The Oncoming Battle of the AIs

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Samaritan starts to play the game

Person of Interest is really good at escalating case of the week episodes into serialized stories. I suppose it would have to be if it’s on CBS. “Nautilus” is a good example of this, as it starts out with a pretty straightforward plot — the Machine has a number for the team, and Reese thinks this one might be a good one for Finch to take, since he might just connect with the number1. Finch has been resisting taking up the task, although only in a half hearted manner, since he’s been creating a nice little Batcave for the team in his spare time.

It turns out our number of the week, whose name I’ve already forgotten but I’m sure she’ll be back soon, has been playing a game, a puzzle hunt, set up by some unknown entity. While playing this game, our number acquires some secret damning data about a private military corporation that would sink the company if revealed. She doesn’t care, she’s just playing the game, but they’d really like her dead, and so Finch and Reese get in on the business of once again saving people.

Of course, the interesting part is that the game is designed by none other than Samaritan, which appears to have realized the advantage of an analog interface just like the Machine did, and is quickly looking to recruit one on its side2. The number, for her part, is rather willing due to personal issues on her side that leave her looking for meaning. Finch realizes who the game-maker is relatively quickly, and tries to intervene, but our girl is enthralled by the possibility of finding the answer to the puzzles Samaritan is posing, and keeps playing. I think Finch could have tried harder here, but in the end, Samaritan gets its analog interface and the Machine Gang have to accept that there’s a new aspect to the threat they face.

Even in the wake of Samaritan’s increased abilities, the team (Finch included) decided to continue to do their work with the numbers. The episode stresses a lot about how we choose to find meaning and purpose in our lives, and it’s an increasingly valid question to pose in a world where so much is out of our control, and algorithms and machines dictate so much of our lives. To some extent, it’s easy to become a servant to these machines, as our number, Root and Greer have become. Reese, Finch and Shaw plan on finding purpose beyond that, and it’ll be fun to see the team back properly next week.

Something rather interesting questions this week — why did the Machine bring up this number? To some extent, the world is better off if Samaritan doesn’t get a human assistant. Maybe the Machine intended to label her a perpetrator and the team misinterpreted? And what does Samaritan need another analog interface for, when Greer appears to be a willing slave to it? I wonder if we won’t find out soon enough that Greer will regret turning on Samaritan. Will that ever happen to Finch and the Machine?

  1. Possible problem with this plan, what if the number was the perpetrator here? Oh wait, that only happens on this show if it’s a season premiere. 

  2. And thus, we graduate from procedural to serial. If you ever want to watch Person of Interest only for the overarching story, you have to watch a surprisingly high number of important episodes. It’s clever show running.