And it's not a relationship between two people. It's the tortured, father-child dynamic between Harold Finch and the Machine, the artificial intelligence he created. Last night's episode, "Karma," served up a great reminder that the Machine loves its "father," even when he goes way off track.
Most of "Karma" felt like a very season one episode — and just like a lot of Person of Interest season one, the interesting part was the flashbacks. In the main story, our gang follows a therapist who treats the victims of violent crimes. But Dr. Edwards also has a sideline in punishing people who got away with violence, by framing them for crimes they didn't actually commit. Except this time around, he's setting out to frame Morris, the guy who just got out of prison for murdering his wife — by framing the guy for the shrink's own murder. (I kind of saw that coming a billion miles away.) And the alleged murderer may actually be innocent. In a subplot, Reese spends time with his own therapist, and fails to process any of his actual grief.
But the handful of flashbacks in the episode are absolutely stunning. We flash back to 2010, in the immediate aftermath of the the bomb that killed Harold Finch's friend and partner, Nathan Ingram. Finch is still wheelchair-bound, and he's obsessed with getting revenge on Alicia Corwin, the government operative who worked with Ingram on Northern Lights — assuming that she was behind his murder.
And the Machine, which is already fully ensconced at the government, tries to warn Harold not to make a terrible mistake. Even though Harold programmed it not to place his safety above other people's (as we saw back in the start of season 2) it still tries to protect him from his own decisions.
Person of Interest is always a curious blend of subtle and unsubtle — a lot of the stuff about the Machine and its way of perceiving the world is handled with a very light touch, but a lot of the epxosition of the "number of the week" storylines is delivered with a sledgehammer. Which is probably as it should be.
In any case, there's something strangely moving and intense about the Machine's desperate attempts to communicate with the creator who doesn't want to hear from it. The Machine sends Harold his own Social Security Number and picture, signifying that by plotting to kill Alicia, he's become an "irrelevant" number. And later, when Harold actually moves to put his plan into action, we see the box around his face change color. The box turns red, making him into a suspect, and this actually sent a chill down my spine.
And then there's the clip above, where the Machine keeps calling Harold's cellphone and the nearest payphone... but it can't say anything to him. As Harold says, he hasn't given the Machine a voice and thus it has nothing to say.
Especially now, after the Machine has tried to get Harold to murder a U.S. Congressman, it's sort of fascinating to see when the Machine was still trying to uphold the law no matter what. And it's possible that the Machine knows that Alicia had nothing to do with Nathan's death — as she insists to Harold when he nearly kills her with his death trap. In the end, either Harold hears the Machine's constant ringing on the payphone, trying to communicate, or he believes Alicia's protestations. Because he does let her live.
And the kicker to the episode also shows us an interesting glimpse of the Machine's psyche — because Harold says that they'll never know if the accused murderer was guilty. But the Machine knows, and that knowledge will remain with it. And then we see the Machine showing apparent curiosity, going back to 2007 to review its files, and find out just who did kill the psychiatrist's wife.