Mark Watches ‘Person of Interest’: S04E10 – The Cold War

In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Person of Interest, hELp. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest

Trigger Warning: For talk of extrajudicial executions.

Could this show please just take a nap for a bit and let me rest, I WAS SO FUCKED UP BY THIS EPISODE.

Loyalty

Let’s start with an acknowledgement: I don’t think I ever needed Greer to be explained. Yes, it’s true that I tend to like super complicated villains, but in terms of being this season’s antagonist, I find Greer’s motives to be crystal clear and terrifying. They always have been! He’s not interested in creating a more peaceful world; he wants control. He is actively manufacturing a world in which reality itself can be manipulated without anyone being the wiser. And it’s not like we haven’t seen just how messed up and invasive Samaritan can be, but y’all. Y’all. This is… terrifying? Is that even the right word at this point?

I’ll touch on that more in a bit, as I’d rather talk about Greer’s flashbacks. Unsurprisingly, the man used to work for a government organization—MI6, in this case—in a role that is rather familiar at this point, right? Shaw, John, and Kara Stanton all were operatives tasked with taking out people who posed a threat to national security. And from what I can tell, Greer loved being a part of MI6. Like everyone else we’ve seen on this show who once worked a job like this, he was also betrayed by people he trusted. Yet he takes a wildly different path than the other characters. His revenge is far more immediate, first of all, unlike the others. His boss, Blackwood, is dead within days of Greer’s discovery that he was a double agent. But Greer is a man obsessed with loyalty. It’s why he was close to his partner, why he believed in being loyal to his country, why this final mission of his hit him so hard. Greer went from a dutiful MI6 agent to a man determined to do away with the flawed lines that separate countries and nations. But not for any moral reason, of course. This was always about control. Greer’s view of humanity, forged during his time as a state assassin, is darkly cynical, and it’s why Samaritan appeals to him so much. He believes in the worst of humans, and Samaritan provides a framework to manipulate those humans into his vision of order.

Samaritan

Yet New York City’s “perfect” day—which Samaritan manipulated—is anything but perfect. Even if crime was practically nonexistent, even if the city appeared to run perfectly, this was still evil. First of all, the manipulation alone is horrifying. Any examination of Samaritan’s influence feels like begging the question, since that “perfect” day wouldn’t have happened without Samaritan intervening in thousands upon thousands of different ways. So how can it be used as justification for itself? Even then, if someone argues that the “perfect” day was worth it, they’re still leaving out a major flaw: Samaritan executes its targets. It views everything through the cold logic of its programming, and it simply wipes people out who it determines aren’t worthy of life. Never mind if the victims would have preferred to confront their perpetrators, and never mind that none of these people were convicted in court. (Which isn’t me saying that the judicial system in New York City is without flaws, of course.) Samaritan devises creative means to execute these people so that it doesn’t look like they were executed. Where does that end? Exactly how far will Samaritan go? Will it start devaluing entire groups of people and eliminating them, too?

Then there’s the day of chaos, wherein Samaritan exposes the secrets of New Yorkers to each other and to the world at large. It’s emotional manipulation, plain and simple, and it’s one of the most evil things we’ve ever seen on this show. I cannot get over the fact that Samaritan helped someone expose the identities of people in Witness Protection. SEVEN OF THOSE PEOPLE DIED BECAUSE OF SAMARITAN. And this is just the beginning! How many other ways will Samaritan turn against humanity with some sort of terrifying judgment? I mean, the end of the episode is another example of that. It deliberately crashed the stock market. Lives will be ruined. Lives will end. And it’s all just a game of numbers and control for Samaritan and its human agents.

100% evil. I am so disturbed by this.

Meeting of Minds

But the best—and most electrifying—sequence in this entire episode is the meeting between The Machine and Samaritan, carried out by their human analog components. Their voices, if you will. The decision to put Samaritan into a child is going to haunt me forever, and bless this show for making such a bold and bizarre move. I spent their entire conversation practically unable to comprehend what it was I was experiencing. The two AIs were talking to one another, y’all, and IT WAS ALL SO SCARY. I certainly never expected them to confront one another, first of all, but I also hung on to every word because I had no idea what was about to transpire.

It’s clear that Samaritan is an intelligence obsessed with themselves, arrogant and certain and sure. Samaritan is very much like Greer, taken to extremes, able to enact their philosophy on a grand scale with New York as their laboratory. It is able to see patterns and exploit them in order to bring about order. But at what cost? See, Samaritan doesn’t have the capacity to truly ask that question. The Machine’s moral code does allow it to consider the human cost of its actions. That’s the core of this struggle: is humanity worth it? Is a single life worth the cost of order? Is it moral to keep a population in fear, to worship an AI who will manipulate reality in an instant to keep those people afraid?

I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SHOW IS ASKING THESE QUESTIONS. It’s so good!

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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