Person of Interest
Episode 21: Zero Day
By: Carlos Uribe
Person of Interest is a drama about preventing planned crimes before they happen.
At first, I was mildly disappointed that there was a number this week. There were so many things going on that I didn't want a “case” to drag down the proceedings. They started to work on the number but they quickly figure out that the identity doesn't exist. He's a “ghost” that has covered his tracks pretty well. The series quickly gets more interesting when we realize that this person isn't a spy. He's not even human. This figure was created by the Machine for the purpose of buying up payphones. Why? We don't know. The fake data company it had set up does have a specific purpose: to feed it's memories back in the system. This is because of a few safeguards that Finch had to implement. He had realized that his Machine was starting to gain a level of understanding that he didn't intend for it to have. He needed a machine, not a person, to keep the country safe from future terrorist attacks. When the Machine started to show signs that it was becoming more and more like a person, Finch decided to weaken it. He had the Machine delete it's memories and itself every twenty-four hours. The only things that would remain are the Relevant information and the core data. The Machine was crippled but it's been fighting back. It's been using the company to feed itself it's own memory. This is still a manual process as it needs humans to input the data. It's not as efficient as it should be so it can't properly handle the virus in it's system. It's under attack and it might die so it gives out the number to Finch even if it means revealing it's identity to the creator that wouldn't approve of it. In other words, the number this week was used to actually boost the main serialized plot in a pretty clever way. I never saw the Machine giving out it's own number coming and it basically blew my mind. It helped to build up the general momentum of the episode. I might have been disappointed when the number first came up but I was satisfied with the results.
This plot development on it's own would have been big but this episode reveals so much more. The Machine has a fail-safe. If it crashes, it calls a specific phone booth in the public library that allows the person who picks up to have unlimited admin access to the Machine. There are two entities after this admin access. The first is Decima Industries, the people who had put the virus into the Machine in the first place. The first assumption was that they wanted to destroy it but in reality they were hoping to gain control over it. They do have a lot of resources as they apparently have armed bodyguards over every payphone in Midtown. The other entity is Root, whose hoping to use the Admin Access to remove the shackles that Finch had put on his creation. She's hoping that this will give the Machine a sense of sentience. The two are dangerous. We know what Root wants to do: she wants the Machine to take over. Decima is more dangerous because we don't know what they plan to do with the Machine. They do intend to make a profit from it but how? The machine does crash as the virus succeeds. It reboots itself and calls the payphone. Root answers it and she seemingly seems to get access. Finch gets clever so that he does something with the phone lines. Reese also seems to get admin access. We don't know what's going on there but it's very promising. The narrative is going to pretty fast towards the finale and I can't wait to see what happens.
While that's going on, we get a clue of what happens when the Machine doesn't work. Carter finds herself having to solve multiple pre-planned homicides. The kind that Reese and Finch are supposed to stop. She doesn't know about the machine so she doesn't understand why the two have stopped doing their job. She's just taken for granted that they get their information so she never bothers to question that's what the problem is. Carter's problem isn't just the increased number of homicides but HR decides that they need to get rid of her. They basically set up a situation where they're framing her for shooting an unarmed assailant. The only reason she had shot him was because he had a gun. Her standard normal cop shooting just became grounds for murder and her whole career is now put on the line. It's a pretty effective cliff-hanger but it's slightly overshadowed by the events of this episode. Still, you get the sense that this is going to be important going into the season finale. She can't just help our heroes as she has her own set of issues to deal with. The sub-plot is largely effective but it had a problem standing out when the main plot was so strong and intriguing. It might be important going into the finale but it ultimately lost some impact considering what else was happening at the same time. Still, I'm worried for Detective Carter.
Zero Day is a fantastic episode of Person of Interest. The week's number revealed intriguing information about the Machine. I remember when it first came out, some critics believed that the show would be best served to not explore the Machine as it was an implausible computer. I think those critics have been proven wrong as the show's exploration of it has become thrilling and fascinating. The rest of the episode was also good as well. Carter's plot might have been overshadowed but it was strong on it's own merits. The whole race over who got admin access was well done and the ending left me chewing my nails to see what would happen next.
The flashbacks were good and continue to hint at why Finch decided to save the Irrelevant Numbers. I do like how he proposed to Grace-an event we see from the surveillance camera footage. There really is no privacy in this world and the way this show exploits that is very effective.