Feb 8, 2017

[TV] Person of Interest: Season 4

The end of the third season of Person of Interest setup a rather grim new status quo - one in which the Machine is no longer the US government's AI of choice. Our core team has been forced into hiding and it seems things are going to be pretty dark for the world soon enough.

But our new big bad AI, Samaritan, isn't all that easy to distinguish from the original Machine right off the bat. The Machine and its assets have their missions while Samaritan and the related government assets also have their missions. So in the long run it shouldn't really matter, right?

But of course it's the human factor that ironically makes Samaritan more sinister and Samaritan's associates do make us rather mad at times. And that sort of defines the direction for this season - an even more complex degree of confusing plots and secret plans with the team needing to rely on the Machine more and more and more.

Fun times.

Synopsis: Person of Interest is an American science fiction drama series created by Jonathan Nolan. This season does represent quite an interesting turning point in the whole series.

The Machine is now in a silent war with Samaritan with their respective assets doing their best to carry out their respective orders. But as much as Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) has his own resources to bring to bear, it's nothing compared to the full government support that the rival AI Samaritan gets. What more that our heroes are now hiding in plain sight with new cover identities created by the Machine.

But more and more Samaritan appears to be taking more extreme measures to keep the peace as a way to try and draw out the Machine into the open. As far as villains go, Samaritan is pretty aggressive and in time decides to take a more direct approach with trying to deal with the continued efforts of the Machine. It gets kind of scary at that point.

What I Liked: Beyond the brilliant new status quo with the team now in hiding, a lot of characters had interesting arcs or at least some great writing driving them. And while I do feel bad about the death of Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) in the last season, as an alternative we have Root (Amy Acker) with constantly changing identities along with Shaw (Sarah Shahi) making for a quirky, emotionally despondent love interest.

But the main feature is the fact that we have two massive AIs at war and I think the writers did a brilliant job of working with this premise and exploring some interesting possibilities. We're all used to the old cliche of evil AIs rising to takeover humanity. But now we have one AI who adheres to its program to save lives with another willing to be more Machiavellian in terms of executing the same goal. And that makes for some really interesting stories.

What Could Have Been Better: The season still falls back into the odd trap of addressing the Numbers in a more episodic format. You'd think that being forced into hiding with new cover identities would make them shift their priorities with finding a way to take down Samaritan but they don't. And while some Numbers are essential to the overall meta-plot, it still feels like an odd decision to not include some sort of mention or link to justify their actions.

I guess they're lucky to some extent since some of Samaritan's big plans aren't all that amazing either and there are a lot of early moments that feel like a weird AI stare-down. That may have been the goal but I don't necessarily thing it was a good way to push this penultimate season forward.

TL;DR: Person of Interest still falls into old pitfalls in this fourth season but the overall premise with the addition of Samaritan does help things along greatly. I really enjoyed how this new AI cold war goes on and how it eventually escalates. Thus the show gets a respectable 4 probes between the Machine and Samaritan out of a possible 5.

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