#PersonOfInterest [5×01]: “B.S.O.D.” Review via NGE Guest Writer @NicolaChoi @PersonInterest #POI

Steps in the dark as the lights come back on

The 364 day(!) long hiatus is over and Person of Interest waltzed back onto our screens with some back-story, a classic Reese flash grenade, the imaginative—but well researched—decompression of The Machine, and a lot of guns. ‘B.S.O.D.’ picks up directly after the season finale, in which Samaritan are on a wild witch hunt in order to detain and kill the Team Machine gang. It’s sinister, when you think about it; Samaritan’s got control of the entirety of the NSA feeds and has marked the trio as ‘enemy combatants’. They’re everywhere—in your phones, your iPods, your laptops, your suggested news…right now on Person of Interest, the future of artificial intelligence looks bleak unless Harold (Michael Emerson), Root (Amy Acker) and Reese (Jim Caviezel) can reboot The Machine and fight back.

The episode starts with a rather ominous phone-call, a destroyed Subway base and a Root voiceover: “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 I know 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 The Machine compressed in the briefcase, Finch and Reese fight to protect it as they try to get back to the safety of their Subway base.

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It’s almost inverse, the way Person of Interest have approached this season—if Root’s left a recorded message for someone to pick up in the future. This episode was a frantic cat-and-mouse chase; it raised suspicions at the NYPD with Fusco, Samaritan T-boned Root’s car, and Reese and Finch are on the run, trying to avoid cameras as they make their wayward journey back to base. Root, on the other hand, is having a tougher time. Perhaps to throw Samaritan off the scent, the trio have split up and Samaritan shows its true capabilities by manipulating the Internet into breaking a news alert about a possible terrorist who looks exactly like Root on the Subway. She smacks and punches her way out (Shaw would be proud) and acquires a shotgun (don’t even ask how) but it’s still a game of deception and lies when she’s cornered by Samaritan in a dangerous misplacement of trust.

Root’s armed and dangerous—but when is she ever not?

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As far as the episode reaches into the team splitting up in terms of their capabilities—for example, in rebuilding The Machine, we know Root and Finch will clash ethically and morally and are both technologically capable of building something incredible; Reese even acknowledges this episode that Finch needs Root in the Subway, and that he’s better doing what he does best—protecting the team.

But over five seasons and substantial losses, whatever challenge Samaritan lobs at Team Machine, they will not cave. Root lost Shaw (Sarah Shahi). She almost lost Finch. She’s not leaving Reese to fend for himself.

Samaritan, as an AI, is still somewhat of a baby; I suppose so is The Machine now, depending on the state of decompression. But headed by Greer, Samaritan is a large group of ruthless operatives. Reese, Finch, Root, Fusco and later, Shaw—they’re a unit. A family. And I think it’ll take a little bit more than just a wild witch-hunt to break this team apart, as the entire episode tried to do. Every single minute of ‘B.S.O.D.’ was about inducing paranoia, the growing threat of Samaritan, the increasing priority of eliminating all members of Team Machine: yet at the end, it’s Team Machine who reunite back at their Subway base, a little battered and bruised, to re-boot The Machine. It’s time to get back in business and fight back.

Two dudes walk into a bar and think “well how d’you build an AI without enough power?” and Root kicks the door down and yells, “PS3s!”

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For Reese, it may be to give him the purpose Finch gave him in the Pilot—to save lives before they could be taken. For Finch, there’s no doubting his paternalistic feel towards The Machine after ‘YHWH’ and ‘B.S.O.D.’s flashbacks. For Root, it could be a way to find Shaw…but it could be a way to achieve her ultimate goal: set The Machine free. Opening the system instead of Finch’s morally-coded closed one will certainly cause sparks to fly—but in an action-packed thirteen episodes, some sort of compromise has to be made between the pair in order for them to quickly rebuild a Machine that is powerful enough to fight Samaritan, and perhaps for Finch, moral enough to keep humanity’s best interest at heart. The big question is: to gain such power like Samaritan’s, is that a sacrifice he’ll have to make?

‘B.S.O.D.’ was one big gauntlet thrown down to season premieres—and as Jonah Nolan, one of the executive producers has said, he plans to end this season with a “mic drop”. Very much like The Machine in ‘YHWH’, Person of Interest’s episode order has been reduced from 22 to 13, in its last season to wrap things up in a bloody bow. ‘B.S.O.D.’ marked the explosive beginning of that, in a high-octane race back to base to reboot The Machine.

The title of the next episode, ‘SNAFU’, doesn’t look particularly promising for The Machine’s reboot—but this is something tech geniuses Harold and Root must compromise on. How can you build an AI without the malevolence to hurt others if you need to win this war? How much longer can they keep hiding? What’s going to happen to Shaw when she comes back? Will this influence Root’s morals in any way? What will happen to the Root/Shaw relationship—and can Shaw be trusted? What did Samaritan do to her—physically and mentally? There are a lot of questions set up way before the premiere aired, and a whole host of others unanswered after ‘B.S.O.D.’ too—but with this fast-paced, serialised style—I think we’ll just have to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

‘B.S.O.D.’ was perhaps one of the most explosive premieres I’ve seen in a while; it felt like an entire film. As sad a fan as I am to see quite possibly one of the most inventive, fun, action-packed and well-developed series say farewell this season—but I’m equally excited to see what these writers have in store for us again. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried with them. We’ve created a fanbase more like a family than a group.

The team anxiously wait to see if their reboot of The Machine’s been successful.

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For me, I don’t think anything will live up to it, quite frankly. But that’s not something negative I wish to take away from the experience: it just means I’ve watched something so mind-blowingly thought-provoking that nothing else compares. Very rarely, I find, do TV shows make you think quite like Person of Interest does—and the thought of ethical clashes, huge showdowns, massive comebacks, legal ramifications, mental health ramifications, a whole load of shotguns and pistols and—er—Root as a truck delivery driver…I can’t wait.

For those who want to check out the show, all four seasons are available on Netflix and it’s been announced that a series 1-5 boxset will be coming out in the summer, too. Person of Interest takes time to brew, it really does—but boy, by season five I think every episode’s going to be a killer one—just like ‘B.S.O.D.’

Please excuse me while I delude myself into thinking I can cope with the quality of this show and rock in the corner.

Thank you Nicola for writing this article on the Person of Interest premiere.  The episode sounds exciting, fast paced and full of the drama that Person of Interest fans have come to expect.  It looks like this season will be an exciting one.

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