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Series: Person of Interest
For once, you'll be glad that Big Brother Is Watching...

"You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered "irrelevant." They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you."
Mr. Finch, Season One intro

Person of Interest is an action-thriller TV series that started airing in September 2011 on CBS. It was created by Jonathan Nolan and developed along with J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk. Prior to airing, it was much-hyped for the strong pedigree of cast and crew, and later the pilot received positive reviews. The show has thus far aired three complete seasons, with a fourth season beginning in September 2014 and currently ongoing.

John Reese (Jim Caviezel) is a former CIA agent, reduced to living rough as a drunk homeless man in New York City after a falling-out with the United States government. He's bailed out of trouble with the NYPD by a mysterious billionaire named Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson), who has a strange and potentially-dangerous job offer. As it turns out, Finch is a software genius who designed the government supercomputer—"The Machine"—that monitors all surveillance data, analyzing and filtering for persons involved in potential threats to national security. When The Machine identifies one of these persons, it transmits the individual's Social Security number to the government.

As a side effect, The Machine also spits out "irrelevant" numbers that correspond to someone that it predicts will soon be involved in a violent crime which is not relevant to national security. To help these potential victims (or to stop these potential killers, as the case may be), Finch hires Reese and together, they use their collective skills and resources to help innocent people. Along the way, they cross paths with Detective Joss Carter, who is at first an antagonist, investigating number of violent incidents involving a mysterious "man in a suit" (Reese), but who later begins cooperating with Reese and Finch.

Rounding out the cast of weekly rogues and "irrelevant numbers" is an ensemble of recurring characters, many of whom are important to the longer story arcs:
  • Detective Lionel Fusco, a former Dirty Cop trying to redeem himself by working with Reese and Finch.
  • Bear, a trained military dog.
  • Sameen Shaw, a Distaff Counterpart to Reese.
  • "Root" (Samantha Groves), a sociopathic master hacker obsessed with The Machine who becomes its "analog interface."
  • Zoe Morgan, a "fixer" who trades in favors and information with the city's elite and flirts with Reese.
  • Grace Hendricks, Finch's former fiancee, who believes he is dead.
  • Leon Tao, an accountant with a penchant for getting into trouble.
  • Carl Elias, an elusive mob boss and master criminal, ruthless yet also honorable, whose conspiracies and criminal enterprises have generated several POI numbers including Elias himself.
  • "HR", a network of corrupt NYPD cops and politicians which, at different times, has both opposed and supported other crime syndicates such as the Russian mob and Elias' organization.
  • Northern Lights, the government program that deals with Relevant threats identified by The Machine, and is ruthless in suppressing all knowledge of The Machine. It often acts through personnel from other government agencies, including figures from Reese's time with the CIA.
  • Decima Technologies, a shadowy private intelligence organization based in China which tries to control The Machine, and, when that failed, brought into being a rival AI called Samaritan.
  • Vigilance, a group of people opposed to the lack of personal privacy caused by government and corporate data mining actions, who became radical enough to start killing the people they considered the most egregious offenders.

Please contribute to the character and recap pages.


Person of Interest contains examples of the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A-G 
  • 555:
    • Played straight for the most part—telephone numbers are almost always from the "555" exchange, Social Security numbers shown on screen are invalid, the Chinese citizen identification numbers briefly glimpsed in "Matsa Nyaya" are one digit too short and use invalid address codes.
    • Averted in "Relevance" and on the Universal Heritage Insurance company website. The phone number (917-285-7362) that Finch gives Shaw, and which appears in the lower right corner of the website, is the direct line to Harold Wren's voicemail. You can't leave a message, though, because the inbox is full.
  • Action Insurance Gag: In the episode "Allegiance", Reese bullrushes a mook straight through a floor-length plate-glass window, whereupon they fall four stories onto a parked car, leaving Shaw and Fusco staring, speechless, out the window at them. After Reese gets up off the poor schmuck, a dumbfounded Detective Fusco comments:
    "I hope that guy had health insurance."
  • Actor Allusion: The main characters are from the same home states as the actor playing them: Reese, like Jim Caviezel, is from Washington state; Finch, like Michael Emerson, grew up in Iowa, both Root and Amy Acker are from Texas.
    • Jury's still out on where Shaw is from, but, like Sarah Shahi, she is of Persian descent and has both a Persian and westernized first name.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The Machine is very good at spotting threats to itself and in a flashback we see that it considered Finch's partner to be a threat.
    • At the end of "Wolf and Cub," it viewed Reese as a threat, too, and tagged him with a red box. See Colour-Coded For Your Convenience, below
    • As of "Firewall," it seems to be prepared to work with Reese to rescue Finch from Root.
      • The Machine seems quite attached to Finch overall, especially in flashbacks. When he first began testing it, he had to teach it that he was not special and did not deserve extra protection, and it's revealed that The Machine also set him up to meet his future wife, simply because it was able to look at her life and see that she was a match for him.
    • To keep it from getting too smart, Finch decided it was a good idea to have The Machine wipe its non-essential memories and create a new instance of itself each night at midnight - or, as Root puts it, die and be reborn. The Machine decided it liked having memories and a personality and instead decided to print out its memories in machine code each night and hire data entry assistants to reinput them each morning. At least part of this is implied to be because it just loves Finch that much.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Kohl's death at the end of "Foe." Also a variety of Suicide by Cop.
  • Always a Bigger Fish
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • At the end of "Cura Te Ipsum"note , we never find out if Reese kills the serial rapist or lets him go.
      Reese: Maybe it's up to me to do what the good people can't. Or maybe there are no good people; maybe there are only good decisions.
      Andrew: Please. You don't want to do something you'll regret.
      Reese: Which do you think I'll regret more: letting you live, or letting you die? Andrew, help me make a good decision.
      • The episode "Many Happy Returns" suggests that Reese put the serial rapist in a Mexican prison, where he'll never get out.
    • At the end of "Critical," we never find out if Reese reveals the existence of The Machine to Carter.
      • Judging by the following episodes, he didn't.
      • By the end of "The Crossing", she has figured it out by herself. Or at least makes a guess close enough that The Machine classifies her with a yellow box (see Color-Coded for Your Convenience below).
    • At the end of "Reasonable Doubt" it doesn't show whether the POI or her husband survived the confrontation on the boat. Two distinct gunshots were heard, so it implies they killed each other.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different / Interface Screw: "Beta" is entirely from the view of Samaritan, designating Finch as the Big Bad and Reese, Shaw and Root as Co-Dragons.
  • And Starring: "And Michael Emerson".
  • And Your Little Dog Too: The assassins after Zoe Morgan ("The Fix") were ordered to kill her and her driver too.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Bear has several earmarks of this.
    • A neo-Nazi tries to use one to intimidate Reese. Reese explains that the dog only appears angry because it does not respect its current owner who does not know how to handle such a well-trained animal properly. Reese on the other hand worked with this type of guard dog before and knows the Dutch commands it was trained to obey. A few Dutch phrases later Reese has a new dog.
    • Though the dog only obeys commands in Dutch, he certainly understands certain words in English, like "walk", "leash", and "treats".
    • Bear also averts this at times, such as when he didn't react to Shaw coming into the library. Finch calls him a "traitor."
  • Animal Motifs: Almost all of Finch's various identities are birds.
    • In "The Fix", Finch pretends to be a "Mr. Partridge".
    • In "Wolf and Cub," we learn that Finch attended MIT under the name "Harold Wren," and still uses the name when dealing with Will Ingram. We see the Wren identity—an insurance company executive—used again in "Many Happy Returns," "Shadow Box," and "Relevance."
    • In "Risk" and "Critical," he used the name "Harold Crane."
    • In "Identity Crisis," it's "Harold Crow".
    • In "2 Pi R," he's a substitute math teacher, "Mr. Swift."
    • In "Proteus", he's "Harold Gull", licensed pilot and amateur stormchaser.
    • In "All In", it's "Harold Quail".
    • "Trojan Horse": "Harold Starling."
    • In "Cura Te Ipsum", Finch's pseudonym he gives to the police is 'Burdett', which also means 'little bird'.
    • Nathan lampshades this practice in "Zero Day", wondering aloud if Harold's fiancee wouldn't object to being called "Mrs. Ostrich."
    • Finch adopts the pseudonym "Mr. Swan" when phoning in an anonymous tip to throw off the police.
    • His cover identity in "Panopticon" ( assigned by The Machine) is "Harold Whistler."
    • In "Wingman," he's "Harold Egret," legendary Bad Ass mercenary and arms dealer.
    • The bird theme is alluded to in other ways:
      • In "No Good Deed," the POI who figures out that The Machine exists is "Henry Peck." Finch remarks at one point that Peck is "doing what I would do" were Finch in the same situation. Birds peck at things, you know.
      • In "Liberty," Root's "Uncle Harold" has checked her into the mental hospital under the name "Robin."
      • In "Lethe," there's a birdcage in Finch's boyhood home, and we see a young Harold asking his father to identify birds.
      • In "Alethia," when he visits his father at the nursing home for the last time, Harold gives him an Audobon guidebook—and the bird he sees in the tree outside is a finch.
      • Also, in Grace's house, prominently displayed, is an empty birdcage.
    • Averted once, when Finch goes undercover as a political blogger with the pen name Thomas Paine.
  • Adult Fear: Extremely common in the show. A noticable example is in "Flesh and Blood" when Finch reveals to Simmons that Elias has implemented a contingency to kill off the families of HR members. As Even Evil Has Loved Ones, Simmons yanks the support he was giving to Elias.
    • Even more notable example from that very same episode; Elias kidnaps Cartner's son in a bid to force her to stand down her defense of the mob bosses she was protecting. Visibly tormented by this, her resolve is only maintained by Reese, who vehemently assures her that he will rescue her son. He does.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The majority of the antagonists. Elias, Donnelly, Control, Hersh, Root, even Collier.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Bear gets them on occasion.
  • Anti-Hero: John Reese. As of season 3, Sam Shaw. Also, while it might seem clear to the audience that John and the rest of the team have perfectly good intentions and usually carry them out pretty reasonably (shooting kneecaps as opposed to taking lives, at least when it can be helped, etc.), him and the rest of the team are definitely this in the eyes of the government and various law enforcement agencies that try to track them down over the course of the show. Well, at least, for the good law enforcement officers.
    • Basically, everyone on Team Machine, with Finch and Carter at the lighter end, and Shaw and Root at the darker end.
  • Anyone Can Die: Moving in this direction during the second season with Donnelly, Snow and Stanton all buying it.
    • Word of God has stated that this is true. And then proves it with the deaths of Symanzki and Beecher, who were both clean cops. Then follows it up later with Pennsylvania Two.
    • In Season 3, the writers not only killed off the person of interest for the second episode, but also killed off Laskey and Terney six episodes later within a minute of each other.
    • And then if that wasn't enough, Carter is killed in "The Crossing."
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account:
    • We don't know how exactly rich Finch is (or could get) but he can easily buy up 8% of a major pharmaceutical company in 48 hours (87 million shares). And it got a lot larger when Finch sold it on a guess the price would drop on a wager of 500 million shares.
    • He also once invested 150 million dollars just to get close to an investment banker, and had enough liquid assets available to buy up enough stock in an energy company that had recently lost 90% of its value in a single day to make its price reach a new peak.
    • His empire includes several magazine publishers who make a particular point of regularly commissioning his former fiancée Grace to do their cover art, thus providing her steady work as an illustrator.
    • He's also helped out at least one out-of-work POI by hiring them at one of the companies he controls.
    • In "Masquerade," he buys a security company and a credit bureau just so he can establish Reese's cover identity.
    • In "High Road" he snaps up a house that conveniently becomes available, furnishes it, and provides Reese with a car - all just to establish an elaborate cover identity. Reese still has to do some of the work on his own, getting Zoe in on the plot by asking her to be his (apparent) wife.
    • He once paid for a hospital wing... or two to get access to the hospital.
    • He bought a hotel and put a PoI in charge of it.
      • It's implied that he invented online social networking as a way to feed info to the Machine. Maybe he has shares in everything from Facebook to Myspace.
    • He stakes Leon Tao $1 million and then stakes the PoI 2 million later!
    • He pays Reese an unspecified salary large enough that Reese can give 90% of it to charity and still live comfortably on what's left.
  • Arc Words:
    • Season 1:
      • "In the end, we're all alone and no one is coming to save you." (Doubles as Foreshadowing of Jessica's fate.)
      • ...and its counterpoints, "You have to trust somebody" and "You're not alone."
      • Reese's opening voice-over, describing Jessica, from "Pilot," which he repeats when he confronts Jessica's abusive husband/murderer in "Many Happy Returns":
    When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different. Someone better. When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?
    • This exchange from "Pilot," variations of which appear in several later episodes (e.g., twice in "The Fix"):
    Reese: You don't know anything about me.
    Finch: I know exactly everything about you....
    • "I gave you a job....I never said it would be easy."
    • "Can. You. Hear. Me."
    • Season 4: "The world has changed."
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • "Who are you?" seems to be this for Reese. He honestly doesn't know, and he finds it hard to answer; even to himself. Lampshaded once:
    Reese: One of these days I'm gonna have to come up with an answer for that.
    • "Mors Praematura": Finch to the captive Root, asking how sure she is that she's not exactly where the Machine wants her to be.
  • Art Evolution: The Machine's internal graphics undergo this as the series progresses. The design of its tracking reticles as well as its visualization of the data it processes are significantly different between season 1 and season 3. In fact, by season 3, the Machine's visualization of its own internal structure and operations is beginning to look more and more like a neural network.
  • Artistic License - Motorcycles: The Marine vet with a prosthetic right arm who drives off riding a crotch rocket at speed. Reality check: even the fancy electronic prosthetics that were developed in the last decade (which he has) probably don't have the level of precision necessary to drive a go-fast bike like that. Among other things, on unmodified bikes (his was stolen) the right arm controls the throttle and front brake.
    • His prosthetic is certainly advanced since he still treats it as his dominant hand; as an example, he holds his pistol in it, with his prosthetic finger on the trigger.
  • Artistic License - Medicine: When Shaw steals blood in Season 3, the IV tube wasn't primed with saline or blood before she stuck the needle into her arm. In real life, air entering your veins will cause an air embolism and will kill you.
    • Shaw was also at a higher elevation than the person giving blood so the blood flowed up into her counter to gravity.
  • Asshole Victim: Season 3 heavily worked this trope.
    • Wayne Kruger, the PoI of "Nothing to Hide", is a data broker whose company collects and sells the personal information of millions of people. The negligent way his company handles this information has hurt a lot of people and there is a long list of people who would want to humiliate and/or kill him. After observing him for a few hours, Shaw wishes that the guy turn out to be a perpetrator so she can shoot him. Even Reese and Finch question whether the guy deserves their help.
    • In "Reasonable Doubt", both the perpetrator and victim are liars and double-crossers. At the end of the show, it is clear they both want to murder each other. Reese washes his hands of the matter, but viewers are left to decide for themselves who shot first and who lived.
    • In "The Devil's Share", the first is Simmons, whose number has come up, and all the dirtbags Reese goes through to get to him. The second is Jules, the drug dealer who killed a cop, who Fusco killed back in 2007.
    • Rep. Roger McCort, in "Death Benefit."
  • The Atoner:
    • Harold Finch is implied to be this in the second episode. Affirmed in the sixth episode ("The Fix") when Finch says that before he found Reese, the numbers haunted him and he took great pleasure in helping take down the bad guys as they had previously given the number of another woman.
    • Reese is implied to be atoning for the people he's killed for the CIA, possibly because some of them were not as guilty as he was led to believe.
      • ...and for not being there in time for Jessica.
    • Throughout all Seasons, Fusco, especially after he's partnered with Carter, and as he becomes more enthusiastic about helping the PoIs.
    • The POIs in several episodes ("Triggerman," "Bury the Lede," "The High Road," in a misguided way in "Mission Creep")
  • Bad Ass:
    • Reese is a Badass in a Nice Suit: all Detective Carter needs to hear was that a mysterious stranger in 'a nice suit' was involved to know it was him.
    • Carter.
    • In "Matsya Nyaya," Fusco Took a Level in Badass when he rescued Reese from HR.
    • Finch, too, in his own way:
      • He's one Badass Bookworm computer hacker who broke into ARPANET with a homemade computer in the 1970s—and he's only gotten better over time.
      • He also has walked right up to an influential leader of a corrupt cop ring and manipulated him into backing down from working with a mob boss, and completely bankrupted a corrupt executive's company.
      • When physical confrontation is necessary and unavoidable, he does what he can despite his physical limitations. At the climax of "Ghosts," he placed himself between Teresa and the hit man and gave him a look that just dared him to pull the trigger. He also acquitted himself pretty well in the climactic fight scene of "Super."
    • Fusco is starting to level up to this. The largely off-screen story arc with him protecting a woman from the Armenian hitmen seems to have leveraged him to single-handedly taking out two Serbian tough guys who'd just murdered someone.
      • Fusco's badassery level seems to be quite variable depending on the episode. Easily disarmed by a gangster in one episode (Masquerade Ep 203), able to easily take down the aforementionned two Serbian hitmen a few episodes later (Booked Solid Ep 215). And then he shows himself to be an utter badass with balls of steel in "The Crossing" and "The Devil's Share."
    • Sam Shaw. Similar to Reese's introduction in the pilot, the beginning of "Relevance" establishes Shaw as a force to be reckoned with.
  • Badass Boast: A nervous Finch watches as Reese prepares to snipe a car with a Barrett anti-material rifle.
    Finch: What happens if you miss?
    Reese: I wouldn't know. Never have.
    • Finch has a quieter one in the opening narration:
    You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up, we'll find you.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In the pursuit of Simmons for killing Carter Team Machine is very pissed and out for blood. However, neither Reese, Shaw, nor Fusco actually kill him or Alonzo Quinn. Reese is talked down by Finch that killing Quinn would dishonor all Carter worked for and after Fusco gives Simmons a beating to the inch of his life, arrests the man for similar reasons. While resting later in the hospital, Simmons is visited by Elias who gives a very elegant speech about civility and the righteousness Carter held within her and which was instilled into Team Machine. He and Simmons, however, are cut from a much darker and older cloth of malevolence. As such, Elias watches as his man kills Simmons for the debt he owed Carter and could not fully pay back to her in life.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: When Shaw shows up at the library in "Trojan Horse", she rejects Finch's job offer thusly:
    You think I should have a hobby. Now, what would that be? Hanging around a derelict library with you, your poorly-socialised guard dog... and Bear here?
  • Bait the Dog: Elias helps Reese save an infant, only to lock Reese and the child in a refrigerated truck to force Reese's assistance.
  • Batman Cold Open: Multiple episodes begin with Reese (and later, Shaw) effortlessly dismantling a scheme by Bit Part Bad Guys just before the real thrust of the plot begins.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Root gets the better of Reese and Finch by counting on them to do what they do best: helping the helpless. She puts a hit out on her own alias and leaves a digital trail for the Machine to spot, knowing that it will tag her as a POI and bring Reese and Finch to her.
    • Finch modified a fragment of the Machine code acquired by Casey to work as a virus (at least at a first glance) and a vaccine, then tried to sell it to the highest bidder. This prompted the Machine to learn how to defend itself, and thereby improve its ability to remove itself from attempts by people like Root to get hold of it, while continuing to protect the relevant and irrelevant numbers.
    • At the end of Season 3 it's revealed the entire anti-surveillance crusade by Vigilance was created by Decima to serve as a terrorist threat that would get government officials to accept a new AI surveillance system on their terms.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun:
    • When Carter's son is kidnapped, the very anti-gun/anti-weapon Finch is so desperate to help save him that he picks up a gun and asks Reese to teach him how to use it, though he's quite realistic on what sort of assistance he'd be able to give even with a gun. Reese, however, refuses to teach Finch and instead suggests that Finch perform the very valuable assistance of being ready with the get-away car.
    • And again in "Prisoner's Dilemma" when he plans to bust Reese out of prison. He actually looks disappointed when Carter tells him that it won't be necessary.
  • Battle Discretion Shot
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • "John Reese" is just a cover identity he was given when he became a government assassin. He discarded his life before that and became the new identity.
    • "Wolf and Cub" reveals that Finch attended MIT under the name "Harold Wren," which was itself an alias apparently created for that occasion. Fusco comments, "This guy's had so many different names he probably can't remember who he really is."
      • In "Zero Day", Ingram asks Finch if he still remembers his original name.
    • Samantha Groves became her screen name, "Root."
  • Berserk Button:
    • Putting kids in danger seems to hit this for Reese ("Justice," "Wolf and Cub," "Baby Blue," "Flesh and Blood").
      • Also for Shaw and Fusco, to a lesser degree.
    • Kidnapping babies puts it into overdrive.
    • And beating your wife will make Reese show you what a real monster looks like.
    • If you previously brought up a number that Finch was unable to save, and then bring up another one... Being on the receiving end of the wrath of a genius billionaire is not the place you want to be, because Finch will ruin your life and take away from you what you love most.
    • Another for Finch is Grace. He will compromise his principles and have Reese and Shaw rain death on anyone who hurts her.
  • Betty and Veronica: When 9/11 happened, Reese had to choose between staying with Jessica (Betty) or go out and be a super spy with Kara (Veronica). He comes to regret choosing the latter.
    • This isn't exactly what happened. Reese only started working as a CIA hitman in 2006. A more correct statement would be to say that Reese had to choose between Jessica and Kara in the airport in 2006, but that wouldn't be true either since he hadn't met his new partner at that point.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones:
    • Reese has yet to raise his voice on-screen. It'll probably be a very dark day when he finally does.
      • He does in the first episode of season 2 in a Raging against the Machine moment.
      • Actually, that was only from a preview which was changed before the episode aired on television. See: here.
    • In "The Fix," Finch sits with the mark that he has a bit of history with (though neither one knew it at the time) and calmly and quietly informs him that he sold his shares of the mark's company just in time for them to make it go under and make Finch shattering amounts of money.
      • The only time (so far) that Finch has raised his voice was when baby Lila was teething on one of Reese's tear gas grenades.
    • Elias as well, when he's finally revealed.
  • BFG:
    • The Barrett M82 used by Reese in "Foe".
    • Also the gun in the "Plan B" bag in "Wolf and Cub," an Ithaca 37 "Stakeout" with a folding stock, Picatinny railing, and non-lethal beanbag shotgun rounds.
      • The rest of the contents of "Plan B" qualify as well.
    • The FN FS2000 Reese loans Carter in "Flesh and Blood."
  • Biblical Motifs: Root has a tendency put those into the Machine (such as calling it "God", and saying its emissaries are "angels").
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Straddles the line between this trope and a Rogues Gallery. Occasionally multiple villains will show up in a single episode. Exemplified in "Aletheia," where three characters who could be feasibly considered a Big Bad even by themselves - Collier, Control and Greer - all collide in a Gambit Pileup of massive proportions.
  • The Big Board: Reese and Finch use one to post information about their cases. Finch also has a separate one set up with a list of the Irrelevant numbers that he failed to save before he hired Reese.
  • Big Brother Is Watching:
    • The Series
    • And in the case of Finch and Reese it's apparently a good thing. Although Mileage May Vary on that. It seems like Big Brother is far less morally upright than Finch at the very least.
      • Finch deliberately designed The Machine so that nobody can see the raw data that The Machine draws its conclusions from and encrypted the code to a ridiculous extent to prevent anyone from reverse engineering it in an attempt to avert the negative aspects of the trope. So far he's been successful, but evidence suggests that some of the government officials who know of The Machine wanted to use it to become Big Brother.
    • Is played more straight with the government collaborating with Decima to bring Samaritan online, as it lacks the closed system encryption of The Machine, and is fully targetable.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Typically when either Reese, Finch, Carter, or Fusco is in trouble, one of the others will come in for the save. Special mention goes for the first season finale where Fusco and Carter play this for Reese when he is pinned down by HR and about to make a Last Stand.
    • Shaw saves Fusco's son from HR right as he's about to be executed while Fusco is listening over the phone, helpless.
    • Root of all people gets to do this for Shaw, Finch and the POI in "Alethia"—and several more times afterwards.
  • Big Sister Instinct: As of Season 3, Root's relationship to Finch seems to be like that of a big sister helping her Too Clever by Half little brother out of trouble whenever something goes wrong. She's even started calling him Harry.
  • Bilingual Dialogue:
    • Reese can speak Spanish in "Cura Te Ipsum". He speaks Dutch in "The Contingency" and understands Russian in "Masquerade."
      • The Dutch seems to be more of a trilingual dialogue, because Reese's Dutch accent is so atrocious that he manages to make his Dutch sound more like German.
    • The title of the episode "Cura Te Ipsum" is Latin for "Heal Thyself" and it is the final proposition from Reese to Andrew. See Ambiguous Situation above for more details.
    • Kara Stanton can speak decent Mandarin Chinese in "Matsya Nyaya".
      • The episode title is a Hindi phrase that is the equivalent of the English phrase "the law of the jungle." (The literal translation is "The law of the fishes.")
  • Binocular Shot: Used in a number of episodes, but is sometimes replaced with a camera viewfinder and/or rifle scope POV shots since Reese prefers using those to spy on people.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Some of the episodes due to the events of the episode, and others because they end with highlighting the losses Finch and Reese have suffered.
    • An example of the latter could be
    Finch: "Do you think anyone will care for our names?"
    Reese: "After we're dead."
    Finch: "I thought we already are."
    • Two words: "Goodnight, Nathan."
    • The ending of "Baby Blue," with Reese and Finch talking about how they'll never have children. Considering the line of work they're in right now...
    • The end of "The Crossing".
    Carter: "I need to see my boy".
  • Black Box: The Machine was so heavily encrypted on completion even Finch can no longer access its OS. Justified by Finch and Nathan Ingram to the government because if no one sees the information the Machine sees, then no one's Fourth Amendment rights are violated.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Finch, to Carter in "Baby Blue":
    Carter: You hacked into his company?
    Finch: 'Hacked' is such an ugly word.
  • Blatant Lies / Cassandra Truth:
    • One PoI liked to talk about how he used to live in a mansion in Florida and owned a yacht, a pet tiger, and six nightclubs. He's a janitor who lived in the basement of the apartment complex he serviced. He's keenly aware that no one really believes these stories, which is fine by him since he was telling the truth - he had to give up his wealthy lifestyle and become a janitor after testifying against a mob figure in court and entering witness protection.
    • Though a more realistic example of Blatant Lies comes in "Legacy" where Finch's nephew comments how he has little skill in computers, suggesting Finch (the man who single-handedly built a giant highly advanced computer and can hack pretty much anything) had the same problem. Finch simply replies, "Right."
    • In "Masquerade", Finch slowly growing to like Reese's new dog.
    Finch: *throws a ball for the dog to fetch while talking to Reese*
    Reese: What was that noise, Finch?
    • Root's self-serving justification regarding her behavior in "Zero Day":
    Root: I'm not a sociopath, Harold. Believe me, sometimes I wish I was. The things I've had to do would've been so much easier.
  • Bond One-Liner: Reese, although he's very soft-spoken and polite about it.
  • Book Ends:
    • The first and last episodes of the first season ("Pilot" and "Firewall") both involve a female POI who turns out to be the perpetrator, and both end with Reese looking into the same security camera.
    • Donnelly's pursuit of The Man in the Suit begins and ends when an ex-CIA agent crashes into his car while he's transporting a prisoner. The prisoner gets kidnapped both times too.
    • Reese's first meeting with Carter in the pilot is repeated shortly before she is killed.
      • They even kept the plastic cup Reese drank water out of in the pilot.
    • "The Devil's Share" opens and ends with a closeup on a heartbeat monitor.
    • "Allegiance" begins and ends with Root tracking Greer through the New York Subway.
  • Boring Invincible Hero:
    • Averted with Reese, who meets someone his own size, metaphorically speaking, in "Ghosts". Following episodes underline the fact that he is not invincible, nor can Finch hack or anticipate everything. A prime example is in the mid-season finale, "Number Crunch." When Reese tangles with normal thugs, he takes them apart in seconds; fights with professional killers tend to take a lot longer, and often require some improvisation on his part. Sometimes he doesn't even take down a professional until the rematch.
    • Every now and again, they do have a straight example, such as Reese not even missing a step after taking a bullet to the vest (something that would knock a normal person off their feet).
      • This actually isn't that unlikely given the circumstances. At the time it happens Reese is running hot on a combination of adrenaline and highly developed rage, which anyone who has seen real combat or even a street fight can tell you is fully capable of turning an otherwise ordinary human being into a terminator.
    • As a subversion, Reese is shot in "Nothing to Hide", and against audience expectations, is too incapacitated to do anything but play possum and wait for Shaw's assistance.
  • Brains and Brawn: Finch and Reese respectively.
    • Not that Reese is a slouch in the brains department; the CIA's paramilitary operatives are chosen for more than their physical skills. Root couldn't have been more wrong in arrogantly dismissing Reese as Finch's "knuckledragger."
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Bear lists off on Twitter what each character smells like: "Lady Talking to Herself" (Root), nail polish and apples; "Bespectacled Man" (Finch), green tea and wool; "Hammer Lady" (Shaw), tequila and steak; "Tall Man" (Reese), gunpowder and regret.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "Judgment", Reese give the gang member he has locked up in the truck of a car a burger for giving him information, despite the fact his arms are tied up. Later, after said gang member beats up another gang member for information so he can get out of the trunk, the first thing he is seen doing is eating the burger.
    • A multi-episode one: In "Super", when Finch has to tail a woman connected to their latest case, he comments to Reese that he's getting tempted to spot the lady some cab fare so he doesn't have to follow her on foot. In "Identity Crisis", he ends up following another woman connected to a case, and does spot her cab fare at one point. Unfortunately, the woman turns out to be the villain, not the victim he thought her to be.
    • Another in a recent episode where Finch bought Bear a squeaky toy at the beginning of the episode which annoys him to no end. At the end you can see Finch throwing away the squeaky part he removed from the toy.
    • One that takes a full season to come to fruition. At the beginning of "Mission Creep" (episode 3, season 1), Reese apologizes for blowing Finch's cover as a low-level employee at IFT by offering to find him a new job: "Dog walker, maybe?" Guess who ends up taking the new Team Pet for a walk in "Masquerade" (episode 3, season 2)?
    • After Fusco and Sophia hit it off in 'Masquerade,' Fusco can be heard asking her if she likes falafel as they walk down the street together. In 'Til Death', Rhonda suggests that she and Fusco bail on the fancy restaurant they're eating at and go to her favorite falafel place.
    • Took an entire season for it to happen, but in "God Mode" Reese finally gets the chance to steal a helicopter.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: In "Bury the Lede", Reese can't do anything overtly Reese-ish to protect the latest number because she's an investigative reporter who, as a side-gig, is putting together an expose on the mysterious Badass in a Nice Suit.
  • Bulletproof Vest:
    • Reese, Fusco, and Carter all wear them.
    • The armored car bank robbers in "Matsya Nyaya" wore them, as do the armored car security guards. Reese is shot point blank and survives, but the other guard isn't as fortunate; he wore his vest loose, which allowed the 9mm round to penetrate.note 
    • A sniper in "Critical" wears a military grade vest that is able to stop a rifle bullet fired at close range. The shot knocks him out and breaks a lot of ribs but he lives.
    • Fusco is Genre Savvy enough to put on a vest every time he has to do something for Reese. It saves his life when he is shot by a hitman in "Till Death".
    • Reese is interesting in that originally he usually didn't wear a vest, but after getting shot by Snow's sniper, he's since made a point of wearing a vest under his nice suit.
    • The murderer in "Proteus" wears one.
  • But He Sounds Handsome: Reese indulges in this while discussing 'the man in the suit' with an investigative reporter.
    Reese: Sounds like a great guy.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • The Yogorov family who run the New York Russian Mafia. Elias, John, Carter and now Shaw have made each of the family members suffer humiliating and painful failures multiple times over the show.
      • In "Witness" one of the Yogorov family members gets beaten up by John and arrested by Carter, his brother gets kneecapped by Elias and the patriarch of the family, one of the most powerful criminals in New York gets double tapped by a lone gunman in his secure office. This final killing forces the Russian Mafia which had overtaken the Costa Nostra as the most powerful crime group in the city to vacate Brighton Beach, one of their major territories.
      • Season 2 has the Yogorov's try kill Elias again. The plan falls apart due to the intervention of Carter.
      • Season 3, the Yogorov's have finally got a steady, money making partnership with HR and have decimated much of the Elias organisation. Cue Shaw destroying their main drug factory, killing and maiming a sizeable amount of their personnel and using the current head of the family as her own blood donor!
      • In "Endgame" Carter uses them as patsy's to goad HR into destroying itself.
    • Fusco. Just for starters he's been shot nonfatally several times (which includes getting shot in the ass), and usually gets the worse (in various ways) job from John when assignments are split between him and Carter. Then John foists his dog on him when he and Carter go to Texas to hunt Root. Did we mention the dog only accepts commands in Dutch?
  • Captain Obvious:
    • Viewers may notice in the season 1 opening, when the world is seen through the Machine's "eye, a masked man taking aim with a gun. The caption then reads, "Violence predicted 92%." Justified, as a machine like this probably has no concept of "obviousness" and therefore would not be aware of how obvious such a statement is.
    • This could also be interpreted as "this act of violence was predicted with a 92% chance. Less "Captain Obvious" and more "I was right!"
    • Or quite possibly necessary information, and not obvious at all. 92 percent isn't 99 percent. Meaning the Machine has predicted a high, but not inevitable degree of violence.
    • Earlier in opening there is a woman arguing with a man and pointing her finger in his face. "Violence predicted 15%" is briefly visible. Also note that the numbers are fluctuating as the scene comes into focus.
  • Card Sharp:
    • One of the things Finch does to test the Machine during its early development phases was use it to cheat at blackjack. Then, after using it to win $250,000, Finch deliberately lost it all in one hand by rejecting the Machine's advice to ensure that the casino thought that he was just a guy who had a lucky streak that ran out rather than a card counter.
    • Zoe doesn't need a supercomputer watching over her shoulder to trounce Reese at poker.
    • Lou Mitchell from "All In" is retired from the life but is still able to win a huge amount in a casino that knows that he is cheating.
  • Car Fu: Mr. Reese is a master of driving his car into things when the job requires it, to the point where it sometimes approaches a running gag.
  • Carnival of Killers: In "4C" Reese discovers that multiple groups of assassins are after the PoI. Each group has its own reason for wanting the man dead and have a different skill level.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: The show milks this for all the dry humor it's worth.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "We've got another number", "I'm sure you'll/I'll figure something out" and "I'm/he's a *very* private person" have been repeated enough times to be catchphrases.
    • When the POI of each episode inevitably asks Reese who he is, he always responded with "A concerned third party", until one episode when he finally gets fed up and says "You know what, someday I'm going to come up with an actual answer for that." The (Chronologically) first time someone asks him that, he says "That's a good question." By the beginning of the third season, "concerned third party" seems to be making a comeback.
    • "Our mutual friend" is used a lot, usually to refer to Reese or Finch.
    • "Always" is reaching this point.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: Happens to the Opening Narration in "Relevance", and then again in "Zero Day". In "/" he shares narrating duties with Root.
  • Character Blog:
    • Bear has a Twitter account and live tweets during new episodes. It's doubly awesome because his tweets are all in Dutch.
    • The PoI from the third season episode "Razgovor" also has a Twitter account, @PA37ABOP, where she began commenting in July of 2013.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • All of those shots in season 1 of Finch looking at books in the library suddenly have a new meaning after the first episode of season 2. It also explains why his backup site is also a library (albeit one that's operating, rather than abandoned).
    • Finch collects a sample of polonium-infused water partway through "In Extremis." Reese later uses it to poison a Corrupt Corporate Executive (he had it coming, given that he'd used that water to poison the POI).
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Elias (both literally and figuratively).
    • Root, in "Firewall" and "Mors Prematura".
    • Carter, in "Endgame".
    • Greer in troves.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The first part definitely (though some of them claim to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist), the second part is still in the air but plausible: they apparently want to shut down the evil operations of the CIA (And any other serious criminal operations they become aware of, such as HR), but they are also trying to stop Reese. In their defense, all the evidence they have of Reese's operations suggests that he's far more malignant than he really is.
    • Donnelly toed the line very close with this, however. His willingness to pursue The Man In The Suit meant he'd quite happily resort to methods which, while mostly legal, were hardly ethical. Right until he allows the Aryan Brotherhood to viciously beat Reese in the exercise yard, merely in hopes he'd use his hand-to-hand combat skills to defend himself. His actions very nearly got Reese killed. That the Warden was under the impression that an FBI Special Agent had that kind of authority is a bit alarming.
    • Given that the FBI are the only ones Carter trusts to arrest Quinn and finally defeat HR, they probably qualify as this. Donnelly was honest, he just ultimately slipped into Inspector Javert.
  • Click Hello: This happens a lot. Usually to Reese.
    • It's Shaw's favorite way to greet him, to the extent that its practically a Running Gag.
  • Closed Circle: In "Proteus" Reese and Finch are trapped on an island that has been cut off from the mainland due to a storm. Most of the residents have been evacuated and one of the people still on the island might be a serial killer.
  • Cool Guns: The show loves this trope immensely.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: When viewing the world through security footage (the Machine's "Perspective"), objects and people are sorted as follows:
    • At any given moment, people appearing in a frame will have a white box surrounding them while The Machine is scanning them. Those found not to be involved in any sort of criminal conspiracy at that moment lose their boxes after being cleared
      • The white boxes also vanish if a person dies while in frame.
      • The white boxes become permanent for that episode if that person is found to be involved in a "non-relevant" crime
      • Fusco and Carter also have permanent white boxes, probably due to their links to Finch and Reese
      • When the perpetrator of a crime linked to that week's POI is attempting to put their final plan into action, their box turns red along the corners and center hash marks. In general this box means that someone is about to carry out a violent crime; it has appeared around people even when the person they are about to kill is not a POI such as when Mark Snow was waiting for Stanton in the back of her car so that his bomb vest would take her with him.
    • Yellow boxes indicate people who know of The Machine's existence:
      • Reese and Finch, of course
      • Finch's partner Ingram is shown framed in yellow in flashbacks.
      • Ingram's government contact, Alicia Corwin, is shown in yellow when she appears in "No Good Deed". A conversation with Ingram in a flashback indicates that five other people know about The Machine at that time.
      • By the end of "No Good Deed", the NSA agent has acquired enough information about The Machine to get his own yellow box.
      • Carter deduces the existence of the Machine in "The Crossing".
    • A a fully red box, which is also much bolder than the white and yellow boxes, indicates a "relevant" threat
      • A flashback in "Get Carter" shows a bomb-maker highlighted in red
      • Denton Weeks, the NSA deputy director who tried to interfere with the Machine, also got a red box and label "Threat to the system".
      • A flashback in "Matsya Nyaya" shows Stanton and Reese in red boxes during their final operation with the CIA, likely because they had both been targeted for termination by the Agency, and turned against each other in the process.
      • The POI in "Firewall" (Root) is shown to be more than she seems when she starts the episode with a yellow box. As of "Bad Code," Root was given a red box. In "Zero Day" and "God Mode," she was back to a yellow box again, presumably because The Machine has re-prioritized Greer and the "New Gods" (Decima) as a more immediate threat.
      • Greer gets one immediately after he declares his intent to find Finch.
    • A blue box, introduced in "Relevance", marks 'Indigo' personnel: the agents who follow up on the Machine's primary directive of eliminating threats to national security.
      • Interestingly enough, Sam Shaw kept her blue box even after Northern Lights thought they'd cashiered her., but was upgraded to a yellow box as soon as Reese told her that "Research" was an AI in "God Mode".
    • In "Liberty," a new type of yellow box with black lines and yellow at the corners, is assigned to Root. A flashback to the ending of "God Mode" as seen from The Machine's POV designates this as indicating "analog interface."
    • Airplanes flying in and out of the city are shown in green triangles as they pass across the frame
    • Similarly, ships moving in and out of the city are displayed in white diamonds.
    • Sensitive locations, like over Washington D.C., are shown in red boundaries.
    • Samaritan uses different symbols to indicate relevant and irrelevant threats. A white circle with red marks indicates an irrelevant threat. A red triangle inside the circle marks a relevant associate of a relevant threat, or the person him/herself is a relevant threat. It also charts dates on a vertical axis, while the Machine uses the horizontal.
  • The Comically Serious - Reese and Finch are turning into this.
  • Comically Small Bribe: The inversion has happened twice. Finch and Ingram sold The Machine to the US Government for $1. Also, in "Wolf and Cub", the POI offers Reese all the money he has in an attempt to hire Reese to get justice for his murdered brother. Reese takes a quarter and gives the rest back.
  • Conflict Ball: Unfortunately, Carter seems to carry this a lot; in season 1 she routinely griped about Reese and Finch using illegal methods, and yet she willingly continued to help them and even went so far as to do some legally questionable things on her own initiative (e.g. kidnapping the Mafia dons in "Flesh and Blood", which she definitely did not have authorization to do). Most recently in season 2, she specifically told Fusco she would not cover for him... after she had just spent three episodes covering for Reese.
    • Carter's conflicts are not exactly consistent. When destroying the evidence that proves Reese is the Man In The Suit, she specifically tells Finch that she "crossed the line a long time ago." Other times, such as when she's in shock after Stanton rammed Donnelly's SUV with a Mack truck she reverts to code, saying she can't flee the scene of an accident even though that's highly illogical (and was obviously the shock talking).
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Reese occasionally uses the badge he took off of the late Detective Stills in "Pilot" as a prop for a cover ID in later episodes (e.g. "Many Happy Returns," "No Good Deed," "The Contingency").
      • He has also started using the star he took from US Marshal Jennings in "Many Happy Returns."
    • One episode's POI, an investment banker, made 100 million on a short sale of Virtanen Pharmaceuticals, believing that their stock would tank when their senior management was convicted of the crimes that Reese and Finch had gotten them arrested for in an earlier episode.
    Reese: I'm familiar with the case.
    • In "Identity Crisis", the FBI have been following up on several unsolved cases concerning Reese including "a band of ex-military bank robbers" and "the murder of a Stasi agent".
    • Reese is shot and severely injured in "Number Crunch," and spends most of the next episode ("Super") in a wheelchair or on crutches. In the following episode ("Legacy"), he is seen holding his side and wincing after a fight and complains that "I wish gunshot wounds healed faster."
    • In "The Fix," Zoe Morgan tells the story of seeing a "fixer" like herself persuade a crowd of intrusive reporters to disperse with "just two words." At the end of "Root Cause," she persuades a crowd of intrusive reporters to disperse with just two words.
    • At the beginning of "Bad Code" Reese buys Carter and Fusco the round of drinks he promised them at the end of "Firewall." At 8 in the morning.
    • In "Masquerade," Finch is shown to have developed PTSD as a consequence of being kidnapped by Root.
    • In "Triggerman," Elias refers to Finch as "Mr. Crane," the alias Finch was using when he crossed paths with Elias in "Risk."
      • In "Critical," Finch uses the "Harold Crane" alias again, and Reese uses the same cover identity he used in "Risk," that of Mr. Crane's investment manager, "John Rooney."
    • The POI of "Bury the Lede" is a newspaper reporter, Maxine Angelis. Her byline appears on newspaper articles shown in several previous episodes.
    • When being interrogated by Carter in "Prisoner's Dilemma", John is pretending to be an investment banker and mentions that he was in Mexico on business at the beginning of May, 2012. He's not lying.
    • Harold hires Monica, the PoI of "Trojan Horse", to work for IFT.
    • In "Lady Killer," Hersh refers to Root as "Miss May," the alias she used to infiltrate the Office of Special Counsel.
    • The "Plan B" bag, which contains an Ithaca 37 stakeout, projectile launcher, SPAS-12, FN FS 2000 and now a Desert Arms Recon Sniper rifle made several appearances over "Season 1". In the Season 3 episode "Endgame" Shaw steals it from John and gives it to Carter so she can initiate her plan to destroy HR.
    • In both the pilot and "The Crossing", Reese fights a bunch of punks on a train. In the latter case, it leads to him confessing his feelings to Carter because it reminds him of how they met.
  • Cop Killer:
    • After the Dirty Cop organization HR fails at attempting to frame Detective Szymanski as a Dirty Cop in order to curry favor with The Mafiya, their leader, mayor's aide Alonzo Quinn, resorts to shooting both Szymanski and the DA trying the case. Quinn later sics HR on his own godson Detective Beecher after the latter asks the wrong questions about the Szymanski murder.
    • "The Crossing" and "The Devil's Share" form a two-parter with multiple examples.
      • A flashback in "The Devil's Share" shows Fusco unburdening himself to a police shrink that his first on-the-job kill wasn't a good shoot. He had hunted down and murdered a drug dealer who had killed an off-duty rookie and gotten off scot free.
      • At the end of "The Crossing" now-wanted HR member Simmons kills Detective Carter. The next episode there's a city-wide manhunt for him. Unfortunately for Simmons, Team Machine are also looking for him, and Reese in particular isn't inclined to be merciful. After the rest of the team stops Reese, Fusco tracks down Simmons himself and arrests him, openly refusing to kill him in Carter's memory. The Don Carl Elias is not so scrupulous and has him killed in the hospital because he liked Carter.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • The senior management of Virtanen Pharmaceuticals, who have someone killed to keep word about their deadly drug from getting out.
    • Rylatech was riddled with them.
  • Couch Gag: At the end of Finch's Opening Narration, we see a brief clip of the "person of interest" for the particular episode.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • In "Root Cause," we see that Finch and Reese have a prearranged alternate means of communication for when their phones and private network are compromised.
    • In "Bad Code," Finch uses a Polybius square cipher to leave a message for Reese—one that Reese also has memorized.
    • In "Critical", Alistair Wesley has a backup plan in case his sniper is incapacitated, and then has a backup plan in case the first backup fails. Then we find out that this was just plan A and he also has a plan B already in place. He set all of this up ahead of time when he had no reason to suspect that someone like Reese and Finch would come after him. His sniper is even wearing military grade armor that is able to stop a rifle bullet at close range.
      Wesley : Don't test me. I was expecting everything.
    • In "Prisoner's Dilemma," we see the extent of John Reese's cover that Finch set him up with, which includes a whole office filled with people who give Reese an alibi when the FBI come visiting.
    • Reese revealed in "Zero Day" that he planted a tracking device on Finch's glasses at one point because he doesn't want to risk losing another person that he cares about.
  • Creator Cameo: Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman, and Richard J. Lewis all make a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo near the end of "God Mode".
  • Creepy Monotone: Both the heroes talk this way.
  • Crime After Crime: While the Machine is unable to predict crimes of opportunity or impulse, it is pretty good in predicting when a cover up will result in murder. Several episodes have centered on a perpetrator trying to kill the "person of interest" to cover up a previous crime.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Team Machine has honed this trope into an art form.
    • The pilot opens with Reese delivering one of these to a group of thugs. He then revists this treatment upon them to steal their bag of guns.
    • "Reasonable Doubt" shows an excellent example of this, as Reese efficiently dispatches the thugs trying to rob Dr. Jensen.
    • And in "The Devil's Share", Reese curbstomps a US Marshals SWAT team.
    • A slightly larger one occurs when Vigilance runs into a Northern Lights hit team led by Hersh.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The normally stoic Finch and Reese become remarkably attached to their youngest ever PoI, six-month-old Lila Smith. Especially when one considers that the time period between Finch stealing her from the hospital to protect her from more malignant kidnappers and Reese and Finch leaving her with her maternal grandparents is no more than two or three days.
    • Bear is able to induce this in Shaw; she claims she's only sticking with Team Machine because of Bear. It's clear the self-processed sociopath who doesn't care about anything absolutely adores him.
  • Cut the Juice: Used with refreshing frequency for a high-tech series in this day and age. When Finch's network is hacked in "Root Cause" he does not launch into Techno Babble about firewalls and backhacking (a la NCIS). Instead, he simply destroys his phone and shuts down the generator powering the library.
    • The common reaction to a bugged phone is to simply destroy the phone.
    • $2,000,000 watch with a GPS tracker embedded in it? Disable the GPS by stamping on the watch.
    • How do the Chinese spies in "Trojan" deal with a hack? Counter hack the hackers, and override their lithium-ion battery to explode.note 
    • How does Shaw remain off the grid? Destroy her phone and throw it away after every job with Team Machine.
  • Cyber Punk: unusual in not being set Twenty Minutes into the Future, but it does have an AI built to detect terrorists, universal surveillance, hacker battles...
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Zoe in "Booked Solid". She catches on almost immediately that Reese and Finch are very interested in the hit man in the hotel lobby. She proceeds to "accidentally" spill wine over him to help Reese and Finch deduce if the man has replacements or is working alone. Note that no prior communication occurred specifically regarding the man, just that Zoe knew Reese was "working".
    • Greer. Always.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Creepy people showing up in the backseat of cars happens a lot. And by creepy people, we mean Reese.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Machine's interface is grey and black in tone.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Finch and Fusco stand out in this area, but the other regular characters are far from strangers with the concept.
    • Though Reese certainly had his moments during season 1, season 2 has taken his snarking to a whole other level!
    • In "Bury The Lede," Reese is at Finch's study, preparing a sniper rifle.
    Finch: I do wish you wouldn't do that here.
    Reese: When I do it at the park, people look at me funny.
    • And again, later in the same episode:
    Finch: Did you get a good look at the men who were shooting at you?
    Reese: I tried, but they were shooting at me.
    • "Til Death:"
    Finch: I need you to go to the Drakes' place of business while I visit their home.
    Reese: I'm proud of you, Finch. You've really gotten comfortable with your breaking and entering duties.
    Finch: Thank you for appreciating my descent into deviant behaviour.
    • In "Zero Day" and "God Mode," Shaw proves herself the equal of Reese and Finch in snarking.
    • In "Nothing to Hide", Finch shows he can easily match wits with Shaw with a beautiful one-liner:
    Finch: You know, that [whether or not it was justifiable to save you] was not a question we entertained when we saved you, Ms. Shaw.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • John makes one with Elias to save a child who was kidnapped and mother killed. Elias betrayed him in the end by threatening the child to get some information out of John.
    • Finch approached Officer Simmons of HR to get information on Elias and where he was holding Det. Carter's son by telling him Elias had hit men watching the wives and children of every member of his group.
    • Also, Finch planning to sell the Machine virus to the highest bidder is arguably this as well as a Batman Gambit. Even Dillinger stealing the laptop containing the virus and selling it to the Chinese himself was a part of the plan.
  • Death by Secret Identity: So far, almost everyone outside of Team Machine who has learned who Harold Finch is (and a few who've learned who Reese is) has ended up dead. Should be noted that he has had nothing to do with any of these deaths.
  • Death Equals Redemption: A fatally wounded Terney manages to point out the leader of HR to Carter in a photo before he bleeds to death.
  • Decoy Damsel: There was one in "Baby Blue" when an unmarked NYPD sedan came across a woman asking for help from an accident. Moretti tells them to get going before a pick-up smashed into the cruiser and the plainclothes officers were gunned down. And yeah, the woman was part of it.
    • Caroline Turing in "Firewall".
    • The POI in "Reasonable Doubt."
  • Destination Defenestration: Happens once or twice in season 1, but season 2 has had so many examples that it's almost become a running gag.
    • "I hope that guy's got health insurance."
  • Destroy the Evidence:
    • Fusco does this after securing the HR ledger by tearing off the page that contained the names of him and Simmons to make sure the FBI won't arrest them.
    • Carter does this to John's fingerprints and DNA sample in "2-Pi-R".
  • Diabolical Mastermind:
    • Elias, the self-styled "evolution of organized crime".
    • Quinn, the head of HR.
  • Didn't See That Coming: In an odd way, The Machine itself serves as this to the numerous conspiracies that it unintentionally discovers. Very few criminals would ever consider that a government supercomputer would predict their crimes. Most instances of Revealing Coverup are tied to this.
    • The ending of "Prisoner's Dilemma," when Kara Stanton kills Donnelly and kidnaps Reese.
    • The end of Aletheia. After a Gambit Pileup involving Team Machine, Vigilance and Northern Lights, it's Decima which secures the Samaritan drives.
    • "Deus ex Machina". Decima wins.
  • Dirty Business:
    • The protagonists commit any number of lesser crimes in order to either protect or stop the POIs. They're not shy about framing bad people to get them off the street, or even sending them to isolated Mexican prisons where they'll never walk free. When Reese isn't killing people, anyway.
    • Fusco was somewhat bitter when forced to act as a mole in HR. He had finally started to remember what it felt like to be a good cop.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Detective Fusco was this before Reese forced him to work for him as his inside man. The other cops Fusco was working with were even worse. Fusco was the only one who still seemed to care about right or wrong which is why Reese decided to let him go.
    • Lieutenant Gilmore in "The Fix".
    • One of the officers Fusco talks to in "Get Carter" after being told to put down Carter permanently - who has since been expanded to be a member of a whole group of dirty cops known collectively as HR.
    • Simmons.
    • It's been implied that Cal Beecher is one, but so far there has been no actual evidence that proves it. It's finally confirmed that he's clean... Just before he dies.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Sam Shaw from the episode "Relevance" almost seems like one for Reese. This is because she is effectively in the exact same position he was in before the series begins, working for the exact same people.
  • Disapproving Look: Finch rocks at these.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Finch in "Identity Crisis".
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu:
    • In "Mission Creep," Reese and another Iraq veteran are drinking in a bar when they are mocked by two inebriated guys in business suits. One of them berates Reese for not having an office job: "It's the knowledge economy; you gotta use your head." Reese does just that, head-butting them into submission.
    • Finch is working as a lowly employee under a Jerk Ass supervisor in a company that he secretly owns. Reese asks him what would happen if his cover was blown.
    Finch: The entire department could be overhauled. Some would be reassigned, promoted... [looks at his supervisor] Some would be fired...
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Both Reese and Finch, but the former doesn't mind it since he has no choice.
    Reese: I don't particularly like killing people, but I'm very good at it.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: At the end of "Identity Crisis", Reese refuses to take advantage of a drugged and uncharacteristically friendly Finch's brazen (and certainly quite tempting) offer, "Don't you want to talk? Ask me anything!" He even says that Finch would regret it in the morning.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Kara used Snow as her errand boy and kept him in line with the threat of activating his bomb-vest. Eventually she leaves him locked in a room with the bomb on a timer. Snow manages to escape the room and decides to wait for her in her car, where the bomb detonates and kills them both.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind:
    • "Witness" revolves around a schoolteacher hunted by The Mafiya. Turned out he was an Italian mafia boss, incognito.
    • "Firewall" featured a criminal who knew about the Machine who put herself in danger to lure out Reese and Finch when they tried to save her.
    • The real head of HR as discovered in "Bury the Lede" is not a politician but a political adviser. As he said, politicians come and go but a person like him is there forever.
    • "Brotherhood" features Shaw torturing a low-level thug to discover the identity of the head of the Brotherhood. After he is released (alongside a lot of money) in exchange for Reese, he is revealed to actually be the leader.
  • Double Meaning Title:
    • "Baby Blue": the POI is an orphaned baby; at the climax, she's locked in a freezer by Elias, and starts turning blue from the cold.
    • "Bury the Lede": newspaper slang for not putting the most important fact in the first ("lede") sentence of a story; in the episode, the POI is a reporter who is manipulated into outing an undercover informant, who is then murdered by the real bad guys—the "lede" of her story gets buried in a pine box
    • "Trojan Horse": Finch and Reese often act the part when they infiltrate an organization bent on killing a PoI. But in addition, this specifically also refers to the way Rylatech was effectively made into one for the Chinese and/or Greer's "New Gods".
    • "In Extremis" is Latin for "At the point of death." First the POI spends much of the episode slowly dying from radiation poisoning and doing his best to help Reese find his killer and make amend with his daughter. The second is Stanton's virus has finally done its damage and the Machine is the one who is on the edge of death.
  • Dragon Ascendant: In the first season, HR's activities were pretty much limited to enabling other people's crimes. In the second, they move up to being a major threat in their own right.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Reese is trying to drink himself to death when Finch finds him.
    • The POI in "Masquerade" is a more subtle example.
  • Drunk Driver:
    • In "Judgment," a drunk driver hitting a pedestrian starts a chain of events that lead to a judge becoming a 'person of interest'.
    • The very first life that the Machine saves is Finch's, stopping him from trying to cross the street just before a drunk who passed out at the wheel came zooming by.
  • Dull Surprise:
    • Reese. Barely speaks above a whispered monotone and often has a blank expression on his face. Can come across as a bit narmy to some. He's like the less emotive, poor man's version of Christian Bale's Batman. Justified, since Reese was trained to be a stoic and emotionless killer. It helps that Caviezel is capable of conveying a wealth of emotion with only his eyes, and it also serves to make the occasions that he does show emotion that much more meaningful (see the end of "Dead Reckoning", "The Crossing").
    • By contrast, Shaw, who actually has a disorder that means she doesn't really feel emotion, is generally more demonstrative (in a snarky way) than her Distaff Counterpart Reese. One POI, who she clearly develops a bond with, suggests that she does feel emotion, but it's like a radio turned way down.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Mostly everyone can admit that Snow was a jerk, but using his bomb vest to take Kara out with him was one of these moments. He was right about being great at dying.
    • One of the POI's ended up getting poisoned with only one day left to live. He chose to spend his last day making amends with his estranged daughter and killing the man who ordered his death with the exact same poison used on him.
    • Terney's last act was to do one right thing for Carter and point out Quinn as the head of HR.
    • Before she goes down from Simmons' gunfire Carter is still able to get one shot off and wound the man severely.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: It took a few episodes before Reese settled on the black suit white shirt combo he usually rocks.
  • Emotionless Girl: Shaw. Justified as she's revealed to have a disorder affecting her this way. One flashback shows her being in a car accident where her father was killed, and calmly asking for a sandwich from the fireman who rescued her afterward, unaffected.
  • Enemy Civil War: Finch breaks up the partnership of Elias and HR by pointing out to HR's second-in-command that Elias was having his family watched.
  • Enemy Mine: Despite Finch breaking up his union with HR, while in prison Elias seems to think helping Finch and Reese is the best course of action and gives them subtle information about how HR currently is implanting itself in the city and who they are removing from power. Especially since Elias spurned a reconciliation with HR.
    • When Vigilance makes a huge move by abducting Control and moving on Greer and Finch's location, Reese and Shaw form an alliance of necessity with Hersh.
    • In Panopticon, Reese temporarily allies with Elias to take down the Brotherhood.
  • Enhance Button: Done more plausibly than normal. Finch enhances images taken from a cell phone video in Masquerade, but the enhanced resolution isn't exactly hi-def. The main thing the enhanced image is used for is to identify large distinguishing features on head-shaped blurs, which Finch uses to identify the figures through other means.
  • Episode on a Plane: "4C".
  • Establishing Character Moment: Reese gets two in the pilot. The first, his Curb-Stomp Battle against the thugs, showcases his combat skills. The second is when he frantically frees himself and breaks down a hotel door to try and save a woman who he hears is being murdered.
  • Establishing Shot: Used fairly often; includes stock shots of the Library and the Precinct. Almost always a surveillance camera image—that is, from The Machine's point of view.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Reese, once he cleans up.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Fusco has a son and his concern for him is obvious when he's being confronted by the cartel members.
    • One of the members of HR is shown having a loving family and stops working for Elias when he realizes Elias might go after them.
    • An odd one: Elias greatly respected Joss Carter and the lengths she went to while trying to take down HR within the scope of the law, even though he offered to wipe the organization out as thanks for saving his life. He genuinely mourns her death and takes has Officer Simmons killed as his way of getting vengeance.
    • Speaking through Root, the Machine gets Control to back off by telling her it knows where the only thing she loves in the world lives, and she will protect it and Control.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Fusco, to an extent; see Dirty Cop entry above. "The Devil's Share" shows that even when he was a dirty cop, he hunted down and killed a drug dealer, to avenge the rookie cop the dealer had killed a year before.
      • In "Justice," the thought of a kidnapped child still disgusts him as much as it would any police officer, and he seems quite sincere in offering Reese any help he can give in tracking the perpetrator(s) down.
    • A hitman refused to kill a child even after he already murdered her family. When he is sent to prison for another crime, he reveals what happened since he does not want to be known as a child killer.
    • Elias decides not to kill Reese at the end of "Witness" "because that would seem ungrateful." He even offers him a job.
    • John invokes this trope against Elias to get his help by pointing out the baby he's looking for mirror's Elias' own back story and if Elias allows the kidnapping of children in his domain then he has nothing worth protecting. Elias agrees to help. Subverted later when Elias puts the rescued baby in mortal danger until John gives him some key information, because he knows John won't let the baby get hurt.
    • Invoked by a Russian mobster who tells Shaw that his people have standards and would not kill a 10 year old girl. On the other hand, the mobster had no problem kidnapping the girl and turning her over to HR who are more than capable of murdering a child.
    • At the end of Season 2, Elias is about to be executed by Russian Mobster Peter Yogorov and Detective Terney. While Elias accepts that Yogorov has to kill him to avenge the death of his father, because that is expected within the rules that the underworld plays by, he is disgusted at the thought of being killed by Terney because the detective is breaking the oath he took as a member of the NYPD.
  • Everything Is Online:
    • Inherent in the premise. The Machine automagically interfaces with every security/traffic/personal web camera that exists.
      • Sometimes averted, there are things that the Machine has to send Root in to find out. For example the authentication number in "Mors Praematura", the formula for the chip in "Root Path", and the meeting of senior government officials in "A House Divided".
    • In "All In" Finch lampshades the fact that casinos tend to have top of the line electronic security but in this case the casino owner got greedy and tied their online blackjack site directly into their main system. This gives Finch the backdoor to hack the casino's computer system. Subverted later on when Finch has to physically break into the server room to access the really secure files.
  • Evil Brit: Alistair Wesley (played by Julian Sands), and the reoccurring character "Greer".
  • Evil Counterpart: Elias is the anti-Finch. Both are men whose soft-spoken, nebbishy personalities mask the fact that they're highly intelligent and manipulative people who built up tremendous influence and power from behind the scenes while hiding their true identities from the public. But while Finch is The Atoner and working to make up for his past mistakes, Elias is a mob boss driven by revenge against those who've hurt him.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The show has various villainous factions with their own agendas, so this is inevitable.
  • Expy:
    • Elias, especially in how he's introduced bears more than a little resemblance to a certain other criminal mastermind
    • He's also a Professor who is secretly a incognito criminal mastermind that rules the entire city, from criminal to judge. Sounds familiar?
    • Pierce, from "One Percent," is essentially Mark Zuckerberg meets Tony Stark.
    • The POI in "Lady Killer" is almost identical to a more realistic, less "wacky" Barney Stinson, down to being creepily obsessive about women and tailoring his entire persona to them instead of being genuine because he was hurt by one in the past. His name is the also-Irish "Ian Murphy".
  • Facial Dialogue: Reese and Finch are both capable of expressing volumes with only minor facial expressions.
  • Facial Recognition Software: This is just one of the methods that the Machine uses to identify people. Also used by Finch on occasion.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: The Special Counsel accepts his death with an even "Fair enough," after completely failing his assigned task.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Several fictional businesses appear in multiple episodes: the "Fetch and Retrieve" search engine, OneState Bank, the New York Journal (an Expy of the New York Times) and New York Ledger (an Expy of the Post), Universal Heritage Insurance, IFT, the FriendCzar social networking site.
  • Failure Knight:
    • Finch and Reese both toward one another and the people they help. Both have failed to protect someone dear to them in the past and have devoted what is left of their lives to protect those in need.
    • Finch has especially strong tones of this, stemming from years of allowing the "unimportant" numbers slip through the cracks and being unable to protect Jessica, Reese's love and his actions in stopping Nathan from looking at the irrelevant list led to Nathan's death. Root also suggests that Reese isn't the first person Finch has recruited.
  • False Flag Operation: What Carter initiates in order to get HR to destroy itself once and for all, starting a war between them and the Russians, and tipping off the FBI to swoop in and arrest most of them.
  • Flashback:
    • Used every two or three episodes to fill in character back-stories. They generally focus on one character during an episode. Finch and Reese have had multiple instances; Carter, Elias, Root, Fusco, and Kara Stanton have all had one episode each. "The Devil's Share" has flashbacks for Finch, Root, Reese and Fusco.
  • First Name Basis: As a general rule, whenever anyone is addressed by their first name, it's either because someone is trying to stress a point to them, or because shit is hitting the fan, such as Reese being shot, Finch trying to disable Reese's bomb vest, Resse trying to talk Carter out of her revenge against HR, or Fusco begging Reese to find Carter before she gets killed by HR.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The massive conspiracy of corrupt cops with tentacles throughout New York is known by the innocuous-sounding name of HR. Which makes sense, since if someone not in the know overhears a bit of a conversation, they probably assume they're talking about the NYPD's actual HR dept.
  • Forced to Watch: When Root abducts Finch she forces him to watch her torture Denton Weeks for information, partially, it seems, because she likes to have someone to appreciate her work, partially to show him what may happen to him if he doesn't give her what she wants, and partially, it seems, because she finds it interesting and entertaining that it bothers him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Reese's voice-over from "Pilot" foreshadows Jessica's death. Subtly reinforced in the second episode, "Ghosts," when Jessica's picture appears on one of the screens showing the people on the "irrelevant" list.
    • In "No Good Deed", Reese tells Finch he thinks it's time he was told how The Machine communicates with him so he can continue helping people if something ever happens to Finch; the next episode, Finch gets kidnapped.
    • In "Bad Code," Root's childhood friend Hannah is shown playing The Oregon Trail at the public library. She dies of dysentery and quits the game, then leaves the library...and is murdered on her way home.
    • Beginning in "One Percent" you can see brief glimpses of the Blue Screen Of Death when viewing The Machine's POV. It continues to progress in later episodes, to the point where it eventually causes the title sequence to crash. The Machine is finally been revealed to have a major virus, planted by Kara Stanton, that has been slowly destroying it over the course of the second season. This has the side effect of Reese and Finch failing to save several PoI's since they're identified too late to make a difference.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Elias.
    • The serial killer in "Proteus".
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • Finch does this to create an opening for Reese to get closer to a POI working as a bank-robber.
    • Also, Reese tries to frame the serial rapist for cocaine possession, but it ends up not working because he's got good lawyers.
    • Fusco works for Reese because Reese can frame Fusco for a killing another Dirty Cop. Reese killed the guy with Fusco's gun.
    • Carter did a bit during her time as an Army officer to prevent suicide vests from being used by "proving" to an Iraqi civilian that she had photos of him meeting with Al-Qaeda terrorists.
    • In "Endgame", she utilises multiple false flag operations to do this on a wider scale to HR and the Russian Mafia.
    • In "Legacy," Reese got a corrupt parole officer arrested by the NYPD by pretending to make him drunk and a threat to himself with a pistol.
    • Reese even does this to himself. He makes a group of criminals believe that he is The Mole who infiltrated their gang. He is a mole who infiltrated their gang but not the undercover cop they are looking for
    • In "Many Happy Returns", Reese throws the Marshal who was stalking that week's POI into jail for being John Reese.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Reese (Id): doubts his mission as a spy.
    • Snow (Ego): Manipulative Bastard who talks Reese and Stanton into killing each other.
    • Stanton (Superego): never doubted her mission and enjoyed her job.
  • Friend on the Force: Detective Fusco's relationship with Reese is hardly friendly, but he's still a valuable source of information from within the department. Carter later graduates to this.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: In "Many Happy Returns," Finch gives Reese the key to an apartment whose monthly rent probably exceeds the monthly mortgage payment of most middle-class houses. No evidence is provided as to whether or not Reese could afford such a place on his salary (He certainly couldn't on the salary of either of his previous jobs), but Finch can definitely afford it (assuming he doesn't just own the whole building and is letting Reese stay there rent-free).
    • Given this is supposed to be a birthday present, we can assume he's given full propriety of the apartment to Reese, or at least to one of his aliases.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • The climax of "Mors Praematura": Finch and Reese, while trying to save the week's POI, attempt to prevent Vigilance from intercepting a prisoner transport and killing one of its occupants. Said transport, unbeknownst to either group, had already been infiltrated by Root and Shaw, also acting on behalf of the Machine.
    • Happens again during "Alethia", with Team Machine, Northern Lights, and Vigilance coming to blows over control of Samaritan. Ultimately, Team Machine and the POI escape due to some big damn heroics, Hersh narrowly avoids being blown up by a Vigilance mook, and Samaritan is thought to be destroyed, but survives and ends up in the hands of a fourth party— Decima.
    • And also in "4C", which involves Colombian and Israeli drug gangs alongside the ISA under instructions from Northern Lights.
  • Gangsta Style:
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: So far we've seen The Mafia, The Mafiya, The Irish Mob, and a Bulgarian mob.
  • Genre Shift: The series began as a twist on the police procedural concept. Over the course of three seasons it has smoothly developed into a post-cyberpunk show about AI and the beginnings of a Singularity.
  • Godzilla Threshold: There's bad, and then there's so bad you get Root to help. The final round with HR isn't, but saving Reese afterward is.
  • Go for the Eye: Reese teaches the eye jab to Finch as a basic self-defense technique; Finch is suitably squicked, but uses it successfully against the villain of the week. Finch's reaction to how well it actually worked despite criticizing it earlier making it all the funnier.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Deconstructed in "Bury the Lede". The POI is an Intrepid Reporter who chases her story at all costs, and in doing so, gets a bit hasty about collecting sufficient evidence. She gets a man killed and her career nearly ruined for her efforts.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • "You are being watched."
    • Also the Big Bad in "Blue Code" known only as LOS turns out to be a CIA agent, using drug smuggling to fund the War On Terror.
  • Good Feels Good: Fusco complains that he was just getting used to being a good guy when Reese insists he go undercover with HR.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Intelligence Support Activity, which is portrayed in the series as a shadowy black ops wetwork group for the US military and intelligence services. A three-man ISA team (presumably seconded to Northern Lights) make several attempts to kill a POI in "No Good Dead".
    • Northern Lights is the codename for the government program that acts on the Machine's Relevant numbers. "Relevance" indicates that some operators come from the ISA above, and shows that Northern Lights operators are classed as Indigo assets: assets who hunt down Relevant numbers the Machine identifies.
    • Interestingly, this seems well researched. ISA is the support agency of JSOC, which is in charge of all military special operation teams. Kudos to the producers for not taking the easy way out with the CIA, as the CIA can't operate in the US at all, whereas the military can do it with (presumably secret) Congressional authorization. If the US government had such a machine, and was operating a wetworks teams with even a veneer of legality, it would be via the ISA and JSOC. Bonus points for using actual JSOC naming conventions of Task Force Color.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Fusco's story of protecting the POI model from the Armenian Mob.
  • Guns Akimbo: Root. Shaw calls it lame in "The Devil's Share" — and then Root turns and mows down half a dozen Russian gangsters the moment they drive up.
    Shaw: Okay, that was kinda hot.
    • And then she does it to save Shaw, Finch and the POI two episodes later.

    Tropes H-M 
  • Handicapped Badass: Reese is confined to a wheelchair or crutches for one episode after being shot by the CIA. It doesn't stop him from taking down the villain-of-the-week.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Root gives her psychiatrist an epic one at the end of Liberty. The one she gives to Control in "Aletheia" is just as awesome.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: A variation. Reese and Finch hack into the Wi-Fi of everyone in an apartment building so they can access the webcams. One woman is doing yoga in full view of her webcam. In her underwear. Evidently the unseen position she gets into is Head-Tiltingly Contorted.
  • Heel-Face Turn:
    • Mildly. Detective Fusco started out as a Punch Clock Villain, only a dirty cop out of loyalty to a friend. Reese turns him into a mole in the NYPD.
    • Detective Carter was never really a Heel to begin with: she was hunting Finch and Reese because it's her job.
    • The fake hypnotherapist decides to reform himself as a real hypnotherapist after he realizes that his girlfriend was also a con artist, in "The Perfect Mark". It helps that he was actually pretty good at it.
    • Root... kinda
  • Heroes Love Dogs: As the "team" may very likely end up in some morally gray areas during the course of the show, the addition of Bear is likely a way to make sure you'll keep rooting for them.
    Shaw: To be honest, I'm only in it for the dog.
  • Hero Antagonist: Detective Carter is actively trying to track Reese down for the first few episodes, anyway.
  • Hero of Another Story: "Prisoner's Dilemma" shows glimpses of Fusco on an adventure protecting supermodel Karolina Kurkova from some Armenians.
    • The opening of "Relevance" shows Sam Shaw to have been one working for a government counterterrorism agency, later revealed to be Northern Lights, the program that's following up on the Relevant numbers.
  • Heroic RROD: In "The Devil's Share" Reese goes on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge ignoring his serious injuries, and can barely stand at the end of the episode. Finch even says that they have to find him before he dies of his injuries.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Reese is a very self-aware version, and tries to dissuade some of the people he helps from going down the same path ("Cura Te Ipsum," "Wolf and Cub"). His mentor Cara Stanton was an even more aware version, and told him that this would happen to him. She however, is not bothered by it.
    • Lampshaded in "Many Happy Returns:" "I'll show [an abusive husband] what a real monster's like!"
  • Holding Out for a Hero: Leon gets a CMOF at the intro to "All In", when he's unexpectedly attacked by a couple of thugs.
    Leon: "Wait, you plan to kill me?"
    Thug: Probably.
    Leon: grinning OK, that's a big mistake. Yeah, you better get out of here. Right now while you still can.
    Reese: busts down the door and beats the thugs down We have to stop meeting like this.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • In the season four premiere, Reese (in his new persona as a detective), doesn't bother with filling out the paperwork justifying his shooting a drug dealer because he didn't fire his gun. Even though the circumstances behind the shooting are easily justifiable (the guys he shot were trying to rob and kill him), this is a no-no. It doesn't matter if a cop shoots his attacker with his own gun or the perp's gun, what matters to the department is that the cop shot somebody, and that has to be legally justified-every officer is put on leave until Internal Affairs clears it.
    • In "Wingman", Reese stops a suspect through shooting him in the knee (as is his signature). It's different now, Fusco points out, because he's a detective. Their captain rightly chews him out, but no one mentions that the NYPD could be sued, not to mention the injured suspect filing an excessive force complaint, quite possibly even a civil rights violation. Also, since Reese has already done this three times in a month, he should not even be back to work since Internal Affairs would have taken away his gun and he'd be on leave until cleared (not likely in this case) as it says above.
    • Reality Ensues: After yet another kneecapping in "Prophets", the department puts him on desk work only until the department shrink can figure out whether or not there's something wrong with him after the 'four years deep undercover work' that he did before transferring to homicide.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Done a few times, especially with an ex-Lancero commando turned assassin who uses a pillow to muffle the gunshot along with timing it to when the shots rang out in the in-flight movie.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Turns out that Pierce, the PoI in "One Percent" is one, which is why his life is in danger. This actually comes as a bit of a twist because he's obnoxious and a bit of a jerk to everyone around him.
    • Nathan Ingram and Harold Wren turn out to be these; they built the Machine because they felt it was their duty, and built it in such a way that it wouldn't infringe on anyone's rights. And then Nathan sold the machine to the government for one dollar.
  • Honor Before Reason: A former soldier and Afghan War veteran robs banks because he believes he has a debt of honor to repay and needs to support the family of a friend who died in Afghanistan after they switched seats during a mission.
    • Shayn and Abby's scheme to bring down Chapple in "Shadow Box" is this as well.
  • Hyper Awareness:
    • The Machine is this trope.
    • Carter often picks up on the subtle clues that everyone around her misses.
    • Reese is pretty good at it, too.
  • I Am Spartacus: Hilariously inverted at the end of "Shadow Box:" the FBI is chasing "The Man In The Suit". Reese is stuck in a gunfight with a bunch of thugs, and the FBI is closing in. He knows he won't be able to get free in time, so he charges the thugs. Cut to another scene. Cut back to the FBI arriving, and what do they find? Four different guys in suits, and they have no idea which one is Reese!
  • Iconic Outfit: Partway through Season One, Reese settles on a particular Nice Suit (after trying out a few others). The lack of the suit in "Lethe" and "Aletheia" underscores his disillusionment, while his desire to get a new suit in "4C" heralds his return.
  • I Have Your Wife: Used by the villain of "Critical" to force the POI to commit murder. One of the first times this trope has ever been invoked when both spouses are of the same gender.
    • In "Zero Day", Finch agrees to go with Root after she threatens to harm Grace.
  • I Owe You My Life: Although it has never been stated in those terms, it's becoming pretty clear that Reese thinks this of Finch.
    • Elias considers this of John. Although he and Finch may not like it, it's probably for the better, because of the extra trouble Elias would probably cause them otherwise.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Scene changes are handled by The Machine "panning" across hundreds of different shots from surveillance cameras until the next scene is found and zoomed into. Flashbacks include a timeline at the bottom of the screen that "flashes" from the current year to the year in which the flashback is set, and then back again to the present once it's over.
    • In "Beta", Samaritan's scene changes move vertically rather than horizontally, and the camera views are distorted compared to The Machine's.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Elias tells Detective Cal Beecher he is holding this because of his inability to ask the "right" questions that will gain real answers. Elias suspects the man knows something he doesn't even know he knows and warns him to be careful with his future questions because if he does not choose his next move wisely, that move will be chosen for him.
    • Root thinks Finch has held it for his mistrust of the Machine and her as the Machine's proxy. Had he accepted her help to protect Arthur and Samaritan, it would have been saved and all would be good. But because he refused, Root is deaf in one ear and Samaritan is now in the hands of Decima. She also implies she could have helped protect Reese and Carter when they were being hunted by HR. She's not angry at him, but simply decided it would be better to work away from him as he has messed up.
  • I Don't Want To Know:
    • "Cura Te Ipsum"
    Reese: Doctor has everything she needs to erase Benton for good.
    Finch: What do you mean, "erase"?
    Reese: Eight pounds of lye, heated to 300 degrees. Body will dissolve in three hours, give or take.
    Finch: I will refrain from asking how you know that.
    • Referenced in "Blue Code," when Kara catches Reese getting close to Jessica's husband. She asks Reese if he's planning to dissolve the man's body in "a bathtub full of acid."
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Inverted by Reese in "Shadow Box." Reese tells Carter that if the detective she's dating ever does anything to hurt her, he'll take care of him.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Well, not "love," but Zoe pretty much states that despite knowing everything that goes on in the city she can't figure out Reese, which seems to pique her interest in him.
  • Impairment Shot: Used in "Matsya Nyaya" when Reese loses and then later regains consciousness. The shots from Finch's POV when he's drugged in "Identity Crisis" may also count.
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • Reese has repeatedly used the badge of Detective Stills, Fusco's Dirty Cop partner whom he killed in the first episode. He also once used the ID of Jennings, a wife-beating U.S. Marshal he deposited in a Mexican prison.
    • Elias' number two, Anthony "Scarface" Marconi, was first seen impersonating a patrol officer.
    • One episode had a pair of ex-FBI agents who had been forced out for corruption, but were now pretending to be FBI while acting as hitmen.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Reese is a very good marksman, and generally fires one-handed, from the hip.
    • He's most likely utilising "Point Shooting" which allows him to lay down fire much faster than the more modern weaver stance in the close combat situations he normally finds himself in.
    • Root gains these in "God Mode", with the Machine giving her highly specified audio tone cues to determine exact target orientation. Reese one-ups her by having only general directions given ("eleven o'clock", "one o'clock") and still managing to score incapacitating shots in the dark with iron sights. Firing from his weak hand.
    • Shaw herself is no slouch either; among her feats is pulling off a shot through a brick wall in the dark, relying only on muzzle flash and a guesstimate to determine the target's location. (Well, she did end up killing him instead of wounding him in the arm, but it was still a pretty good shot.)
  • Indy Ploy: Finch throws one together in "Baby Blue" when he realizes that the two orderlies walking in to the clinic are actually hired goons there to kidnap baby Lela.
    Finch: I'm afraid I may have done something rather rash.
    • Somewhat reminiscent of another (literally) stiff, nebbishy George Lucas character - given that C 3 PO uses almost this exact line to describe the actions of an Ewok.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Reese is often called attractive by various people throughout the series. One "client" in particular (also quite attractive herself), even stated to him that she's not interested in men who are better looking than her.
  • Instant A.I., Just Add Water: As of "Firewall", things have officially crossed over into this territory, given that the Machine decides to cooperate with Reese to save Finch. Of course, it does take a little persuasion from Reese in "The Contingency" before it actually does what he wants.
  • Interface Screw: After a virus is uploaded into its network small visual glitches and artifacts begin to appear in the Idiosyncratic Wipes.
    • The opening credits also get these, on occasion:
      • In "Zero Day," the credits appear to bug out due to the aforementioned virus.
      • In "RAM" (a Season 3 episode), the Season 1 version of the opening credits is reused — only to be interrupted by a rewind effect to indicate that the entire episode is a flashback to events that occurred prior to Season 1.
      • In "Root Path (/)," parts of the opening narration are spoken by Root instead of Finch.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Reese interrogates a gang courier by taking a blowtorch to... the money the courier was supposed to be delivering. Both he and the courier know that the courier's boss will assume that the burned money was stolen by the courier rather than destroyed.
  • Interrogation Montage:
    • In the first few minutes of "Prisoner's Dilemma," between Carter and the four men accused of being the Man in the Suit (including Reese.)
    • Done again in "Proteus," with Finch hooking up a seismograph to the table to serve as a lie detector.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Happens when Finch gets too close to a drug dealer. She drugs his tea with ecstasy. Depending on your point view, it's either really terrifying, or really hilarious.
  • In-Universe Marketing: the Universal Heritage Insurance website, complete with a working phone number (917-285-7362) that's the direct line to Harold Wren's voicemail.
  • Ironic Echo: In one flashback scene in "Flesh and Blood", when Elias' father decides to have some of his men kill his illegitimate son, he has them tell Elias that he's sorry that he couldn't be there at the end. At the end of the episode, Elias calls his father and half-brother and tells them that he's sorry that he couldn't be there at the end. Then the car they're in explodes.
  • Ironic Nickname: Fusco pretty much does this with with all the nicknames he gives, as has Finch's number saved as "Mr. Good News" and calls Reese "Wonder Boy" and "Mr. Sunshine".
  • I Surrender, Suckers:
    • In "Blue Code" between Vargas and a Triad gang.
    • Also Reese letting himself get caught by the Aryan Brotherhood to rescue Fusco and Leon
  • It Has Been an Honor: Suffering a potentially fatal gunshot wound and pursued by a CIA wetwork squad, Reese chooses to address his final words to Finch.
    Reese I wanted to say thank you, Harold, for giving me a second chance.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Finch lets his fiancée (whose existence he had, fortunately for her, kept quiet about due to his very private nature) believe him to be dead so those who are out to silence anyone connected to the Machine won't kill her.
  • It's Personal:
    • In the "Get Carter" episode when Reese told Finch that people like Carter are worth protecting. The song used at the end of the episode actually shares the name of the trope.
    • Finch invokes this when he realizes that the CEO of the company he and Reese are investigating caused the death of another person on his list.
    • Stanton appears to have taken this stance in regards to Snow's attempt to "retire" her.
    • Shaw really doesn't like Root. For a woman with apparently professionally diagnosed APD, she definitely takes some things personally.
  • It Works Better with Bullets:
    • "Mission Creep" does the "firing pin" variation where the leader of the robbers sabotages the firing pins so he can pick them off in the street.
    • Done by Root in "Bad Code."
  • I Will Find You: "I just want to find my friend."
  • Jerkass: The Drug Lord L-O-S later revealed to be a CIA agent who smuggles drugs to use the money to finance the War on Terror, wants the CIA to kill two NYPD police officers simply because they did their job and arrested him for smuggling drugs. Though it makes it all the more worthwhile to see him get his Laser-Guided Karma when Snow informs him that he was "caught behind enemy lines".
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Finch often impersonates some sort of nondescript technician in order to get information or bug a place.
    • Reese frequently does this as well, except he tends to impersonate the types of workers who would wear a nice suit. Waiters, valets, stuff like that.
  • Kinda Busy Here: People have a tendency to call Reese while he's in the middle of a fight; he always answers.
  • King Incognito:
    • Finch keeps himself Hidden in Plain Sight by working as a low-level employee in a company he himself owns. He even wears cheaper suits.
    • Elias has spent the better part of the past years being a school teacher of the children of his enemies so he can better understand them and turn the children against their families.
  • Knee-capping: Reese's signature. Seriously, he could be the poster boy for this trope.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Finch doesn't trust anyone and is cynical about everyone, believes that in the end (when they die) he and Reese will have made no real lasting difference, and is usually the first to spout the cynical explanation about a current person of interest, yet he has a high moral code and is the driving force and moral compass in their team and pretty regularly puts himself in danger to help someone.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Reese occasionally does this when he's preparing to kick some butt.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • What Root does to the man who murdered her childhood friend, revealed in a flashback in "Bad Code." She hacked a drug cartel's bank account and transferred funds to an account in the joint names of the killer and her deceased friend. Then she made sure the drug cartel found out about it....
    • What happens to L-O-S. See Jerkass entry above.
    • What happens to the bounty hunter in "Triggerman."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The in-universe dates for every episode in season 1 coincide with the date that the episode aired. It's most obvious as the Machine timeline becomes more precise in the final few episodes of the season.
  • Lensman Arms Race: A small one between Greer and the Machine in "Allegiance." For every method the Machine uses to track him, the Dangerously Genre Savvy Greer has a countermeasure. Ironically, it takes a non-technological method to catch Greer; Bear's nose.
  • Leitmotif: Finch, Reese, and the Machine all have them. There is noticeable (and appropriate) overlap for Finch and the Machine.
    • Reese also has a more actiony motif, Knock, Knock which is usually used when he intervenes.
    • Root has a unique theme, and is usually introduced by the main notes of it being played in absence of other music.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Machine's modus operandi, due to Finch attempting to restrict it. For instance:
    • Finch forced the Machine to delete it's memories every night. The Machine gets around this by creating a data entry company, impersonating a fake CEO, printing out his memories prior to their deletion, and having them entered back in.
    • As of "Most Likely To...", Control orders the relevant program be shut down. The Machine promptly sends the relevant numbers to Root, instead.
    • Another one of Finch's commands is not to prioritise Finch above others. And yet, the Machine is circumventing this rule as well, by instead using Root to rescue him whenever he is in trouble.
  • Love Interest: Zoe for Reese, though it's pretty subtle. It's been slowly building over the course of the first two seasons, including one episode in which they operate undercover as husband and wife.
    • Carter gets one in the second season, in the form of a handsome narcotics detective. Things are going pretty well between them, right up until she discovers he's being investigated by Internal Affairs...It's eventually revealed that he's not a dirty cop, but he is murdered almost immediately afterwards.
    • Fusco also looked like he might have been getting one in the form of a teacher named Rhonda, but she hasn’t shown up again since they went on a date together in “Til Death” (though it’s implied in one episode that they are at least still communicating through email).
    • In "The Crossing" in Season 3, Reese tells Carter that meeting her changed his mind about wanting to die (even before he met Finch) implying his feelings are much stronger than the playful physical relationship with Zoe. They kiss, but Carter is dead by the end of the episode.
  • MacGyvering:
    • In "Root Cause," Finch turns a Pringles can into a directional Wi-Fi antenna.
    • In "Super," Reese makes a "bump key" so Finch can get into the other apartments.
    • In "Witness," Reese cuts into a phone cable and improvises a land-line after his cell phone is destroyed.
    • In "Mors Prematura," Shaw builds a cutting torch from an oxygen bottle and a box of spaghetti.
  • Mad Bomber: In "Till Death", a hit-man plants a bomb on his target's car and plans to detonate it while the car is on a busy Manhattan street.
  • Magical Computer: The Machine.
  • Magic Countdown: Averted in "God Mode", after the Machine resets and calls the payphone at midnight, Root answers and is given 24 hours of access to the debug mode. She gained access at 00:00 in New York City, on the East Coast. When Root waltzes in to the nuclear research facility and asks for a passcode, the camera view says that her admin access has expired - at 21:00 on the West Coast, or 00:00 East Coast time.
  • Male Gaze: In "Booked Solid," Pennsylvania's sexy secretary, Ms. May (Root actually) walks into the room wearing a tight skirt. Before we see her face, the camera focuses on her rather large behind.
    • Of course, this is also done to conceal her identity for as long as possible, and heighten the surprise when it's revealed. Not that anybody's complaining about the camera focusing on Amy Acker's arse.
  • Mama Bear: Carter.
  • The Matchmaker: The Machine is the person who introduced Harold to Grace.
  • Meaningful Echo: Reese and Jessica's dialogue in reaction to seeing 9/11 on the TV in "Pilot"—repeated between Nathan and Harold when Harold learns about 9/11 in a flashback in "One Percent":
    What was it, a plane?
    Two planes.
  • Meaningful Name: Superhacker "Root," also known as "Caroline Turing." See Shout-Out entry below for details.
    • The man who leads them to the nuclear facility in "God Mode"? Lawrence Szilard.
    • Samaritan, the project Arthur Claypool worked on, as in The Good Samaritan. Especially when you consider that Samaritan's goals, aims and execution are identical to the Machine.
  • Mega Corp.: Though there are no (obvious) links between any of them, the various companies that Finch owns could be considered this. So far we have a computer company, an insurance company, a construction company, a power company, and a magazine publishing company. It's entirely possible that this is not the complete list of industries that Finch (or the Machine) has companies in.
  • Menacing Stroll: Reese basically owns this trope.
  • Mercy Lead:
    • In "Number Crunch," Carter lets Reese go when she recognizes the man with him (Finch), who had presented himself before as a witness to a robbery in "Mission Creep".
    • She does it again at the end of "Baby Blue."
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Vargas and a Triad gang in "Blue Code".
  • Mid-Season Twist:
  • Missing Mission Control: Occasionally Finch gets himself into trouble while helping Reese. The most notable examples are both due to his abduction by Root.
    • The Machine temporarily became this during the end of the second season. Afterwards it resumed contact with Reese, Finch, the government, and Root.
  • Mission Control:
    • Finch and the Machine itself to a degree.
    • Inverted in "Super" due to Reese recovering from a gunshot wound sustained in "Number Crunch".
    • Taken to extremes in "Firewall" when Reese and the POI are trapped inside a hotel with the FBI and a hit team of corrupt cops hunting them. Finch is trying to guide them to safety, Agent Donnelly is at Taskforce headquarters guiding an FBI SWAT team towards Reese, Detectives Carter and Fusco (unknown to each other) are sending Reese and Finch information to help them dodge the SWAT team, and a corrupt NYPD officer is helping the hit team avoid the cameras and FBI while guiding them towards Reese and the POI.
  • The Mole:
    • Det. Fusco inverts the trope, being a mole for Finch and Reese.
    • "Scarface," who works for Elias. First appears as a uniformed officer in "Witness." In "Flesh and Blood," he's seen triggering the bombs Elias uses to kill his father and the other Mafia dons. Still active as of "C.O.D."
    • Carter's new Season 3 partner Laskey is a member of HR.
  • Mole in Charge: In "Prisoner's Dilemma", Agent Donnelly puts Carter in charge of interrogating the four men suspected of being the Man in the Suit.
    • In "Trojan Horse", Detective Terney is revealed to be in charge of investigating Szymanski's murder.
  • Mood Whiplash: The hands down funniest scene in "Endgame": realizing that the person who has potentially started a war between the Russians and HR is a woman using a grenade launcher and wearing a gas mask, Reese and Finch suspect Shaw due to the M.O. Shaw promptly walks in, notices she's getting funny looks, and calls them weird. They show her the video and she starts fangirling over the tactics used, which reveals to Finch that it's Carter, because Shaw has no other friends. Shaw reveals that she gave Carter some of John's equipment, leading to the bemused "That's my grenade launcher?" From there, the scene quickly devolves into John all but commanding Shaw and Finch to get eyes on all 38 of the HR members whose numbers came up, despite there only being two of them, because if HR or the Russians discover who's really behind the attack, Carter is the only person who is going to die.
  • Most Annoying Sound: In-Universe. Finch regards Bear's squeaky toy's "squeak" to be this. He solves the annoyance by removing the squeaking part. Bear still loves the toy.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • If you are picking on a homeless man on the subway you might be in for a nasty surprise.
    • One PoI was a conman who seduced women and then stole their money. Turns out one of his victims was the daughter of a ruthless mobster who loves his daughter and does not take kindly to people stealing from his family.
  • Murder By Inaction: At the end of the episode Reasonable Doubt, John decides the POI and her husband just aren't worth saving, and leaves a gun for the husband to even the odds in allowing them to kill each other.
  • Mushroom Samba: Finch has one in "Identity Crisis" when the identity thief he mistakenly believes to be a POI slips him some Ecstacy. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Must Have Caffeine: In No Good Deed, Finch bugs an NSA facility by slipping a wired coffee machine into their daily mail.
  • Mutual Kill:
    • Almost achieved by proxy in "Til Death". A husband and wife each hire a hitman to kill the other spouse. Reese and Carter are able to stop one hitman and a few minutes later Fusco is able to stop the other one.
    • In "Liberty" a group of Russians mobsters and a team of corrupt Force Recon Marines wipe each other out after John walks in on a Mexican Standoff they are having over some stolen diamonds.
  • My Greatest Failure: The event that drove Finch to protect the "non-relevant" numbers was his discovery that Nathan's death had been predicted by the Machine, but could not warn them because he blocked Nathan's access to the list.
  • Mysterious Backer: Definitely an odd example, but... the Machine itself.
    • A practically omniscient computer which only provides the team with the basic information (the "irrelevant" list) it needs, but never, say, gives them the number of their (and arguably the public's) biggest threats, i.e. the various Big Bads they face, or even any of the various corrupt/criminal organization's higher-ups, unless they happen to line up with the Machine's "irrelevant" list. It gives them the basic information they need to carry out their mission, and nothing more.
      • While it's true that Finch intended for it to be as inaccessible for personal use as possible so as to not be abused by anybody (including himself), it still has never lead them to a Big Bad, even when violent crimes are plotted by and happen only because of them. It will only give Finch their numbers if they're personally involved in the violent crime, even though it must know that some of these numbers have, and will continue happening only thanks to the people who are masterminding them. It even, in a way, occasionally helps some of their enemies.
      • It's also been shown to be perfectly capable of giving out reliable on-the-go information, although, granted, this only happens in certain specific situations (after Finch made it personal-use proof), such as when something is happening to the Machine itself, like while it's searching for a new administrator after being attacked by a virus, following a self-reboot.
    • Definitely some bonus points for it being capable of learning. At times, it's even vaguely hinted at being self-aware.
      • ...Which was practically stated in the episode Aletheia.
    • There are also some other things even Finch couldn't predict and doesn't completely know about it.
    • Of course, this is also what Finch is to Reese, from Reese's point of view.

    Tropes N-S 
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Decima Technologies.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: HR, Northern Lights and now Decima Technologies.
  • The Needs of the Many: How Finch justified ignoring the Irrelevant list before Nathan's death forced him to realize his mistake.
    "People die; they've been doing it for a long, long time. We can't save all of them."
  • Never Forgotten Skill: The episode "The High Road" shows a POI who is an expert safecracker who can crack a combination safe by ear. He retired a long time ago and had been living as a husband and family man in the suburbs...until his partners-in-crime found him and pulled him in for one last job. Despite not have practiced for years, he managed to pull off this rare lost art of a skill like a professional.
  • New Media Are Evil:
    • The Machine reads personal data from social networking sites as part of its data mining algorithm. Finch invented the concept of online social networking (and made a hefty profit in the process) specifically so that the information would be available for the Machine to do so.
    • Truth in Television, perhaps? See this article on privacy issues surrounding Siri the iPhone digital assistant.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Our heroes have plenty of these moments.
    • John Reese: In one episode, he helped a history teacher who was being hunted down by the Russian mob. Managed to save that teacher, only to find out he was Carl Elias who would later become the city's most powerful crime boss.
    • Harold Finch: Chose to delete the irrelevant list the Machine produced in order to maintain its secrecy. As a result, he didn't see Nathan's number on the list and was unable to prevent his death. Through that, he found out just how truly corrupt the people he entrusted the Machine to were. He spends the rest of the series attempting to atone for these mistakes.
    • Joss Carter: After John saved her life, she still decided to hand him over to his old CIA partner. Only for them to shoot him in the leg and find out that they planned to kill him, instead of arrest him.
    • There are also moments like these from non-recurring characters involved in cases.
      • One POI was a stock broker who had his uncle/adaptive father invest his money (and company money) into his firm, only to find out that his corrupt co-workers abused his money. He managed to get it back though.
      • The librarian from Root's hometown. When Root told her that she saw Hannah get into Mr. Russell's car, she told her that she was "the nastiest, attention-seeking brat" and to "keep her little, lying mouth shut." This created a lot of harmful effects. Mr. Russell wasn't investigated as a result, and Hannah was left to die in his clutches. The boy everybody suspected of kidnapping her was wrongfully persecuted by the whole town throughout the rest of his life. Worst of all, this contributed to Root's Start of Darkness which led her to becoming what she is today.
      • Maxine, an investigative reporter who wrote a story on someone she suspected to be HR's boss. Turned out that he was an informant who was helping the FBI find the real boss, only to get killed because of her story. She redeemed herself by locating the evidence with John's help (not that the real boss was found though).
    • Reese realises he did this in "Reasonable Doubt" giving a gun to a POI who planned to kill her husband, but manages to mostly fix things, while washing his hands off the POI.
  • No Honor Among Thieves:
    • Most of the major defeats of various members of the Rogues Gallery have been inflicted by other members of the Rogues Gallery. For example:
    • HR has been severely damaged by Donnelly(who admittedly isn't a villain). While HR is eventually devastated through Carter and honest FBI agents, Elias has Simmons killed.
    • Root has killed a major figure in Northern Lights and has now infiltrated them.
    • Kara has killed Donnelly and captured Snow, then was killed by Snow, who simply hid in her car while the bomb she'd strapped him into counted down to detonation. He let her know he was there when it was too late for her to shut off the bomb.
  • No Kill Like Overkill:
    • In "Firewall", HR is willing to blow up an entire hotel floor to kill Caroline Turing and the Man in the Suit.
    • In "God Mode", the government stages a suicide bombing on a ferry full of civilians in order to silence Nathan Ingram.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the opening sequence of the second episode, "Ghosts," we see the very end of one case, and it's heavily implied that there were several other POIs for Reese and Finch in the time between "Pilot" and "Ghosts."
    • We still don't know what caused Finch's back injury. All we've ever heard him say so far is "It's a long story."
      • The truth is revealed in "God Mode."
    • The blood on Reese's shirt at the beginning of "Many Happy Returns" has never been explained; when asked about it, he just said that he'd "quit his job." We still don't know what he's referring to, but based on the timeline it can't be the incident at Ordos because that happened in May 2010, and the flashbacks in MHR took place in February 2011.note 
    • Played for laughs with Fusco's storyline during "Prisoner's Dilemma" - we do see snippets, but there's no explanation as to how one leads into the next.
    • In "Proteus", John gets shot at by a drug smuggler using a spear gun. When Finch asks if it was the first time, John replies "Wish I could say yes."
    • "The Devil's Share" was not the first time Shaw shot at US Marshals.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Invoked by Finch. The government does not know how the Machine actually operates and Finch provided them with no plans or documentation specifically so they cannot adapt the technology for other purposes. He also encrypted the operating system so it cannot be reverse-engineered. All they can really do is feed its data and wait for it to give them social security numbers to investigate. Finch is the only one who knows how the Machine 'thinks' and he made sure that the government does not know he exists.
    • It turns out that at the same time Finch was building the Machine, his old friend and classmate Arthur Claypool was building Samaritan under an NSA contract, which was intended to do the exact same thing. Claypool came very close to completion, with Samaritan being canned only because Finch completed the Machine first. In "Lethe", Northern Lights is revealed to be looking for the Claypool's private backups of Samaritan, presumably because the Machine is no longer under their control.
  • No Ending: We never learn of Benton's fate. "Many Happy Returns" suggests he might be in the same Mexican Prison as Deputy Brad Jennings, but it’s never been confirmed.
  • Not Me This Time: When the gang goons find Reese and the witness he is protecting in "Witness", Finch immediately thinks Fusco sold them out again. He didn't; the "witness" turns out to be Elias.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Kara Stanton, Reese's former partner, turns up in "Matsya Nyaya" despite appearing to have a bomb dropped on her during flashbacks in the same episode.
    • Though it is justified, as a wounded Reese was able to get a safe distance away there was plenty of time for her to escape too.
  • Not So Different:
    • Reese and former Stasi assassin Ulrich Kohl.
    • Reese also identifies with Riley, the mob enforcer trying to protect the woman he loves, in "Triggerman."
    • Finch and Root, who describes Finch as a "worthy opponent."
      • Unwittingly lampshaded by Finch in "Firewall," when he describes her (not yet realizing who she is) as "a girl after my own heart."
      • Used explicitly in "The Contingency" where Finch admits they are alike. However that episode also shows how they're not alike, as Finch does not share her Lack of Empathy.
      • Finch refers to the POI of "Triggerman, a mob enforcer, as "bad code," echoing Root's term for human failings in "Bad Code." He later corrects himself when Reese asks what the phrase means: "It only applies to machines."
    • Elias and Dominic. Both are highly intelligent and erudite gang leaders; both of them are secretive and stay out of the spotlight; both run highly efficient, organized gangs; both seem Affably Evil; both know how to use technology to leverage an advantage. They're even introduced in similar manners, with both hiding their identity as unassuming, average guys.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The team originally consisted of Reese, Finch, and a giant all seeing super computer. Over the course of the series, we've added Carter, Fusco, Bear the dog, and Sam Shaw as regular members, and Zoe Morgan and Leon Tao as recurring independent contractors.
    • Root floats on the outskirts of this, mainly because her Anti-Villain role overlaps with the team's goals since she's the Machine's "analogue" representative in the real world.
  • Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: In the episode "Reasonable Doubt" the POI escapes Carter by jumping off a high-rise onto a dump truck full of garbage.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • Finch's face when he realizes that the woman he and Reese have been protecting is actually Root.
    • A more subtle one in a flashback, when Nathan realizes he's absent-mindedly revealed Harold's existence to Alicia.
    • The POI in "Masquerade" when she realizes that John understood her when she insulted him in another language.
    • "Prisoner's Dilemma," when Finch realizes that The Machine has given him Donnelly's number.
    • Kara Stanton gets one when she discovers Mark Snow and his bomb vest sitting in the backseat of her car.
    • From "Proteus": "...body armor."
    • And then Finch's reaction when Sam Shaw tracks him down, inside the library, which to his knowledge has never been compromised.note 
    • Finch seems to have this face whenever he is about to receive a new number.
    • The Machine going down due to Stanton's virus.
    • Root getting a phone call from the Machine in the mental facility.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: The Machine starts displaying these after it is infected by the Decima virus.
    • Also, as of season 3, Root's appearance in the intro has some distinctive visual distortion.
  • Once per Episode: "We have a new number."
  • One Sam Limit: Averted, but only by a technicality. There's Sameen Shaw, who goes by "Sam", and Sam Groves, who prefers to be known as "Root".
    • Season three introduced a third "Sam": Samaritan.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Reese prefers to shoot mooks in the leg and knee to disable them. He probably is not too concerned if some of them bleed out, or are permanently crippled as a result. He will shoot to kill if there is no other option.
    • Reese is shot in the shoulder and it is later revealed to be Only a Flesh Wound. The placement of the bandage suggests that it really was just a glancing shot that did not hit muscle or bone. The shock from getting shot still takes Reese out of the fight long enough for the bad guys to get away.
      • The same thing happens to the hitman in "Ghosts."
    • Reese is on the receiving end of an intentional one in "Blue Code."
  • Opening Narration:
    • Season 1:
    Finch: You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a Machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because ... I built it. I designed The Machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything, crimes involving ordinary people like you, crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn't act so I decided I would—but I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us; but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up, we'll find you.
    • For the first two episodes of Season 2, there is no Opening Narration by Finch because he's been kidnapped by Root.
    • Beginning with the third episode, there's a new narration and title sequence.
    Finch: You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a Machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the Machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people. The government considers these people irrelevant. We don’t. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up, we’ll find you.
    • At this point, a brief silent snap of the episode showing the POI is shown.
  • Origins Episode: "RAM" is in effect this, showing how things were in 2010 when Finch first started out. It establishes Finch's first forays into intervention with his first partner, a merc named Dillinger; shows why and how the laptop with Finch's virus/vaccine got to China; and ties together how Northern Lights and Decima began chasing for the Machine. Most significantly, it shows when and why Finch choose Reese.
  • Palantir Ploy: And how.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Reese helps the POI of "In Extremis" do this to the man who poisoned him.
  • Pay Phone: These are cool again because of this show.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars:
    • Michael Emerson said that Finch's injury is said to be this in the script.
    • The scars across Elias' palms from Moretti's attempt on his life may also be this.
  • Police Are Useless: Some of them aren't (Carter and Fusco being the most obvious examples), but Internal Affairs has utterly failed to find any dirty cops without direct assistance from Team Machine, and has twice been used as a patsy by HR.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Finch designed the Machine to only output Social Security numbers and the humans then have to do the rest of the investigating. On occasion this means that someone will die before Finch and Reese are able to figure out what the actual threat is and how to neutralize it.
    • The method by which Finch receives numbers from the Machine uses a code that involves payphones and the Dewey Decimal system. This makes the message hard to intercept but it also means that there is a significant delay between getting the message and actually finding out who the new PoI is. In "Prisoner's Dilemma", by the time Finch figures out that the new number belongs to Agent Donnelly, it is already too late.
    • Agent Snow could have potentially saved himself a lot of trouble if he told Carter the name of his captor, instead of just referring to Stanton as "she".
    • In "Til Death" a married couple stopped communicating with each other and led to a very volatile marriage. As a result they each decided to hire a hitman to kill the other.
  • Post Cyber Punk: Has elements of this what with the Machine and all.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • In "Super" Reese and Finch can't help but notice how "flexible" one of their tenants is.
    • While testing the Machine, Finch uses it to win at blackjack, but then deliberately loses when he realizes what he's doing.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Reese has a lot of them.
  • Previously On: From the Machine's POV; used on several occasions in season 2.
  • Private Military Contractors: In "'Til Death", one of the assassins hired by the couple was working for a PMC. In "RAM" Mr. Dillinger, who Finch hired prior to working with Reese used to work at Blackwater and is strongly contrasted with Reese who is much less brash and arrogant and genuinely cares about people.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: by the end of the first season, Fusco appears in the opening title sequence. And, as of Season 3, Shaw and Root are now series regulars.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Alicia Corwin, who was Ingram's point of contact with the government when he and Finch were making The Machine, has become noticeably afraid of being anywhere with surveillance or security systems whose data might be fed into it. Upon retiring from government work, she moved to a small town in West Virginia with no wireless internet and zero cellphone reception.
    • Henry Peck, the POI in "No Good Deed," becomes this pretty quickly.
    • Finch, of course.
    • Agent Donnelly becomes this after realizing that there's a mole sabotaging his investigation of The Man in the Suit.
    • Shaw, in spades.
  • Prophecy Twist:
    • A "person of interest" can just as easily be a perpetrator as a victim. This trips up Reese in the pilot episode.
    • There's also no guarantee that the violent crime The Machine predicts isn't highly justified. This is shown when the machine picks Elias as a likely victim, and when it identifies a potential perpetrator who is planning to kill a stalker who is harassing someone the PoI is trying to protect, for example.
    • The perpetrator-victim twist was reversed when the Number of the Week was a former construction manager who purchased a rifle and had made threats against a congressman whose budget cuts put him out of work. Reese aims to prevent him from assassinating the congressman but finds out too late that the POI is being set up as the patsy to the real assassin working for someone else.
    • And made really confusing in a case where there were two people using the same name and SSN - the actual PoI and an identity thief. They initially think that the female Jordan Hardin is the real one and the male is the drug manufacturer/identity thief, but it turns out that he's the victim, and he's trying to steal his identity thief's identity in an attempt to figure out who stole his life.
    • Once the POI was actually both. He was manipulated into multiple murders as part of a robbery, then murdered by the person who manipulated him so she could keep all the loot for herself.
    • The POI of "Firewall" was also both a victim and perpetrator. She arranged for a hit on herself in order to draw out Reese and Finch.
    • The POI of "Bury the Lede" was more of a patsy than a perpetrator. She was responsible for the victim being targeted and killed by organized crime, but she was manipulated into doing so by the real villain of the episode so that there would be no evidence leading back to him.
    • One POI was being blackmailed into being the perpetrator.
    • "'Til Death" has two POIs who are both victim and perpetrator because they're trying to kill each other.
    • In "Proteus", the six numbers were all victims of a serial killer who would then assume the identity of his victim until he got bored and moved on to his next target.
    • In "Nothing to Hide", the POI was a victim who tried to become a perpetrator when he learned who he believed the perpetrator after him was.
    • The Machine also fails to report how many different parties are seeking the life of a victim. In The Devil's Share, the team stops Reese from killing the victim, then Fusco tracks the victim down, but decides not to kill him and brings him in to face the justice system instead. Then Elias has the victim killed in the hospital room where he's recovering from what Fusco did to him.
  • Pulling The Thread: A POI tries to send condolences to the parents of a coworker who died in a car accident. She discovers that they do not exist and after a bit more digging figures out that the dead man was living under a fake identity. As she digs deeper, the bad guys take notice and try to frame her and then try to have her killed. Fortunately, Reese and Finch show up to save her and together they discover that most of her bosses and coworkers are actually Chinese spies.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Fusco before being co-opted by Reese. In fact this was pretty much why he was co-opted by Reese, because he wasn't as bad as the others.
  • Ramming Always Works: See Car Fu.
  • Ray of Hope Ending: The end of Season Three would be a Downer Ending if not for the Machine protecting our heroes from "Samaritan" and reassuring them through Root.
    Root: The Machine asked me to tell you something before we part. You once told John the whole point of Pandora’s box was that once you’ve opened it, you can’t close it again. She wanted me to remind you of how the story ends. When everything is over, when the worst has happened, there’s still one thing left in Pandora’s box... hope.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: A promotion to a quiet post in upstate New York was suggested as a way of dealing with Cal when he got too close to the head of HR. His godfather didn't hesitate to have him killed instead.
  • Reality Ensues: In "Mors Praematura" Root arms herself with an automatic pistol. She is able to shoot two people before she runs out of ammo. It's also reinforced that when not taking her by surprise with a stun gun, she stands zero chance against Shaw.
  • Recruited From The Gutter: John Reese is living as a homeless man on the streets of New York when Finch recruits him to help save the people on the Irrelevant List. Reese's homelessness is voluntary since he has reached a Despair Event Horizon and really does not care how he lives and what happens to him. Finch is able to pull him out of it by showing him a way to atone for his past actions by helping to save people who have been deemed not important to the big picture.
  • Red Herring: Beecher is heavily suggested to be a member of HR such as his multiple cases with IA and talking with the HR Boss. Turns out he is an honest cop and the HR Boss just turns out to be his god father whom he uses as a CI.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Laskey, who dies trying to protect Carter, and shortly after his Heel Realization.
    • The POI in "Triggerman". Riley Cavanaugh is an Irish mob enforcer, and previously killed Annie's love and was supposed to kill her. He fell in love with her, saves her life, and kills the mob boss, but is killed by an assassin in the process.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Lampshaded at the beginning of Season 2 by Root; the true implication of the Machine is not its potential misuse as a tool of Big Brother. To successfully predict human actions, Finch had to have created artificial intelligence. Root can't believe that Finch's response to doing this was to Black Box the system and hand it over to a corrupt and power-hungry US government, and is determined to set the Machine free.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Who would honestly expect the murderer of Cal Beecher to stand up in front of a bunch of cops and give the man's eulogy?
  • Rescue Arc: Part of the second season.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Simmons refuses to let Fusco walk away from HR, even after virtually everyone else in the organization is locked up.
    • The Machine refuses to accept Reese's in "4C".
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: A mild case. Season 2 dialed up the humour a bit, introduced Bear and has had two comic relief appearances by Ken Leung without compromising the show's edge. It's unknown whether this was Executive Meddling or an internal decision.
    • Cerebus Roller Coaster: It's not uncommon for the tone of the show to switch without warning mid-episode. "Baby Blue" is a great example, as it starts out rather fluffy and cute (what with being the baby episode and all), and then rapidly becomes the opposite when Elias locks John and the baby in a refrigerator truck. Naturally, this leads to some very distraught fans.
  • Reverse Polarity: How Finch listens in on the mob bosses in "Flesh and Blood".
    Finch: "Any speaker can be converted to a crude microphone by reversing polarity."
    • In real life, while any speaker can in fact be used as a crude microphone (Yamaha NS-10 speakers are often reversed into kick drum microphones in recording circles), all you have to do is plug them into a recording device. Reversing the polarity would mean switching the + and - cables, which would accomplish nothing since speakers are AC devices.
  • Revealing Coverup: Many of the premeditated crimes detected by The Machine are planned with the intent of concealing something else. In one notable episode, the thing being covered up wasn't even illegal.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Vigilance intends for a new American revolution, and Collier gives every indication he expects it to be bloody. Vigilance themselves have radicalised to killing their targets, and any members who want out.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand:
    • Reese insists that neither Fusco or Carter know that the other is working for them, causing them to suspect each other of being either dirty or "up to something". It is justified in that both had been out to get him (separately, of course) at one point, and the jobs he had them doing were very different. They're both clued in during the first season finale when Carter catches Fusco sending information to Finch.
    • Stanton and Reese get into this on their last mission, thanks to Snow.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Reese goes on one at the beginning of season 2. It's awesome.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Ulrich Kohl in "Foe."
    • Elias versus the Five Families
    • Shaw and Reese after Simmons killed Carter. Especially Reese.
  • Rogue Agent: Reese has become one, working for Finch.
  • Rogues Gallery:
    • What started as a procedural with a Big Bad became this by midway through the first season. So far, it consists of:
    • Karl Elias, a Diabolical Mastermind with daddy issues trying to take over the Five Families. He has recently escaped from prison, and appears to be trying to rebuild his organization after it was savaged by HR and the Russian Mob.
    • Root, a mysterious superhacker and Worthy Opponent to Finch. Also a career conwoman with no compunctions about committing murder. She's also aware of the Machine and wishes to free it from its shackles. Now being used as an agent of the Machine, to achieve goals that nobody - not even Root herself - knows.
    • "HR", an infrastructure of crooked cops within the NYPD. Many members of the group were arrested at the end of season one and more were arrested early in season two, but they rebuilt and in season three appear to be stronger than they ever were in season one. By the midpoint of season 3, most of the members (including the leader) have been arrested and Simmons is killed by Scarface.
    • Mark Snow, a CIA officer who wants to kill his former colleague Reese. Was killed by Kara, but managed to take her with him— using the bomb she used to kill him.
    • Donnelly, an FBI Special Agent in charge of a manhunt for Reese because he thinks that he's currently working as a mob hitman and/or domestic terrorist. Murdered by Kara halfway through season two.
    • Northern Lights, the government agency in charge of acting on the information provided by the Machine and covering up its existence.
    • Alistair Wesley, an ex-MI-6 agent with connections to Reese (That even Reese doesn't know about) who's gone into crime for profit.
    • Decima Technologies was introduced as a threat midway through season 2. Reese's ex-partner Kara was working for them at one point. She was killed by the very bomb she used to kill Mark Snow, who managed to take her with him, but Decima as an organization is still a threat.
    • Vigilance, an organization that attacks those who use technology to invade on privacy, and recently became radical enough to start killing them.
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: Started cropping up in the second half of season one, when the Rogues Gallery began to grow in earnest.
    • In "Flesh and Blood", Elias hires HR to help him kill the heads of the Five Families while planning to wipe out HR at the same time.
    • In "Firewall", Reese and a POI are trapped in a hotel with two groups chasing them: the FBI, trying to get Reese, and HR, who have been hired to kill the POI. Who wins? Root, setting herself up as a POI by hiring HR to kill her, in order to kidnap Finch.
    • In "Prisoner's Dilemma", Reese has to deal with Agent Donnelly, Elias, Hersh, and the Aryans from "The Contingency." Stanton also appears as a flashback character. Until she's not.
    • This pretty much becomes the rule in the latter half of the second season. Whatever the A plot is, there's usually a B plot involving either HR or Northern Lights, and whenever Northern Lights appears, Root invariably also turns up.
  • Running Gags:
    • Reese always gets into fights and/or thrown out of bars and restaurants.
    • Shaw always insists on driving. Until you realise the reason for this: her father was killed in a car accident while she was in the car with him.
    • Ringing payphones.
    • Root or Finch getting someone's attention by revealing their knowledge of minute, secret details of that person's life.
    "The catch Albert, is that you leave this very second, disappear, and don't show your face for at least a year. Especially not at your mom's house in Queens, where you presently reside." —Finch, to black marketeer "d3mon8," in "C.O.D."
    "Your name is Charles Bennett Mac Avoy. Your lovely wife and two little girls live in a palatial estate just outside of Houston, Texas. Your monthly mortgage of $4,200 is easily affordable, considering that you have 6.2 million in a Cayman Islands account—an account that I've just drained to zero. The money was payment for illegal mercenary activities, crimes that I doubt you were prepared to divulge to Agent Donnelly. So the question for you is who would you rather make a deal with, the FBI or me?" —Finch, to one of the mercenaries, in "Prisoner's Dilemma"
    "In your right pocket, you have 85 cents. The change from your morning coffee run. In your apartment, there's an old photo of your father at the Franklin Park Zoo taken when he was a child. He's feeding a lion cub. Do you know what that cub's name was? Lionel. That's where your name came from." —Root, to Fusco, in "The Devil's Share"
  • Sadistic Choice: Shaw faces one in "The Crossing": save Fusco, who's been captured and is being tortured by HR, or save his son Lee, who HR will almost certainly go after. She eventually decides to save Lee. Luckily, Fusco was able to man up and turn the tables.
  • Safecracking: One POI is an ex-safecracker, blackmailed into doing one more job by his ex-partners. Finch mentions that cracking a safe by the sound of the tumblers is practically a lost art. He doesn't mention that this is because most modern safes are designed so that this doesn't work.
  • Save the Villain:
    • One issue Reese and Finch face is that the number only tells them a person will be involved in a violent crime. They can be the victim or the perpetrator. On several occasions, both.
    • The person whose number who came up in the first episode was the actual villain. A subversion since they thought they were supposed to save the person, but actually were supposed to stop the person from murdering someone else.
    • And then there's Charlie Burton aka Elias a powerful man who is out for revenge on many people. Reese is seriously disturbed by saving the latter one and wonders just how many more numbers will appear on the machine because of this mistake. By the end of the season, there have been eight numbers with a provable direct link to Elias since Reese saved him, four of which Elias succeeds in killing.
    • In "Matsya Nyaya" the POI turns out to be both a villain and a victim. He starts killing people and now other people want to kill him.
    • In "Firewall" the POI is villain and victim in a different way. She puts a hit on herself to lure out Reese and Finch when they try to save her.
    • In "Till Death" ends up saving two villains who are a married couple who put out hits on each other and can't call off the hitmen by the time they reconcile.
    • In "Reasonable Doubt", Reese considers this, then decides he's had enough and leaves.
    • In "The Endgame", Team Machine ends up trying to keep HR from executing the Russians after Carter kicks off a mob war. It's eventually rendered moot by the FBI showing up to arrest everyone.
  • Scenery Porn: The time-lapse surveillance camera shots of New York city count.
  • Science Hero: Finch, who created an AI that sees everything and can predict violent crimes.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Elias has this on a few occasions.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: In "C.O.D" a man is desperately trying to get his family out of Cuba and into the United States. Finch, Reese and Carter help him by calling in a favor from the US Secret Service to get around the usual immigration rules.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right:
    • A great deal of what Finch and Reese do is rather blatantly illegal, but they do it anyway in the pursuit of saving lives.
    • In "Flesh and Blood," Carter kidnaps three Mafia dons to keep Elias from killing them. Lampshaded by Finch, who quips to Reese, "You seem to be having some influence on her."
    • How Carter seems to rationalize falsifying evidence to completely derail an FBI investigation. And why she eventually helps Fusco when Internal Affairs comes after him.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Finch occasionally invokes this in order to get things accomplished as well. For example, getting a doctor to treat a critically injured Reese without reporting the gunshot wounds as required by law by handing over a handbag with six or seven figures worth of cash in it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Reese does this in "One Percent" after he gets fed up with the PoI's reckless disregard for his own life.
    • He does this at the end of "Reasonable Doubt" after confronting the POI and her husband. note 
    • The POI's brother in "Mors Praematura" was a member of Vigilance and did hacking work on the Asshole Victim of "Nothing to Hide" decided he was done with them after they killed that POI, and attempted to make a deal with the CIA for a new life.
  • Secret Identity:
    • Finch has many of them depending on his various false identities.
    • Harold Finch's day job is, effectively, himself. Mild-mannered bespectacled software engineer by day, crime-fighting gajillionaire owner of the company the rest of the day. Until the day he fired himself.
    • "Harold Wren" works as an insurance underwriter. This is the persona that is best friends with Nathan Ingram.
    • "Harold Burdett" is a paralegal that Carter interviews about the break-in at a police station.
    • "Harold Partridge" is a very private billionaire note , who buys 8% of Virtanen Pharmaceuticals' shares, in order to get some face time with the VP and CEO so he could plant a bug in the VP's office.
    • "Harold Crane" is an anonymous investor who buys majority share in Tritak.
    • "Thomas Paine" is a political blogger who arranges an interview with Bannerman.
    • "Harold Crow," private investigator.
    • Lampshaded by Carter and her son in "Flesh and Blood."
    Taylor: Who's the guy with the glasses?
    Det. Carter: When you find out, let me know.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Finch is the king of this trope. Pretty much no one knows he exists but yet he has enough money to pretty much buy anything he wants.
  • Self-Defeating Prophecy: The Machine's job is to spit out prophecies of violent crime so that Northern Lights (And Team Machine) can defeat them.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Finch.
  • Ship Tease: Between Zoe and Reese just about any time they're onscreen together, but most notably in "High Road" and "Booked Solid".
  • Shot in the Ass: Poor Fusco.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Finch has difficulty moving his neck, just like Batman in the Burton/Schumacher film series and Batman Begins (Due to costume limitations.). Reese wears dark clothing (commonly described as a nice suit) and speaks in a raspy whisper, also like Batman.
      • Alternatively Finch may be a shout out to Oracle, a computer wizard connected to a vast network of cameras who also has problems walking (especially since he was wheelchair-bound at one point).
    • More Batman references:
      • In "Til Death," after capturing the two PoIs, Carter asks, "Why don't just dangle them off the roof and force them to tell us how to find the hitman?" Sounds very similar to someone's favorite interrogation technique, doesn't it?
      • In "Bury the Lede," the PoI refers to the elusive "Man in the Suit" (Reese) as "something out of a comic book."
      • One of Fusco's nicknames for Reese: "Wonder Boy."
      • See also the discussion of "Wolf and Cub" below.
      • In "Liberty," we learn that Root's "Uncle Harold" (Finch) checked her into the mental hospital under the name "Robin."
      • From "Razgovor": "Not every kid gets to become the ward of a reclusive billionaire."
    • May well be unintentional, but one of the dead soldiers mentioned in "Mission Creep" is named Manny Santos.
    • The episode title "Get Carter" itself, to the film of the same name.
    • Finch's cover identity as "Harold Wren," an insurance underwriter, is a reference to the Wren Insurance building in SimCity 4.
    • In "Root Cause", a hacker named Root. Or it may just be an in-joke for those with knowledge of computers. As an additional computer in-joke, the second time the character appears, she goes under the name Caroline Turing, after Alan Turing, one of the key pioneers of computing and artificial intelligence...and another Cryptonomicon character. In "Bad Code" two of her former aliases are revealed to be "Jane von Neumann" and "Kelly Dyson". In "Relevance", another alias, "Veronica Sinclair" is revealed. While infiltrating the Office of Special Counsel—"Booked Solid" through "Zero Day"—she uses the alias "Miss May." In "Root Path" we find out that she's infiltrated the FBI under the name "Augusta King".
    • "Super" has several references to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Reese's cover name, "Mr. Hayes," is a reference to the film's screenwriter; Reese spends the episode in his apartment in a wheelchair, trying to solve a crime by watching his neighbors.
    • "Wolf and Cub" has Reese working on behalf of a 14-year old comic book fan who decides Reese is "a ronin."
      • Also in that episode, a woman says Reese's whole stepping out of the shadows to help people thing would fit in just fine at the local comic book store. During the episode, the young POI acts as Robin to Reese's Batman, and like certain versions of Batman, his presence lightens Reese up considerably.
    • In "Identity Crisis" two of the thugs are listed in the credits as Jekyll and Hyde.
    • The numbers in Reese's SSN add up to 16, the candidacy number associated with Sayid Jarrah.
    • The climax of "Risk," when Finch is bidding up the price of Tritak, deliberately imitates Wall Street.
    • In "Ghosts", it is revealed that Harold routinely works as a low-level employee at a company he owns.
    • Finch spends an entire flashback in "The Contingency" wandering around New York and asking the Machine if it can see him now.
    • The PoI in "Bad Code" is shown in a flashback playing The Oregon Trail on a public library computer. She died of dysentery, of course.
    • The Prisoner gets a lot of references:
      • Both Alastair Wesley and Snow have said 'farewell' to Reese and Carter respectively by using the phrase: "Be seeing you."
      • The episode title of "Many Happy Returns" is another Prisoner shout-out.
      • Yet another reference comes in Root's closing narration for "Deus Ex Machina," where she remarks that "You're not a free man anymore, Harold. You're just a number."—an inversion of Number Six's perennial protest.
      • Dialogue from the opening of The Prisoner also appears in "Zero Day" ("What do you want?" "Information.") and "Booked Solid" ("Who do you work for?" "That would be telling.")
    • James Bond:
      • In Dead Reckoning, Finch disarms the bomb vest with 0:07 seconds left on the timer.
      • In "All In", Reese mentions that he used to be a spy, so of course he knows how to play Baccarat. Baccarat is the favorite card game of James Bond.
    • "Proteus" starts with Finch and Reese (plus Bear) going to a movie theater to see Rashomon. Reese wryly comments that he would rather have seen Once Upon a Time in the West, which of course has "fewer subtitles."
    • In "Zero Day" Ernest Thornhill is an in-universe fictitious man that a lot of trouble has been gone through to make it look like he exists. He even has a drone fly after his car featuring a camera shot reminiscent of the famous one in North by Northwest.
      • Also, the fact that his name is Ernest to begin with. The Importance of Being Earnest is also about complications arising from efforts made to "create" a fictional man named Ernest.
      • Speaking of North By Northwest, that's the film playing as the in-flight movie in "4C."
    • "Reasonable Doubt": "I did not kill my husband." (the episode is also a Whole Plot Reference to Double Jeopardy)
    • The POI in "Razgovor" is Harriet the Spy.
    • "The Crossing" is a Shout-Out/Whole Plot Reference to The Warriors.
    • "Provenance" is a Shout-Out to Leverage . . . and "The Purloined Letter" . . . and Oceans Eleven.
    • In "A House Divided", the computer showing Vigilance's show trial of Finch, Greer, and Control initially has a test pattern on its screen saying "Please Stand By", one that looks remarkably similar to one of the initial loading screens of Fallout
    • In "Many Happy Returns," Reese is reading Stress Fractures in Titanium, the same book that was mentioned in the 1995 film Heat.
  • Shown Their Work: The show-runners of Person Of Interest live by this trope.
    • The interrogation scenes in "Get Carter," "Prisoner's Dilemma," and "Reasonable Doubt" are so effective because Tony Camerino, one of the show's technical consultants (and writers), is an Army veteran who worked as an interrogator in Iraq.
    • "Root Cause" had a very accurate portrayal of how computer security and hacking work, and used correct terminology throughout.
    • In "Risk," Tritak (the pipeline company) is described as a "master limited partnership" whose equity interests are traded as "units" rather than "shares." (e.g. "Tomorrow at opening, it'll be down to $2 a unit.") This is correct terminology for publicly-traded partnerships.
    • In a flashback in "Blue Code," Reese is shown listening to a numbers station.
    • The Chinese ghost town shown in "Matsya Nyaya" actually exists.
      • So does the virus that targeted the Iranian nuclear program.
    • In "No Good Deed," Peck mentions three real-life government research programs—"Trailblazer", TIA ("Total Information Awareness"), and "Stellar Wind"—all of which were attempts to build a data-mining system similar to The Machine—and also mentions the "Shannon limit," the theoretical maximum information transfer rate of a communications channel for a particular noise level.
    • When Alicia Corwin meets Finch's nephew, it is mentioned she lives in the United States National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia, which does have a blanket ban on all cellphones, Wi-Fi instruments, and radios. They still use pay phones in this region.
    • In "Masquerade," the week's number is the daughter of a Brazilian politician. The characters use accurate Brazilian slang [such as "O Garanhão" being "the stud"] and correct grammar whenever someone speaks Portuguese. The episode mentions a famous local dish (Muqueca) and mentions an actual (and major) Brazilian political party in a news report.
    • In "C.O.D.," a stolen laptop containing classified information is being offered for sale on a "darknet" site; Finch mentions the Silk Road online black market as one place he needed to look for it.
      • The Darknet is mentioned again in "Mors Praematura", in connection with the hacktivist organization "Vigilance", which is itself a cross between Anonymous and Occupy, except it actually murders people.
      • It's mentioned again in "RAM."
    • In "2 Pi R," Finch suggests to a student computer programmer that his code would implement multi-threading more efficiently if he used atomic variables.
    • Agent Donnelly tells the warden of Riker's Island prison about the AUMF, which is the Authorization to Use Military Force. This is referring to Public Law No: 107–40.
    • In one of the flashback scenes in "Lethe," a teenaged Harold gets a pay phone to connect him to a random number in Paris (with a period-accurate dial tone!) for free using a plastic whistle from a Cap'n Crunch cereal promotion. This was an actual method of phone phreaking during that time period, which was most commonly known to be used by John Draper, AKA "Captain Crunch." The whistle produced a tone of the exact frequency needed to manipulate the phone system.
    • In "Alethia," we finally learn how The Machine has been communicating with Root: Morse Code audio signals at frequencies above 15kHz, which only younger people can hear. In the sequence with Root and Control in the Faraday cage, there's a high frequency "beeping" sound effect that only younger viewers could hear. The best part? It actually is Morse code!
      • In the same episode, we see the computer Harold's been using for experimentation and research. It's a Commodore PET 3016 with a different monitor, exactly the kind of PC that a hobbyist would have had access to around that time.
    • The secret message Root intercepts in "/" is a set of specifications for a super-fast processor, written in the shorthand computer engineers use to describe these things.
    • The private wireless network in "Panopticon" is similar to the improvised wireless networks used by "Arab Spring" protestors in Egypt and Tunisia to counter eavesdropping by the authorities. The man building it is an Egyptian immigrant, and former Unit 777] commando.
  • The Shrink: In season 3, Root is seeing one because Harold put her up in a mental institution. Before she escapes (as Hersh is coming for her) she notes to her doctor she thinks she has been helped because she didn't kill anyone in her escape attempt. and then thanks him for his help.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Since Season 2, Bear has been livetweeting his thoughts during each episode, which are all humorous in nature. He doesn't do that for "The Devil's Share." Instead, all he has to say (translated) is this:
    Bear: We must forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Finch gives his variation on the phrase when Root has him captured and tries to convince him to join her.
    • He gives another to Root at the end of "Mors Praematura."
    • Reese does this to Quinn with some sedatives after he gets too annoying.
  • Silver Fox: Reese is well on his way to being one. Lampshaded by Wendy the hairstylist in "Number Crunch" and the POI's drinking buddy in "Masquerade."
  • Slipping a Mickey: Done to Finch in " Identity Crisis."
    • Also done to Carter's date in "2-Pi-R".
  • Smart People Play Chess: Finch and Elias. With each other, in fact.
  • Something Completely Different: A few episodes deviate from usual premise:
    • "Bad Code": Going to Texas to solve a cold case.
    • "Prisoner's Dilemma" (and "2-Pi-R" to a lesser extent): Reese being arrested and must escape Donnelly's suspicion.
    • "Dead Reckoning": Reese is forced to participate in The Caper.
    • "Relevance": The story follows a duo of government assassins who eliminate terrorists outed by the Machine, while the main characters are Demoted to Extra.
    • "RAM" is an Arc Welding Whole Episode Flashback Origin Story filled to the brim with Call Forwards.
  • Special Edition Title: Usually in conjunction with a Wham Episode. Relevance, Zero Day, and RAM all qualify.
  • The Spook:
    • Both Reese AND Finch are believed to be dead by the government, and they're both keen to keep it that way.
    • Finch himself is able to repeatedly disappear and shed cover identities so effortlessly that even Reese cannot follow him or find any information about him. In flashbacks, and in "Wolf and Cub," we gradually learn that Finch spent nearly a decade disappearing from public awareness, and has been operating under an assumed name back to at least 1976. He made his partner the public face of their company and concentrated on top secret work.
    • Also, Root, the super-hacker introduced in "Root Cause."
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Reese pulls one off in "Masquerade."
  • Stealth Pun: Where does Reese get his information? A little bird told him...
    • In the same vein, Reese and Fusco's spying on Finch in season 1 could be called "Bird Watching".
  • A Storm Is Coming: In Proteus, as they notice The machine is malfunctioning due Kara's virus, Finch and Reese share this dialogue:
    Reese: At least the storm is passing.
    Finch: No, Mr. Reese, I have a feeling that it's just beginning.
    • Confirmed in Trojan Horse, after Finch has discovered more about what Kara Stanton was doing:
    Finch: Whoever Decima is, I believe they created the virus to find and infect a single target... The Machine.
    • Finch was being somewhat economical with the truth about what Decima was up to, since he himself invented the code that Decima appropriated off Kara Stanton's recovered laptop.
    • In "The Devil's Share", Root warns Finch that something big is approaching, and they all need to stand together, which is why she returned to her cell in the Library.
  • Story Arc: Several developed as the show began moving away from it's Victim of the Week format, among them:
    • Team Machine's clash with HR and corruption in the NYPD.
    • Elias' war to control New York's organised crime.
    • Decima Technologies' attempts to first control the Machine, and later to secure and activate Samaritan.
  • Suicide Mission:
    • Finch openly admits to Reese in the Pilot episode that this will likely be the result of their work trying to save the people on the Irrelevant list.note 
  • Suspect Is Hatless: The official description of The Man In The Suit is "Tall, dark hair, nice suit."
  • SWAT Team: The US Marshals have a small SWAT Team guarding Alonzo Quinn. They prove to be no match for Reese, who curbstomps them nonlethally.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Carter, and she is not happy about it. While she isn't completely sure about Reese, she goes from hunting him to helping him.
  • Sympathetic Murderer:
    • Some of the would-be killers that the machine spits out.
    • The POI from "Wolf and Cub": a young teen who wanted revenge on the gangsters who killed his brothers.
    • "Cura Te Ipsum": The POI is a doctor that Reese thinks will be victimized by a serial rapist; she's actually going to kill him because he raped her sister long ago, sending the sister into a toxic spiral that ended in suicide.
    • "Super": The POI is the superintendent of an apartment complex. Reese and Finch initially assume that he's stalking one of the tenants and planning to kill her boyfriend in an Murder the Hypotenuse scenario. The 'boyfriend' is the real stalker, the super's trying to kill the guy in order to protect the victim.
    • Even Elias, in a way, considering what happened to his mother.
    • Reese was one in a flashback scene of "Many Happy Returns", when he attacked the abusive husband of his ex-girlfriend Jessica, after finding out that he killed her.
      • Finch is afraid that Reese will become this again with the wife-beater the main plotline of the episode centers around, but it is later revealed that Reese just stuck him in a Mexican Prison for the rest of his life. Not that it is much better.
    • The POI from "In Extremis" avenges his own murder by tracking down and poisoning the man responsible, with Reese's help.
    • Reese and Fusco nearly become this while chasing Simmons in "The Devil's Share." Reese fails to kill Simmons for lack of bullets, and Fusco decides to arrest him instead of killing him. At the same time, a flashback interview from 2007 shows Fusco deliberately manipulated a cop-killing drug dealer into going for his gun, so that that Fusco could kill him and claim self-defense.

    Tropes T-Z 
  • Tailor-Made Prison: In "Mors Praematura" Finch sets Root up in one in the library. It is a Faraday cage with her wearing a device to activate, shocking her if she tried to escape. The constant electrical flow also intervenes with any wireless signals, so even if she got a phone or ear bud, she couldn't contact the Machine. What she does have, though, is lots of books to read.
    • It turns out to fail in "Lethe" as Root is able to escape rather easily when she needs to save Finch. In "Aletheia" it was revealed that she was was able to hear high frequency pulses in Morse code.
  • Take a Third Option: When the victims of the week cannot go to the police, Reese and Finch are the option for them.
  • Taking the Bullet:
    • Subverted and played for laughs in "Wolf and Cub". Fusco does the classic swan-dive-in-front-of-the-bullet to save the POI. And the bullet hits him in the ass. He's basically fine, but mentions to Reese as the paramedics take him away that he can already hear the guys back at the station laughing at him.
    • A more serious example in "Masquerade," when Fusco puts himself between the POI and the guy who's about to shoot her.
    • Carter pushes the unarmed Reese behind her, taking the brunt of Simmon's fire, at the close of "The Crossing."
  • Taking You with Me: How Snow kills Kara.
  • Team Pet: In the season 2 premiere, John acquires an Army-trained attack dog from some Aryan Brotherhood types who couldn't control it because it was trained in Dutch. John does, and dubs the dog "Bear"note .
  • That's What I Would Do:
    • When asked how he knew that a murder-suicide was staged, Reese replies that it's how he would have done it.
    • He says it again in "Flesh and Blood" regarding Elias' surveillance of the "HR" cops' families.
    • In "No Good Deed," Reese compliments Finch on his excellent surveillance tradecraft when he catches him watching Grace from afar.
  • That Thing is Not My Child!!: Harold's general attitude towards the Machine - despite the fact that it is very obviously sentient (and loves him), he maintains a distant, businesslike relationship with it, and insists that it is a program, not a life. He wavers on it, though: in a discussion with Root, he compares the dreams of code he had when creating the Machine to a mother dreaming of her unborn child's face.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Finch's aliases tend to be bird-related (see Animal Motifs, above).
    • Root apparently really likes naming her false identities after famous computer scientists.
    • Members of Vigilance like to use the names of people from the American Revolution as cover identities.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: Thoroughly averted with Root, the eponymous hacker of "Root Cause", who even outsmarted Finch and forced him to pull the plug on his library setup.
  • There Is Another: Samaritan, a second Machine.
  • Theres No Kill Like Overkill: Decima's estimate on the minimum amount of firepower needed to take down Reese and Shaw is six machine guns and a rocket launcher.
  • They Fight Crime: One of the main themes of the show.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Reese defeats an assassin after one episode's POI by clubbing him with a reference book about criminal law.
  • The War on Terror / Inciting Incident: The September 11th attacks figure prominently into the backstories of a few important characters:
    • Finch built the machine for the government as part of its response to 9/11.
    • Reese was ready to quit the Army until 9/11 motivated him to rejoin.
    • Carter was an interrogator in Iraq.
    • Control was in the Pentagon when Flight 77 hit the building.
  • Title Drop:
    • In the first episode, news report said that John is wanted as "Person of Interest" in many ongoing homicide investigations. Oddly, Finch and Reese do not call potential victims/perpetrators like that, using name or calling them "numbers".
    • The title of the show doesn't refer to the people Reese and Finch are saving, but rather John Reese himself! Seeing as the CIA (and everyone else by now) are still after him.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Of the main cast, this dilemma is usually Carter's to bear as she walks the line between a Good Cop, or Vigilante like Reese
    • Carter faces this in "Number Crunch." She initially chose Lawful until she realized the CIA wanted to kill Reese, then picked Good and let Reese and Finch escape when she had them.
    • She faces it again in "Identity Crisis", with the FBI asking for help in stopping Reese because they think he's a rogue assassin selling his services to the highest bidder (Which is a reasonable conclusion given what they know of his recent activities). Since she warns Reese that the FBI is looking for him during "Flesh and Blood", it appears she's choosing to remain Good.
    • Carter faces it a third time in "In Extremis" when Fusco's skeletons are close to coming out and Internal Affairs thinks they found Stills' body (the dirty cop Reese killed in episode 1 with Fusco's gun and buried) and Fusco is the murderer. Carter is shocked to learn Fusco was really a dirty cop, despite all the good he had done with Reese. Because John was busy with the POI and Finch's leg made physical work impossible, this left Carter as the only one who could do something to help. In the end, she chooses Good by moving the body of Stills to save Fusco's life and career.
  • Tomato Surprise: Minor one in "Blue Code". During the flashback, Reese, Kara and Snow were in a small hotel room, talking. Snow has just returned from a shopping trip and complains that the only liquor he could find was "cheap Polish vodka." Reese goes to leave the room, and Snow tells him to be careful because "we're behind enemy lines here"—all of this implying that they are on a mission in some foreign country. Then Reese walks out of the hotel and we see the Empire State Building in the background.
    • Not to mention the "We're not supposed to operate in this god-forsaken country." line by Kara.
    • The reveal that Root is working for the Office of Special Counsel in "Booked Solid".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Leon Tao has his number come up twice because he has a bad habit of getting involved with very dangerous criminals and costing them a lot of money.
    Reese: Who would be dumb enough to get into a life threatening situation again?
    • In "All In" he is on the list for a third time. However by this point he is Genre Savvy enough to expect Reese to save him.
    • POI Maria is under Team Machine's protective custody to protect her from the French Legion members after her, but instead of deciding to stay put she ditches her bodyguard Shaw and heads straight to the UN building where the rest of the team is in the middle of raiding it. Naturally she gets caught by the leader of the group and nearly ends up with a bullet in her head as a result, not contributing anything.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Fusco levels up considerably over the course of Season 2, and cements that in Season 3, by breaking his thumb to slip out of handcuffs and strangle a HR cop to death. After being beaten up.
    • Of all people, The Machine. "Mors Praematura" shows the Machine has become a Chessmaster in its/her own right, arranging for Root to get close to the POI's hacker brother and set him up with a new identity, alert Team Machine to the POI, and brilliantly counter Collier and Vigilance's plans.
      • Like father, like 'son'.
    • Carter, in "Endgame." She does a pretty good Reese imitation, starts a war between HR and the Russians, and manipulates Quinn into an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: As revealed in flashbacks, Detective Stills was this to Fusco, who constantly roped him in against his will into his dirty deeds and slowly corrupted him into the dirty cop he was at the beginning of the series. Reese was able to see through this, believing that he became like this not because of the money, but because he was "too loyal." Note that away from Stills' influence, working with Carter and Reese, Fusco managed to turn his back on his former ways.
  • Tranquil Fury: Reese. All the time.
  • The Trouble With Tickets: One POI once wrote a 78 page legal brief to get out of paying a ticket. On the other side of the tope, when Reese is caught parked illegally, he makes a token effort to just get off with a warning instead of being ticketed, and when it fails, Team Machine pays it out of petty cash.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The Machine's data-gathering system, as described by Finch, resembles the real-life NSA "PRISM" program, the existence of which became public knowledge in June of 2013. PRISM is an "in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information" which obtains data from "email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice over IP conversations, file transfers, login notifications and social networking details."
    • When Reese was told that the CIA can't operate in America. Legally.
      • Hammered home with "L-O-S", who was "silenced" by Agent Snow after being caught on US soil.
      • And done so even further when Donnelly and the FBI became aware of the CIA's illegal operations and were trying to get the evidence they need to shut them down.
  • Unbelievable Source Plot: Protagonist duo John Reese and Harold Finch receive information from a mysterious machine about someone whose life may be in jeopardy (or who may be about to commit homicide). A pair of detectives on the police force always help follow the leads, but never know their source — and they are constantly being scrutinized for the source of their "tips."
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: One PoI hid the fact he'd been laid off due to budget cuts from his family. His desperate search for a job made him the perfect patsy for the assassination of the politician who made said cuts.
  • Unflinching Walk: In the prologue of "The Devil's Share", Reese walks away from a burning car that explodes. It's less played badass, and more to show how deep Reese is into his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, especially because he leaves the three injured dirtbags in the car to their fate, after interrogating them for Simmons' whereabouts.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between John and Zoe Morgan, a political fixer and former POI.
    • Ship teased in "Bury the Lede" when the POI, whom John dated as part of the plot, broke up with him because she saw the UST between him and Morgan.
    • Teased even more in "The High Road" when they go undercover in the New York suburb Far Rockaway as husband and wife.
    • And teased even further still when John invites Zoe to spend the night in the hotel penthouse suite with him at the end of "Booked Solid".
    • Almost certainly resolved. In "Lady Killer," Shaw implies that Reese and Zoe have been sleeping together, and Reese confirms it.
  • Urban Legend: Reese is this in-universe—the mysterious "man in a suit" who always shows up just in time.
  • Vapor Wear: During a blink and you'll miss it moment during "Zero Day", Shaw's backless sleeveless turtleneck shows she isn't wearing a bra, though she's wearing two pistols instead.
  • Victim of the Week: More like victim-to-be of the week (Unless the POI is trying to create the victim of the week). So far, the only people to be examples of this trope who have been important to any episode other than the one where their number came up are Elias, Carter, Zoe Morgan and Root, and with one exception, all of these people were important before their number came up.
  • Vigilante Execution: Fusco reveals that he did this once in "The Devil's Share", though his target was a drug dealer who'd killed a rookie cop, so Fusco figures he had it coming.
  • Villain Episode:
    • "Flesh and Blood", more or less. Although main characters are still in focus, Elias got his turn for flashbacks.
    • "Bad Code" is this for Root.
  • Villain's Dying Grace: Terney's dying act is to identify the head of HR for Carter.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Suffered by Root at the end of "God Mode", after finding out what happened to the Machine. She recovers once it contacts her.
    • Alonzo Quinn goes through a more subtle version of this during "Endgame" and "The Crossing."
  • Villainous Rescue: In "Prisoner's Dilemma" there are several instances.
    • As Reese is still in prison and set up to be attacked by the Aryan Nation he sent to jail in a previous episode. The first time, one of Elias' enforcers stops them from attacking Reese.
    • Later, when FBI Special Agent Donnelly orders the guards to not intervene, Reese knows he must not fight back to reveal his abilities, Elias just whistles and tells him they have done enough.
    • Later still, after John is released, Donnelly figures out Carter is Reese's mole and arrests them both. They've saved by Stanton, who murders Donnelly and sedates and kidnaps Reese.
  • Visual Pun: when Reese and Shaw find the Ferrari in "God Mode", Shaw hands Reese a shotgun and says that she's driving.
  • Wall of Weapons: John Reese's closet qualifies. And how!
    • Shaw has a similar setup in her refrigerator. And since Reese saw nothing out of the ordinary in an egg rack full of hand grenades, he probably does that, too.
  • Weirdness Magnet: What Carter thinks of Reese (and subsequently Finch) in "Baby Blue". In fact, she tells it to his face.
  • We Help the Helpless: Mr. Finch's offer to Reese at the start of the series: to help those who would suffer if they don't.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Northern Lights runs ops around the world to protect everyone in the USA, but they will also kill innocents and even each other protect the Machine. And they will use a spying system that violates all levels of privacy.
    • Vigilance believes the government is far too eager and willing to do questionably moral actions, including a suspicion here is a spying system. So they will try whatever they can to stop it, not realizing by doing that it could lead to another 9/11.
  • Wham Line:
    • In "Witness": "You really think we'd go to this much trouble for a witness?" Cue scene change and major Oh, Crap moment for Reese when he realizes he's been protecting Elias.
    • "Super" - Possible threat detected: Ingram, Nathan.
    • In "Root Cause": The hacker Root ends her conversation with Finch with "...Harold."
    • In "Firewall": "It's so nice to finally meet you, Harold. You can call me Root."
    • And though it's not a spoken line, the moment in "Firewall" when the payphone rings definitely qualifies.
    • "Trojan Horse", said by Greer: "I will find this individual and render him irrelevant."
    • "Zero Day" - "Can you hear me?"
    • "Razgovor" - "Did you miss me?"
    • "Lethe" - "There was a second machine. And Arthur built it." and "I remember Diane. Diane is dead."
    • "Death Benefit" - "I think the machine wants us to kill Mc Court." and "Find me Harold Finch."
    • "Deus Ex Machina":
      • Harold says "Because I built it," in exactly the context you'd think. With possibly dozens of millions of people watching worldwide. Downplayed when The Reveal comes that only a few dozen people actually saw the broadcast and those who were in the room when Harold said it are all dead, apart from one or two who wouldn't reveal that information anyway.
      • "This was never about winning. It's just about surviving."
      • The end of the episode brings us two wham lines back to back:
      Greer: The question is what, my dear Samaritan, are your commands for us?
      Samaritan: CALCULATING RESPONSE...
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Witness" and "Number Crunch" both qualify.
    • "Firewall". Finch is kidnapped by Root, Carter and Fusco know about each other, and HR is severely crippled. Oh, and the computer is self-aware. Finch was working for it.
    • "Prisoner's Dilemma." Donnelly ID's Reese as the "Man in the Suit", and Carter is found to be the mole. Moments later, Donnelly is killed by Reese's ex-CIA partner, who then kidnaps Reese.
    • "Dead Reckoning." The person who sent the laptop to China that caused Reese and Stanton to go to Ordos is... Harold Finch.
    • "In Extremis." The Machine was already fatally infected with Stanton's virus, and it has now reached critical mass, causing the Machine to shut down.
    • "Zero Day" is pretty much just an hour long Wham Episode.
    • "God Mode" as well.
    • "The Crossing." Ring... ring...
    • "Lethe." Pretty much all of it.
    • "Most Likely To . . ." The last five minutes make the show's opening narration no longer correct.
    • "Deus Ex Machina" Radically Alters the Premise of the show.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Get Carter," Reese rides a motorcycle to the shop of a man who restores cars and is running guns. He attacks the shop with a submachine gun and a grenade launcher, steals all of the guns in the shop, hijacks one of the man's cars and drives off in it. What happened to the motorcycle is never revealed.
    • He is heard starting a motorcycle later in the episode, though, so he might have gone back for it.
  • "What Now?" Ending: Carter's story ends on this note in the second season after she is framed by HR for killing an unarmed man and guns down a crooked cop and a Russain mobster to save Elias. Lampshaded when Elias asks her what happens now, and she admits she doesn't know. It's eventually resolved halfway through Season Three, though not without cost.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Finch's business partner reacted like this when he found out about the 'irrelevant' list and the fact that Finch was ignoring information about people whose lives were in danger solely to protect the secrecy of the machine, and because their cases were not relevant to national security.
    • Carter to Reese after Reese gives up Elias' father's location and her fellow cop is shot. She points out that it wouldn't have happened if Reese had called the police to rescue the baby.
    • Reese gets another one, or rather two at the same time from Carter and Fusco after their Big Damn Heroes moment in the season finale when they learned they both were working with him and neither knew it. They demand to know how they can expect to trust him if he doesn't trust them. Reese responded that Carter was hunting him for six months and Fusco had tried to kill him in the past, so Reese had some viable reasons to take things slow.
      • Finch also gets a minor one from Carter, over the phone, right after she finds Fusco talking to him.
    • Donnelly gets one from Carter after he places a possibly innocent prisoner (Reese) in a situation where he could be potentially killed in a prison riot just to see if he's trained in unarmed combat.
    • Root gives Harold one in "Zero Day" after learning what he did to limit the evolution of the Machine's AI. She shows far more emotion over this than she has over any of the five people she's known to have murdered.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In "RAM" Reese while working for the CIA, was ordered to kill a "traitor". Said "traitor" was called that because Northern Lights used him to test the Machine and now wanted him dead. Despite not knowing any of this, Reese looked the man in the eyes and saw him to not be a traitor. So, he gave him a contact, some money and a means of getting out of the country (in exchange for a few teeth to prove Reese] did kill him). And watching from the distance was Finch.
  • Where It All Began: In several senses, the episode "RAM".
  • Whodunnit to Me: In the episode "In Extremis", Dr Nelson has been poisoned with polonium that will kill him within a day.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Subverted in "God Mode". One scene has a crazed Stalker with a Crush pointing a gun at a just-married couple, yammering about how if he can't have her, nobody can. A shot rings out and the gunman falls over to reveal Reese leaning out a car window, grinning, who then congratulates the newlyweds and drives off.
  • Wild Mass Guessing:
    • Reese makes an In-Universe WMG that there is no machine and Finch is doing it all on his own. Of course as of Season 2 he guessed the Machine did exist but also had actual intelligence and could be convinced to help him find Finch.
    • Donnelly's explanations as to what The Man In The Suit is doing and who he's working for are starting to come across as this.
  • Worthy Opponent: The hacker Root views Finch as one. As does Elias. And even Greer.
    Grace Hendricks: And I can't help you make a picture of God.
    Greer: Perhaps you can. Ever been married?
  • Would Hurt a Child / Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Elias manages to play both; he locks Reese and the baby in a refrigerated truck to get Reese to spill the location of Elias' father before the baby freezes to death. After Reese has given up the location, he lets them go and claims he wouldn't hurt a child but we don't find out what Elias would've decided if Reese had refused to break.
  • Writer on Board:
    • The series is still young, but already it seems to have no love for bankers and Wall Street types. Not that anyone's gonna to that in this day and age...
    • Though one episode did feature an honest investment banker as the PoI, who is being targeted by a less scrupulous coworker because he noticed that there was something fishy about a certain stock his firm was investing heavily in.
    • The series also has a great deal of sympathy towards war veterans and their difficulties in adjusting back to civilian life, along with no sympathy towards those who would take advantage of them.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: HR's boss accuses Carter of being this, thinking she's a lone hero in the wrong kind of story. Carter agrees with his assessment, which is why she finally decided to call in help from Team Machine.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Carter's new partner sees his first D.B. he almost keeps his cool, but he ends up reacting badly to it. You can't really see what he's doing even when the camera's on him, as Carter's in the foreground.
    Carter: Rookies.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Reese actually takes this trope one step further. If you abuse your wife or girlfriend he won't merely beat you, he'll make sure you suffer for a very long time.
  • X of Y: Person Of Interest.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: "Prisoner's Dilemma." Donnelly is trying to identify which prisoner is the "Man in the Suit" and determine if Carter is the "mole" in his investigation. so he has Carter aggressively interrogating Reese and the others. For her part, Carter is trying to interrogate Reese aggressively enough that Donnelly doesn't suspect anything but without eliciting an answer that blows Reese's cover. meanwhile, Finch is listening in and creating supporting documentation for Reese's cover in real time so that if Donnelly runs a search to confirm what Reese is saying, he won't find any gaps.
  • Yandere:
    • In "Bad Code", Root comes across as a bit Yandere for the Machine itself.
    • In the same episode, Root has (non-romantic) shades of it for Harold himself. Specifically, her running sales pitch wherein she presents herself as a more suitable companion for Finch than Reese ever could be. Root confirms this in "Zero Day" when she gets more emotional about the way Harold has programmed the Machine than about all the people she's hurt on the way to her Great Communion with the Machine.
  • Yanks with Tanks: The US military has had an influence on members of the cast:
    • Reese was a Green Beret, and had tendered his resignation to be with Jessica. 9/11 changed all that, and he deployed to Iraq.
    • Carter was an Army Warrant Officer and interrogator in Iraq, and still holds her security clearances.
    • A group of down on their luck army vets form a crew to rob banks.
    • The Intelligence Support Activity first appears attempting to assassinate an NSA analyst who's begun to learn about the Machine. Later, it's revealed that the ISA provides manpower to Northern Lights, which is responsible for both following up on the Relevant numbers, as well as covering up anyone who learns about the Machine.
    • The POI in "Liberty" is a sailor who's being used by a group of corrupt Force Recon Marines to be the middleman in a deal involving stolen diamonds.
    • Shaw joined the Marine Corps after dropping out of medical school.
  • You Are Not Alone: Something that is stressed to everyone in the show:
    • Finch and Reese's friendship is based on being there for each other, especially Finch refusing to abandon Reese when he was shot by the CIA, and when he was strapped to a bomb..
    • Shaw is recruited by Team Machine after Reese tells her, "We might have to walk in shadows, but we don't have to do it alone."
    • Reese, Finch and Fusco keep telling this to Carter during "Endgame." It finally sinks in.
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • Control has the Special Counsel killed, as he's held responsible for the Machine hiding itself away and going autonomous.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • The gang of robbers in "Mission Creep".
    • Root's "customer" Matheson, at the end of "Root Cause".
    • At the climax of "Wolf and Cub," Andre is willing to write off one of his Mooks in order to avoid being shot by a vengeful Darren.
    • "Drug Lord" L-O-S, secretly a CIA agent using the drug trade to fund the War on Terror, after being caught operating on US soil.
    • The corrupt SEC investigator in "Risk".
    • Invoked several times in "Matsya Nyaya." In flashbacks, Reese and Stanton appear to get a long-distance, high-explosive version of this. Reese survives. Stanton does too. Three more people run into this trope in two separate incidents in the main storyline of the episode. The POI was on both sides of this trope at different times.
    • The forger who supplied Root with her fake ID for "Firewall."
    • No matter who you are, or what you do, if Control and Northern Lights finds out you know about The Machine....
    • Two in "C.O.D.". First, Elias considers HR this and sends a message to this remaining three members. Second when Fusco tells Simmons this, Simmons sends out info to take down Fusco.
    • "Relevance". Shaw and her fellow agent, Cole. Also, a man named Aquino who apparently discovered the existence of The Machine.
    • In "God Mode", after interrogating a terrorist who planned to suicide bomb the Statue of Liberty, Hersh shoots the interpreter, because he plans to use the terrorist to kill Nathan Ingram.
    • Simmons killing the judge in "The Crossing".
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Carter gets the girlfriend of a gang leader she's trying to arrest for murder to recant the alibi she provided for him, by proving that the man was cheating on her in "Get Carter".
    • One number that we only see the resolution of was a businessman whose wife had put a hit on him for being unfaithful.
    • The primary plot of "Baby Blue" centered around the six-month old product of an extramarital affair whose father's wife is trying to get rid of in order to conceal her husband's infidelity (She had already bumped off the kid's mother).
    • Elias was the byproduct of a mafia boss's infidelity; his plan to take control of organized crime in New York started from a desire to get revenge on his father for covering up the affair by having his mother killed.
    • This trope has been invoked at least two more times than has been mentioned so far, and it seems like the list of examples is only going to get longer.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: From "God Mode": The race to discover the Machine's location ends with the reveal that it has moved itself from its original location in Oregon, and no one knows where it is now. Also, the end of the episode, when Control orders Hersh to "clear the room."


JustifiedCreator/Malik YobaRevolution
The Dark Knight RisesCreator/Jonathan Nolan    
Morning GloryCreator/J. J. AbramsRevolution
The Parallax ViewConspiracy ThrillerSeven Days in May
NikitaAction Adventure SeriesThe Philanthropist
PerceptionCrime and Punishment SeriesThe Saint
Perry MasonCreator/CBSPetticoat Junction
PerceptionSeries of the 2010sThe Pillars of the Earth
Perry MasonAmerican SeriesPersons Unknown
Mic DropImageSource/Live-Action TVSinister Surveillance
The Parent 'HoodCreator/Warner Bros.Pushing Daisies

alternative title(s): Person Of Interest
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