Mark Watches ‘Person of Interest’: S02E01 – The Contingency

In the first episode of the second season of Person of Interest, I had no idea what I was getting into. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.

Trigger Warning: For Nazis/Nazism, nonconsensual drugging

The way that this premiere expands the world of Person of Interest is astounding to me. It’s so casual. Y’all, THIS IS PROBABLY NOT THE SHOW I THOUGHT I WAS WATCHING, GOOD GOD.

The Contingency

I was deeply satisfied with all three stories that intertwine in “The Contingency,” and if this is the taste I’m getting of season two, I’m ecstatic about what I’m gonna get. Numerous longstanding hints and clues and stories are given answers here, and – again – THIS IS JUST THE FIRST EPISODE OF THE SEASON. We learn what Finch’s contingency plan in case he’s incapacitated, and it turns out that Reese is that contingency. Finch didn’t want the Machine’s discarded numbers to go to waste, so he trusted it and the means by which the Machine communicates to his partner. And lord, there’s so much emotion imbued in these acts, as well as Reese’s desperation to get Finch back. It’s not even subtle, y’all. Reese is very outright about his desire to locate his friend, and it’s BEAUTIFUL. Look how far these characters have come in just one season!

“The Contingency” also does a fine job demonstrating how strange it is that Finch isn’t around. Reese is incredible here, but it’s still weird that Finch isn’t giving him guidance throughout the case. Plus, Reese is left to decode the message that the Machine gives him, which is also THE SECRET TO HOW FINCH GETS THE NUMBERS. NOW WE KNOW. It’s a bit tragic, of course, because Reese assumed that the Machine would give him a clue as to Finch’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, he’s just to continue rescuing people. And in this case? Reese has to rescue Leon Tao, who stole EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS from a bunch of white supremacists after learning who his employers were. My god, y’all, this episode isn’t even remotely sympathetic to the Nazis, and in this political climate, it was a welcome synchronicity. Leon is never criticized for bankrupting a bunch of white supremacists. Many of them have the shit kicked out of them. And then Carter nails one of them in the back with… whatever kind of weapon that is. POETIC. BEAUTIFUL. MAKE NAZI LIVES UNBEARABLE, Y’ALL.

If I have any criticism, it’s that we never really get a sense for who Leon is, and I doubt we’re going to see him again. I would have loved to know more about how he came to work for a secret Nazi company!


I don’t even think Amy Acker got this terrifying as Illyria on Angel. Y’all, she is SO FRIGHTENING. The show draws parallels between her and Finch, and maybe even a little bit of Reese, given that both of them have rationalized murder more than a few times. Yet she’s still so wholly unlike anyone we’ve ever seen on the show. She seems to exist outside of humanity, which is likely why she feels some sort of kinship with Finch. How she ended up this way is a mystery, but she has long gotten exactly what she wanted, and damn the consequences.

Well, up until Finch stopped her in the middle of the last season. That act set her in motion, and it’s easy to see why she became obsessed with the person who was, for what was probably the first time in her life, steps ahead of her. And from there, she somehow found out about the machine. I’m guessing that’s because of Alicia; just how long was Root following her?

Yet as this episode progressed, I couldn’t figure out Root’s endgame. Surely she wasn’t interested in the Machine for material reasons. I feel like Root has everything she wants, and I’m also guessing that she enjoys the challenge. Wouldn’t the Machine make her job too easy? It’s so simple to utilize the information within it to pick targets or neutralize threats. My problem, though, was that I was thinking way too small. Understandable, though, because despite the twist at the end of season one, I really didn’t understand what the Machine was capable of. I felt like Root was the first person who didn’t either directly work on the Machine or currently control it who GOT it. There’s a philosophical angle here that surprised me. Listening to Root speak about the Machine sounds like someone reciting scripture. The “perfection” of the Machine is something Root adores. Why?

Because it’s alive.

Test Run

I tried to theorize what it meant that Reese appeared to be able to speak directly to the Machine at the end of season one. It seemed to suggest sentience on the part of the Machine, BUT I HAD NO IDEA. The best part of this premiere is the way in which the writers reveal that we’ve never truly understood the Machine. In the days after Finch first woke it up, he had to program it to respond to information and stimuli in very simplistic ways. Could it recognize his face? Could it find him in a crowd? In a private business? Could it adapt to get what it needed?

But there were two major developments here, one for both the Machine and Finch. The scene in Atlantic City was another test, yes, but not just for the Machine. It was able to use card counting and probability to help Finch amass a fortune in relatively little time, but Finch deliberately lost it all. It’s a key moment because it shows that even within the first couple years of the Machine’s existence, Finch was aware of the power this program could grant a person who misused it. And if he was able to resist the pull of the Machine in the beginning, then it makes a lot of sense that he’s so ethical about it in the present.

Yeah, guess who else is ethical? THE MACHINE. It saves Finch from being run over by a car, which is when Finch imparts an important lesson: the Machine is not to save Finch. It has to try to protect EVERYONE, or it will be flawed. Imperfect. This HAS to explain why it spit out Caroline Turing’s number and didn’t warn Finch. Sure, Root probably tricked it in some way, but even as events changed rapidly, it still directed Reese to Leon, not Root.


The video for “The Contingency” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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