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Person of Interest - Season 5 - Advance Preview: “An unconcerned third party”

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As good as Person of Interest was, is, and continues to be, the slew of excellent programming across the many networks during the show's 12 month hiatus meant that rarely did I feel too desperate for its return. Watching the first four episodes of season five, I'm left baffled as to how that could possibly have been the case.

There's a sense of familiarity to the opening bow of POI's final season, which debuts Tuesday May 3rd at 10pm on CBS, yet something oddly new, pressuring and threatening looms over it, like the very dark storm clouds Finch warned of back in the second season. In B.S.O.D., the season premiere, those storm clouds have never been larger or darker, and it continues to be so as the first four episodes play out.

Season five picks up almost immediately after the events of last year’s finale, with Reese, Finch and Root all attempting to escape the clutches of Samaritan’s operatives with the Machine - and themselves - intact. As such, things are more intense than ever before in a season opener.

Person of Interest has always been a show that had an underlying serialised nature to it, despite the concept being masked in the first two seasons by the CBS-like procedural ‘number-of-the-week’ element. The show never deviated from attempting to provide social commentary on the development and risks of artificial intelligences, even in those early days, but since Carter’s death and the subsequent introduction of Samaritan in the third season, that commentary has only become more prominent (and perhaps more relevant, given that during the season two/three hiatus, Edward Snowden happened). Gradually, through flashbacks and present day interactions, the Machine’s learnt values of morality have been established.

Enter Samaritan, defined as an open system to the Machine’s closed nature, an AI built with no regard for right or wrong, controlled by - or, rather, employing to be its human leader - former MI6 agent Greer. Unlike the Machine, which Finch built to see all human life as equal and precious, Samaritan cares not about innocent bystanders, choosing only to pay attention to the larger picture at hand, which often deviates into the AI taking small steps closer to taking over the world. It’s Skynet, just far more subtle.

Which brings us back to the fifth and final season. With the Machine in a suitcase and barely alive, the fight begins for Finch and Root to rebuild it to have any hope of stopping Samaritan. And as you can imagine, that is fraught with issues. Namely, will the Machine that they rebuild be the same as the one that took Finch 43 attempts to ‘perfect’? And, perhaps more importantly, should it be? When I spoke with series star Michael Emerson and executive producer Greg Plageman last August, it was that second question that piqued my curiosity, and it’s a debate heavily explored in the first two episodes of the new season.

Fight fire with fire, as the old saying goes. Here, it’s a conversation about attempting to stop a deviant, unrestricted AI with one of two options: either a crippled AI that, in its previous attempt, was brought to the brink of destruction; or an unchained AI that they would be, as Finch states in the premiere, “foolish to imagine that we had the means to control it." It feels like a choice between the two worst options fathomable, and is portrayed as such.

There’s enough material in that argument to run several seasons, but Person of Interest only has 13 to tell that story and so, as you might imagine, things aren’t extended as long as they could be. That being said, how this dilemma is explored, particularly in the second episode, is utterly terrific. The way in which the story plays out in those first few episodes is scary at times - not in the traditional horror movie type way, but scary in a way that makes you see just how dangerous AIs can be. Even one designed by someone as (with very rare exceptions) opposed to violence as Finch is. We’ve seen Samaritan be “evil,” but what happens when the Machine is haphazardly rebuilt? That forms the crux of these opening episodes and it makes for exhilarating viewing.

Greg Plageman mentioned back at ATX Festival last year that there would be no filler episodes, and that mostly holds up in these first four. The third episode is the least serialised (I'm sure some will pass off most of this one as filler, but the episode is far more incorporating of the Samaritan plot than I had anticipated), using a number-of-the-week but still progressing the ‘war of the machines’ arc. Think Wingman, just with Reese at the forefront instead of The Fusco. Indeed, more information about Reese’s past that surfaces is welcome, if not slightly predictable, and makes for a slight and much-needed temporary breather from the chaos that precedes - and follows - it.

It’s hard to talk too much about the remaining three in much detail without giving away spoilers, but the execution of them is as good, if not better at times, than almost all of the show’s fully serialised run. It’s exciting, fast-paced and intense. But it’s far more than just that. All four episodes are deeply affecting, for different reasons, and, unlike almost every network TV drama, it provokes a level of deep thought that leaves you contemplating events long after the credits roll.

A word about the acting, because there is some ACTING going on here. The entire cast bring it, though as you might expect, Emerson and Acker shine across the four. Their chemistry is excellent throughout, with a couple of notable interactions in the second episode standing out. Sarah Shahi, who is back in the incredible fourth hour (titled 6,741), puts in what is easily the best individual performance, nailing absolutely everything about her character’s position within the show. Business as always from Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman, the latter of whom also seems to be at his best as Fusco’s frustrations grow, rounds off the core group.

The premiere does feel a tad rushed, and there are a few other minor criticisms I have with aspects of individual episodes, which I’ll cover in my weekly (and, more often than not, biweekly, thanks to the way that CBS are airing the show) reviews, but minute issues are very easily ignored when a show is this good. Everything is in place for season five to be the best yet, and while I’m sad that we are approaching the end, this is one hell of a way to go out.

Some general teasers for the opening four:

  • Someone will learn the hard way that sugar is bad for you.
  • Bear’s back, which does, of course, make the episodes better. Still waiting for that Shaw-Bear spinoff show, CBS.
  • Remember the emotion evoked when the Machine ‘talked’ to Finch at the end of last season? Be prepared for some more of that.
  • There are a lot of callbacks to old episodes, which is a nice touch.
  • The internet will likely break on at least one occasion. And many of those occasions will probably happen within the same episode.

How excited are you for the final season? What are you most looking forward to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Person of Interest season five premieres on Tuesday 3rd May at 10pm on CBS.

About the Author - Bradley Adams
17 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email
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