Mark Watches ‘Person of Interest’: S05E11 – Synecdoche

In the eleventh episode of the fifth season of Person of Interest, the team is given their most ridiculous number yet, and I LOVE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest

Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of grief

Somehow, this show’s twisting mythology will end in just two episodes, and yet, with the Samaritan threat more real, more deadly, and more important than ever, the writers decide to stage the most absurd person of interest yet. The best part of it?

It works so fucking well.

This has been a dark season at times, and it’s fueled by the fact that Samaritan, Greer, and Decima have won so frequently. Samaritan is stronger than the Machine; it has more agents; it’s got access to more surveillance feeds (I think???); it is entirely free to do as it pleases and isn’t held back by its programming. There might have been small victories along the way, but at what cost? Elias and Root are both dead, as well as a whole host of innocent people that Samaritan had killed because they got in the way of it. The world has slipped into a nightmare, and most people don’t even know that this is the case. Well, not everyone, as “Synecdoche” proves, but for the most part, this is a battle that has been waged privately, at least since the decimation of Vigilance.

But this episode provides two necessary elements to this show’s longstanding mythology. First, it acknowledges that there are other people in the world who have noticed that the United States’s use of mass surveillance has become monstrous, and even if they aren’t sure of all the details, they know it has become invasive and wrong. I think the plot in “Synecdoche” would have had a stronger impact if the audience had been given hints of this rejection or political movement. It does feel a tad tacked on at the end, but I’m willing to forgive that because of what the episode accomplishes.

Y’all, the person of interest in this episode is THE PRESIDENT. The writers do a clever thing in making this more of a figurehead thing than examining an actual character. We never learn the President’s name; we only catch brief glances of him; he only represents an end goal for the team. It’s a brilliant way to convey distance, first of all. Given that the President is surrounded entirely by the Secret Service, it means that the team can’t actually infiltrate his daily life, which severely limits what they’re able to do.

But it also shifts the focus. The team is tasked with a ridiculous mission in the wake of Root’s death, and thus, it’s a means of touching on how Shaw might or might not grieve for Root. (I mean, she IS grieving, in her own way.) It allows us to experience this wholly through Shaw, Fusco, and John, since there’s no time spent examining the President. He’s almost immaterial to the story, which is sort of the point. How did the President’s number appear in the Machine’s awareness without ISA also being on the case? BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT IS SO IRRELEVANT TO SAMARITAN THAT SAMARITAN WAS WILLING TO LET HIM DIE. Again, it’s another calculation, and I’m certain Samaritan would have found a means to twist that assassination as a means to support itself. So yeah, the activists’s plot is muddled, a bit confusing, and probably would have backfired, rather than turn more people to their side.

However, there is a reason this all had to happen: we had to have hope. “Synecdoche” reveals one last great twist on the Person of Interest format: John was the number given to Logan, Joey, and Harper, who have been recruited as agents of The Machine. It’s through this that we are given a sense of scope for the Machine. How many other teams were commissioned? How many other agents are doing what they can to help the Machine? I LOVED THAT THESE THREE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE DOING, TOO. There was no trickery, no subterfuge. They knew the Machine had sent them to provide an exit strategy for John, Fusco, and Shaw. From the audience’s perspective, it’s a goddamn treat, y’all, and it felt like a final chance for the show’s writers to demonstrate to us that they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Which leaves us with Harold. Oh, y’all, I’m still bitter about Root’s death, and I am also elated at the transformation that we’re seeing in Harold. His long conversations with the Machine are incredible, especially when you think about how Emerson has to act against a voice and nothing more. The topics Harold addresses with the Machine over the course of “Synecdoche”—from what voice the Machine should use, to how grief works for the Machine (HELP ME, THAT MAKES THE EVENTS OF “IF.THEN.ELSE” A MILLION TIMES MORE UPSETTING), to the uncertain future—all help us understand how Harold is changing.

But then, we see it. In a moment eerily reminiscent of Root’s behaviorisms, Harold uses the Machine to escape detection… by threatening the life of a child of a security agent in a military base. It is a demonstration that he’s now willing to threaten others, to use emotional manipulation, to win this war. And that includes the virus that he apparently designed or had to stop Samaritan. Do we know if it’ll work? No, but Harold is willing to take risks now. He’s willing to be messy.

Y’all, what the HELL is he planning in these last two episodes??? I’M AFRAID.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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