Person of Interest Recap - S05E12 - ".exe"

It's the final countdown to Person of Interest's finale and tensions are high.

Harold is making his final preparations for an assault on Samaritan. After his roadtrip takes him to San Jose where gets his hands on a propagation system for the Ice-9 virus, he is off to Fort Meade. There, in the building of the National Security Agency, Samaritan has its main operations center, and that's where Finch plans to upload the virus. Harold gets in via a cool sequence that wouldn't look out of place in a modern day spy thriller (though I'm not so fond of a distraction the Machine arranges for him that involves getting a black woman accused of carrying a gun into the building. Not cool, creators. Seriously). But as we learn, the enemy ASI's defeat will come at a cost - it will also kill the Machine. Harold's come a long way from distrusting his creation, so even though he knows this is their only hope - he hesitates just before he says the voice activation password. And that allows the Samaritan operatives to find him and stop him.

Finch is taken to Greer, who once again tries to convince him to join their side. At the same he's probing Harold to find out whether he told the Machine the password that would activate the virus. To that end, he engages him in a philosophical debate on the place of artificial intelligences in the world. He argues that humanity controlling them would be like apes trying to control humans, and that Samaritan is creating a better world. Finch will have none of that, and he retorts that humanity shouldn't cede control over itself to AIs. That's all Greer needed to hear - a person who that strongly believes in retaining control over his creations wouldn't allow it knowledge of a password that might end its existence. With that, he orders the room he is in with Harold sealed and oxygen flushed from it. Greer believes in Samaritan so much, he's willing to die for its continued existence. It seems like this is the end for Finch.

That's when Reese and Shaw come in. After saving the President last week, the two are back in New York, and more specifically - the team's subway hideout. Finch isn't there, though (which begs the question who is feeding and walking Bear?!). What they get is a number from the Machine - Philip Hayes, Greer's alias in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Which means they're off to Washington DC again (which seems a little counterproductive). Once they're at the building the Office is supposed to be in but hasn't been used in a long time, they get a couple of numbers from the Machine. The first two are coordinates to a recycling plant near the NSA building for their top secret documents - that's their way in. Once they get inside and manage to obtain some cover identities, they find what one of the other two numbers means - it's the number of an evidence room. And the final one - the evidence number for Edward Snowden's wireless modem. This allows the Machine to connect with Finch's phone and with a series of flashes send him the access code to the room he's trapped in with the now dead from suffocation Greer. Harold is free, and the trio is reunited. Reese and Shaw are adamant Finch leave the building with them, with the cover provided by the Machine's fake bomb alert. But in a fight with Samaritan operatives Harold slips out and tells the two from behind the closed door to leave. With that, he makes his way back to the Samaritan's operations center to finish the job once and for all.

The Machine has long figured out what the consequences of activating the Ice-9 virus for it will be. Throughout the episode it's been sharing with Harold visions of a world where it didn't exist.

In those It's a Wonderful Life-style sequences we learned that Nathan and Finch, having turned down the Department of Defence contract, would've continued working in their company - but Harold would never have met Grace, as it was the Machine's playing Cupid that led him to her and the laws of probability make it terribly unlikely he'd meet her without the AI's intervention. Fusco, having no one to reset his moral compass, would've stayed in the criminal organization H.R. - Reese wouldn't have killed Stills, who was the only reason Lionel ever joined and stayed with that crowd. On the plus side, H.R. would still fall thanks to Carter who would live and become their precinct's new lieutenant. But Fusco would still lose his job, only having the dubious honor of being one of the first crooked cops to flip. Meanwhile Shaw would continue working for the clandestine government operation she worked for before she joined the team. And Reese, in this alternate universe, would find out his ex-girlfriend Jessica's husband was abusing her and stop him. However, in the aftermath Jessica would see the murderous person he's become in the employ of the CIA and reject him, leading to him becoming the broken man we met at the very start of the show. And in the end, he would die, his body buried in an unmarked grave. As the Machine puts, ever since Finch found him, John has been living on borrowed time.

But perhaps the worst part of that alternate timeline is that, even without the Machine, the government would still be looking for a monitoring system - which would make them more open to Greer and Samaritan. And though that revelation has been left for last, there are hints scattered through those scenarios that foreshadow that reveal - just like we learned this season, there's been a drop in homicides and a parallel rise in missing persons cases. And Shaw (still working with her partner Cole) is still working cases that come from a mysterious source that is never wrong - like an ASI. But the worst part? Root would work closely with Greer, serving Samaritan with the same religious fervor she had as the Machine's analog interface. Which is very likely - with no Machine and no team, Root would have no impetus for growth, and instead would retain her attitude that some people are just "bad code" that need to be eliminated.

The Machine, in presenting those scenarios to Finch, seems to be assuaging his worries that his creation of the AI has made the world a worse place than it would've been in otherwise. This also reinforces a sentiment expressed by Nathan in the flashback shown at the season premiere, that even if Harold hadn't created an artificial intelligence, someone else would - and it would not be as friendly to humanity. With that, Finch enters the heart of Samaritan.

While all this has been going on, Fusco has had his own share of problems. The bodies of the missing people he found in the now demolished access tunnel have turned up, which put the whole precinct on high alert, with everyone suspecting a serial killer on the loose. This also brings back FBI Agent Leroux - a Samaritan operative who was in charge of the investigation into deaths of Elias and Dominic that Lionel seemed to be connected with. He kidnaps Fusco and deduces that he knows everything about Samaritan. So he decides to kill Lionel and make it seem like a heroic death after catching up to that nonexistent serial killer. But the shared weakness between every Samaritan operative seems to be their inability to shut the hell up about their beloved new order and he forgets to check if Fusco has a bulletproof vest. That allows Lionel to turn the tables on him, and as we leave him he ponders what to do with Leroux. He realizes that if he lets him go, the Samaritan operative will just keep coming back - so he's left wondering whether to finish it in the way Leroux intended.

Finch meanwhile is having a little chat with Samaritan, where the ASI claims he won't be able to pull the metaphorical trigger, as activating the virus would mean kill his creation - and stop it from achieving its purpose. Harold replies that she (this use of the pronoun Root has been using for the Machine is very significant of his change of how he sees the Machine) already has a purpose - protect humanity. And as he hesitates before activating the virus, the Machine reveals that she already knew what the password was, proving Finch right.

With that he uses the password - "DASHWOOD", the name of the "Sense and Sensibility" protagonists - and leaves, as the screens Samaritan has been using to talk with him begin glitching.

Does this mean the death of both ASIs? What havoc will wreak the death throes of two god-like beings? Who will survive and who will die? We'll find out in last week's series finale.

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