This season of Person of Interest has gently pushed the theme of adaptation — the best episode of the season was the one at the Stock Exchange, where the Machine has to keep running simulations, and we’ve seen the Machine change its behavior in response to no-win situations. Last night, this theme came to a head.

Spoiler warning...

So basically, in “YHWH,” the Machine was backed into a corner by Samaritan, thanks to Root and Finch walking into a trap last week. The Machine reveals its location to Samaritan, allowing Samaritan to kill it. And it turns out the Machine has hidden itself in plain sight: in the electrical grid, where there’s plenty of spare capacity in the copper wiring to carry the Machine’s signals, along special switchboxes the Machine has installed. Clever!

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But now Samaritan is causing brown-outs and power surges, basically killing off pieces of the Machine across the country, backing it into the Eastern United States and finally just New York. The Machine comes up with a last-ditch attempt to save itself, by using the compression algorithm created by Caleb (Mr. Finch’s former pupil from “2PiR”) to compress its main heuristics down to a bunch of RAM chips in an impregnable suitcase. The Machine has been working on this plan for a while, since Root infiltrated Caleb’s team back in February’s episode “Blunt” and she obtained the suitcase ages ago as well.

The episode’s title, “YHWH,” seems to imply that one machine or the other is becoming God, and that would have to be Samaritan — Samaritan is now at a point where it’s able to decide with some precision who lives or who dies. Samaritan’s big attack, the “Correction,” turns out to be a surgical elimination of a few hundred random elements who cause most of the trouble in the world.

Including Control, who thinks the Correction is another “false flag” terror attack until the very last minute, and gets locked up for trying to stop it instead of getting on board the Samaritan train. (Because this was a test, and Samaritan wanted her to find out about the Correction.)

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So if Samaritan is becoming a god, the Machine is becoming something much less — just a tiny wisp of its former self. The shift is especially sad, since “YHWH” sees the Machine finally start exerting its full power, too late to make a difference. Early on in the episode, Root tells the Machine that if it wants her to save it, it has to start putting some skin in the game — and it responds by controlling an elevator and then some traffic lights.

Soon enough, we discover that Root has been in “God Mode” for hours, meaning that the Machine is giving her full-on access to everything it knows about everything, allowing her to move without any costly mistakes. Not only that, but it contacts Reese (still a prisoner of Dominic) and tells him exactly how to disable Dominic’s men and escape — and then Reese, too, has the Machine in God Mode for the first time ever. Reese becomes a fighting machine on a level we’ve never seen before, as shown in the above clip.

As for Dominic and his rival Elias, they spend the whole episode playing out their feud, first with Dominic having the upper hand and then with the two of them in custody. And finally, Elias’ men rescue him, leading to a final confrontation at gunpoint — but neither Dominic nor Elias gets to survive this one. Samaritan takes them both out, because they’re both deemed random elements who cause trouble. It’s sort of sadly ironic that Dominic glimpsed the wider pattern and could tell someone was pulling the strings, but never got further than blaming Mr. Finch, or wanting Mr. Finch to come work for him.

So the episode ends with Samaritan having apparently won, and the Machine being reduced to a genie in a bottle. But the theme of evolution seems significant here — the Machine has been forced, all season, to adapt to terrible situations. Meanwhile, Samaritan has been ascendant, with virtually no credible challenges to its rule. Now, the Machine is going into hibernation, which is an adaptive move in response to harsh conditions.

When the Machine emerges from its crysalis, it may actually be stronger. Again, we’ve seen the Machine running endless simulations to cope with impossible scenarios, which means that it’s having to improvise and come up with new heuristics. So maybe the ultimate theme of the Machine’s confrontation with Samaritan involves victory through evolution, rather than a clash between two gods.


Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.