Characters: Person Of Interest Northern Lights
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Northern Lights is the codename for an organization/program within the United States Government that controls the Machine, distributes its intelligence and takes action to keep its activities secret from the rest of the world. Northern Lights receives Numbers from an entity codenamed "Research" (actually the Machine's relevant list), and pulls its personnel from various government agencies, including the NSA, the CIA and the Intelligence Support Activity
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: The late Special Counsel who oversaw their field operations masqueraded as the head of the Real Life Office Of Special Counsel, the people who conduct their field work are officially from the CIA and ISA and their entity known as "Research" belongs to the NSA.
- Elite Mook: They fulfill this role in the Person Of Interest universe. Only Reese, Shaw and Root have been able to take them on in combat effectively and at times have been bested by them due to superior numbers.
- Once again proven in Season 4 with Mr Grice being a handful for John during "Control-Alt-Delete".
- Government Agency of Fiction: They're a secret counter-terrorist organisation who uses The Machine's relevant list to hunt down threats to America's national security and stop them before they even occur.
- The Men in Black: They don't officially exist and are dedicated in keeping it that way.
- Kill 'em All: Standard operating procedure in the event the existence of Research is compromised to the outside world. They're also willing to let terrorists attacks occur if necessary, if it means the source of the leak stands a good chance of dying in one.
- Professional Killer: Their true strength. They have a small army of them to conduct counter-terrorist operations worldwide. They're also at Reese's calibre (like the ISA hit-squad in "No Good Deed" and Sameen Shaw). And if they find anyone who shouldn't know about the machine has learnt of its existence, they will be re-tasked in making sure that person does not live to tell anyone else.
- Punch Clock Villain: The majority of their hit-squads have no knowledge of Research and are simply following orders.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Their stated mission is to hunt down threats to America's national security and terminate them with extreme prejudice in order to prevent massive loss of life. However, they're paranoid about the American public finding out the existence of the machine and are all too happy to re-task their multiple hit squads to kill anyone, including innocent civilians, in order to keep it's existence secure.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Does this to any employees who wish to leave the program and performed this to many of the personnel who built the machine.
"Where were you when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon? Because I was inside it. I carried out the wounded. I covered up bodies. And I have spent every day since putting bullets in the people responsible, and in anyone else who even thinks they can do that to our country again."
The codename used to refer to the head of the ISA's operation regarding the Machine
- Ambiguously Evil: Everything she does, she does for her country. Even Collier admits that.
- Badass: She can hold her own in a gunfight. During the Season 3 finale, she refuses to be cowered by a shotgun-wielding Peter Collier, and repeatedly calls him out on his methods while he is attempting to portray her counter-terrorist efforts as wrong.
- Returns to do some field work in Season 4 and apart from getting abducted by John and Root, performs as well as expected.
- Badass Bureaucrat: Perfectly willing to get her hands dirty alongside her subordinates.
- Bigger Bad: The one who is giving orders to Special Counsel, Hersh and their people.
- The Chessmaster: The other members of Northern Lights are her pieces.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Delivers a particularly brutal session to Root.
- Control Freak: Implied in the closing stages of Season 3, when her partners in running the Northern Lights organization suggest her reluctance in letting the Samaritan system in is because of this. But in Season 4, it's on full display during "Control-Alt-Delete", where she has clashes with a Decima/Samaritan asset who has the on and off switch to the access of Samaritan.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Of Diane Claypool.
- Defiant to the End: She repeatedly calls out Collier in the Season 3 finale on his actions as a terrorist and isn't particularly scared when he levels a shotgun at her.
Control: As a sworn officer of the US government, I can neither confirm nor deny anything pertaining to this matter. And I will say the same damn thing to every other question, until the moment you put that gun to my head and pull the trigger.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: How the Machine gets her to back down, telling Control the address of the only thing she's loved, and telling her that the Machine protects both it and her. Turns out she has a daughter named Julia whom she loves dearly
- Even Evil Has Standards: She's disgusted that her partners running the Northern Lights organization are willing to deal with the clearly untrustworthy John Greer from Decima Technologies, due to the fact he is ripping them off with his own offer for an alternate surveillance system.
- Also even if her work requires her to kill people, she is one to make 100% sure that the targets are genuine threats to the United States of America and insists on doing her own legwork or ordering her agents on doing so (which they actually liked to do). Understandably she clashes big-time with Decima, who want her to just be an assassin (and leader of assassins) and not ask any questions.
- Expy: She is essentially a Caucasian Amanda Waller. But with all of the Batman Mythos in this series it probably was intentional.
- Foil: Of all people, she's this to Greer and is basically what Greer could have become had he not flipped out in 1973, shot his treasonous superior and left MI6
- Control is a fanatical arch-patriot who loves her country dearly and is willing to get blood on her hands in keeping it safe from threats foreign and domestic. Greer loathes nation states with a passion and has dedicated the rest of his life to destroying them by creating a global government under the Samaritan A.I
- Control epitomizes Good Is Not Nice but ultimately means well. Greer in contrast is Affably Evil and barely bats an eyelid when engaging in murder, betrayal and screwing over the opposition in the pursuit of world domination.
- Both of them are professional spymasters, who are competent at their jobs and ruthless to anyone who gets in the way of completing their missions. Control however mostly focuses on counter-terrorism while Greer initially does his job in the pursuit of gathering useful intel, money and later facilitating the activities of Samaritan.
- Both of them are The Chessmaster in their respective organizations. Greer however is a whole lot more ruthless and cerebral than she is.
- Control may be a zealot but she's diligent at her job, prefers to verify that the relevant numbers she gets are clear and present dangers to America's national security and encourages this to some degree among her subordinates. Greer in contrast now follows [ orders from a megalomaniac A.I without question
- Control initially suffers from a case of Wrong Genre Savvy, believing she's in a Post 9/11 Spy Fiction drama like "24", seeing The Machine and Samaritan more as mere tools to aid in combating international terrorism. Greer however is under no such limits and sees them as "Gods" which have the potential to change the way of life for humanity in a drastic fashion.
- Greer is a Non-Action Big Bad due to his age and prefers to use his Red Shirt Army and a cerebral approach in destroying his enemies. Control however is a Bad Ass Bureaucrat who has had weapons/tradecraft training and is willing to get her hands bloody alongside her Elite Mook subordinates.
- The Ghost: Until "Lethe".
- Go Through Me: At the Vigilance trial.
Collier: Please, who built the Machine? How does it work? Where is it located?
Control: Honestly? [looks at Finch] I don't know.
- Good Is Not Nice: And How! She only wants to protect her country from the threat of international terrorism but she is willing to manipulate and kill anyone who gets in her way whether they're innocent or not.
- I Did What I Had to Do: She lives by this trope.
- Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Control is one of the most powerful characters in the series. Or she would be if the artificial super intelligences weren't running the show.
Root: You think you're in charge? It's adorable just how wrong you are.
Harold: You foolish woman. You don't understand. You're not in control of anything. You're just a clean-up crew. You're the janitor.
- Inspector Javert: An ambiguously good version, until Samaritan starts using her as its personal janitor (as we see on "Control-Alt-Delete"). Word of advice: if you are ever suspected to be a terrorist, even if you could prove you're not, better make you peace with God IMMEDIATELY.
- Iron Lady: She's tough, in charge and has Nerves of Steel.
- Jerk Ass With A Heart Of Gold: She's abrasive as hell and a borderline zealot when she goes to work but she's genuinely motivated at protecting her country from national security threats to it and tries to do her job to the best of her ability.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Despite seemingly being an over-zealous, ruthless bureaucrat, Control believes her policy of killing any possible leaks will preserve the security of Northern Lights. She's proven right, when she's prevented from eliminating Peter Collier, after which he releases confidential documents which prove the existence of her organization.
- Large and In Charge: A tall, heavyset woman who is in charge of northern lights.
- Master Actor: She made a very convincing Diane Claypool. Her sob story was so well acted that neither Shaw nor Harold (who actually attended Diane's wedding going from the Machine's records) picked up on it.
- Morality Pet: Her daughter Julia
- The Mole: In "Lethe".
- My Country, Right or Wrong:
Finch: Thank you for protecting me, although I am baffled as to why.
Control: The same reason I've done everything. For my country.
- Nerves of Steel: Demonstrates these during the Season 3 finale where in the face of a shotgun wielding Peter Collier, unlike her colleagues who panic and throw her to the wolves, she refuses to be cowered by the terrorist.
- No Name Given: Control's real name is unknown.
- Noble Demon: Despite being rather over-zealous in her efforts at counter-terrorism, the Season 3 finale "Deus Ex Machina" reveals that she's not motivated by a desire for power but genuinely loves her country, stands true to her beliefs in the face of a crazed Peter Collier trying to intimidate her with a shotgun]], shows far more backbone than her partners in the Northern Lights organization who either panic or try save themselves, does her best to protect Finch during Collier's trial.
- Not So Different: In "Deus ex Machina", it is shown that she sees Finch as less of an enemy of the state, and more as a kindred spirit and potential ally - someone who has also sacrificed everything to prevent terrorism.
- To Greer. Like him, she doesn't mind killing civilians in her work. But her justifications are different. The first is initially to prevent knowledge of Research from leaking out. The second is if she deems it in the national interest such as in the case of the Irrelevant framed as a terrorist in Control-Alt-Delete
- Only Sane Woman: She seems to be the only one in Northern Lights who finds Greer to be utterly untrustworthy.
- Pet the Dog: During the Season 3 finale, she refuses to point out that Harold has anything to do with the Machine.
- Properly Paranoid: Constantly has her subordinates eliminate any possible leaks and with good reason.
- She is on high alert in Season 4 after arguing with a Decima Samaritan asset and picks out their attempt at listening in on her Satellite phone conversation with ISA Operator Grice
- Samus is a Girl: Control briefly appears in the Season 2 finale, where she is addressed as "Ma'am". All that is seen of her is a gloved hand.
- Shout-Out: To the works on John le Carré, where a man known as "Control" kept his identity secret while serving as the head of an intelligence organization.
- The Spymaster: Conducts counter-terrorist work, shrouds herself in mystery with a cover identity as a suburban mother with a 9-5 low ranking government day job and is willing to manipulate and kill anyone she deems necessary in the course of her work.
- The Man Behind the Man: To Pennsylvania Two. She is the overall commander of Northern Lights, responsible both for sending people to deal with the Numbers provided by The Machine and for protecting the secret of the Machine's existence.
- Unscrupulous Hero: She is willing to take extreme measures in annihilating any threat to American national security and is perfectly content with almost all the decisions she has to make.
Control: You want to shoot me, because I had to tap a few phone calls, read a few emails, then you go right ahead. But you better turn that gun on yourself next, Mr. Collier, because you have broken just as many laws. And the only difference is, I didn't wrap myself up in the American flag, and try to convince people that I was a hero.
- In Season 4, this trope is fully in play. She has to murder an innocent man to prevent the Samaritan A.I from thinking she has caught on to the fact it has been framing irrelevants as threats to US national security.
- Weapon of Choice: A SIG-Sauer P229R. She puts it to very good use in "Aletheia".
- As of Season 4, she's switched to a Smith and Wesson M&P Compact which she uses to murder an innocent man framed as an Islamist Extremist.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: She genuinely wants to protect the USA from terrorist threats, but is perfectly willing to engage in indiscriminate killing if the existence of her organization is threatened with exposure. It's even more apparent when we find out her back story. During 9/11, she was in the Pentagon when one of the planes demolished a significant portion of the building. In the aftermath of the attack, she was actively involved in the first response efforts. After that, she pledged herself to prevent such an attack from happening ever again.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Despite being in the know about the true nature of Research, she behaves like she lives in a post 9/11 espionage drama rather than a Post Cyber Punk Science Fiction show. However, over time, she begins to catch on.
- You Have Failed Me: Tends to do this to people who endanger her organization's mission - even if they aren't part of her organization and have no clue as to how their actions or inactions would endanger it.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: She really doesn't like loose ends.
"Pennsylvania Two"/"Special Counsel"
"No one life is above the safety of millions of Americans. That's the ugly math I have to deal with every day."
Played By: Jay O. Sanders
A shadowy figure from the Office of Special Counsel who appears to be engineering the activity regarding the machine and sees Reese as a threat.
- Affably Evil: Special Counsel is quite the smooth talker and has many affable qualities. He's Nice to the Waiter, treats his enemies with respect even when he's ordering their deaths, makes his reasons clear and holds himself to the same standards as his employees.
- Big Bad: Of Season 2. Control remains the Bigger Bad, however.
- Character Death: Hersh executes him on the orders of Control.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Due to being played by Jay O. Sanders, who has a commanding baritone.
- Face Death with Dignity: Upon realizing that Hersh has been ordered to kill him, Special Counsel takes the news with grace and understanding.
- Famous Last Words: "Fair enough".
- Kill 'em All: To anyone who even suspects the Machine exists.
- Large and In Charge: Special Counsel is a towering man who's as wide as a door.
- The Man Behind the Man: With respect to Weeks and Hersh.
- Mole in Charge: Has his day job in an agency that protects whistleblowers. As Henry Peck found out, he's not going to do his job if you try to expose the Machine.
- Mission Control: Fulfils this role for the project in the event the existence of the machine is compromised.
- The Needs of the Many: What he believes justifies his actions. See the quote above.
- Nerves of Steel: Special Counsel never panics, loses his cool or blinks when faced with a dangerous situation despite being a Non-Action Big Bad.
- Nice to the Waiter: He's very fond of his new Sexy Secretary, Root, and treats her well since he doesn't know her true identity and thinks she's just a very competent assistant.
- Non Action Man Behind The Man: He never picks up a gun or even gets into a physical fight. That said, he isn't adverse to tense situations and remains ice cool.
- No Name Given: His name has yet to be spoken on screen. He was credited as "Pennsylvania Two" in the press release for "No Good Deed," but the press releases for all episodes since have credited him as "Special Counsel".
- Not So Different: Invokes this when meeting Shaw. She agrees entirely.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Doesn't mind when Shaw blows Wilson away as she's called him out on the latter's stupidity in rashly taking a Contract on the Hitman and given him the compromising evidence he was looking for. He lets her walk out....and makes sure Hersh intercepts her.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Always in a nice suit.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Or so he says.
- Wicked Cultured: Gives off this vibe.
- You Are Number Six: No real name given.
- You Have Failed Me: He does this to plenty of people, and it seems that he applies the same ruthless standards to himself when he winds up on the receiving end.
Ross H. Garrison
A U.S. Senator affiliated with the government's Northern Lights program.
Robert N. Hersh/George
"We don't give orders, we execute them."
Played By: Boris McGiver
The Special Counsel's enforcer, a former member of the ISA.
- Ambiguously Evil: In "Lethe" - during the standoff at the end, the henchmen have red and white boxes (indicating imminent violence). Control has a red box (because she is pointing a gun at Finch). Hersh, meanwhile, has neither. He also eventually dies performing a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Assassin Out Classin: Gets subjected to this by Reese when the latter runs him through non lethally with a carving knife. Later suffers a more severe experience when going up against Root.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Since Special Counsel's death, he's been more or less in charge of the operations, now answering directly to Control.
- Badass: Since he's Reese's Evil Counterpart. Hersh is a One-Man Army capable of taking down numerous foes while sustaining wounds that would incapacitate most people.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Nearly always wearing a nice suit.
- Character Death: Hersh is killed trying to defuse a Decima bomb.
- Combat Pragmatist: Just like Reese.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Not making the same mistake twice, the second time he goes up against Root, he shoots out the cameras before sneaking up on her and successfully gets the drop on her despite her analog interface giving her Improbable Aiming Skills.
- Deadpan Snarker: It becomes gradually more prevalent, but eventually he starts throwing out dry sarcastic quips.
- The Determinator: Rain or shine, he will finish his mission.
- The Dragon: To Pennsylvania Two, and Control who both run him at different times.
- Dragon Ascendant: Control orders him to kill Pennsylvania Two, and he does so. He doesn't count as The Starscream because he was Just Following Orders.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: He expires fighting half a dozen Decima goons (while already wounded) and trying to defuse a bomb. He fails, but it's still quite impressive how he almost managed it.
- Enemy Mine: Sides with Team Machine for the common threat of Vigilance.
- Evil Counterpart: Reese describes him as "a lot like me." Hersh lampshades in "Booked Solid" that he and Reese aren't so different.
- Evil Mentor: For Shaw. As a result, she's just as good as John during combat situations. However, he may have taught her everything he knows but is perfectly willing to poison her when she resigns from the ISA. On the other hand in Season 3 during 4C, he has a surprisingly amicable conversation with her while drugged and even asks in a concerned tone if Team Machine is treating her well.
- The Fixer: If there is a problem in Northern Lights that the other "official" hit-squads need not know about, he will be the one to clean it up. It also seems to extend to eliminating those that decide to leave the program including his protégée Shaw.
- Get Into Jail Free: His plan to infiltrate Rikers: pull a gun in a crowded street and start shooting in the air.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Died trying to defuse a bomb... which went off anyway.
- Implacable Man: Like the Terminator, even if he's grievously wounded, it will barely slow them down. For one, he is shot in the back, strangles the Decima agent who did so, and then he takes out another hit squad. He only dies when a bomb goes off at point-blank range.
- Kill 'em All: His general orders to anyone who might know about the Machine.
- Last Name Basis: Nobody ever refers to him by his given name. His full name wasn't even revealed until "Lethe", a good season and a half after his first appearance, when it appears in one of the Machine's calculation tables.
- Last Stand: How his death takes place. He dies in one last struggle against the Decima goons and trying to defuse the bomb.
- Made of Iron: And how! The man has been subjected to kitchen knives, gunshots and hand grenades, shrugging most of it off.
- No Name Given: 'Robert N. Hersh' is an alias, as revealed in the death report given to Control. Shaw called him 'George', and considering the two had a close relationship and the way she said it, it seems likely that's part of his real name.
- Professional Killer: As the fixer, he will handle situations, usually leaving behind a body or two.
- Redemption Equals Death: Just when Hersh's more heroic side was being revealed, he was forced to sacrifice himself.
- The Stoic: He keeps a calm face in most situations. Even when Reese beat him and left him with a potentially fatal stab wound, the man didn't show much pain or anger, and later he's calm as a button about murdering his protégé ("Relevance") and his immediate supervisor and multiple co-workers ("God Mode"). Drops this when Root shoots him in ("Lady Killer"), he's left gasping on the floor bleeding out and is visibly in pain. In "4C" he's concerned about whether Shaw is doing fine in her new workplace.
- Torture Technician: Shown as this in "God Mode". Control later implies he is rather skilled at it.
- Undying Loyalty: He is to Control what Reese is to Finch.
Alicia M. Corwin
Played By: Elizabeth Marvel
A liaison between Ingram and the government while the Machine was being developed and a former member of the National Security Council. Corwin began living in hiding in a small town after Ingram's death.
- The Atoner: She regrets being involved in setting up the Machine and wants to destroy it due to her fears about how it is being used and the people who have control of it.
- Boom, Headshot: At the hands of Root.
- Character Death: Root shoots her in the head.
- Death by Secret Identity: Finds out Finch built The Machine, and, well, see above trope.
- Dropped A Bridge On Her: Was played up as a potential threat in the final two episodes of Season 1 - she was shown stalking Finch, discovering the Library, and finally confronted him with the intent of making him shut down the Machine - but ended up being killed off by Root practically mid-sentence.
- Heel-Face Turn: At some point, she turned against Nothern Lights and its methods and wanted to find a way to shut down The Machine.
- Properly Paranoid: She knows The Machine is watching her, knows at least some of the ways it might be performing that monitoring—she moved to the National Radio Quiet Zone to avoid monitoring by wireless methods—she may be aware that it can act to protect itself should it figure out that she wants to shut it down, and she definitely knows just how ruthless Denton Weeks and the people behind him are.
- Also, she had an RFID implant for data storage in her arm, as it's one of the few data storage mediums the Machine wouldn't be able to access remotely.
- Sacrificial Lion: To establish Root's level of villainy. Also, more subtly, introduces Decima to the plot.
- We Hardly Knew Ye
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Certain aspects of Corwin's role in the plot prior to her death have never been explained, due to the fact that she was mostly just there to set up Root and Decima. Why did she think that the Machine killed Nathan? What was her connection to Decima?
Denton L. Weeks
"You have no idea what you're getting into."
Played By: Cotter Smith
The official who commissioned the development of the Machine. He is in league with the Special Counsel.
- Amoral Attorney: He's one of the reasons why Harold and Nathan had the machine black boxed. He also legalised the use of Palestinian Hanging, a torture method, on terrorist suspects.
- Asshole Victim: Considering the type of man Denton Weeks was, it's hard to mourn him.
- Character Death: Root executes him.
- The Dragon: With respect to "Pennsylvania Two".
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He has a lover, which is how Root gets to him.
- Death by Secret Identity: He soon dies after finding out Finch is the one who actually built The Machine.
- Jerkass: Harold helps saves him but the guy turns on him and plans to bring him back to Northern Lights.
- Karmic Torture: Root tortures him using a method that he authorized US Intelligence officers to use on terrorists - and makes a point of showing him a copy of the document in which he did this during the proceedings.
- Ungrateful Bastard: He tries to kill Finch after being saved by him.
- Your Cheating Heart: According to Root, he had been cheating on his wife with another woman for several years.
Played By: Nick Tarabay
- Ambiguously Evil: Not a fan of the new arrangement regarding the introduction of Samaritan and he even lets Shaw run free when they run into each other and afterwards, tries to destroy as much evidence of the meeting as possible
- Anti-Hero: A professional counter-terrorist operative with all that job entails but he works to save America from international terrorist threats.
- Bad Ass: Like his comrades, he's a well trained counter-terrorist operative who can give the formidable John Reese a hard time in a fist-fight.
- Bad Ass Beard: A somewhat modest one.
- Elite Mook: They happen to be part of Control's personal detail.
- Professional Killer: His job.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: He and Brooks parallel the relationship between John and Sameen.
- Weapon of Choice: SIG-Sauer P229R
Played By: Theodora Woolley
- Action Girl: She's no slouch in the combat department and is equal to her partner.
- Anti-Hero: Like her partner. However, she doesn't really mind the recent changes at Northern Lights regarding Samaritan.
- Bad Ass: Just like her partner, Brooks is a well trained counter-terrorist operative who is also a dab hand with a sniper rifle.
- Cold Sniper: Breaks out a Nemesis Arms Vanquish to support Grice in cornering a suspect during "Control-Alt-Delete".
- Elite Mook: Like most of the ISA operators but she's now part of Control's personal detail
- Professional Killer: As a operator for the ISA, this is her job.
- Punch Clock Villain: She shares the late Hersh's principle of not questioning orders.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brooks and her partner reflect the relationship between John and Sameen.
- The Stoic: Compared to her partner.
- Weapon of Choice: SIG-Sauer P229R and the Nemesis Arms Vanquish take down sniper rifle.