Review: ‘Person of Interest’ comes to a close with “return 0”

“Sure. Everyone dies alone. 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.” – The Machine

Person of Interest finished its  5 season, 103 episode run Tuesday night with an action-packed finale that paid tribute to the series’ legacy and brought it to a fitting conclusion. My review of “return 0” is coming right up. Spoilers below here!

Well, it all comes down to this. Even after Finch (Michael Emerson) released the Ice-9 virus in an attempt to destroy Samaritan, the evil AI has one last trick up its sleeve. It plans to upload itself to a satellite where it can safely wait out the damage Ice-9 will inflict on the world’s networks and return once the virus is eliminated along with The Machine. With this knowledge in hand, Finch, Reese (Jim Caviezel), Shaw (Sarah Shahi), and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) set out to destroy the remaining copies of Samaritan and free the world from its grip.

The battle between Samaritan and The Machine was always one that was fought in the shadows and that certainly does not change here. I expected this final season to climax with the team racing to stop Samaritan from unleashing some grand, world-ending event but that wasn’t the case. I now see that my expectations were misguided. It makes total sense that Samaritan’s endgame wouldn’t be some grand event of human extinction but simply an absolute control over the world. Person of Interest has always been about what goes on just outside of what we can see and of course, its final season would continue that.

Person of Interest uses its final episode to remind viewers of the value of connecting with and loving those around us. This was wonderfully and very touchingly espoused by The Machine who had adopted the persona of Root (Amy Acker). Finch created The Machine to save the lives of others but first, it had to learn the value of life. That discussion forms the backbone of “return 0” as Finch seeks to learn what, if anything his creation learned during its existence. It was truly great to see firsthand just what made The Machine different from Samaritan.

I had long assumed that the series would end with Finch sacrificing his life to put a stop to Samaritan and the promos had not done much to convince me otherwise (which was clearly the point). But in the end it was Reese would sacrifice himself to end Samaritan. The relationship between Finch and Reese was where the series began and it was fitting that the series finale would focus on that relationship. Finch gave Reese a purpose and now it was time for Reese to pay him back in full. These men had been through so much together and their final moments were a wonderful cap on their 5-year journey.

All this and I still haven’t talked about Shaw or Fusco. Well, Lionel gets his moment to thank Reese for giving him a chance to become a better man. As we saw in “.exe” meeting Reese and Finch allowed Lionel to see the value of helping others. Fusco was always good for a one-liner and I’ll sure miss that about him.

Meanwhile, after all was said and done, Shaw got the chance to get revenge on Root’s killer. While her time on Team Machine taught her the value of life, Shaw was still fundamentally the same person she was when she met the team. So her act of killing Jeff Blackwell was fitting because while she will always protect the innocent I don’t think this was something she could let go.

One of my favorite moments in the finale is when The Machine (with Root’s voice) finally speaks to Shaw. The look on Shaw’s face is priceless, for a brief second, she thinks it’s actually Root. A particularly touching moment came when The Machine related Root’s final message to Shaw. Again the look on Shaw’s face told us all we needed to know. Root had been closer to Shaw than any other person and it was wonderful to see some closure brought to that relationship.

And so we come to the end. Finch is able to return to Grace (Carrie Preston) and hopefully resume a life away from an evil AI hell-bent on controlling the world and Fusco returns to the NYPD and I imagine he’ll keep on solving murders just like he used to. While Shaw, gets the best ending of them all. After retrieving Bear and saying bye to Fusco it seems Shaw is set to disappear to parts unknown…but then a payphone rings.

It turns out, The Machine had created a backup for itself and it was coming back online to do what Finch had created it to do. The season began with a cryptic voiceover from Root (although it was later revealed to be The Machine speaking with her voice) in which she tells the story of the team’s fight against Samaritan. It is now that we see this recording was meant to teach the new version of The Machine everything its predecessor had learned.

So our last shot is of a smiling Shaw disappearing into the New York crowd as The Machine begins to resume its functions. While not a definitive conclusion I think it works better to end the show like this. We get the knowledge that The Machine is going to continue to save lives with the assistance of people like Shaw. It’s great to imagine this all continuing even though our time following the story has come to an end.

Thank you, Person of Interest, thank you for 5 seasons of thrilling action and emotional storytelling. So rarely do shows like this get to end on their own terms so it was a real treat to watch this final season unfold. I’ll miss watching the team save irrelevant numbers and trying to figure out how to stop Samaritan’s next plan. I’ll miss Shaw and Root’s banter with each other. I’ll miss Reese and Fusco getting themselves out of sticky situations. I’ll miss Finch never compromising what he believes in. I’ll miss this show but what a privilege it was to watch it unfold.

Now. Time to go rewatch the show!

Some stray thoughts:

  • Now I really want to write a retrospective on how the series evolved over its run. The show definitely begins and ends in two very different places.
  • When The Machine places her hand on the dying Reese……ooof that moment got me.
  • There were so many plot lines in this season I wish had been given more time to play out (Shaw’s captivity and reintroduction to the team being one of them) but given the shortened episode order it just couldn’t be helped.
  • Thanks to CBS for renewing the show for 13 more episodes instead of just canceling it outright.

So, did the finale satisfy you? Was there anything that you felt was left out? Let me know in the comments below!

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