financial reward for Fusco and Reese to never make it to prison alive.

Lionel snarks that he always knew John would be the death of him - but follows it up with words of thanks. He realizes that without Reese to nudge him in the right direction, he'd still be just a dirty cop. Though, when asked by John what actually happened to Agent Leroux, Fusco replies that he's in the back of his trunk - so as he himself notes, he hasn't changed that much. The two friends are saved at  the last moment by a sniper hired by the Machine and are reunited with Finch, who takes them to the subway hideout where Shaw and the Machine (to whom Fusco is finally introduced) are already waiting for them.

The show cuts to Finch, remembering a moment he shared with Grace. He's interrupted by the Machine (whom, thanks to the blood loss and exhaustion, he hallucinates as Root standing in front of him). She explains that the reason their conversation is so morbid is because he built her to watch people die. He protests that he did it to prevent this - but, as she explains, to do that, she first had to learn how people die, what gets them to this point. He didn't build her a capacity for despair, so she had to make one from scratch. In one case she finally learned something - that everyone dies alone and something else... but she still can't remember what it was. Finch can't stop himself from laughing. "That's so perfect. You learned the secret of life and you've forgotten it".

Back in the subway, it turns out that Samaritan has a final backup copy, hidden in the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank. Finch and Reese go there (with a copy of the Machine's core heuristics in a suitcase) to infect it with the Ice-9 virus, leaving Shaw and Fusco behind to protect the Machine from the likely arrival of Samaritan operatives.

John and Harold make it to the vault with the active involvement of the Machine. But in the process of infecting Samaritan, Finch gets shot by a Samaritan operative whom Reese has to fight as well as  his buddies, while the ASI manages to upload a compressed version of itself to an orbital satellite as a last resort. If it manages to download itself back to earth, all their work will have been for nothing. 

The team has 18 minutes left until the satellite passes over them to send a similar copy of the Machine (from the chips in their suitcase). There, she hopes to beat her rival once and for all. She may have lost all those simulated battles before - but now she has nothing to lose. Finch locks Reese in the vault, not wanting his good friend to lose his life in this last ditch. On his way, Harold stops for a while as Samaritan takes over every screen in the vicinity to discourage and threaten him one last time.

Meanwhile Shaw and Fusco prepare to defend the subway train, but the Machine has other plans and tells them to plant C4 on the wall and prepare the train to leave. As the Samaritan operatives arrive, led by our "good friend" Jeff Blackwell (Root's killer), the two take off - but Blackwell manages to get on board. Thankfully he only manages to graze Shaw before Fusco takes him down and cuffs him. As the three ride the train for a while with the Machine's servers, Shaw recognizes from the bullets of the custom-made gun Blackwell is carrying that he's the one who killed Root. She's only stopped from killing him by the glitching Machine, who tells them that her and Fusco need to get off the train at the next stop, and to get ready because there might be Samaritan agents waiting for them. 
The Machine also tells Sameen what Root would've wanted her to know: "You thought there was always something wrong with you because you don't feel things the way other people do. But she always felt that was what made you beautiful. She wanted you to know that if you were a shape, you were a straight line. An arrow."

Shut up. You're crying. I've just been cutting onions.

As they finally arrive to their destination, Fusco lifts Blackwell to his knees - only to be stabbed in the belly, and for their enemy to get away. Shaw helps Fusco to get away before any of the other Samaritan assets arrive.

At the same time, in its last ditch to defeat its foes, Samaritan cracks the firewall on USS Garner and launches a missile at the building Finch wants to transmit the Machine from. They have one minute until the satellite is in range, and then three more until the upload is complete. That's when Finch realizes the antennas on the building will not be able to transmit the Machine's core heuristics to the satellite. She purposefully sent him to the wrong building - she and Reese had a long standing agreement to sacrifice John's life instead of Harold's. "Told you - I'll pay you back all at once," he tells Finch while standing on nearby building. 

He starts the transmission and tells Harold to move - it might get a little exciting up there. Finch tries to persuade him to leave and let the upload take care of itself - but that's when Samaritan operatives arrive and John has to fight them off until it's done.

"When you came to me, you gave me a job. A purpose. At first... well, I'd been trying to save the world for so long - saving one life at a time seemed a bit anticlimactic. But then I realized: sometimes one life is the right life. It's enough." he tells Finch, thanking him for their time together. That's when the Machine tells Harold she finally remembered what she learned that time. It was when a police officer had to notify the family of a man who died from a heart attack on his way to his 3 years old son's birthday. In response to his partner's words that everybody dies alone, he had said "But if you mean something to someone, if you help someone, or love someone... If even a single person remembers you, then maybe... you never really die at all."

As the heartbroken Harold leaves his old friend to his heroic sacrifice, the Machine asks him one last time: "I know I've made mistakes. Many mistakes. But we helped some people... didn't we?" "Yes. Yes we did." The Machine shuts down its core systems and records the message we heard at the start of the season and the episode, as Reese finally get overtaken by the swarms of Samaritan agents. But it's too late for them - the upload is complete. And even the finally arriving missile can't do anything about it. The Machine's copy reaches the satellite and begins the asskicking of Samaritan.

Some time later, the Ice-9 virus is finally contained and its effects neutralized. Jeff Blackwell is getting ready to leave his Samaritan-paid apartment, only to be stopped by Shaw who finally gets her revenge. He tries to defend himself by saying it was a job, not something personal, and Sameen replies that she had a few jobs like that herself: "In fact, a few years ago I would've just killed you without even a second thought. But then I met some people... some good people. And they taught me the value of life". Blackwell tries to use that to stop her from killing him, saying they wouldn't want her to do it. "You're right", she says. "But they're all dead." With those words, she guns him down.

She later meets with Fusco - now completely fine and back at his job. She takes Bear from him and departs, with both of them subtly expressing hope to see each other again. Meanwhile, Finch meets with Grace, finally revealing to her that he's alive and reuniting with her.

And that's when the Machine's core heuristics, victorious over Samaritan, are downloaded back to the servers in the subway train. The Machine's recorded message starts to play, explaining to itself anew why she chose to save human lives.

If you can hear this - you're alone. The only thing left of me 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. So let me tell you who we were. Let me tell you who you are. Someone once asked me if I had learned anything from it all.

So let me tell you what I learned. I learned... everyone dies alone. But if you meant something to someone... if you helped someone... or loved someone... if even a single person remembers you... Then maybe you never really die.

And, as the episode ends, the New Machine calls Sameen on a payphone on the same corner Reese interacted with its old iteration. Thus it all starts anew, with Shaw replacing Harold and John as the recipient of new numbers. And before the final curtain, they get back to work, in a near perfect recreation of the final scene of the pilot.

And that's it. It has been my pleasure to recap the final episodes of this fantastic show to you. And though I'm even less happy about Root's death - in general the show stayed true to its themes. It continued the exploration of the rise of artificial superintelligence, and it continued its focus on saving ordinary lives. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about a show I love dearly - and until next time.

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