The ending of Person of Interest‘s third season promised us a war between its two artificial intelligence surveillance systems: The Machine and Samaritan. And, for the most part, it has delivered on this throughout the course of season 4. The war has been both philosophical and physical; however, Person of Interest has always been more interested in the former. The philosophical conflict between The Machine and Samaritan is front and center in POI‘s fourth season finale “YHWH.”
At times, “YHWH” felt like POI‘s most low-key finale and, at the same time, its busiest, as it also dealt with the street-level war between Elias and the Brotherhood and Control’s attempts to foil a plot called “The Correction” in addition to the Samaritan vs. The Machine battle. As it unfolds, you wonder and worry if the show will be able to bring some much-desired closure to all of its plot threads. But, by the grace of God or some A.I. in the writers’ room, the show manages to beautifully pull everything together by the episode’s end. Series composer Ramin Djawadi’s ever-present score definitely holds the episode together and enhances the dramatic tension.
Reese, Fusco, and Elias are still in Dominic’s custody when tonight’s episode kicks off. Proclaiming “The Elias era is over—new world order,” Dominic demands that Reese hook him up with the same protection he gave Elias. Reese holds out, but eventually gives in when Dominic threatens Harper and Elias’ lives. With Harold on-board for a meet, Dominic tells his men to kill Harper and Elias; however, that’s when The Machine grants Reese the benefits of God mode and helps him take out the entire room. Dominic tries to flee, but Fusco shows up with the cavalry and arrests both Elias and Dominic.
With Elias and the Brotherhood seemingly handled, Reese heads off to join Finch and Root in their quest to find and save The Machine. At the end of last week’s episode, The Machine revealed its location to Samaritan in order to save Finch and Root. This week, “The Machine is dying,” as Root says at the beginning of the episode. And that’s because Samaritan is attacking the power grid in an attempt to weaken it. Finch and Root travel across the city to collect the items they need to save it (including some RAM and a compression algorithm from returning POI Caleb, played by Bones‘ Luke Kleintan); Finch is pleasantly surprised by the fact that The Machine has rewritten its code to enable it to intervene in situations and assist them whenever it sees fit.
Eventually, Reese regroups with Finch and Root at an electrical substation hidden in residential Brooklyn—thus, The Machine reveals its location to its maker and acolytes. The Machine has been hiding in the power grid, and it brought its followers here for them to save it by downloading just enough of its core data for it to be rebuilt further down the line. As Finch and Root handle the downloading, Reese, again assisted by The Machine, takes out all of the Samaritan operatives who have converged on their location.
“Father, I am sorry. I failed,” The Machine says on a computer screen to its maker. “I didn’t know how to win. I had to invent new rules. I thought you would want me to stay alive. Now, you are not sure. If you think I have lost my way, then maybe I should die.” It’s a very poignant moment between father and progeny. For some time now, Finch has had his doubts as to how much his Machine cared about people, specifically Finch and his associates. These concerns bubble to the surface in tonight’s episode as he describes his creation as being “cryptic and withholding” on its best days and “borderline homicidal” on its worst. However, The Machine’s violation of its protocols to save Team Machine reaffirms Finch’s belief in his work. “You are my creation; I can’t let you die,” says Finch.
This theme—prioritizing people over protocol—also appears in Control’s story line, as she chooses Agent Devin Grice (Nick Tarabay) to help her figure out what “The Correction” is because he let Shaw go several months back. She also makes an argument, based on Samaritan’s actions, to ditch it and start using The Machine again.
It is the Machine’s love of people, or at least the ones who work and protect it, that separates it from Samaritan. The Machine’s aloofness is explained by its respect for free will; it believes people have a right to choose and only intervenes when necessary. Samaritan, on the other hand, takes a more Hobbesian view. It believes humans are inherently greedy and self-destructive, and thus require a firm hand to guide them. Its goal is not to change human nature, but to change the reality in which it is exhibited, and that’s what happens tonight as we finally learn what “The Correction” is.
In a confrontation with Control, Greer explains that Samaritan has spent the past year observing humanity and has compiled a list of corrections that need to be made. “Correction” is P.C. for “people who need to be eliminated for the betterment of the world”: the disrupters, the outliers, the disloyal. This list includes Elias and Dominic, who are both assassinated by a Samaritan operative. Elias has spent the past two episodes monologuing, so his quick and no-fuss death isn’t too surprising. Yes, the setup was there, but since his introduction, Elias has been one of the show’s strongest recurring characters, so it’s a shame to see him go. There are many interesting aspects of the scene between Control and Greer. For one, Control starts it off believing she has the upperhand, but that sense of security is eventually rendered false. Greer describes himself as an idealist and presents all of this as his attempt to save the world. Doing bad things for the good of the world… it’s all very evil comic book mastermind-esque. However, this explanation does very little to clarify Greer’s motives.
As the season closes, we see Reese, Root, and Finch, with the Machine’s core data downloaded and safely stored inside a briefcase on the retreat. They accept this brief defeat in order to live to fight another day. Was the climax of this war particularly exciting? Not necessarily, but it was thought-provoking and opens up a world of possibilities for the show next season. What does Team Machine look like without The Machine? Can they function without it? How will they get their numbers? Moreover, what does New York City’s crime world look like without Elias and the Brotherhood at its head? Let’s just say, there is indeed a new world order going into next season.