Person Of Interest delivered one of the most cliff-hangery cliffhangers when Reese looked the Machine square in the lens and demanded its help to find Finch. “The Contingency” picks up right where things left off, in what is one of the most fascinating pieces of the puzzle to date, an appetizing download of Machine backstory supporting the present day narratives.
It was pleasing to see Reese use his wits, allies (and brawn) to search for Finch, even after the Machine throws him a curve ball. The scenes between Reese and the Machine were engaging and meshed with the Machine’s backstory very well. Root’s Finchy abduction also came up trumps, revealing her dastardly intentions for the Machine — which only increase the stakes and make her seem more broken and less one dimensional.
On the downside, it was disappointing to see the weekly story rear its head, making the episode cumbersome in places. However, some engaging performances coupled with some pretty cool moments (and a dog!) meant it didn’t drag the serial elements down too much.
One of the most fascinating aspects going into “The Contingency” was that not only did Finch and Reese get tricked by Root, but she also fooled the Machine. Given what we see of the Machine’s ‘personality’ throughout the episode, the moment where it finally decides to help Reese becomes even more interesting on a (dare I say) ‘character’ level.
Of course, the good stuff starts right at the beginning, with Finch training the Machine, finding out the scope of its capabilities (even being surprised himself at its level of omnipresence), and laying down the rules through verbal. Some might say the Machine has god-like abilities, others might see a more ‘human’ persona — interestingly, Finch’s relationship with the Machine in those early days seemed closer to that of master and dog (drawing a parallel with Reese and the attack dog, although Reese is kinder to his dog).
Finch created powerful intelligence crafted from own ideals, which plays into Root’s motivation. She tells Finch “you created an intelligence… life.” Then all but chastises him for mistreating it by handing it over to cruel owners (the government). She later reveals that she wants to set it free. Root almost becomes a sympathetic character, certainly if you’re able to view the Machine as an intelligent life form (or if you really love your iPhone).
At the same time, her actions towards other people are beyond questionable and the purity of her Machine fixation is still not totally clear. But given her point of view, it’s worth considering whether the Machine is a prisoner and whether it has yearnings to be ‘free’. Again, this comes back to its eventual decision to help Reese find Finch — an independent action, something rooted in its past only to resurface due to being backed into a corner. When faced with losing the contingency the Machine does the only logical thing and responds to Reese — but could that decision have come from somewhere beyond reason — love, perhaps?
NOTES OF INTEREST
- We finally find out how Finch receives the numbers — through a combo of Dewey Decimal cipher and code.
- How interesting that Finch opted for Reese as the contingency. He fights like a machine but I’m pretty sure he’s human. I guess he either had to pass the torch to his friend or shut the Machine down — since it’s not ready to work on its own yet (give it a few years though).
- Good to see that Alicia’s not forgotten, though shadowy forces appear to be concealing what happened to her.
- “Somebody up there must like you, my friend”.
- Finch’s decision to HIT rather than STAY cost him from big at the casino. Did his ego taking over, or did he not want to put his head all the way through the rabbit hole at that point? Given his reaction, most likely something closer to the former.
- For a brief moment it looked like we were going to find out how Finch got his limp when the Machine told him to STAY as he approached the crossing. Though he ignored, that slight distraction probably saved his life. An early indication of the Machine’s sense of duty/compassion towards Finch, and its ability to follow its own rules.
- Root believes humans are an “accident” — “bad code”, which helps explain how she sees the world and why she’s more plugged into an the all-seeing Machine that can influence ‘fate’ than mere mortals.
- Book reference: “Deterministic Chaos” by Heinz Georg Schuster, taps into Root’s notions and the Machine’s sensitivity to its formative conditions, making it unpredictable in the long run. Root might be the villain but like all of us, she wants to see what happens next.
- LOST nod: Leon Tao telling Reese “I gotta get LOST”. Of course, Ken Leung played Miles Straume in the ABC mystery serial.
9/10 Seriable Stars