Last night on Person of Interest, we witnessed the first showdown between the Machine and its potentially evil rival, Samaritan. And then something unexpected happened. The episode was all about humanity.
The Machine Gang split up in the last episode, trying to stay under Samaritan's radar while evil Decima Corp head Greer tries to track down Finch. And in this episode, helped by a snacky but expendable assistant, Greer is on the hunt. Senator Garrison has agreed to let Decima have access to New York's security feeds for a day as a "beta test" of Samaritan's power.
(As an aside: How awesome was that brief scene where Shaw was the most brutally cool superhero ever, telling that guy to trade his gun for diapers and take care of his kids? Can I watch that spinoff please?)
When Samaritan turns up nothing on the elusive Finch, Expendable McSnacky suggests that they ask Samaritan to find the person "closest" to Finch. He also wonders whether they should put Samaritan's higher reasoning functions online too, but Greer tells him they just don't have the hardware to do that. Baby steps first.
So both AIs are seeing New York through the same eyes — "two gods playing with the same deck," as Root puts it — and trying to work at cross-purposes. There's a lot of fun cat-and-mouse stuff as the Machine Gang and Decima chase each other around in the dark pools of New York's surveillance-free zones. In one of these zones, Root and the Machine discover Samaritan's future brain, all nicely packed up in giant palettes of servers that have been fitted out with those super-powerful chips that Greer stole from the intelligence community in a previous episode.
Meanwhile, Samaritan proves itself pretty damn capable even without higher reasoning functions. It tracks down Grace, Finch's former fiancee, an illustrator who believes that Finch died years ago in a terrorist attack on the New York ferry. Once Greer's henchmen have nabbed her, he tries interrogating her — only to discover that Finch has done an even better job than Greer thought hiding his true identity. Grace genuinely knows nothing about Finch, and even screams at Greer that "Harold Martin" would never have lied to her.
That's not going to backfire. Nope. Grace is going to be the weak link here, as she realizes the one person she ever truly trusted was lying to her about everything.
Despite Shaw and Reese's best efforts, they aren't able to track down Grace. They do capture Expendable McSnacky, who promptly shoots himself with Reese's gun as Greer watches impassively via Skype. With Grace still in Greer's hands, Finch decides he has no choice but to give himself up to Decima — in exchange for Grace's freedom.
The handoff scene feels like it wanted to have more emotional weight than it does. There's a great bit where Finch admits that "this day was always looking for me," when somebody would find a vulnerability in all that privacy he'd wrapped around himself and force him into the light. But then, when a blindfolded Grace stumbles into Finch's arms, without realizing that it's her dead fiance — I feel like we just don't know Grace well enough to feel the pang of that sadness.
Still, the episode ended on a seriously suspenseful note, with Greer talking to his prisoner Finch. They are about to play a little strategy game with each other's minds that's going to be fucking awesome. And Samaritan is going to have a hard time keeping up with the Machine if it comes to that. Root stole a big piece of Samaritan's brain while we were busy watching the Finch/Grace handoff.
If this week was an attempt to up the emotional stakes on the AI showdown that's about to come, then I think it worked pretty well. We know that ultimately this is personal for Greer. He claims that he just wants money and power, but he also wants to show his mastery over Finch, his greatest adversary. And that, I predict, will turn out to be the vulnerability that brings Greer down in the end.
The true menace in this show has always been Greer and the corrupt political world of Washington. No AI could ever match their sophisticated, cynical form of evil.