Person of Interest Review by Edmund B.

Person of Interest 3.21: Beta

Person of Interest 3.21: Beta

Written By:
Sean Hennen and Dan Dietz
Directed By:
Frederick E. O. Toye

The mid-season HR trilogy was notable for many things, but one of them was being a rare instance when all three parts told a complete story in their own right. "Beta," which kicks off the season-ending arc, is a much more traditional opening act. But that is appropriate to the dire situation Team Machine now faces. Against HR, they were still intact, at first, while under attack. Now, they are in disarray, wounded, beseiged, and, in the case of Finch, even AWOL. This is an ongoing battle that doesn't lend itself to intermediate resolutions. It will only get worse before it finally, we hope, gets better.


The trial run Senator Garrison grants Samaritan is the opening skirmish in the long-gestating AI War. But Greer's ulterior motive provides the real beta test: identifying the still faceless Harold Finch. As skilled and assiduous as Harold has been in maintaining his anonymity, Samaritan's inability to find anything on him does beg the question whether the Machine has been independently scrubbing the digital record on his behalf. But, apparently, keeping a string of avian aliases under wraps is easier than hiding away a openly-lived, public life. Samaritan does find Harold's Achille's heel: Grace.


The threat to a loved one is a ploy that can easily degrade to cliche, but not on Person of Interest. Just as when HR used Fusco's son, taking Grace becomes a test of character and resolve. It also allows two players who have dwelled in the fringes and shadows of the story to come to the fore, and Carrie Preston and John Nolan both shine in he spotlight. On its face, book illustrator Grace going toe-to-toe with insidious puppetmaster Greer would seem a mismatch. But Grace's fierce loyalty to her fiance is more than a match for Greer's probing insinuations.


Greer never plays the trump card of Harold's faked death to shake her resolve, an early tell of his longer game. Grace's blindfold at the bridge exchange confirms Greer is respecting Harold's wishes. There have various appeals to loyalty in the run-up to these final episodes. The solo meeting of Harold and Greer that ends this chapter promises to be the most significant challenge of allegiances yet.


Before Finch's reappearance and capitulation, the rest of the team provided Person of Interest's usual blend of action mixed with humor in their interactions. Numbers are still coming in, with Shaw now favoring nonchalance over knee-capping. Reese insists on following protocol, which means picking up the pay phone that leads them to Grace.  Once they got Grace into Fusco's protective custody, thanks to Root acting as the Machine's mobile early warning system, it seemed possible we were in for an extended Assault on Precinct Machine. But the writers had other, better places to go.


The cast and crew, here under director Frederick Toye, have become expert at the derring-do, but it's the clash of wills and ideologies that distinguish this show. Decima manipulating Congress (to secure the nation), Grace facing down Greer (to honor Harold), Harold turning himself in (to protect Grace), and finally the Machine battling Samaritan (to determine how the data that now constitutes our lives is used or abused); those are the conflicts that resonate. The best science fiction is rooted in exploring how technology interacts with our humanity. With the lines now drawn, I look forward to seeing this latest version of that tale play out.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The stakes continue to rise
  • Good use of the "loved one in peril" trope
  • Jon Snow is showing some personality for once!
The Bad:
  • Pursuing numbers at a time like this seems a little odd

Edmund B. is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @EMSBoys.

Person of Interest by - 5/5/2014 5:22 AM344 views

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