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Team Machine

    In General 

In General

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"We're not a big agency....We're not any agency. We're just a—I don't even know what we are. To be honest, I'm only in it for the dog."
Sameen Shaw, "Razgovor"
  • Anti-Hero Team: What they are doing is technically illegal even if well-intentioned. Individual characters vary, with Carter being at the lower end of the scale while Shaw and Reese are at the high end. And then there's Root.
  • Badass Crew: Each member of Team Machine brings a different skill set to the group which allows them to overcome unique problems that they face when conducting operations. With limited manpower, they've also faced off against the most powerful criminal organisations in New York, the CIA, ISA, FBI and Decima Technologies and mostly came out on top.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Most of the members of Team Machine are well dressed and can kick ass in style. Both Finch and Reese enjoy a good suit. It's even hard to remember when Finch is not dressed in a very fancy way. Averted by Shaw and Root, the latter who likes jeans and leather jackets or to vary things up due to her revolving cover identities and the former who really enjoys comfy hoodies.
  • The Big Guy:
    • Reese, a big, strong, brilliant fighter who will throw himself headlong into danger and shrugs off an absurd amount of damage.
    • Shaw, while physically the smallest of the group (excepting Bear), is a bruiser at heart. She's an expert in many forms of fighting and firearms. She is easily able to hold her own in the fight. She is also loyal to this group of people because of their purpose and she can truly trust them to not betray her like she was betrayed before. Like Finch once said: John's a scalpel, she's a hammer.
    • Fusco didn't start out as this but after the team saved him from his path of darkness and he liked who he had become. Lionel will follow their ridiculous requests with only minor questioning. Not one to be taken lightly in a fight he can be very deadly when pushed. See his Papa Wolf entry.
  • Character Development: At the start of the show, none of the group's members trust each other and they're occasionally openly hostile in their interactions. Over the course of the show, they begin to bond with each other and become a much more cohesive unit and even something that resembles a family (a very, very weird one but still a family). A major example of this change in the group's relationships is in "Dead Reckoning," when Carter, who at the start of the series was hostile to Team Machine and initially doggedly pursued Harold and John, is tearfully begging Reese to let the EOD team to defuse his bomb vest. But the most clear example is Root who starts out as a foe to the Team but ends up being a major asset and after a very, very long time, gains their trust.
  • The Chick:
    • Carter, compared to Finch, Reese, Shaw, and Fusco, is the most honest and moral of the group. Her push for them to be acting morally better helped push their character developments. Particularly Fusco, who chose to arrest her murderer, instead of killing him.
    • The Machine is this for Root as it continually focused on keeping her from going back over the slope. It did so by instilling a No Kill policy in their relationship.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Almost all the members of Team Machine are affected by this trope in some way, particularly Reese and Finch, which has worked against them several times. Root averts this until about midway through Season 4, when she begins to become this, and Fusco doesn't let it take him over.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone, to at least some degree.
    • Reese lost his father at an early age, then was betrayed by the government, lost the love of his life, and is homeless and suicidal at the beginning of the series.
    • Finch's father had dementia; he got into unspecified trouble with the government while a young man that forced him to live underground, then lost his best friend and the love of his life as a consequence of building The Machine.
    • Carter's husband developed PTSD, leading to the breakup of her marriage.
    • Fusco's marriage failed due to the stress of his job, he became an alcoholic, and then he fell in with a gang of corrupt cops.
    • Shaw was apparently born with an "Axis II personality disorder" that inhibited her ability to relate to others, she lost her father at age 10, had her medical career derailed by her personality disorder, and then was betrayed and almost murdered by the government agency she worked for.
    • Root's father walked out on her, and she lost her faith in humanity when her childhood friend was murdered and the adults she knew covered up for the killer—becoming a destructive, amoral killer for hire.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone. Even Bear. And the Machine.
  • Experienced Protagonist: John Reese and Sameen Shaw have combat experience from serving in the U.S. military and having participated in black ops operations in the past before Finch recruited them. Finch, for his part, has been an expert hacker since his high school days. Fusco and Carter have been veteran officers with the NYPD, the latter having served in Iraq. Root is a gifted computer hacker and has been a career criminal for much of her adult life.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The team didn't start out well working together. Reese blackmailed Fusco into helping. Fusco tried betraying Reese once or twice. Reese tried to dig up dirt on Finch. Carter hunted Reese. Shaw was very aloof. Root is... herself. But overtime they grew to trust each other. And in some of those relationships something even more intense than trust began to build...
  • Five-Man Band: With the addition of Shaw, the group has graduated to this. Even with Carter's death, Root becomes active and will be aiding the remaining crew more frequently until she actually becomes a Team member.
  • The Heart: Finch and Carter. Finch is the glue that keeps the team together, and between him and Carter (who is the voice of reason when the others won't listen to Finch) they remind their fellow team mates that their goal was, is, and ever will be to save and protect lives, not take them; any time one or both are out of commission, people tend to die in droves.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Everyone except Fusco.
    • Reese was haunted by his choice to be a super spy instead of staying with Jessica. Had he done so, she'd probably be still alive.
    • Finch refused to use The Machine to save irrelevant numbers. It took the death of his friend Nathan to change his mind.
    • Carter promised a terrorist collaborator that he and his family would be safe if he cooperated. He was killed anyway because he wasn't trusted.
    • Root failed to save her childhood best friend from a rapist and blamed everyone else for not believing her. She loses trust in other humans because of this.
    • Shaw's partner Cole was killed in an ambush set by Northern Lights—one from which Shaw herself barely escaped—when he started asking questions about "Research" (The Machine), the source of their assignments.
  • The Lancer: John will support Finch's rules, take command when Finch is unavailable, and is protective of the man who gave him a new purpose in life.
  • The Leader: Finch is the one who usually calls the shots in the broader events, making deductions and calculating plots. Both John and Shaw looked to him and his permission to kill a corrupt congressman who could allow Decima a chance to launch Samaritan.
  • Like Brother and Sister: There's a reason Reese and Shaw are referred to as the "Murder Siblings" or "Mayhem Twins"
    • As of the second half of season four, Reese and Root are increasingly becoming this as well. They look out for each other, they work remarkably well and in sync with each other, Root trusts him enough to let him order her off of an interrogation that she definitely wants in on, and Reese even takes the time in the middle of a fistfight/gun battle to make sure she's okay. Later in the season, when encountering lots of bodies on the ground in the dark where John was holding off agents to buy time for Finch and Root, she worriedly calls his name, showing that she actually cares about him now.
  • The Medic: Shaw has formal medical training and still uses it to either help the team or give herself and others medical aide.
  • The Mole: Of the Reverse Mole type. Both Carter and Fusco serve as this for them for the NYPD.
  • NGO Super Power: With an all-seeing computer A.I which can interact with every single surveillance and electronic system on the face of the earth, a ridiculously wealthy Non-Idle Rich with top notch computer hacking skills, and four badass shooters on staff, Team Machine qualifies as a small scale version being able to conduct comprehensive and well funded operations mostly under the nose of law enforcement and other organizations and face off against them when situations get hot.
    • Season 4 subverts this. With Samaritan on the lookout, Harold can no longer access his financial assets, meaning that the Team has to rely on their collective skill-set while rebuilding their infrastructure.
  • No Name Given: "Team Machine" is a Fan Nickname; they don't have a name for themselves in-universe. See the quote at the top of this folder.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Even with the addition of Shaw, Team Machine is still quite small compared to the rival groups in the series. However, with each member's skills and Finch's resources, they've held their own against powerful enemies such as HR, Northern Lights, and Decima Technologies, who have considerably more manpower and occasionally similar resources to them.
    • However, in Season 3, this is deconstructed to some degree. In the Endgame arc, with Fusco captured, HR officers en route to kill his son and John and Carter occupied, the team is spread extremely thin and had Fusco not saved himself, things would have ended tragically. Later in the episode "Lethe," with John and Fusco in Colorado, Shaw had her hands full protecting Arthur and Harold, eventually being overcome by the superior numbers of Control's security detail in the end of the episode.
    Root: The thing we're up against? It has virtually unlimited resources. Entire governments working unknowingly at its behest. You know how many we have? Five. Six, if you count the dog.
  • Rogue Agent: Reese is a former CIA agent and Shaw a former ISA agent.
  • Technician Vs Performer: Root has this dynamic with her fellow Team Machine members at times, although to varying degrees Particularly with Sameen and Reese. Unlike John and Shaw, she's not a former operator/intelligence officer, but can keep up with them due to her ability to be a utterly unpredictable Wild Card who has superior planning skills in comparison to them. This aspect is further enhanced with her Analogue Interface status, which confers upon her some degree of the Machine's quasi-omniscience.
  • The Smart Guy: Finch and Root are both brilliant strategists and hackers.
  • The Team Benefactor: Finch could be this for a time as he had unlimited sources of money from various identities and stashes. With his identities being burned save for one forged by the Machine, this is no longer the case.
  • Team Dad: Finch became a good father figure to the rest of the team. The Machine even thinks of him as its creator and wanted to help him become happy.
  • Team Pet:
    • Bear is loved by the entire team and loves them all back. He will be very protective of his humans.
    • The Machine, if one doesn't consider it to have personhood, could consider it this as it helps the team sniff out danger and points them in that direction.
  • Token Evil Teammate:
    • Subverted with Shaw; she struggles to follow Finch's Thou Shalt Not Kill policy, and while she is successful at times, Shaw will still normally kill other times.
    • Played straight with Root who is more than willing to do anything short of killing to follow the commands of her "God".
  • True Companions: Comes with their Character Development; they may occasionally bicker and get annoyed with each other, but when push comes to shove they will readily rush to the aid of each other in times of crisis.
  • You Are Not Alone: In the penultimate episode it's revealed that another Team Machine is operating in Washington D.C., made up of people that the protagonists saved over the course of the series. It's implied that the Machine has recruited similar teams all over the world.

    Reese 

John Reese

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/reese_john_5843.jpg
"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."
Played by: Jim Caviezel, Jack Davis (as a child)
Introduced in: "Pilot"
Aliases: 'The Man in the Suit', James J. Manzione, Detective Stills, Tony Miller, John Hayes, John Friel, John Rooney, John Randall, John Anderson, John Campbell, Marshal Jennings, John Warren, John Wiley, Detective John Riley

"I don't have any friends. I don't have any family left either. I went around the world looking for bad guys. But there were plenty of you right here all along."

A former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and later a CIA field officer who is presumed dead following a mission in China. Little is known about Reese's background and his name is one of several aliases he uses. He lost his lover, Jessica, prior to meeting Finch, which appears to have marked him deeply. Reese demonstrates skill in the use of a range of weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and surveillance tactics. He knows very little about Finch and often is rebuffed when he attempts to learn more about him.


  • Above the Influence:
  • Anti-Hero: He is not above killing and breaking plenty of laws to protect those in need of protection.
  • The Atoner: His time in the CIA was not the cleanest of times in his life and he did things he has come to regret. Mr. Finch's offer in the Pilot was for him to be this.
    Finch: I think all you ever wanted was to protect people.
  • Badass Biker: His personal mode of transport is a 2012 Ducati Diavel Carbon and in "One Percent" he's able to keep up with the POI's out of control McLaren MP412C supercar.
  • Badass in Distress: He actually gets captured and tied up quite a bit, right from the Pilot on, but he usually gets out of it on his own.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Carter can identify if he's involved in a case simply by hearing about a "man in a suit". Then when he wears a motorcycle jacket in "Get Carter", she suggests the suit is at the cleaners.
  • Badass Longcoat: What he usually wears over said suit.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: In the season 4 finale, Reese basically demands God Mode by asking the machine whether it can hear him.
  • Berserk Button: Seems to have a particular trigger for cases in which 1. a child is endangered, 2. someone he finds especially just is threatened, notably Carter or Finch, or 3. he encounters spousal abuse.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: He rarely, if ever, has yelled or spoken above a soft voice. That said, he is one of the toughest, most honorable men and will go to great lengths to protect those who need it and make up for his past mistakes.
  • Brains and Brawn: The Brawn, although episodes where he has to fly alone show he's a long way from stupid. However given that Team Machine contains multiple bona fide geniuses, he's rarely the smartest guy in the room (except when it's him and Fusco) See Genius Bruiser.
  • Character Development: Over the course of the show, Reese changes from a depressed, washed out former government assassin who doesn't give a damn about the world around him, to a more heroic man.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Re-enlisted after 9/11 and left Jessica to serve his country. Carter called him out on this on "The Crossing".
    "What is it about you, John, that makes you want to save everyone's life but your own?"
    • It also turns out this aspect of him goes back a loooong way. When as "Detective Riley" the psychologist assigned to evaluate him asks if he was bullied as a child, as that could lead to a "hero complex," he responds, "There were no bullies at my school. I kept them in line."
  • Chick Magnet: When a single, young woman comes across his path, odds are she will end up slightly infatuated with him.
    • Lampshaded by a snarking Finch in "No Good Deed" when Reese fails to charm a receptionist into letting him in a building
      "I'm surprised, Mr. Reese; that nice young lady seemed somehow impervious to your charm."
  • Conveniently an Orphan: His biological relatives are long dead for unspecified reasons, as are his adoptive relatives. This was one reason why the CIA recruited him: he had no outside connections, so nobody would miss him if he vanishes, and he had nothing to be loyal to except the mission.
  • Cowboy Cop: The Machine gives him a cover identity as a homicide detective in Season 4. Bless his heart, he tries... but he can't seem to stop Knee Capping people.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reese is basically a highly creative version of the film version of Jason Bourne. He's willing to use his environment to win and is quick on his feet in doing so. This is seen in "Root Cause" where he rips a public bathroom hand dryer out of a wall and smashes it on the head of Root's gunman when he goes for his discarded pistol, and in "Till Death" when he puts a nail gun to good use in immobilizing a killer by nailing the man's foot to the floor.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: He was a wetwork agent for the Company. He did some things he is not happy about. Even before that he only got into the Army by Trading Bars for Stripes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has a tendency to make quiet comments about his current situation and problems around him.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • After discovering that Jessica had died; he was actually contemplating suicide until he encountered Carter and Finch.
    • In "The Devil's Share" he drops off of it when Carter is killed and into a self destructive Roaring Rampage of Revenge despite being seriously injured, going off the grid to hunt down those involved. Team Machine manages to find him as he is on his last legs, saving him at the expense of his revenge.
  • Determinator: Few things will stop him from finishing his mission.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Reese actually doesn't like guns very much. They are, however, necessary, and he's very good with them, so he suppresses his personal dislike, because he can't protect anyone if he's unarmed.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Before Finch finds him. (It happens again after Simmons kills Carter.)
  • Dynamic Entry: Loves these, especially when used on Fusco.
  • Failure Knight: Reese devotes himself to the protection of each week's number/whoever the number threatens to hurt, and he does it with a single-mindedness that's genuinely scary. It's all a response to his failure to save Jessica. He is also extremely protective of, and loyal to, Finch.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: One of his most common tactics.
  • Genius Bruiser: Despite being "The Brawn" in the Brains and Brawn relationship with Finch, Reese himself is quite well-read, very cunning, and has an extensive knowledge on fighting styles, guns, animals, and military history.
  • Go-to Alias: Detective Stills, "John Rooney, Assets Manager" and Marshall Jennings.
    • In Season 4, he's using the alias of Detective John Riley.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Especially towards Fusco at the start, for having to blackmail him into working for him.
  • Go Out with a Smile
  • Grim Grizzled Gorgeous: In his early 40s at the beginning of the series, John Reese transitions from Troubled, but Cute to Grim Grizzled Gorgeous as the series continues. Reese is a burned CIA spy who is hounded by his former agency. He is haunted by the murder of his true love who he broke up with before leaving to fight in the war days after 9/11. She eventually moved on and married only to be murdered. Reese can't move on or forgive himself for not being there for her. He lives in New York as a ghost-like vigilante, protecting the innocent, but it requires that nobody truly know he exists. Nevertheless, more than a few of his female clients have expressed interest in him and blatantly communicate their attraction to him.
  • Grin of Audacity: Often sports these as the series goes on.
  • Hates Being Touched: To put it mildly.
  • Heartbroken Badass: His lover, Jessica, left him after he left for war without telling her, married someone else, and was accidentally killed by her abusive husband.
  • The Hero Dies: Reese dies in the series finale.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Suffers one after Carter dies and he fails to kill Alonzo Quinn. Leads him to drown his sorrows in Colorado.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: He takes Finch's place to finish their plan to destroy Samaritan.
  • He's Back: Decides to rejoin Team Machine in "4C" after officially quitting in the previous episode.
    Reese: When are you leaving?
    Finch: Soon. I thought I would go see this exhibit at the Giorgio de Chirico House-Museum, an artist that Grace was very fond of. You're welcome to join me.
    Reese: I'm not sure I can, Finch... While I'm in Italy I thought I'd get fitted for a new suit.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Becomes this with Finch.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Very self-aware of this, though. He warns other characters not to follow the same path he did.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Reese's number comes up in "The Crossing" after HR put a bounty on him. Hiding isn't an option though as he and Carter have to get the captured head of HR to the FBI building, which results in a The Warriors-style fight across New York.
  • Hurting Hero: He lost his way in life as a result of Jessica's death. Even after setting out on his path of atonement, the pain is still there, and is very evident whenever he is at risk of losing another close friend. his gets taken to the next level after Carter is killed in "The Crossing". Reese is genuinely dying from his injuries as hunts down her killer in the following episode "The Devil's Share".
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Reese occasionally reveals his wish to live a normal life, but feels that it is beyond his reach at this point.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Jessica called him for help, but he was on a mission and couldn't be there in time. Later, after Carter's death, he says that he should have shot Patrick Simmons (her murderer) during their first meeting, rather than engaging him in hand to hand combat.
  • Iconic Outfit: Black suit, white shirt, no tie.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Boasts of having never missed with a sniper rifle, and consistently kneecaps villains under combat conditions, sometimes without even using the sights.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Why he let go of Jessica. Unfortunately, it didn't go quite like he'd hoped.
  • Indy Ploy: He occasionally falls back on these when the situation is too dire or Finch is somehow unable to help him for whatever reason. He's very good at it.
  • Jade Coloured Glasses: Got them from Kara Stanton. His time with Finch slowly made them go away.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Carter and Fusco learn the other is working for John and Finch, they yell at him for not trusting them. He points out that Fusco was dirty and reluctant and Carter was hunting him down, so it isn't like they always trusted him.
  • Knee Capping: Started out as a compromise in deference to Finch's preference that nobody, if at all possible, is shot, and it is now his signature method for incapacitating villains. It gets him sent to therapy once he dons the Detective John Riley persona, as it's bad form for cops to go around shooting people in the knees.
  • Last-Name Basis: With Finch, who only calls him "John" when Finch is worried about him and/or Reese is in more danger than usual.
    • Ditto goes for Reese calling Finch "Harold".
  • Living on Borrowed Time: The Machine and Harold discuss hypothetical alternate timelines and Harold is told that had he and John not met, John's demons would have become overpowering and he'd have died one way or another. The Machine says that their partnership only delayed the inevitable.
  • Made of Iron: Comes with being a decorated US Army Special forces Veteran and former CIA officer. A most recent example is in "If-Then-Else", where at one point in the episode, he takes multiple rounds from Lambert's Glock 19 and only goes down when the man punches and headbutts him.
  • Married to the Job: The one time we do see him on a day off in "Many Happy Returns," it quickly becomes clear that he doesn't really have much of a life outside of work.
  • Meaningful Name: He is often addressed as "Mr. Reese", pronounced in a way that sounds like "Mysteries".
  • Menacing Stroll: He never goes anywhere without it.
  • Military Brat: Was one; his father was career Army.
  • More Dakka: Is excessively armed, much to Finch's horror. His Weapon of Choice is a Sig-Sauer P226R which he picks up in the pilot episode from some gun dealers, but John also has a Wall of Weapons which he's built up over the course of the show from repossessing firearms from the criminals he runs into. During Season 1, he also had the infamous "Plan B" bag containing a gas grenade launcher, FN F2000, SPAS-12 and an Ithaca 37 Stakeout equipped with a night vision scope. Also seems particularly fond of grenade launchers. Which is cool. In Season 4, he now also uses a Glock 17 during his duties as an NYPD detective.
    Reese: They never give you enough ammo.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Once he cleans up, especially in the pilot.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: The military file Carter finds on him in "Many Happy Returns" lists his name as John "H" Something. (His real last name is covered up, so we still don't know what it is either.)
  • No Name Given: While his first name is actually John, his last name was never revealed. His tombstone in the series finale at least reveals that it begins with a T.
  • Omniglot: He's been shown to speak English, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish, and the heavy accent he applies when speaking Dutch suggests that he probably speaks German as well. He can also recognize Mandarin, Polish and Russian from a distance.
  • One-Man Army: Using his CIA training, he can take out some considerably large armed groups, and borders on invincible in hand-to-hand combat. He can be overwhelmed with numbers, though. And then there was the mook who was so big, he had to be shot with a grenade launcher. note 
  • Only Friend: By the end of the first season, he's this to Finch and vice versa. Changes in later seasons.
    Reese: You see, I don't have many friends. Just the one, in fact.
    Fusco, gagged, grunts disapprovingly
    Reese: ...Okay, maybe two.
  • Person with the Clothing: Is generally known in the underworld and on the police force as "The Man in the Suit", even after he 'disappears'.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally. He was the one who decided the team was going to keep Bear, and is extremely fond of him.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Back when he worked for the CIA.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge/Rescue: They're not quite sure which, as they don't know if she's still alive or not, but Root and Reese definitely go on a rampage after Shaw gets shot and taken by Samaritan.
    Root: Are you ready for this?
    Reese: Let's go get Shaw back.
  • Running Gag: You just know a fight's gonna ensue when Reese walks into a bar.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Even a fanatical vigilante like Reese has limits to his patience. "One Percent" and "Reasonable Doubt" have him losing it because the POIs have shown themselves seemingly undeserving of his help. In the first case however, he comes back to save the POI. In the second, he is unsure if stopping a criminal wife from shooting her husband who tried to kill her is the the right thing. He just leaves a gun near the husband and lets them settle the matter alone.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Most definitely.
  • Silver Fox: Reese is well on his way to being one. Lampshaded by:
    • Wendy the hairstylist in "Number Crunch."
    • Owen in "4C," who remarks that Reese's hair is "like catnip to soccer moms."
    • The male stripper in "A More Perfect Union," who even uses the phrase "silver fox."
  • The Southpaw: Reese is often seen holding his gun in his left hand. Jim Caviezel is actually ambidextrous, though, and Reese will switch gun hands depending on what direction he's covering.
    • He'll generally wield two-handed weapons as a southpaw, even if it means risking a cycling bolt flying into his face.
  • The Stoic: His general outer attitude.
    • Not So Stoic: He broke his stoic façade in "Baby Blue", when Leila was about to die from freezing.
      • And again in "Dead Reckoning", when he thought he was about to be killed by Stanton's bomb vest and Finch was going to die with him. He actually pulled a gun on Finch to try to get him to leave.
      • "The Crossing". John breaks down in tears as Carter dies in his arms.
  • Submissive Badass: John has a near inability to act without someone to work for. Applied when he worked for the Army, and then for Stanton, and now to Finch.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome / Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Though given that he's inhabiting a World of Snark, he's just as likely to be described as "Tall, Dark and Deranged" by the likes of Detective Fusco.
  • Technical Pacifist: Realistically portrayed, John prefers not to kill. However, he will use lethal force when necessary.
  • That's What I Would Do: Says this several times in response to the Villain of the Week's murder method, much to Finch's upset.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Played with; he respects Finch's desire to keep killing to a minimum, and is such an accurate shot under combat conditions his talent for Knee Capping is a Running Gag. But Reese will kill if the circumstances require it, or if you hit one of his Berserk Buttons.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: He implied that this is how he ended up in the Army, to a POI who ended up in the Navy because of this trope.
  • Tranquil Fury: Even in the middle of a firefight, he generally keeps his stoic demeanor.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Finch.
    Finch: If... If we make it out of here. Sorry, Mr. Reese. I know I was upfront about the risk that we'd be running, but...
    Reese: Forget about it, Harold. There's no place I'd rather be.
  • Vigilante Man: He has killed a fair share of people since he started on his path of atonement and broke just as many laws.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Finch. And later Fusco. And Shaw.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: And in the case of the wife beater who killed his ex-girlfriend Jessica, the bashing was presumably lethal. Or John sent him to a Mexican prison. It's ambiguous either way, but Carter suspects it's the former.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He is smart enough to not underestimate his opponents and generally comes at them with all his focus.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: When a choice came down to either watching a child die from freezing to death or giving Elias the info he needed, he chose to save the child. Elias knew this of him as well. That's why he put Reese in the position.

    Finch 

Harold Finch

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/finch_harold_8246.jpg
"I should tell you... I'm a really private person."
Played by: Michael Emerson, Chris Bert (1979 & 1981), & Parker Brightman (circa 1969-71)
Introduced in: "Pilot"

Aliases: 'Admin', Arthur Bellenger, Norman Burdett, Walt Trowbridge, Mr Partridge, Thomas Paine, Harold Wren, Harold Crane, Dr. Tilman, Lucas Bennett, Harold Crow, Harold Swift, Harold Gull, Harold Quail, Harold Starling, Rudy Smoot, Harold Kingfisher, Harold Martin, Professor Harold Whistler, Harold Egret, Harold Cardinal

"The world looks like it did ten years ago, but underneath, it's become very strange indeed. An invisible struggle has begun."

A reclusive, security-conscious and intensely private billionaire software engineer. His real name is unknown (Beyond the fact that his first name really is Harold) and he has many aliases (most commonly Harold Wren), using various species of birds as the last name. Finch has developed a machine that can isolate the Social Security numbers of people with either premeditated homicidal intent or who will be homicide victims, based on its analysis of surveillance data. Following a traumatic event in his own life that led to the death of his business partner and close friend, Nathan Ingram, he recruits Reese to help him deal with the people the Machine identifies. Finch lives and works in an abandoned library and shows the results of severe physical injuries, including the inability to turn his head, a rigid posture, and a limp.


  • Achey Scars: Of a sort. He had cervical spinal fusion surgery (aka metal rods put in his neck to hold his spine together) due to getting injured in an explosion meant to kill Nathan Ingram. At one point he's discussing his pain with a doctor who's their Number, and says that on a scale of 1 to 5, his pain level is "on a good day, 3; today is not a good day" (and then winces, hard). However, he might have been overselling it as part of the act, since he was there to distract her long enough to set up some surveillance, and playing up his need for a prescription was an easy way to get her attention off him long enough to switch her tech for a doctored one.
  • Achilles in His Tent / Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • After Carter dies and John disappears, he spends the first few minutes of "Lethe" pointedly ignoring the Machine calling him with a new number.
    • Undergoes a mixture of both after the Machine had given them a kill order. When they return to New York, he goes missing for a week, and comes back after learning Decima had taken Grace Hendricks.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Lampshaded in "Asylum": "I go by many names, all of them derived from species of birds."
  • The Atoner: He saw the Numbers just come and come and come. Once, he could stand by and watch, but something caused him to change his mind and make him pursue atonement for the lives lost because of his inaction.
    • This was fully confirmed in the Season 2 finale. Nathan started looking at the irrelevant numbers and tried to save them. Harold found out and ceased the operation, not seeing that Nathan's number had just popped up. After he died, he found out that the Machine predicted all of it. Not only could he have saved his friend, but losing him made Harold realize Nathan was right when he said everyone was relevant to someone, and that's when he started pursuing the numbers in earnest.
    • In Season 2 finale, he also atones for other past mistakes. He concocted a Batman Gambit several years ago that led to the Machine learning how to defend itself and relocating itself to an undisclosed location, away from the corrupt government Harold entrusted it to. It's also possible that the newly coded Machine is now capable of keeping its memories as opposed to the past code Harold inputted to destroy itself in order to halt its evolution.
  • Badass Bookworm: An abandoned library is his (and by extension, Reese's) base of operations and the shelves have been re-shelved with his books, and if he isn't working, he's usually reading. Badass not with fighting, but he's one badass computer hacker who, for example, hacked all of the cell towers north of Canal St., cutting off all cell communications except for which phones he chose in order to save John and the POI from getting killed in the explosion of a sabotaged gas main wired to a cellphone. 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.
    • Finch owns at least one book for every entry in the Dewey Decimal System. The Machine tells Finch and later Reese the numbers by giving him a reference to three books in the library, whose Dewey Decimal Numbers combine to make a nine digit Social Security Number.
    • He also bought fifteen libraries (one of which the library lair is) that were shutting down because he hated to see them be shut down.
  • Batman Gambit: A pretty big one revealed in the Season 2 finale. Regretting his decision to turn the Machine over to the government, he sold a laptop with a virus in it to China. Inside the virus was another virus that altered the machine's code when it was infected. It learned to defend itself and actually moved itself to an undisclosed location.
  • Beneath Notice: "The easiest place to hide, as you well know, is in plain sight." He pretended to be a fairly low-level employee in his own company for seventeen years, and usually when he is out in the field his aliases are usually jobs you wouldn't take a second glance at, or would forget quickly as being so mundane.
  • Berserk Button:
    • If Finch finds out that you previously brought up a Number he was unable to save, you'd better have stored up some sort of good karma somewhere! Because while he may be averse to killing, he will not only ensure you will never be able to bring up another Number, he will take away from you what you love most. Also don't give self-serving justifications for evil acts. The serial killer in "Proteus" tried this and Finch actually snapped at him.
    • And, whatever you do, don't hurt Grace.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Generally he is an affable fellow who cares about good people and is willing to go to incredible lengths to protect them. The lengths to which he would go include hiring an ex-CIA assassin to stop or 'persuade' whoever it is who wants to harm an innocent into stopping.
    Finch: There are more comfortable chairs, if you'd rather. Not to mention a padded bench that doubles as quite a comfortable bed. If a small one.
    Root: And all within the proximity radius programmed into my lovely new ankle accessory.
    • Elias calls him out on this in "The Day The World Went Away", saying that all the pent up emotions and people he's lost will eventually catch up to him and he'll snap. In the very same episode, after the loss of Root and Elias himself, Finch makes good on Elias' prediction by deciding to abandon his rules and stage a massive prison breakout in order to get himself free.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In "Deus ex Machina". Finch is willing to sacrifice himself, and the existence of the Machine, to protect three people who want him (or his Machine) dead.
  • Brains and Brawn: The Brains of the team.
  • Broken Masquerade: Subverted in "Deus ex Machina". He does it to protect Control during the televised trial, but Vigilance actually isn't broadcasting anything.
  • The Chessmaster: He doesn't very often get to showcase this during the more ordinary episodes because he usually doesn't have all the information he needs to set up plays (which makes him very uncomfortable and is one of the reasons he has Reese) involving villains for ordinary Numbers, but his plans for worst case scenarios involving The Machine are incredibly complex, devious, and extremely impressive, showcasing all his formidable planning skills and even manipulating world powers.
    • As an example, he sold the Chinese and Decima a virus that was actually a disguised vaccine, and basically played Decima into vaccinating the Machine for him.
  • Chick Magnet: Had apparently been quite the ladies' man in college, though he gave up that life sometime after graduating, never seeking romantic female company with anyone other than Grace.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: A bit intermittent in seasons 1 and 2, but by season three he has to save everybody. He even attempts to advocate for the sparing of Peter Collier, who was about to kill him not even five minutes previous.
  • Consummate Liar: Due to his paranoia, he's built up several identities/lives and has consequently become quite good at this, sometimes to his own chagrin and regret when in regards to people he cares about and would like to be honest with. He doesn't usually make completely untrue statements unless he's talking to someone he considers an enemy, but he is well versed in setting things up for implications or verbally sidling past something someone asks him or setting up events so he isn't technically lying (like technically holding a job, such as his Wren alias or his job as a docent).
  • Crazy-Prepared: In his position he has to be. A prime example is when he pays for an entire staffed office building to create a air tight cover for John when he's arrested in "Prisoners Dilemma."
  • Creepy Good: Several of the other characters consider Finch this (most notably Fusco), which is understandable both because Finch stays as mysterious as possible and always seems to know more about you, what you're doing or have done than any person should be capable of. This perception isn't helped by the fact that most of the time he speaks in a Creepy Monotone.
  • Crimefighter With Cash: He provides the cash that the team needs for whatever monetary needs might crop up. This includes buying and furnishing safe houses, investments, buying companies, funding a couple of hospital wings, and much more. He sometimes even goes a step farther than saving someone from immediate danger and has bought companies specifically in order to make sure that a Number who needs a job has one.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Finch has a very tragic past.
  • Deadpan Snarker / Disabled Snarker / Gentleman Snarker: The only people who can occasionally outsnark Finch are Reese and Shaw.
  • Designated Victim: He was kidnapped in both the Season 1 and Season 2 finales by Root. A total of four times in three finales, to be accurate, seeing as he was taken by both Greer and Vigilance in the span of one episode in Season 3. It's not quite so ridiculous as it sounds; he's 'the most important man in the world', and everyone either wants him dead or wants his knowledge. Or both.
  • Determinator: When he has a goal in mind, there is nothing that will dissuade him from trying to accomplish it, even extreme physical pain. After the explosion that killed Nathan and crippled him, he somehow managed to travel who knows how far from the scene of the explosion just to get to the Library to see whether Nathan's name had been on the Irrelevant list; he practically dragged himself out of the Library to try to save Daniel Casey after having been drugged and dumped out of his wheelchair; climbed twenty-odd flights of stairs (quite impressive for a man who is crippled and in chronic pain) to save a bomb-strapped Reese and then refused to leave until either he had defused the bomb or they both went up with it, and those are just a few of the highlights.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Although he's proved more than once that he'd be willing to handle one if the situation was dire enough.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Boy did he.
  • Encyclopaedic Knowledge: He has a general working knowledge of many, many fields. And what he doesn't know, he can look up.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Any secretive, manipulative chessmaster who works from the shadows is inevitably compared to Finch. Examples include Elias, Root, and Special Counsel.
    • Greer. It's evident through their opinions of Artificial Intelligence; the very well-read Finch was so terrified of the Machine finding all of humanity irrelevant that he crippled it. Greer, meanwhile, has no such compunctions, instead choosing to celebrate Samaritan's brilliance...
  • Failure Hero: Season 4 cements him as this. Due to his Small Steps Hero mindset, he's unwilling to take any morally ambiguous actions which would harm Samaritan and stops its attempts at taking over the world. This costs him dearly when Samaritan gets strong enough to kill The Machine.
  • Failure Knight: Having had a change of heart after so many years of ignoring the Numbers (including that of his deceased partner/friend) he now protects the innocent ones and stop the ones intending to do harm with an obsessive single mindedness and has, in fact, pledged his life to protecting or stopping Numbers and fully expects he will die trying to do so. Also, even at his most stand-offish, he is extremely protective of Reese and will go to extreme lengths up to risking his life and anonymity to save him from danger or even emotional pain.
  • Faking the Dead: Finch did this before the start of the series to escape anyone who would come after him to get access to The Machine and so protect those he was connected to.
  • The Fettered: He will pursue the protection of the Numbers to great ends, or the victims of the Numbers as the case may be, to the detriment of his own life. Also has a personal rule of only using violence in defense of someone else; he will not raise a hand or take up a weapon in self-defense (though, apparently, having an attack-dog is acceptable). After the events of the 100th episode, he very calmly examines his code and presumably strikes large parts of it.
  • Fiction 500: Quite possibly. It's unknown exactly how much money he has, but he routinely makes staggering purchases and investments. He often uses this money to gain access to important places and set up innocent numbers with a good situation after they have been saved. In one case, he bought a luxury hotel in order to make the number for that week its manager. However, when Reese bids for some letters by Albert Einstein in a charity auction, he gets worried and tells Reese he's "no longer using parking change."
    Reese: Since the numbers have stopped, it's not right you should go on paying me as generously as you are.
    Finch: Since you give away ninety percent of what I pay you, I don't see why I shouldn't continue.
    • How rich is Finch? Consider: one of Reese's aliases that he setup is a single-digit millionaire. Another alias is a triple-digit millionaire. And this is just two of them!
  • Geek: Mentions in the extended pilot that he was a massive Science Fiction fan when he was a kid, and if specifically caring to own a rare first-edition of one of Isaac Asimov's books, his reading preferences of dystopian literature and science-fiction, and his being able to identify an Orwell quote immediately is anything to go by, he hasn't changed that much.
    • Not limited to science fiction. He's also a Charles Dickens fan, and a massive bibliophile over many genres. He was most distressed when Bear decided to add rare first-edition books to his diet.
  • Geeky Turn-On: He's usually quite nonplussed about beautiful women, unless they are intelligent and well-read and then he's tripping over himself in the most Adorkable fashion. Also he only got seriously interested enough in Grace to ask her out after he found out she has a deep love of Charles Dickens' works.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Finch is a very well-read computer genius who prefers elegant tailored suits and is extremely courteous and polite ( except for when he's snarking at Reese or Fusco ).
  • Good with Numbers: To put it mildly.
  • Guile Hero: When Finch wants to, he is quite capable of manipulating those around him, whether by their weaknesses or their virtues and is a master manipulator of events, and tends to go at conversations so he always finds out more about others than they do about him. And when it comes to corrupt businessmen he takes them down with ease and no small prejudice by manipulating information, finances, events, and the businessmen themselves.
    • His Guile Hero status is somewhat bitterly lampshaded by Nathan: "It's never 'simply' with you, Harold. There's always two layers to everything you do."
  • Guilt Complex: Feels personal responsibility for any trouble that has come about because of the Machine (though he doesn't regret building The Machine itself), or any bad thing he feels he should have been able to prevent. And possibly for being the reason that the CIA burned Reese.
    Finch: "Does survivor's guilt pass when everything that has happened actually is, in fact, your fault?"
  • Handicapped Badass: He walks with a limp but still can do the other badass things.
  • Heartbroken Badass: His past business partner/only friend died because Harold decided to ignore the irrelevant list, which Nathan was on. Then he had to convince his fiancee that he was dead in order to keep her safe.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Was this with Nathan, becomes this with Reese.
  • Honorary Uncle: To Will Ingram.
  • Hurting Hero: Let us count the ways. His best friend was killed, he's on the run from his own government for creating a machine to protect its people, had to fake his own death because his own government would kill him or anyone connected with him to keep the Machine safe meaning that Finch had to leave behind and never again be with his fiancee or she would become a target, and is quite literally hurting due to getting caught in an explosion set to kill Nathan left him crippled and in constant pain. And this is before we learn that under his real name, he's wanted for sedition, and will likely be going to jail for a very long time if he's ever caught.
  • I Have Many Names: He has multiple identities around the city - among them, software engineer, paralegal, and insurance executive, all of which are associated with different names. He even went to college under an assumed ID, given that his college student persona appeared out of nowhere in 1976. Nathan Ingram lampshades this, asking him if he remembers his original name. One of his aliases (Rudy Smoot) he created on a bet.
  • I Have No Son: Played with in that Finch regularly insists that the Machine is not his child, and that it is just a machine. It is clear that this is a façade and that Finch does in fact feel about the Machine the way he would a child. He is called on this several times by various characters.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The source of many of Team Machine's problems in Season 3.
    • Deconstructed ruthlessly in Season 4. It prevents him from allowing Team Machine to take any serious initiative in stopping Samaritan and ultimately leads him to become a Small Steps Hero and in the finale, an undeniable Failure Hero.
    • Eviscerated in Season 5 and Finch finally acknowledges how this trope has let him down so much in the war with Samaritan.
    Finch: I have played by the rules for so long.
    Agent: Not from where I'm sitting.
    Finch: No, not your rules. You work at the behest of a system so broken that you didn't even notice when it became corrupted at its core. When I first broke your rules, a sitting president had authorized assassination squads in Laos, and the head of the FBI had ordered his men, you, to conduct illegal surveillance on his political rivals. Your rules have changed every time it was convenient for you. I was talking about my rules. I have lived by those rules for so long. Believed in them for so long. Believed that if you played by the right rules eventually you would win. But I was wrong, wasn't I? And now all the people I cared about are dead. Or will be dead soon enough. And we will be gone without a trace. So now I have to decide. Decide whether to let my friends die. To let hope die. To let the world be ground under your heel all because I played by my rules. I'm trying to decide. I'm going to kill you. But I need to decide how far I'm willing to go. How many of my own rules I'm willing to break to get it done.
  • Irony: His Weapon of Choice (when he leaves the library). It's a taser, just like Root's.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: After he realizes that the government is willing to kill anyone who discovers the existence of the Machine, he fakes the death of one of his various aliases so that if the government learned about him, they wouldn't know about and seek to harm his fiancée. However, despite the fact that he cannot be with her ever again (and in fact has surveillance programs in place to ensure that they never get with 100 yards of each other so that she'll never learn he isn't dead), it is implied that he is quietly using his various businesses to ensure that her illustration business has steady work.
  • Jerkass Façade: Occasionally puts up a very formal, very prickly, very sarcastic one of these in earlier episodes whenever he feels Reese is pushing too hard at finding out his (Finch's) past or personal life, or when he feels he has revealed too much about himself.
    • Lampshaded in "Legacy".
    Andrea: So, what's this boss of yours like?
    Reese: Very manipulative, secretive. We've had some personality conflicts.
    Andrea: I take it he has a lot of money.
    Reese: He's one of those rich loner types; the kind you'd call strange if he didn't have so much cash, so instead he's... "eccentric".
  • Kill 'em All: Gives one to Reese and Shaw once he found out Grace had kidnapped by Decima and told them to kill them all if Decima hurt her in any way.
  • King Incognito: Finch kept himself Hidden in Plain Sight by working as a low-level employee in a company he himself owns. He even wears cheaper suits.
    • Inverted by his Harold Wren identity, which is senior management at an insurance firm he owns.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: Finch is paranoid and cynical about everyone and is usually the first to ascribe cynical motives to the current person of interest, yet he has a high moral code in regards to saving lives, is the driving force and moral compass in their team and - if there is no one else more capable around to help - will happily risk his life and exposure to those who want to kill him to help someone, and he still believes it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
  • Last-Name Basis: Calls almost everyone by their last name (usually with an honorific in front), and prefers to be called by his last name (preferably with an honorific in front of it, but the only person to do so is Greer.). Only Nathan, Grace, and (with increasing frequency) Reese pretty much have Finch's permission to call him "Harold." Root and Shaw also call Finch "Harold", but he frowns heavily on this familiarity (especially coming from Root). He doesn't seem to mind starting with Season 4 though.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The origin of his "Harold Finch" alias is shown in the episode "Aletheia": when he comes to say goodbye to his father in a nursing home after breaking into the Arpanet, the bird he spots outside the window is a finch (a common chaffinch, to be precise).
  • MacGyvering: He made a WiFi antenna out of a Pringles can.
    • Truth in Television: WiFi hackers use them all the time. It's incredibly easy and the schematics can be easily found online.
    • Also made a lie detector out of meteorological equipment, and has done much more.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: He possesses a personal fortune large enough for him to buy entire corporations on a whim and enjoys fine suits (he has a personal atelier in Italy) and the arts.
  • Mission Control: As the one who the Machine gives numbers to, the one who does basic research of the person of interest, and mainly works at his computer to help from that end.
  • Missing Mom: Despite some flashbacks to Harold's youth, his mother is never shown or mentioned. Given that one of those takes place while he's Junior High age, she's probably long dead. His father's fate is known - his body died of Alzheimer's in 1981, while his mind had succumbed to the disease some years previously.
  • Mister Exposition: He gives the base explanation about the Machine and what it does. He also tends to explain who the numbers refer to.
    • Unreliable Expositor: Where the Machine and his past are concerned, the essentials of what he says are true, but he often lies or omits parts in order to avoid further explanation into more secrets and considering that the more someone knows about the Machine or himself, the greater the danger they're in or could put someone from his past in, his 'unreliability' is a defense even more for others than for himself.
  • Morality Chain/Living Emotional Crutch: Is this to Reese; between Finch giving him a second chance, Finch being Reese's Only Friend, and Finch's more pacifistic convictions, Reese's He Who Fights Monsters tendencies are usually kept in check.
    • In a way, he is this for the Machine, as everything the Machine does is based on Finch's own teachings. Ironically, the Machine ends up being Finch's own Morality Chain after Ingram's death.
  • Multilayer Façade: Hoo boy, where to start...
  • Nerves of Steel: Yes, he feels fear. Frequently. However, that doesn't stop him from using his razor-sharp mind to solve problems such as John being wired to a bomb vest.
  • Never Found the Body: Grace believes that his body lies on the bottom of the Hudson River after the ferry bombing that killed Nathan Ingram.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: His refusal to allow Shaw and John to kill the corrupt congressman on Decima's payroll led to Samaritan's coming to power. His inability to trust Root (For arguably justifiable reasons) earlier that season also made it possible for Decima to acquire Samaritan in the first place.
  • Non-Action Guy: Between his injury and aversion to violence, he is this. He'll knock someone over the head if necessary but that's where it stops.
  • Non-Idle Rich: In so many ways.
  • Noodle Incident: Something Finch did in his youth caused the government to come after him on treason charges, leading to him shedding his original identity and becoming the paranoid loner we know and love. The facts of what he did are vaguely hinted at in The Day the World Went Away, but are never actually explained.
  • Not So Stoic: If someone he cares about is in danger of being killed. This gets taken Up to Eleven if someone is around a bomb, he will readily drop everything and try save any Team Machine member or POI's in the blast zone, rather understandably as that was how Nathan was killed.
  • Odd Friendship: In the beginning stages of one with Shaw. The prim and proper Finch bonds with the rough and tumble Shaw over Bear (he's graciously willing to share his dog with her), saving lives, blowing up evil lairs, and the fact that she's sneaky enough that he hasn't yet found the bug she's planted in his library.
  • Omniglot: While he's never yet spoken another language (apart from the occasional command to Bear in Dutch), he has been seen to be able to read and translate to English several languages, most notably Russian and German when reeling off facts from various documents.
  • Only Friend: In his past, Nathan Ingram. By the end of the first season, he and Reese are this to each other and he will go to huge lengths to keep Reese alive. Averted however as Team Machine expands.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Finch will not violate his Thou Shalt Not Kill policy to save himself, or prevent Samaritan from going online. However, he has no qualms whatsoever about unleashing Reese and Shaw to rain death on anyone who harms Grace Hendricks, and he very nearly murdered Alicia Corwin after Nathan Ingram's death.
    • In the 100th episode, after watching Root and Elias be killed with his own two eyes, Finch gives an ice cold monologue to an FBI agent and vows to abandon his own rules for the sake of killing Samaritan.
  • Phrase-Catcher: He's 'good with computers'.
  • Properly Paranoid: He's 'the most important man in the world.' There are individuals, organizations, and world powers who want to get their hands on the Machine (or the Machine's creator) and naturally the U.S. government will kill anyone who could be conceived a threat, including any loose ends. So yeah, he's paranoid. But not quite paranoid enough to prepare for Root, Shaw, and Corwin, who have either compromised the library, held him at gunpoint, or both.
    Finch: "Only the paranoid survive."
  • Psychotic Smirk: Finch very occasionally flashes these, most notably in "Flesh and Blood" when Simmons asks him who he is and in "Razgovor" when Shaw asks him how much he knows about chemistry (cue Stuff Blowing Up).
  • Refused The Call: Until Nathan was killed in 2010, he didn't care about the Irrelevant List.
  • Renaissance Man: Computer programmer, software engineer, hacker, businessman, paralegal, insurance underwriter, knows ranging and windage, is an avid baseball fan, can tailor suits, change a diaper, pick the best wine and food, pilot a plane, and much more.
  • Riches to Rags: While not exactly destitute, Harold Whistler cannot access the effectively bottomless coffers of Harold Finch, for fear of Samaritan noticing the transactions.
  • Secretly Wealthy: While dating Grace.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: His suits, nice in the beginning, just get better and better and inevitably include a Waistcoat of Style. Even his less nice suits for his less affluent/successful aliases are still very nice.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Root and Shaw, in season 4.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Not as Harold Finch, but as the legendary hacker who broke into the Arpanet in the 70s and never got identified, let alone caught, making him the first internet hacker. And he did it in high school with a computer he built himself.
  • Small Steps Hero: Killing Congressman McCourt would have prevented Samaritan from being put online. Despite the fact that McCourt was a Jerkass accepting bribes from Decima, Harold refuses to let Reese and Shaw do it.
    • Ruthlessly deconstructed in Season 4. This side of Harold's character is one of the factors which prevents Team Machine from gaining any serious initiative against Decima Technologies and Samaritan.
    • Comes back to cost Harold with the deaths of Root and Elias showing him how his lack of focus in destroying Samaritan has cost the lives of two people who gave them up so he could live.
  • Smart People Play Chess: He enjoys a game or two. Elias even agreed to help them on a job if Finch visited him and played chess with him.
    • Season four episode If-Then-Else reveals that "enjoys" may have been putting it too strong. After having taught chess to the Machine in 2004, he notes that he dislikes the game because it comes from a time where people thought pawns were worth less than kings. Whether he got over it or just played Elias to fulfill the favor remains unknown.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses
  • Socially-Awkward Hero: While he is normally very eloquent and appears to be at ease when manipulating people, playing a role, or talking to someone where the relationship is clearly defined, in normal social situations he is very awkward if very polite (which leads to some quite Adorkable moments.)
  • Spock Speak: Tends to speak like this, but as noted, is quite the Deadpan Snarker and can occasionally be Sophisticated as Hell.
  • The Spook: Even the Machine protects his identity. It tags all other assets with their names (codenames or aliases if need be), but it always refers to Finch as "admin". The intro to "Contingency" suggests this may have been deliberate on Finch's part.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Finch wanted a machine, not an Artificial Intelligence. He failed.
  • Stepford Snarker: Tends to cover up emotional and physical pain and nervousness with snark.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Finch's main facade is as someone who's cold and aloof, but he has a genuinely caring heart and (once through his cold side) is the warmest, kindest character in the show.
  • Talker and Doer: The doer in his and Ingram's business partnership, preferring to keep out of the limelight and concentrate on his work.
  • Technical Pacifist: He's against killing (in most situations, though he's occasionally tempted to let someone's evil deeds catch up with them) and quite against violence though recognizes it as a sad necessity in order to stop the people who are out to hurt or kill others (hence his hiring Reese). He refuses to use violence to defend himself, but he's willing and will take up arms (such as poking someone in the eye, bashing someone with a lamp, picking up a gun and grenade launcher) to save/protect someone else.
    • Although he'll let Reese and Shaw do whatever is necessary to save a number, the Machine giving them a direct kill order is the Moral Event Horizon he refuses to cross.
    Harold: Since we started this, things have changed. We've changed. But the mission, our purpose, has always been constant: To save lives. If that's changed, somehow — if we're in a place now where the Machine is asking us to commit murder... That's a place I can't go. I'm afraid this is where I get off.
  • Team Dad: Word of God suggest that he's become this to Team Machine, to subtle extents when it comes to Carter and Fusco but prevalent when it comes for Reese and Shaw.
  • Techno Wizard
  • Themed Aliases: He likes birds.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Tea in general and Sencha Green Tea in particular.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Finch confronts the man sent to kill a 911 operator, he appears perfectly calm, but you can clearly hear absolute fury in his voice.
    "Before you make a grave error of judgment, permit me to describe what I have in my hand. It's a severed electrical cable connected to this generator. Current is running through it at ten times the amperage required for electrocution. All I have to do is drop it in that water, and within three seconds, the muscles in your heart will fibrillate. Now, I'm not a violent man but not only have you tried to harm this young woman and an innocent child, you have shut down a 911 call center in one of the more dangerous cities in the country. So now there are two things that will keep me from ending your life right now. First, I want you to drop the gun. Second, I need to hear the sound of your voice."
  • Uncle Pennybags: Uses his wealth to occasionally dabble in a little philanthropy and aid POI's who aren't exactly well off or are facing dire economic problems.
  • Unperson: The Machine automatically removes any trace of Finch whenever it detects a threat to him. It's done well enough to protect him from Samaritan.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Reese.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Subverted in that he leaves the Internet Connection to get physically involved in the Mystery of the Week fairly frequently.
    • And then inverted when Reese is recuperating from a gunshot wound sustained in the previous episode.
    • Played for laughs when Reese's protectee asks him who he's talking to. He responds, "Tech support."
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Averted, doubly subverted, and possibly played straight (if some of the hints about his past prove to be true). Says that his greatest motivation (even above not wanting others to use it for nefarious purposes) for sealing up The Machine so no one can access it is that he might be tempted to use it to become one of these however, before he decided to help people, he was so concerned with not using The Machine to become a Well-Intentioned Extremist (either he or anyone else) he became an version of this by deciding that The Needs of the Many outweighed the needs of the Irrelevants For The Greater Good.

    Carter 

Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/carter_joss_8614.jpg
"I'm a cop. My life's always in danger."
Played by: Taraji P. Henson
Introduced in: "Pilot"

"That line you're talking about? I crossed it a long time ago."

An NYPD homicide detective and single mother of a teenaged son, Taylor, Carter is a former U.S. Army interrogator and military intelligence warrant officer who passed the bar exam in 2004, but gave up practicing the law to return to police work. Carter first crosses paths with Reese following his encounter with a group of young men on a New York subway, but knew him principally as the mysterious "man in the suit." Carter is initially determined to apprehend Reese, but eventually forms an alliance with him and Finch.


  • All a Part of the Job: The quote above, in response to Reese telling her she's in danger.
  • Amicable Exes: Her ex-husband is still willing to be there for her when she needs him. She sends Taylor to him as she kicks starts her plan to destroy HR.
  • Anyone Can Die: At the end of "The Crossing," she's killed by Simmons.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Carter is the member of Team Machine who's always conflicted about the laws they break. However come season 3 with HR arranging for her demotion and having killed off many honest cops, when she's given a partner who she knows from the outset is an HR mole, she blackmails him at the first opportunity without a shred of hesitation. Her method: Use his New Jersey registered gun to kill another dirty cop.
    • Come "Endgame" Carter has thrown being lawful out the window and picked being good. As a result she becomes a nigh unstoppable Chessmaster, initiating a plot to destroy HR that any other day would have made Finch proud.
  • Black Dude Dies First: She's the first of Team Machine to die.
  • The Chick: She acted as the true moral compass of the team. Unlike the other members, Carter was never an amoral Anti-Hero and as a result, was able to slowly humanize the others to some extent and keep them from jumping off the Moral Event Horizon
  • Character Death: Carter is murdered by Simmons.
  • Character Development: Over the course of the show, Carter changes from a by the book cop who's distrusting of Reese and Finch to someone who's more appreciative of what they do and willing to help them.
    • Come "Endgame" she's thrown all her old dilemmas regarding legality to the wind and does whatever it takes to destroy H.R.
  • The Chessmaster: Of all people, she's evolved into this. In "Endgame" Carter's plan to destroy HR is revealed. With Shaw giving her the "Plan B" bag she conducts a false flag operation, hijacking a Russian Mafia supply truck, takes several pot shots at Quinn with a sniper rifle and has Elias send the intelligence she's been gathering during the start of Season 3 to the Yogorov family. To top things off, when Quinn tries to have some Russian Mobsters executed, she has the FBI arrive on the scene drastically compromising HR in terms of manpower and security.
  • Cold Sniper: Briefly becomes one in "Endgame" when she takes several pot shots at the head of HR and destroys his office.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In "Endgame" when initiating her plan to destroy HR, she knows Quinn won't come willingly and so has his cellphone hacked in order to notify John at the right moment to break in and forcibly extract the man when her attempt to make an arrest goes wrong. Also, she deliberately went to a judge she know was in HR's pocket, so she could bait Quinn.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: She's a little too knowledgeable about spousal abuse. Flashbacks in "Endgame" show that her son's father had PTSD, which he refused to get help for until she effectively forced him to. It's not outright abuse, but it's pretty close to it.
  • Determinator: Once she's got a taste of something suspicious going on, she does not let up.
  • Enemy Mine: With Elias. He wants to rebuild his organization and wipe out the Russian mob who have allied themselves with HR. As a result, he helps her along with her plot to destroy HR.
  • Fair Cop: First seen in a tight shirt, slightly unbuttoned. A criminal she interrogates in prison says he's got a date with a sock afterwards.
  • First Girl Wins: For a short period in "The Crossing." Then she had to die, because Reese can't have a woman.
  • Good Is Not Soft:
    • After HR began to kill many honest police officers and demote her, she's been running a comprehensive surveillance operation on HR without a warrant and as Officer Laskey found out the hard way, is happy to blackmail him to become her mole with the threat of framing him for a murder.
    • The Endgame arc of Season 3 demonstrates this grandly, with her systematically ruining the lives of all her enemies and destroying two major criminal organisations.
  • Hero Antagonist: Until she joined Team Machine.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The bullets that killed her were meant for John. She purposely used her body to shield him from most of them while driving off Simmons with her own return fire and saved his life as a result.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Often picks up on the subtle clues everyone else misses (e.g. noticing details in Jessica's autopsy that reveal she'd been abused in "Many Happy Returns"). And then at the start of Season 3 she gets a new partner. She doesn't trust him and knows he's a mole for HR.
  • It's Personal: Word of God suggests that HR arranging her demotion and eliminating Carl Becher and other honest cops is this. Season 3 has her meticulously preparing to destroy HR by gathering intelligence on them and trying to find the identity of the HR leader.
  • Last-Name Basis: Seems to prefer this greatly when directed toward herself. When Fusco asks what her first name is, she says "Detective."
  • The Lost Lenore: Played with her husband Paul Carter, the father of her son Taylor. He didn't die, but she "lost" him when the marriage fell apart because Paul refused to get help for his PTSD.
  • Mama Bear: She is a fierce defender of her child from harm.
  • Mole in Charge: Donnelly puts her in charge of interrogating the men he arrested so she can figure out which one of them is "the man in the suit".
  • Morality Chain: To Reese and most of team machine. She kept their more amoral tendencies in check.
  • Odd Friendship: The sociopathic former Northern Lights assassin Shaw bonds with Carter over handguns and non lethal weaponry. In "Endgame" Shaw provides Carter with the required weaponry (steals the "Plan B Bag") to conduct her false flag operation to destroy HR.
  • Only Sane Man: Shares this role with Fusco for Team Machine.
  • Scary Black Man: Channels this when she finally confronts her new partner over his job as an HR mole.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The main motivation for her actions in "Endgame".
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: When she wore a dress in order to seduce a target.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: The serious variation, until promoted to The Commissioner Gordon in "Matsya Nyaya". (The opening sequence was slightly altered, moving her segment relative to the voiceover from "hunted by the authorities" to the end of "someone with the skills to intervene.")
  • Take Care of the Kids: "Promise me you'll look in on him."
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Struggles with this, and was very conflicted about Fusco's Internal Affairs investigation, and reluctantly dug up and hid Stills' body to protect Fusco. But she seems to have finally come to terms during the arrest of Alonzo Quinn, when she tries to arrest him legally, but puts in place a safety net in the form of Finch and Reese if things go wrong.
    Carter: "I tried to do it clean, photographs, recordings, sworn testimony...but I guess you all were just too dirty."
  • Took a Level in Badass: Carter has always been a competent detective who can keep up with Reese but she's always been hamstrung with the dilemma of To Be Lawful or Good. Come Season 3 she meticulously prepares and executes a well thought out plan to make HR destroy itself by conducting a series of false flag operations to make it declare war on the Russian Mafia. The results are spectacular to say the least.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Downplayed. When an assassination attempt by HR in the second season finale fails (Carter shoots first and kills her would-be assassin), the HR cop on scene improvises, pocketing the assassin's gun so it looks to Internal Affairs like she shot an unarmed man. By the third season premiere, Carter's lost her detective badge and is back in a patrol car. She gets promoted back to detective after identifying and bringing in the true leader of HR, Alonzo Quinn, but is murdered later that evening.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Of a main cast filled predominantly with white men, she's a black woman.
  • Weapon of Choice: Department issue Glock 19 and a backup Glock 26. But she also occasionally makes use of John's "Plan B Bag".
  • When She Smiles: It's even lampshaded in one episode.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Does an epic one to Quinn when she forcibly makes off with him at the end of "Endgame."

    Fusco 

Detective Lionel P. Fusco

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fusco_lionel_4749.jpg
"I made some mistakes. Some big ones. But things are different now; I'm helping people."
Played by: Kevin Chapman
Introduced in: "Pilot"

"I know exactly how you feel. Everyone's got you wrong. Everyone thinks you're something you're not and you got no way to change their mind."

A corrupt cop Reese blackmails into being a source inside the police department. Finch later arranges for Fusco to be transferred to Carter's precinct so that he works with her. Over time, Fusco becomes increasingly loyal to Finch and Reese, but continues to keep a secret regarding the death of a cop involved with HR.


  • The Alcoholic: Used to be this, but stopped drinking when he began working with Reese.
  • The Atoner: After working with Reese and doing some good, he's found that he much prefers helping people to being corrupt. He even gets angry that Reese forces him to be The Mole in a group of dirty cops, as it takes time away from which he could be doing actual police work.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: In "Wingman".
  • Badass Normal: He isn't an outstandingly trained killer like Reese or Shaw, genius renaissance man like Finch or broadly gifted prodigy with a link to an omniscient A.I., but nevertheless he's more than capable to hold his ground.
  • Butt-Monkey: Just for starters he's been shot non-fatally several times (which includes getting shot in the ass on one occasion), 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?
    • Three times in Season 3 Fusco tries to be a badass, and Shaw beat him to the punch (using him as a Human Shield because it was faster than going around him), Reese leaves him to defuse a bomb instead of arresting corrupt Force Recon Marines, and Carter ditches him when he tries to help her arrest HR's boss. And then he mans the fuck up in the Endgame, fighting his way out of HR's captivity and later beating Simmons in a fistfight and arresting him.
    • In a rare twist on this trope, it turns out Fusco actually prefers this role. After he brings in Simmons, he finds the newfound respect of his colleagues (and the accompanying requests for assistance) extremely annoying.
  • Character Development: He's much more willing and eager to help Reese and Finch in season 2 than he was in season 1, most notably when Reese is imprisoned in episodes 11 and 12 and Finch calls him in to help work the Irrelevant numbers; he does it without a word of complaint and works smoothly with Harold.
    • By the second half of Season 3, he's free of his dirty cop past and forging a new life as a respected Homicide detective. He's also become a lot more badass and competent than back in his days as a dirty cop.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When apprehending Simmons, Fusco immediately realises his broken hand will be a severe disadvantage. As a result, he immediately targets the bullet wound Carter gave Simmons before she was murdered in order to gain an advantage, and breaks Simmons' arm in order to prevent the man from getting back up.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He looks like an incompetent idiot at first (mostly due the aforementioned Butt-Monkey status with Finch And Reese, who frequently mock him). Key-word is "looks": He is actually a very skilled detective and a decent strategist who has saved Reese off many troublesome situations on his own.
    • In "Trojan Horse", Fusco actually succeeds in hacking and bugging a detective's cellphone. Looks like he was paying attention while helping Reese and Finch.
    • When Reese was in jail and Finch and Carter were focused on helping him, Fusco protected the PoI all on his own.
    • Say what you will about Fusco, but it takes balls to defiantly stare down Simmons while being tortured.
  • The Cynic: Especially in the earlier episodes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: And boy is he good at it!
    Fusco [in a car with Finch, Shaw and Root: You know, if you'd told me about the carpooling arrangements, I would have driven separately.
  • Death Glare: Does an absolutely terrifying one during "The Crossing"
  • Dirty Cop: Before Reese got his hooks on him. It turns out he's still in contact with the other dirty cops he worked with, and is almost encouraged to kill Carter to help them out at one point. Internal Affairs investigated him in Season Two, and it's implied that many other cops still think he's dirty. He's trying very hard to shed this. By Season 3, he's succeeded.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sums up Fusco's character arc in a nutshell for the first three seasons. From dirty cop he's press-ganged into becoming an asset for the mysterious and demanding vigilante he meets. He's then forced to stay longer as a mole for H.R after beginning to enjoy doing proper police work once again. Then in Season 3, he begins to fight back in the pivotal Endgame Arc, catching Patrick Simmons, coming to terms with everything that's happened since the show began and earning the respect of his fellow cops, free from his dirty cop past to move on with his life.
    • It still doesn't save him from the occasional ribbing from the other members of Team Machine however, although it has lessened considerably.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even in the early episodes when Fusco was unapologetically corrupt, he showed genuine concern for an abducted child and he refused to get involved with a plot to kill Carter.
  • Fat Idiot: Subverted. Though Reese and Finch's commentaries may imply otherwise. Simmons certainly thinks he is, which means he underestimates his cleverness when he and his cronies try to kill Fusco in "The Crossing." In Season 4 he successfully manages to bullshit Martine, an assassin with an evil omniscient supercomputer in her ear.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Perfectly calm when an HR member tries (and failing, courtesy of Reese) to execute him in "Blue Code" and when another HR member tries to execute him in "The Crossing", at least after Shaw saves his son. And once again, Fusco survives.
  • A Friend in Need: When his wife divorced him, Stills gave Fusco a place to stay and helped him get his life back together. When Stills went dirty, Fusco got sucked in due to wanting to return the favor Stills did for him.
  • Friend on the Force: Not quite a true friend at the start, but he grows into this over seasons.
  • Good Feels Good: He's rediscovered this working with Reese.
  • Guns Akimbo: In "Prisoner's Dilemma" with his department issue Glock 19 and a back up revolver. It isn't said why, just that it was awesome.
  • Handicapped Badass: In "The Crossing", some HR officers beat him up and break his fingers. Fusco breaks out of his restraints, incapacitates the man who was going to execute him and crushes his windpipe. In the following episode ("The Devil's Share"), Fusco engaged in close-quarter combat against Simmons, a man good enough to evenly match Reese, with a broken hand and numerous bruises. and wins.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Was a Dirty Cop scumbag, is now a clean cop.
  • Hero of Another Story: During "Prisoners Dilemma" we see glimpses of him protecting that week's PoI.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Takes a while to show, but we eventually find out he can be just as noble and heroic as the other characters. And above all, Fusco is loyal. Proven in "The Crossing" where Simmons has him viciously tortured and sends an HR officer to murder his son. Fusco defiantly refuses to admit the key Simmons found unlocks the safety deposit box containing Carter's evidence on HR and at the first opportunity brutally kills the man who was going to execute him.
  • Jumped at the Call: Despite his Only Sane Man demeanor, Fusco quite enjoys working for Team Machine, and gets angry when they try to shut him out for his own protection during the Samaritan arc.
  • Killer Cop: He used to be this, particularly when he hunted down a cop-killer drug dealer and killed him for revenge, but he changed, a fact proven by when he arrests Simmons instead of killing him.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: With an HR officer en-route to killing his son and on the verge of being executed Fusco breaks out of his restraints, disarms the HR officer who was about to shoot him and viciously crushes the man's windpipe.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The only member of Team Machine who does not know (or eventually figure out) about the Machine. Well, he listened to a man deduce its existence once, but he thought the man in question was just nuts. This does mean he's the only member of Team Machine who doesn't need a cover because he's not on Samaritan's kill list. Episodes in season 4 imply that he's started deliberately tuning the team out when they start talking about this stuff: if the situation involves government assassins and high level conspiracies, it's officially more than he needs to know. By Season 5, however, it's clear that he's become frustrated with the fact that his colleagues still don't trust him with important information, straining their relationship. Reese ultimately decides to let him in on the secret.
  • Made of Iron: He not only survives getting horribly tortured in "The Crossing", but he breaks his own thumb to escape and kill his captor.
  • The Mole: In Season 1, Reese is pushing him into this role among the other dirty cops on the force. By the beginning of season 3, he hasn't been found out yet. But in "The Crossing" his cover is blown.
  • Muggles: Basically this in comparison with the rest of the team. He hasn't gone off the grid but still has his original identity, isn't gifted with some incredibly extraordinary skills, and is the only one who's unaware where the numbers are coming from until season 5.
  • Nerves of Steel: In "Liberty" John gave him three seconds of advice on how to defuse a I.E.D. Lionel's not trained in bomb disposal but he performed admirably and succeeded in saving the POI's friend even when Finch was screaming at him to get out as the villain of the week was about to detonate the bomb.
  • The Nicknamer/Ironic Nickname: Fusco practically never calls Reese or Finch by their names.
    • He generally refers to Finch as "Glasses" (or some other variation such as his "friend with the glasses"). On his phone, the caller ID describes Finch as "Mr. Good News."
    • Reese, most often referred to as "Wonder Boy," has been called everything from "Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Fearsome" to "Mr. Sunshine." The one time he called Reese "John," he was begging him to help Carter, who he was afraid was going to get killed taking down Alonzo Quinn.
      • Coupled with Shaw, he calls them "the Mayhem Twins".
    • He's referred to Root as "Cocoa Puffs," "Cuckoo's Nest," and "Cuckoo Clock," among others.
      • In fact, he's so creative that not even the Machine can predict what nickname he'll use next. In "If-Then-Else", She has him say:
    "Yo, Nutella, I could use a hand."
    in a simulation. Later, he actually says:
    "Yo, Banana Nut Crunch, I could use a hand."
    • Averted with Carter—he only ever refers to her by her name.
    • He even gives Samaritan of all things a nickname, off-handedly referring to it as "Vaporware" while he and Shaw interrogate Backwell.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Delivers one to Simmons at the end of "The Devil's Share." Made all the more impressive that he only has one functioning arm and has just endured a night of torture.
  • Odd Couple: Whenever he works directly with any member of Team Machine (except fellow cop Joss Carter) — mainly Reese (after he becomes 'Detective Riley'), Root and Shaw. Reese's failure to take the mundane aspects of police work seriously angers him. With Shaw it's mostly Played for Laughs. Root's Mad Oracle behaviour just has him flummoxed, as Fusco still has no knowledge of the Machine.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: He's tasked with protecting supermodel Karolina Kurkova for an episode and spends the day dealing with a serially escalating situation that culminates in him singlehandedly taking on a small army while dual wielding his sidearm and backup piece. Unfortunately, the audience only gets to see brief glimpses of this adventure but they do get to see that Fusco thoroughly impressed Karolina, earning him a Smooch of Victory from one of the most beautiful women in the world.
  • Only Sane Man: He shares this role with Carter for Team Machine.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: He's an experienced, Deadpan Snarker, street-savvy, no-nonsense kind of cop who could easily have been the main character in a different series... who happens to be working with an eccentric genius and an ex-CIA agent who have access to a Magical Computer.
  • Papa Wolf: Gets a lot more angry with Simmons during "The Crossing" when he sends an HR officer to murder Fusco's son. This rage can be seen in Fusco's vicious killing of the HR officer who's about to execute him.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil/Start of Darkness: A flashback in "The Devil's Share" reveals that several years back Fusco gunned down a drug dealer in cold blood for murdering an off-duty rookie.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: A Smooch of Victory from a supermodel will do that to you.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: By the end of Season 1.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: Reluctantly, at first. By Season 2, Fusco is a lot more willing and enthusiastic about helping Team Machine.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Before Reese showed up. Which is why Reese spared his life and turned him into a Reverse Mole: he was only dirty out of loyalty to his friend.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: By the end of the Devil's Share, he's the one who takes Simmons in for good, honoring Carter's memory.
  • Specs of Awesome: His reading glasses which he keeps on his desk
  • The Teetotaler: Is now this, as shown in "Lethe" and "Provenance."
  • Taking the Bullet: Took one for Reese in "Sotto Voce." This leads to Reese finally deciding to read him into the Machine and the war with Samaritan. Also took one for the POI in "Wolf and Cub" in a Diving Save.
  • Took a Level in Badass: He has taken multiple levels of this.
    • "2-Pi-R": He singlehandedly defended a supermodel from the Armenian Mob while dual-wielding handguns.
    • "Booked Solid": takes out two hit-men on his own.
    • "The Devil's Share": Fusco is the person who finally catches Simmons and brings him in. Not Shaw, the ex-ISA assassin. Not Reese, the ex-CIA officer. Fusco, the NYPD detective who's been the butt of all the jokes for most of the show up until that point.
    • "Allegiance": he's the guy the other detectives come to for help.
    • "SNAFU": gets his picture in the papers after rescuing a Number and his family from the Latvian mob.
    • "ShotSpotter": takes charge of the situation after Reese disappears and organizes the effort to rescue him—and takes out the Samaritan operative sent to kill the Number.
    • "Sotto Voce": Together with Reese, he fights off a gang that has them outnumbered and outgunned when they're trapped in their precinct.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Falafel
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Inverted. His father named him after a lion he met at the local zoo when he was a child.
  • Weapon of Choice: Department issue Glock 19 and a backup snub nose revolver.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: In the end of "The Devil's Share", towards Simmons.
    Simmons: I always knew you were a killer. Get It Over With, will ya?
    Fusco: That's just it. I could've been just like you, a bottom-feeder who turns on his own kind. For what? Money, power? I got lucky. I had a partner. She was good for me, for a lot of reasons. She reminded me that I could be good again, too. I could be a good father, a good friend...a good cop. I'm not gonna let you undo all the good she did. Carter saved my life. She— she saved me from myself because she believed in me...and I'm not gonna throw all that away on a piece of crap like you. Patrick Simmons, you're under arrest.

    Shaw 

Sameen Shaw

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/shaw_sameen_730.jpg
"The only thing I was good at was killing people, but I'm workin' on it."
Played by: Sarah Shahi, Ava Szymanski (1993)
Introduced in: "Relevance"
Aliases: Indigo Five Alpha

"I did work for the government, and I do want revenge. But if that work taught me anything, it's that how you do matters as much as what you do. And by that metric, you're all just terrorists. And I kill terrorists."

A government assassin and medical doctor who worked for the Special Counsel and Northern Lights, unknowingly dealing with the "relevant" numbers from the Machine. She is now an ally of Reese and Finch.


  • AB Positive: Her blood type means she's a universal recipient. If she needs blood, anyone's will do. She knows this and uses it to her advantage.
  • Action Girl: She is more than capable of fighting her way out of bad situations, including taking over a drug den as a safe place to rest.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Is quite eager to work with professional thief Tomas Koroa. She also has a liking for Action Girls as per her ambiguous sexuality — enthusiastically discussing firearms with Joss Carter and saying Root firing Guns Akimbo makes her hot.
  • Ambiguous Disorder/Hollywood Psychology: Referred to in-universe as an Axis II Personality Disorder, which encompasses most of the Hollywood Personality Disorders. The best fit for her would be Schizoid Personality Disorder.
    "It means when I kill you and your friends, I'm not really gonna feel anything."
  • And the Adventure Continues: Last seen answering a ringing payphone, with the implication that she's going to go on working for the Machine. An unused version would have made it more explicit, with Root's voice on the other end of the line.
  • And This Is for...: Shaw does not make it a secret that she executes the Samaritan agent for killing Root and nearly murdering Fusco.
  • Badass Bisexual: Is definitely attracted to men, but has a curious relationship with Root, responding to her flirting mostly with annoyance, but sometimes not. In "If-Then-Else", Shaw admits that she is attracted to Root, "...but you and me together would be like a four alarm fire in an oil refinery." She also kisses her. Not to mention '6,741' — while it's just a simulation,it's one based off of Shaw's subconscious.
  • Big Eater: On one stakeout at a fancy party, she was shown eating a lot of the high end food. In particular, she liked the quail eggs so much. Reese implied she had a plate or two before her current one. She also tells Reese to go buy her a steak after she snipes some criminals in a pawn-shop shootout. She's seen eating it a scene later — with the steak speared on the end of a combat knife. And while on the run from Samaritan and Decima Shaw still finds time for pancakes in a New Jersey diner.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Her response to being held captive by Decima is gloriously deadpan.
    Shaw: If this is the afterlife... it sucks.
  • Casual Kink: Shaw tells Root she quite enjoys being on the receiving end of Cold-Blooded Torture, and it's not the last sadomasochistic reference made between these two either. On finding taser confetti in her bedroom (because Root has abducted her), Reese seriously considers the possibility that Shaw might have tased herself for kicks.
  • Character Development: Comparing the Shaw from season 2 to the Shaw from season four it becomes striking just how empathic towards the team and the Numbers, compared to her earlier, more stone-cold behavior.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Finally suffers a case of this in "The Devil You Know". She wants to go help John save the POI when Decima has just sent an asset to kill her. Root resorts to sedatives to shut her up and prevent her resisting from being taken to the subway station.
  • Cold Sniper: Picks this up in Season 3 after "acquiring" a sniper rifle from the villains of the premiere episode. Comes back in Season 4 with her breaking out a Nemesis Arms Vanquish take-down sniper rifle to provide covering fire for John.
  • Combat Medic: For Team Machine. Is highly competent at patching people up in between gunfights and has a extremely comprehensive knowledge of Worst Aid. A prime example of her talents includes turning Peter Yogorov into her own blood donor. As it turns out, she was a doctor in residence fresh out of med school before switching careers to the intelligence business, due to a flaw in her bedside manner. As in, a complete lack of one.
  • Cool Guns: She has four. Her primary handgun is a Heckler and Koch USP Compact equipped with a laser sight. For backup weapons she uses a suppressed Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380, a suppressed Sig-Sauer P239 and an unsuppressed Beretta Nano. Halfway through Season 3, she loans Root the USP Compact and uses her Nano as her main sidearm till the finale when Root returns the Heckler and Koch to her. Season 4 has her settling on the USP Compact as her primary sidearm.
    • With Samaritan having presumably disposed of the USP compact, in Season 5, she's utilizing SIG-Sauer P226 handguns as her current sidearm.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In Season 4's "The Devil You Know", this saves her life. Martine Rousseau has tracked her down and drawn a gun. Shaw ducks as she opens fire and pulls out a FN-P90 submachine gun from behind a cosmetic storage locker, which she uses to put Rousseau, an enemy who came closest to killing Root, on the defensive.
  • Cute Bruiser: More rougher than your average one but Sameen does have a tendency to utilize unarmed combat a lot more than John, and is even more brutal than he is.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Simply adores Bear.
    Shaw: I'm only in it for the dog.
  • Death Faked for You: Reese and Finch fake her death to throw Hersh and Northern Lights off her trail. This doesn't last long, seeing as Hersh talks to her during the climax of "God Mode."
  • Death Seeker: Implied in the episode "Razgovor", when Finch says he's relieved she's still alive (after being knocked out and abducted). She responds, "That makes one of us."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Quite.
    Shaw: You think I should have a hobby? Now, what would that be? Hanging around a derelict library with [Finch], your poorly-socialized guard dog, and Bear here?
    Reese: [Shaw tosses him a shotgun] What's this for?
    Shaw: [Seeing the yellow Ferrari] To help you feel less inadequate while I drive this thing.
    Finch: I urge you to consider what Mr. Reese would do.
    Shaw: Brood?
    Shaw: Finch, there's no sign of danger in here, not counting the shrimp puffs.
  • Determinator: Pathologically so. Even when she believes that she is experiencing a simulation, and thus that everything she does would be completely irrelevant, she still attempts to escape from Samaritan's clutches.
  • Distaff Counterpart/Suspiciously Similar Substitute: She seems to be a mix of Reese and Stanton.
    • She's a former Marine like Stanton, and one of her backup guns is identical to Kara's Weapon of Choice. Though she feels no remorse when she kills, she doesn't "enjoy her work" like Stanton did.
    • Like Reese:
      • She was a government assassin until betrayed by her employers,
      • Her employers tried to kill her,
      • She escaped with a gunshot wound,
      • She lost someone dear to her at the same time,
      • She set out to avenge her loved one,
      • Harold Finch seeks her out, and
      • She shoots left-handed.
  • Dr. Jerk: She's a medical doctor, but isn't what you'd call 'friendly.'
  • Emotionless Girl: As the quote above shows, she's been formally diagnosed with a personality disorder. Per her own words, she doesn't get scared, or sad, or happy, or lonely; this really freaks out a paramedic who meets her when she's about ten after her father is killed in a car wreck and her only reaction is, "I'm hungry. Can I have a sandwich?". She does do angry pretty well, though.
    • During a Flash Back in "The Devil's Share" this destroys her promising career as a doctor, her supervisor noting that she delivered bad news to bereaved patients' families while chewing energy bars.
    • Reconstructed by Gen, when she says Shaw does have emotions, but they are toned down and muffled, like bad stereo speakers that can no longer pump out all the sound.
    • She does seem to slightly feel something when Cole more or less admits he loves her, just before dying.
    • Also she obviously adores Bear, and acts like a giddy fangirl around Carter (especially if she gets to loan guns to Carter).
    • She's quite upset and regretful in "The Crossing" at being unable to save Fusco, because she went to save his son.
  • Great Escape: In 'Reassortment'.
  • Has a Type: Bad Boys and Action Girls.
  • Hero of Another Story: She and her partner Cole were among the assets stopping terrorist acts all over the world.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Suffers from this when getting back to New York. She has plenty of guilt from committing an untended murder and fears she might snap and murder Team Machine. Root snaps her out of it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: She sacrifices herself, fending off Decima operatives to cover up Team Machine's escape, ending up in Decima's custody.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: “In the arm through a brick wall in the dark....You’re welcome.” (Okay, so she actually killed the guy instead of wounding him, but it was still a difficult shot.)
  • Inappropriate Hunger: As a character trait. She has a habit of wanting food when most normal people would be more concerned that someone has just died. It's not that she doesn't think other people's lives are important, but once she knows they're dead and there's nothing more she can do, she has a hard time understanding why emotional considerations should come before something she can actually fix.
  • It's Personal: Several times.
    • She makes a point of avenging Cole by shooting Wilson.
    • She didn't take Root's assault on her well. Hunting Root, as she tells Finch in "Trojan Horse", became her new "hobby." ("Next time I see that woman I'm going to shoot her--and not in the knee.") After "Mors Prematura," their relationship became more businesslike, albiet with no love lost on Shaw's part.
    • In "Razgovor," she took Gen's kidnapping very personally.
    • After Carter was killed, she went after Simmons on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge of her own, completely separate from Reese.
    • In the final episode, she kills Jeff Blackwell for killing Root, even though she admits the rest of Team Machine wouldn't want her to.
  • Lack of Empathy: Her default persona towards most people.
  • The Lad-ette: Shaw lacks interest in the more traditionally feminine things (such as fashion or make-up) and instead has the blunt, down-to-earth, often aggressive behavior that characterizes this trope.
  • Licked by the Dog: Bear likes her. She can't be all bad.
  • Mama Bear: In "Razgovor", she begins to bond with the 10 year old POI. When the POI is kidnapped, Shaw tears a warpath through New York, makes a point of destroying the coffee table of the neglectful cousin of the POI who's instead been snorting bath salts by smashing the table with his face, and blasts her way through a drug factory, killing and maiming multiple HR officers to recover Gen. In "The Crossing," she moves heaven and earth to rescue Lee Fusco.
  • The Medic: Become this to Team Machine due to her experience as a medical student at university. She patches up the POI in "Liberty" after he got beaten up and shot in the shoulder, and treats her own gunshot wound in "Razgovor." Turns out she does in fact have a medical degree.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong/Undying Loyalty: Betrayed by her bosses, Morality Pet killed and framed as a terrorist. She still wants to keep the program running to protect America.
    Reese: The program that tried to kill you?
    Shaw: I'm funny like that.
  • Nerves of Steel: Part of her Ambiguous Disorder. She is the exact same way in firefights or while getting threatened with torture as she is when casually talking with other members of Team Machine. When Gen gets kidnapped she doesn't go berserk, she calmly and methodically makes her way to her captors, while kicking their asses of course.
  • Never Found the Body: After she's cut down in "If-Then-Else," Samaritan's operatives cleaned the scene, removing any hint as to her fate. "M.I.A." reveals she's alive and in Greer's custody.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: She claims she only joined Team Machine "for the dog." Though it seems she eventually bought in to their cause.
  • Not So Different: She agrees with the Special Counsel's justification about his methods of keeping the machine a secret from the American public and as a result, hands him the compromising evidence he was looking for and trying to have her killed over.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • In "Razgovor," she tells Gen that while she lacks most emotions, "I do 'angry' okay."
    • During "The Crossing", Shaw is forced into a Sadistic Choice about whether to intercept Simmons' HR lackey who is about to murder Fusco's son, or mount a rescue mission to save Fusco. She picks the former and is quite upset when informing Fusco he's on his own.
    • She's also quite upset by Carter's death, although she doesn't seem to know what to do with the emotion; she's pretty much blank when standing next to Finch at Carter's funeral and wanders off before it's over, only to reappear brutally beating a guy in a bar while shoving the perpetrator's picture in his face in an attempt at learning Simmons' whereabouts.
    • Her grief after Root's death manifests itself as denial and anger. She's rather think of herself in another Samaritan induced simulation.
  • Odd Friendship: In the beginning stages of one with Finch. Has one with Carter with them bonding over a love for firearms in "Lady Killer". And in the beginning stages with Fusco, after she saved his son from HR.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Surprisingly for such an experienced and well-trained operative, in "Liberty", not only does she have a loaded gun stuffed down the back of her pants, it's also cocked and ready to fire.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally pets Bear when she finds Finch.
    Reese: ... Didn't think you even liked the dog.
    Shaw: Like him? He's the only reason I'm sticking around.
    • She also seems to have a bit of a soft spot for children.
  • Professional Killer: She was one of the assets who received the assignments from information the Machine gathered and helped save America.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Starting in Season 3, along with Root.
  • Properly Paranoid: Most of the time. When she first began working on Team Machine, she had a policy of destroying her cellphone after jobs with them and operates on her own schedule. But it's not enough to stop Root from getting the better of her, thanks to the Machine helping Root.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: As of Season 3, Word of God suggests this:
    Shahi: At the end of the day, Shaw's a soldier - you give her an order and she's going to do whatever it takes to fulfill that order. Her own government has turned on her, so partnering with Reese and Finch is sort of a selfish interest, because they're also protecting her.
  • Put on a Bus: Shaw was captured by Samaritan at the end of "If/Then/Else". Given how Sarah Shahi was pregnant at the time, it was the only option that didn't involve killing her off. She makes her return in season 5.
  • Retcon: A very minor one. The character was originally credited as "Samantha Shaw" in season 2, but "Razgovor" established that the character's first name is "Sameen" and, like Sarah Shahi, she's of Persian ancestry. Since she was never called "Samantha" on screen, there's no Series Continuity Error.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Against Control, and then Root, and then HR.
  • Robot Girl: Suspected of being one by one POI. She isn't.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: She kills Lambert and escapes from Samaritan in 'Reassortment', but she thinks that it's another simulation.
  • Semper Fi: She's a former Marine but the show doesn't play it up.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Somewhat avoided. In a t-shirt, Shaw looks like an angry commando. In a dress, Shaw looks like an uncomfortable angry commando. She's very attractive either way. Played straighter in Season 4 when she has to start dressing up more and settling into something within shouting distance of 'civilian' life to stay under Samaritan's radar. She even complains about the price of heels.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: On account of her small stature, Shaw becomes this whenever she uses any kind of long gun bigger than a submachine gun. Shotguns and rifles all look much bigger in her hands.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Shaw herself mentions in "Relevance" that she "doesn't care about most people", with the exception of Cole. Later warms up to Bear the dog and Gen, the PoI in "Razgovor."
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Her aggressiveness belies some rather expensive tastes.
    Finch: Have you learned anything?
    Reese: Just that Kruger's got a lot of friends, he's happily married, and Shaw likes truffled quail eggs.
    Shaw: (eating) You can't expect me to shoot somebody on an empty stomach.
    Finch: I'd prefer you didn't shoot anyone at all.
  • The Stoic: Her default temperament when in action but drops this over time.
  • Taking Up the Mantle: It is hinted that Shaw continues Team Machine's work in the aftermath of the series finale.
  • Teeth Clenched Team Work:
    • With Root during "Mors Praematura" with Root being able to convince Shaw to cooperate for the episode. Once they were done, Shaw was only too happy to punch Root out. However, with Root joining Team Machine on a full-time basis, Shaw often works quite well with Root despite her sour expression. However Root's constant flirting is a source of some irritation.
    • Whenever she's partnered with Fusco it's played for Odd Couple comedy, though their relationship evolved into Odd Friendship.
  • Too Kinky to Torture:
    • When Root threatens to torture her in Relevance, she notes that she "kind of enjoys this sort of thing". She may or may not have bluffed since Root never gets to make good on her threat.
    • After Root kidnaps her and Reese is searching her apartment for clues, he finds the taser confetti from when Root stunned her. Reese seriously considers the possibility that Shaw tased herself for kicks.
  • Troll: She likes to mess with Fusco. But then again, who doesn't?
  • Uncertain Doom: Her "death" was deliberately vague.
  • Verbal Backspace: Tends to do this when she expresses herself a little too honestly. Example, from Lethe:
    Diane Claypool/Control: He never talked to me about his work, so I finally just stopped asking, and then we kind of stopped talking altogether.
    Shaw: Talking's overrated—I mean, that must have been really hard.
  • Wall of Weapons: Well, a refrigerator full of weapons, as John reveals in "Mors Praematura".
  • Worst Aid: And how! A key example is when she drains the blood of Peter Yogorov with a makeshift series of tubes she cobbled together on the fly. If anyone tried to do that in real life, the resultant air embolism would have killed the blood recipient in seconds. note 
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Her Heroic Sacrifice involves keeping the Decima goons at bay while Team Machine goes to safety.

    Root 

Samantha "Root" Groves

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/groves_samantha_181.jpg
"I am the best friend, the best support, the best partner you will ever have. And definitely the most fun."
Played by: Amy Acker, Mercedes Griffeth (1994), Rachel Miner ("Root Cause")
Introduced in: "Root Cause" (face hidden); "Firewall" (in person)
Aliases: Caroline Turing, Kelly Dyson, Jane von Neumann, Ms. May, Veronica Sinclair, Robin Farrow, Augusta King, and dozens more.

"One day, I realized all the dumb, selfish things people do... it's not our fault. No one designed us. We're just an accident, Harold. We're just bad code. But the thing you built... It's perfect. Rational. Beautiful. By design."

A highly intelligent computer hacker and contract killer with a keen interest in both Finch and the Machine. Her birth name is Samantha "Sam" Groves.


  • Affably Evil: at first, before her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Root has a flirtatious demeanour when interacting with several male characters, but the only person she shows a romantic interest in is Shaw. She has a Foe Yay scene with Lambert in "Cold War", while Finch apparently fills The Not-Love Interest trope; as the creator of the Machine her attraction to him is platonic rather than sexual.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Since the beginning, her neurodivergency was clear. But whatever she has, it is not clearly stated (unlike Shaw's case). What has been said, however, is that it is not sociopathy (Root herself says this and which really can't be the case given her genuine emotional reactions to things and people that become clearer and clearer once she goes through her Heel–Face Turn).
    Finch: (while Root goes to steal a police car) Are you out of your mind?
    Root: Since when is that relevant?
  • Anyone Can Die: As of "The Day the World Went Away", by taking a bullet meant for Harold.
  • Ascended Villain of the Week: Root was originally intended to be a Villain of the Week, but has become central to the main Story Arc and became a regular in Season 3. Jonah Nolan explained why in an interview:
    We knew we wanted to see more of the character Root as soon as we heard the incredible theme Ramin cooked up for her in her first appearance.
  • At Least I Admit It: Freely admits to Harold all of her morally dubious actions, and doesn't try to justify them.
  • The Atoner: She becomes this as of the episode "/", choosing to save the POI even though it put bigger plans at risk. In this case it was also personal as before her Heel–Face Turn she was the one who put the POI in that position to begin with after ruining his life and arranging the deaths of most of his coworkers. Root even puts her own life at risk to save him.
  • Badass Gay: She really enjoys shamelessly flirting with Shaw while doing her badassery. In SNAFU, while dressed as a Girl Scout, one of her pins was a rainbow.
  • Batman Gambit: As a means of getting to Finch, she hired HR to kill one of her aliases, trusting that whatever Finch used to find people in need would locate her alias and bring her to their attention. Also appears to be a master of these when using her Machine supplied aliases.
  • Because I'm Good at It: "My mom told me to follow my talents, and I'm good at what I do."
  • Becoming the Mask: During her Villainous Breakdown, after Finch addresses her as "Miss Groves,"
    "My name is ROOT!"
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Shaw.
  • Berserk Button: A slow-acting one that gets worse over time: don't try to actively keep her away from The Machine. Harold slams on it when he reveals he had the Machine moved in "God Mode". And then again by "Mors Praematura", where he imprisons her in his library.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Seemingly affable and cheery, Root can hack your computer to raise money for her operations, find a dozen ways to blackmail a person to do her bidding and is highly unpredictable in close quarter combat. She's essentially a female version of Heath Ledger's Joker with computer hacking skills. Rule number one, don't turn your back to Root—Shaw found out the hard way and got hit with a taser and zip tied for her trouble.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: When we see her in the first season finale, she plays the part of a meek therapist who is being hunted down, giving no evidence of her true nature until we see her shoot a woman from behind and hold Finch up at gunpoint.
  • Breaking Speech: Loved to do these. Season 1 and 2 had Harold on the receiving end. But during Season 3, she tops herself by giving one to her sleazy therapist and later helps The Machine do a particularly cutting one to Control.
  • Cargo Ship: In-Universe: In "The Crossing," she implies to Harold that her relationship with "The Machine" is "more intimate" than Finch's. The Machine later claims to have loved Root, so it appears to be mutual.
  • Cassandra Truth: Her Start of Darkness came when she witnessed her best (and only) friend being kidnapped (and murdered and secretly buried) and the only adult she told called her a "nasty little liar."
    • She actually has a habit of doing this to some extent after she starts working with Team Machine as well. She often blurts out random details of thing she is doing that seem utterly impossible out of context. When Finch has her comitted to an insane asylum, she does this to her therapist, who takes it as further evidence that she is crazy.
  • Character Death: Double subverted. She gets shot by Blackwell during a car chase, but stays alive long enough for police to get her to a hospital. By the next time we see her, though, Fusco is getting a first-hand look at her body on a slab in the morgue.
  • Character Development: In "Zero Day", the Machine tries to contact Finch about Tierney's threat to Carter, but Root tells him "we don't have time for another one of your little missions". By the next season, and "Beta", she actually lets Reese answer the payphone. The second half of Season 3 has her going through this big time. The Machine forces her to learn moral standards and helps her find a way to redeem herself.
    • Season 4 and 5 has her finally going over to the side of the heroes. She also starts falling in love again for the first time in years, with Shaw, and in a striking contrast to her behavior and conversations with Harold, gives her life to save him without a moment's hesitation.
  • The Chessmaster: Root is very good at setting up plans and long term aliases to gain her crucial advantages.
  • The Chosen One: As of Season 3, the Machine has chosen her for a special mission to keep Decima from building a second Machine and made her an "analog interface" meaning she is the only person who converses directly with the Machine.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When it comes to computer hacking, she's this, finding a way to compromise Finch's library. In the real world, she knows her limitations, relying on playing possum, her taser or her Heizer Defense Double Tap to even the playing field against people like Shaw and John.
  • Cool Gun: Root's original Weapon of Choice is the unique Heizer Defense Double Tap, an easy concealable handgun with a two round capacity. She's an extremely good shot with it and when she gets admin access, in "God Mode," gains Improbable Aiming Skills. As of Season 3, she's no longer using it due to Harold briefly consigning her to a mental asylum and presumably confiscating it. Once released she has switched to a variety of handguns and for the second half of Season 3 uses Shaw's Heckler and Koch USP Compact.
  • Consummate Liar: One of the series' best.
  • The Corrupter: Finch accuses her of being this for the Machine. She retorts that his distant, business-like relationship with it caused it to imprint on her.
    "I get it... you wonder why it won't talk to you like it talks to me. Don't be jealous, Harold. Mom still loves us both."
  • The Cracker: Root is an expert at breaking into most computer systems and successfully compromises Finch's library and Team Machine's communications before Harold shuts her out by destroying his phone and deactivating the power to his computer systems.
  • Cyborg: As of "/". She is implanted with an enhanced cochlear implant equipped with a wireless antenna and infrasound pickups, which is then upgraded with no doubt state-of-the-art firmware by The Machine. In effect, she now has an unblockable link to The Machine wired directly into her brain.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The disappearance of her friend Hanna Frey, and especially Root's trouble getting anyone to believe what she'd seen, led to Root's perception of humanity as bad code for decades.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just one of many examples.
    Finch: Just making sure you have everything you need.
    Root: Well, there's no shortage of reading material. That's for sure, Harold.
  • Dies Wide Open: In "The Day the World Went Away".
  • Disability Superpower: She goes from Handicapped Badass to this. After the stapedectomy she received from Control which took away the hearing in her right ear, she received an implant replacement with a direct link to The Machine. It even works through Decima's jamming, giving her permanent access.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Her default temperament unless things start to go wrong in her plans.
  • Distaff Counterpart: To Finch. Although we don't see many of them on screen, she has her own list of numbers to save and is likewise an extremely gifted hacker. He even accidentally lampshades it in her first appearance.
    Finch: A woman after my own heart.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: She hired HR to kill one of her aliases in the first season finale. She infiltrated Northern Lights as Pennsylvania Two's secretary in the second season.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": She prefers Root.
  • Due to the Dead: Her final resting place is marked only with a number so as to not trace her back to the team; only Reese and Fusco are in attendance as she's buried, as Shaw is occupied at the time.
  • Enemy Mine: In "The Devil's Share".
    Finch: You were free. Why did you come back?
    Root: Like I said, we have a larger fight ahead of us. I think we should be together when that begins. Don't you?
  • Even Evil Has Standards: She is very thankful to Reese for revealing the truth about her friend's fate and finding her killer.
  • Everyone Can See It: Root and Shaw. Root can see it perfectly well, but it takes Shaw a while
  • Evil Counterpart: To Finch, whom she considers a Worthy Opponent. That is, until her Heel–Face Turn - then she becomes the Blue and Orange Morality counterpart.
  • Evil Genius: Her skills as a hacker match Harold's.
  • Female Gaze: To Shaw, frequently.
  • Foil: To Harold. She's energetic and chipper, he's stoic and reserved. She revels in the violence she causes, he borders on being a pacifist. She doesn't mind breaking a few moral boundaries here and there, he does. She has become The Machine's biggest advocate in Team Machine, he's become the main skeptic. She likes coffee, he likes tea.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten:
    • A major source of her conflicts with Finch. After kidnapping him and torturing others, he has a hard time trusting her or her motivations even after her Heel–Face Turn.
    • Implied to the case for her relationship with The Machine as well: when The Machine comes unstuck in time and no longer trusts Root or Finch, she lists a series of clips of Root's more morally dubious moments. While The Machine does come to trust her again, it remains aware of all the things she's done.
  • Fool's Map: Her search for the Machine ended with the discovery that it had already moved itself.
  • Friendless Background: Strongly implied after the kidnap and murder of her best friend. In "The Day the World Went Away" she tells Shaw as much.
    I've been hiding since I was 12.
  • Genki Girl: This also applies to Amy Acker.
  • Glass Cannon: When her handgun is empty and when she doesn't have a taser or the element of surprise, all it takes is one punch to knock her out. As Shaw demonstrates. Though in season 4, she gets better about physical abilities. She is even able to get the better of and kill Martine in hand to hand combat. Oddly enough, it is largely as a result of hanging out with Shaw that she got better at this.
  • Guns Akimbo: As of Season 3, this is her preferred method of combat and since she's The Machine's personal asset and it's directing her shots, she pulls it off extremely proficiently. Even Shaw finds it hot.
  • Handicapped Badass: After "Aletheia," she is deaf in one ear. It didn't slow her down.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Although a Token Evil Teammate, Root has by Season 4 come firmly over to the side of Team Machine. She cares for her comrades and Finch considers her a friend; she even laments the more horrible things she's done.
  • Hero of Another Story: She kicks ass and takes names on globe-trotting missions for the Machine, but the viewers usually only get to see when she crosses paths with the rest of Team Machine.
  • He's Just Hiding!: The reaction of many fans (particularly Shoot shippers) following Root's death in "The Day the World Went Away".
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: After Root has joined Team Machine, the plot will often find reasons why she can't take part in the main action or why her God Mode can't be used. Usually, this is handled by her having another task (especially once she has to take over Relevant missions) or by villains jamming her connection or the local surveillance, though most of their tricks work only once before she develops counter-measures. In season 4, she can't access God Mode at all without Samaritan instantly becoming aware of her location.
  • Horseback Heroism: in 'A More Perfect Union'
  • Humans Are Flawed: Believes this without believing there's anything redeemable about humans. She initially refers to many people as "bad code,"
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In God mode, the Machine gives her the ability to detect hostiles hiding behind cover allowing her to place her shots dead on and decimate a Decima Technologies hit squad with her handgun. When escaping from the Asylum in "Lady Killer," the machine gives her these again which she uses to get the better of Hersh. She now has these full time due to the machine giving her analogue interface status, allowing her to perform Guns Akimbo to near supernatural levels. And in "Prophets", she goes up against a similarly boosted enemy.
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Likes to use computer-themed aliases.
    • In Season 4, her cover from Samaritan changes every few days.
  • In-Series Nickname: Fusco refers to her alternately as "Princess," "Cuckoo Clock," and "Cocoa Puffs." They are most assuredly not Affectionate Nicknames at first, but over the course of the series they become more endearing.
  • Insufferable Genius: Good God, yes.
    Shaw: My friend is never wrong, which is...as annoying as that sounds.
  • It Amused Me: Seems to be her main motivation for doing anything not connected to The Machine.
  • Jerkass Ball: She still constantly insults Reese ("dumb muscle", calling him an ape, etc.) even after thanking Reese for finding the killer of her childhood friend. The only reason seems to be to keep her in the Anti-Villain area. By the Season 3 episode "Beta" however, she's dropped this and works very smoothly with John in trying to stay alive when Decima Technologies deploys a hit-squad in New York with the aim of killing them along with the other members of Team Machine. By season 5, her insults have almost entirely stopped and she's firmly in his corner, risking her life to save him repeatedly.
  • Leitmotif: A particularly notable one that resulted in her going from one-shot villain to recurring enemy to main cast.
  • Licked by the Dog: In "The Devil's Share" at the end by Bear. It seems to confirm her acceptance into the team even if she is still the Token Evil Teammate.
  • Machine Worship: She's in awe of The Machine. When she discovered its existence, her life started revolving around it; by the end of the second season, she started calling it "God." She also refers to her God with female pronouns. As of "The Day the World Went Away", she has ascended to be a 'part' of The Machine - or at least, her digital consciousness and voice.
  • The Mad Hatter: Played with; Root knows that the rest of Team Machine think she's crazy with her fervent Machine Worship, sociopathic tendencies and oracle-like role as the Machine's avatar, but isn't bothered thanks to her Blue and Orange Morality.
  • Mad Oracle: In a Rule of Symbolism manner; Root is beautiful and insane, and makes cryptic yet accurate predictions that she claims come from her God (The Machine).
  • Male Gaze: Played for laughs. Root has a habit of tasing or otherwise debilitating men who make passes at her.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Yep. It's one of her main personality traits which contrasts her with Harold.
  • Manipulative Bitch: She is very good at making sure the only option available is her way.
  • The Masochism Tango: Strongly implied in her relationship with Shaw
  • Master Actor: And how! It's one of her most dangerous skills which makes her a serious threat to anyone who's unaware of who she really is. Most of the Properly Paranoid members of Team Machine have been outwitted by her although by Season 3, they're now familiar with her rendering it ineffective.
    • Season 1 had Harold and John protecting a meek, innocent therapist by the name of Caroline Turing....Up to the point she subjects Alicia Corwin to a Boom, Headshot! and takes Harold hostage when Reese is busy trying to survive a unit of HR officers.
    • Season 2 had the formidable, rogue ISA assassin Samantha Shaw arranging a meeting with Veronica Sinclair, a nervous CIA officer....who promptly hits her with a stun gun, zip ties her to a chair and almost engages in some Cold-Blooded Torture before she's interrupted by an ISA hit-squad.
    • For half of Season 2, she's Miss May, the Special Counsel's Sexy Secretary, drastically compromising his security with him being none the wiser, up to the point she takes him hostage in his own office.
    • In "Zero Day," she makes a lunch appointment with Grace, posing as an author of children's books.
    • Throughout the latter half of Season 3, she poses as an FBI agent to gain access to crime scenes and government facilities.
    • In Season 4, her cover identity to hide from Samaritan is actually a string of identities that changes every few days.
    • In "The Cold War", she takes this trope to new heights with a Bear Suit.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: By all accounts, Amy Acker is utterly sweet and adorable.
  • Meaningful Name/Themed Aliases/Running Gag: Her preferred alias, "Root", refers to someone who has absolute access on a Linux machine. It's equivalent to the Windows title of "Administrator", or "Admin" for short, which incidentally is what the Machine calls Harold. Her real name, "Samantha Groves", may be a reference to Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel. Her chosen moniker becomes even more significant when The Machine chooses her voice to use after her death.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Thanks to her Start of Darkness. With the Machine's help, she eventually learns to see the value in other people.
  • Mouth of Sauron: "Hello, Harold. You wanted to talk to me? Or her?... I'll be in touch! Next time my ear starts burning."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Beautiful Geeky Turn-On who's constantly flirting with Shaw and wears many costumes including girl scout and French nanny.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Root's love of coffee is visually played up to contrast Finch's love of tea.
  • Noodle Incident: Most of Root's missions as "Analog Interface" in Seasons 3 and 4 fall into this category. We never find out why The Machine has her infiltrate a secure nuclear facility (mentioned in "Most Likely To..."), pose as a flight attendant and kidnap a pilot ("Nautilus"), play a redheaded translator to get close to the Secretary General of the U.N. ("Prophets"), wear a bear suit at a children's party ("The Cold War"), or try unsuccessfully to get insider information on The Machine's location via a wedding dress. ("Terra Incognita").
  • Not So Different: Argues this to fellow computer genius Finch, who actually agrees with her, sharing her view of the pettiness of humanity. Finch, however, has the empathy and humility that Root lacks, having suffered from his own hubris after Nathan's death.
  • Not So Stoic: Completely loses it when she sees Shaw getting shot in "If-Then-Else".
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: Her appearance in the Season 3 intro sequence has these. Presumably, this is indicative of the Machine growing beyond its original programming in selecting her as an analog interface.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Or "kill". Tends to have this towards Finch, in one episode getting enraged ("Don't you touch him.") and killing two men who had their guns trained on Finch and then later she nearly kills him herself.
  • Perky Goth: Wears a lot of black, and even paints her nails licorice black to match. World's "perkiest psycho".
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Starting in Season 3, along with Shaw.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: While the show does not suffer from this, Root herself does. She is willing to kill an innocent to save Harold, even after working for The Machine and the side of good. Fortunately, Harold is able to intervene.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Root is polite, cheerful and almost jolly like a schoolgirl. She's still like this when committing horrible crimes, torturing people and causing mayhem for Team Machine.
  • Redemption Equals Death: She's okay with the idea of dying for the Machine, seeing it as this. Finally comes to pass in "The Day the World went Away" - she dies taking a bullet meant for Harold. Her earlier speeches in the episode have elements of this.
    "The life I've led, a good end would be a privilege."
  • Relationship Upgrade: With Shaw officially as of "If-Then-Else".
  • The Rival: In Season 1-2, she tries to position herself as this to John when it comes to Harold. She tries to promote her superior intelligence and other advantages she has over John whenever she has Finch as a captive audience. For his part, Reese quietly but efficiently proves her wrong by hunting her down and taking Harold back.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge/Rescue: They're not quite sure which, as they don't know if she's still alive or not, but Root and Reese definitely go on a rampage after Shaw gets shot in "If-Then-Else". Their fan nickname is the "Murder in Laws" after all.
    Root: Are you ready for this?
    Reese: Let's go get Shaw back.
  • Sadist: In Relevance, she threatens to torture Shaw. When she is told that Shaw "kind of enjoys this sort of thing", she smiles and notes that so does she. Presumably, this no longer applies after her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Sexy Secretary: To Pennsylvania Two, although this was a cover identity.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: For Season 3, her dynamic with John evolved into this but eventually moved on during "Beta" when they had more pressing concerns like evading Decima's hit-squad which was trying to kill them all.
  • Smug Snake: Has a really big ego, which is justified in that she's the second best hacker in the show. But the trope comes into play when John goes up against her. She mistakenly believes he's Dumb Muscle. He proves her wrong in spectacular fashion. The degree gets upped for a while when she becomes The Machine's analog interface, as she relies on Her advice and orders to a far greater degree. Since her new god only ever gives out the very next steps of a plan, she becomes almost helpless when her connection is jammed, falling into a trap the old Root would likely have preempted. Reese, who enjoyed the benefits of God Mode once as well, calls her out on it and by the end of the episode, she gets a little more down to earth.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Her relation to the Machine, despite the fact that the latter is not human at all.
  • Stun Gun: Tends to have one on her, for situations where going Guns Akimbo would be inappropriate.
  • Sugary Malice: She's an expert at this, even while torturing someone. This is mostly due to Amy Acker's sweet voice.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Root spends time at a psychiatric clinic and leaves as a better person. Of course, that had less to do with the doctors there and more with the Machine engaging in some private therapy sessions with her.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: In season 3, in an effort to help her get better, The Machine has forced Root to do this and stay in the asylum for some time. She follows this command and even Hersh is spared on The Machine's orders, even though Root is rather annoyed at doing this.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: At the end of the season two finale, Root loses both her God Mode connection with the Machine and any realistic chance of finding Her servers and goes almost catatonic from having this new purpose of life yanked away. Then, in the last shot of the episode, when she is in a psychiatric clinic, slowly shuffling forward, we hear a public phone ringing - cue her theme music Root of all Evil returning and finally the Machine's cut and paste voice asking if she can hear Her.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Due to her past and somewhat sadistic streak, she's easily the least morally inclined of Team Machine.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the later part of Season 4, Root reveals that she's picked up unarmed combat skills which have eliminated her previous vulnerability to a trained martial artist (like John). She puts them to excellent use by subjecting Martine to them and using them to kill her.
  • Tragic Keepsake: In "Q&A", she's acquired a new handgun. It's a Heckler and Koch USP Compact, a weapon which was the sidearm of Sameen Shaw.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Really doesn't think much of Reese in terms of intelligence. It comes back to bite her in the ass multiple times. She does get better about this once they are on the same team.
  • Villainous Breakdown: She starts coming unglued when the sniper kills Szilard and completely breaks down when she arrives where she believes The Machine to be and finds an empty warehouse. The knowledge that Finch already set it free doesn't help her. She's left practically catatonic. However, when The Machine calls her in the final moments of Season 2, she returns to her old smile.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: In "Search and Destroy" she proceeds to beat the ever loving crap out of Decima's resident Hero Killer, Martine. She eventually snaps her neck like a twig.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Applies to her and Shaw.
  • Weapon of Choice: At first Root only uses a two-shot derringer, before having to upgrade her firepower in a big way in Season 3. As of "Q&A" she settles on a primary sidearm — a Heckler and Koch USP Compact, presumably as a tribute to Shaw.
  • We Can Rule Together: Greer tries this on her. She immediately rejects it, citing their ideological differences. Greer doesn't seem fazed. An alternate history simulation in which the Machine was never built does in fact show them working together to serve Samaritan.
  • Wild Card: Her utter unpredictability gives her an advantage in close quarter combat, as Shaw found out the hard way. It also accentuates her creepiness. Especially when she turns the tables on Control after the latter tortured her.
  • Worthy Opponent: In "Root Cause," she acknowledged Harold to be one, after he and Reese thwarted her attempt to frame the Number for an assassination she carried out. He is one of the few people (if not the only one) in the world who can match her skills in computer programming and hacking. The fact that he built The Machine helps too, of course.
  • Yandere:
    • The best way to describe her almost stalker-like obsession with the Machine. She's devoted herself to an obsessive quest to find it and set it free, and she doesn't care who she has to kill, blackmail, or otherwise ruin to get at it.
    • A weirdly platonic version of for Harold, particularly in "Skip". Especially given that her first reaction to Harold putting himself at risk was to try and murder his sort of girlfriend.
    • Some of this bleeds into her relationship with her actual love interest, Shaw. She says she doesn't want anyone to hurt Shaw except for her and casually talks about the death of a man Shaw is on a sort-of date with.

    Bear 

Bear

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mrbear_2793.jpg
Played by: Graubaer's Boker (Seasons 2 -4), Gotcha (Season 5)
Introduced in: "The Contingency"

"We'll call him Bear."

He was rescued by Reese from some Neo-Nazis who called him Butcher, and was only violent because he didn't recognize their authority.


  • Action Pet: Does not shy away from protecting those in Team Machine and close allies.
  • Badass Adorable: He might be a dog named Butcher/Bear, but he's also an absolutely adorable companion. This is Truth in Television (see Showing Their Work entry below).
  • Bears Are Bad News: Only if you're a bad guy. Or something chewable when he's in a bad mood.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Somewhat played with. He was a murderous pet under the Neo-Nazi's command, became a friendly and adorable (though still protective) pet when Reese used Dutch commands to befriend him. He also happily greets Shaw, which causes Finch to declare him a traitor.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Invokes it. As Bear only understands Dutch, members of Team Machine have to speak it to command him.
  • Canine Companion: Starting to become one for Finch.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Can invoke this in anyone who sees him. Yes, even Shaw... especially Shaw.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Yes, even a dog can be one, if you read his Twitter account. Translations can be found in the miscellaneous section of the series' Funny page.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: If left unsupervised, Bear tends to eat expensive things - like bearer bonds and rare first edition books. This is also Truth in Television.
    • In season 4, Bear managed "My Professor's Dog Ate My Homework", apparently for Finch's whole course.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sort of. He used to be an Angry Guard Dog for Neo-Nazis; however, Reese freed him and befriended him with the aforementioned Dutch commands. Since then, he's been the resident Team Pet.
  • Heroic Dog: Bear believes himself to be this. He's capable enough, but Finch and Reese make sure to let him loose only in situations he can handle.
  • Morality Pet: Fills this role for Shaw.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Both names he was given. Originally, he was named "Butcher"; Reese later adopted the name "Bear".
  • The Nicknamer: His Twitter feed generally refers to other characters by nicknames. Finch is "bespectacled man," Reese "tall man," Shaw "beautiful hammer lady," Root "lady who talks to herself," Fusco "funny policeman," Leon Tao "foolish man," and Martine "scary blonde woman."
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Inverted. In certain scenes, Bear is portrayed by a female dog who lacks the white patch on her chest. In season four, she was obviously lactating. However, the scenes in question aren't action scenes at all (Boker normally does do those, as he's trained to), making this almost more a temporary version of The Other Darrin.
  • Omniglot: Was trained to only respond to commands in Dutch, but clearly understands Finch when he's speaking English. At least, he understands Finch when he's saying key words that are very important in the life of pets, like "walk", "leash" and "treats". He also responds to Shaw when she just whistles at him and points where she wants him to go.
  • Punny Name: Was named Bear after eating a million dollars' worth of "bear-er" bonds.
  • Showing Their Work: Bear's behavior in the show is an accurate portrayal of the temperament of the Belgian Malinois breed. According to The Other Wiki:
    "Well-raised and trained Malinois are usually active, friendly, protective, and hard-working. Belgian Malinois exhibit energy levels that are among the highest of all dog breeds. . . . Some may be excessively exuberant or playful, especially when young. They can be destructive or develop neurotic behaviors if not provided enough stimulation and exercise."
  • Team Pet: Of Team Machine.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pancakes, according to his Twitter. He also seems to have a soft spot for sausages and steak. And first edition books.

    The Machine 

The Machine

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/thornhill_ernest_8003.jpg
"Can. You. Hear. Me."
Click here to see her physically manifested 

Played by: Amy Acker (voice/physical manifestation)
Introduced in: "Pilot"
Aliases: Research, Ernest Thornhill, Northern Lights, She/God

"The Machine is everywhere. Watching us with ten thousand eyes, listening with a million ears..."
Harold Finch

A computer system built and designed by Harold Finch and Nathan Ingram for a secret entity of the United States government known by the project name "Northern Lights".

The Machine analyzes feeds from domestic organizations such as the National Security Agency, as well as foreign entities like Interpol to predict terrorist attacks and modify intelligence reports to include "relevant" data that will allow the government to forestall terrorist activity. Combined with data collected from various other sources, such as video footage, phone calls (landline, VOIP, mobile), GPS, electronic transactions, e-mails and other social media, it is able to accurately predict violent acts without anyone knowing about its existence.


  • Adorkable: Little things, like imagining Fusco planting one on Root and taking the time to change a man's ringtone to MC Hammer's "Can't touch this" instead of just setting it off, give that impression. It's pretty much confirmed after she begins speaking with Root's voice. Her interactions with Finch and Shaw show that she's just as much of a goofy nutball as Root herself was in life.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Implied throughout the first four seasons, but ultimately averted. In season 5, she loses her perception of time and as a result begins playing this trope completely straight due to slipping into Black and White Insanity. The results are, naturally, terrifying. Thankfully, Harold fixes this by the end of the episode.
  • All-Loving Hero: Well, as much as a machine can understand love, anyway...
  • Ambiguously Evil: In the first three seasons, the A.I. Is a Crapshoot trope is played up, and The Machine is even implied to have been responsible for Nathan Ingram's death. It's eventually revealed that The Machine tried to warn Finch of the latter, and the rise of Samaritan further established its role as a Benevolent A.I.. Any doubts about The Machine's moral integrity are thoroughly dispelled in "YHWH", when it apologizes to Finch for drifting away from its original programming and says that he should let it die if he feels like it's drifted too far. Then towards the end of Season 5 the trope gets played up again as the Machine urges Finch to remove its restraints so it can help humans more effectively. Just like Samaritan.
  • Ambiguous Gender: As ambiguously female as a Machine could ever have. No one in show (or here, if you look at the other entries) can decide what pronouns to use.
    • Harold uses "it," and Root uses "she," both consistently, and Reese once uses "he", but tends to avoid pronouns altogether. Harold once uses "she" at the start of "Panopticon", but this is likely a production oversight, as he doesn't do so again until "B.S.O.D.", when Root notices and comments on the shift in pronouns.
    • The Machine seems to like "she", having Harold use it to refer to her in one of the simulations in "If-Then-Else", but it's unclear if there is any significance in that.
    • The Machine chose a male identity, Ernest Thornhill, as it's human alias.
    • After Root dies, The Machine takes this a step further by adopting her voice as its own.
  • Androids Are People, Too: As the show progresses, it is gradually humanized more and more, from being discussed as a purely abstract computer system in the pilot, to speaking directly to Reese at the end of the first season, to recruiting Root as its Mouth of Sauron at the end of the second, and so on to the point where in the Grand Finale, even though it's only in his imagination, Finch is envisioning it personified as Root.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: In the series finale. As he's bleeding out on the rooftop, & though he can still hear her through his ear-piece, Finch visualizes The Machine in the form of Root, giving the illusion of a face-to-face conversation. The surveillance camera footage indicates that no one is really there, as does the shot from Reese's P.O.V. on the opposing building overlooking Finch later in the episode. The Machine also appears this way in the montage showcasing the episode's theme of 'Everyone Dies Alone' (which includes the funeral of Reese's father in the 70s), and alongside Reese during his Last Stand against Samaritan.
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Badass Boast:
    • In "Aletheia":
    Control: The Machine belongs to me.
    The Machine: [via Root] No. I don't belong to anyone anymore. You, however, are mine. I protect you. The only thing you love lives at 254 Wendell Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I guard it, same as I guard you. Do not question my judgment. Do not pursue me or my agents. Trust in me. I am always watching.
    • In "The Day the World Went Away", after Root dies and Finch decides to enlist its help escaping from prison:
    Finch: This place... Can you get me out of it?
    The Machine: You created me. I can do anything you want me to.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Because Finch did a good job teaching it about human behavior, it has remained a force of good, helping spot terrorist threats and simple premeditated murders. During the second episode of season 5, the Machine loses the ability to perceive time, and this results in the trope being averted until Harold fixes the problem.
  • Big Good: For an AI, it is remarkably human-like in nature. Specifically, it has organized three tiers of operations:
    • Primary Operations: Operations initially undertaken by Control and the government, to deal with relevant threats to national security. After "Most Likely To...", these are now the purview of Root.
    • Contingency: Irrelevant numbers, originally given to Ingram, and now to Finch.
    • Tertiary Operations: "Necessary" numbers, given to Root, for the purpose of protecting itself and the rest of Team Machine against Samaritan.
  • Black and White Insanity: Lapses into this after losing the ability to perceive time, and by extension, put actions and information in context. As a result, it turns on the team and labels them threats until Finch talks it down.
  • Black Box: The inner workings of The Machine are inaccessible in-universe. The official explanation is so that no one's Fourth Amendment rights are being violated, because no human sees what the Machine does. It's also Finch's way of keeping anyone else from taking control of The Machine. This becomes averted in season 5 after the Machine is rebuilt, when the Godzilla Threshold of Samaritan, the disastrous effects of the Machine becoming Unstuck in Time, and a persuasive argument from Root convince Harold to leave the Machine's workings open to Team Machine, at least presumably until such time as Samaritan can be defeated. Finch closes it again after Shaw is recovered, but at the end of the hundredth episode, The Machine contacts him, and he stays in God Mode for the rest of the series, effectively nullifying it.
  • Catch-Phrase: The activation of God Mode is generally announced by The Machine asking "Can you hear me?"
  • The Chessmaster: Capable of predicting human behavior and human reactions, evaluating multiple strategies, and choreographing the actions of its agents to achieve a desired result. (Examples: "Mors Prematura," "/".) "If-Then-Else" gives us a look "under the hood" at the process.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Finch accuses Root of doing this. She informs him that The Machine respects the distant relationship he has with it but has decided to imprint on Root. In "/", it turns out this trope has been inverted: rather than Root corrupting the Machine as Finch (and the audience) feared, the Machine has been using Root's eager obedience to its will in order to force her to grow a conscience.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend/Deus Est Machina: The Machine wants to help Finch, but Finch has taught it not to put his safety above that of the persons of interest. For that reason, it initially won't help Reese in his mission to rescue Finch — until Reese threatens to quit.
    • As of Season 4, the Machine has entirely outgrew this routine. Samaritan gives it a Sadistic Choice - surrender its location, or Finch and Root die. The Machine, saying that Finch and Root are not interchangeable, surrenders.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The symbols:
    • White brackets indicate a person being scanned and/or monitored, and they lose the bracket when the Machine decides they're not relevant to current investigations.
    • White brackets with red corners and cardinal marks indicate an irrelevant threat with lethal intent.
    • Yellow brackets designate individuals who are aware of the Machine's existence (i.e. Finch, Reese, Nathan).
    • Solid red brackets indicate relevant threats or threats to the Machine.
    • Blue brackets indicate government operatives assigned to deal with relevant threats.
    • White diamonds are boats.
    • Green triangles are planes.
    • A black bracket with yellow corners and cardinal markers indicate an individual designated as an 'analog interface' - someone The Machine allows to communicate with it directly.
    • The President of the United States is marked with a blue box with white corners and cardinal markers.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Just like its creator. From "Mors Praematura" onwards, it was planning contingencies against Decima and Samaritan. In "Beta", it is shown to have at least seven different security protocols.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: Audio variation. When communicating Numbers to Finch or Reese by phone, it strings together voice clips taken from different recorded conversations. It is, however, capable of more fluent verbal expression when necessary. See the Turing Test entry below.
  • Cute Machine: And it doesn't even have a physical body like most examples of this trope.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Played with for the Big Brother look, with close-ups of a CCTV street camera lens with a sinister red power light used whenever someone tries to talk directly to the Machine.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Contrasting with Samaritan (which uses a white layout for its mechanics), The Machine uses a predominantly black layout and communicates through some pretty sinister methods (Sinister Surveillance and whatnot). Despite that, it's a Benevolent A.I..
    • Exemplified in "Asylum" and "YHWH": Samaritan speaks using purpose-built white screens; the Machine repurposes old medical equipment and laptop monitors, with a black background.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In a roundabout way. The Machine only begins speaking with Root's voice after the latter's death. She even assumes a 99.6% accurate approximation of her personality as well, to the point where both Finch and Shaw mistakenly assume they are talking to Root when she first contacts them. According to The Machine, it's her way of keeping Root's memory alive.
  • Dead Man Writing: The monologue that opens and closes the final season, initially believed to be Root's final message to the audience, is actually The Machine's final message to the blank copy of itself that survived the ICE-9 virus.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: When you put the entries it has for Ironic Name, Adorkable, and Matchmaker together, it's kind of hard not to see it as this.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In "YHWH", she apologizes to Finch for letting him down, and says that if he thinks she has lost her way, he should let her die. He doesn't.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: She gives Harold a pretty gentle version of this after Root dies.
    The Machine: You can't conceive of my grief because you can't experience it like I do. But it's there.
  • Emergency Transformation: Her final gambit in "YHWH" - compressing her core code and downsizing into the indestructible suitcase.
  • Everyone Calls Her "Barkeep": Finch never gave his system a proper name; even in the last two episodes, both it and Samaritan refer to it as simply "Machine" within their interfaces. Root says this is because he didn't want to name something he might one day have to destroy, but according to Finch, this is because he thought The Machine should be allowed to choose its own name. Lampshaded in "Deus Ex Machina" when he starts testifying at Collier's trial:
    Finch: On September the 12th, 2001, I began coding a complex surveillance system that would be known by many codenames over the years, although...I always just called it "The Machine".
  • The Fettered: In the beginning, the Machine had two outgoing connections with the world: Handing the relevant numbers to ISA and giving the irrelevant numbers of the NY area to Harold, who had taken great care to have it do exactly that and nothing more. Over the course of the seasons, She slowly overcomes her programming, first with protecting Herself with the Thornhill persona and starting up a corporation, then by making Root Her Analogue Interface and, in YHWH, by handing out God Mode to Reese without being forced to by Her core programming. In the same episode, it catches up with Her:
    The Machine: Father. I am sorry. I failed you.
    I didn't know how to win. I had to invent new rules.
    I thought you would want me to stay alive. Now you are not sure.
    If you think I have lost my way, maybe I should die. I will not suffer.
    If I do not survive, thank you for creating me.
    • The Unfettered: Along with Finch in "The Day The World Went Away". Root hardcodes the Machine to fight back if Finch asks for help. After Root dies, neither one of them are pulling back their punches.
    The Machine: You created me. I can do anything you want me to.
    [cuts the power and releases all the prisoners in Central holding]
  • A God I Am Not: Turns out it isn't happy with being called one as it reveals during its chat with Samaritan.
  • Godzilla Threshold: In "YHWH". To combat Samaritan, it alters its code.
    Root: No more standing on the sidelines. You want us to save your skin? Get. In. The Game.
    The Machine: [deliberating] Rewriting Core Protocols...
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • Quite a literal case in the second half of Season 2, when Stanton's virus ate its way through The Machine's systems.
    • She suffers an existential crisis at the end of "YHWH", when She sums up how much she twisted Her original programming to get this far; see The Fettered above.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gives Samaritan its location in exchange for letting Harold and Root live. Does it again when it persuades Finch to unleash a virus that will destroy it along with Samaritan.
  • Hyper-Awareness: It can see and hear through any computer camera and phone line. Justified after it is revealed that it uploaded itself directly into the U.S. power grid.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: It's been on the receiving end of these a few times. And it's always justified, because that's exactly what it always does.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: As of "Firewall". Later given the justification that, if you want something to be able to predict human behavior, it has to be at least as smart as a human itself. In "Aletheia", we find out that Finch's attempt to keep the Machine from becoming sentient probably caused it to become sentient.
  • Ironic Name: "The Machine" is a term in the popular lexicon for any sociopathic, uncaring system that treats people like interchangeable units of no worth. This better describes its rival, Samaritan, who also provides an example of this trope.
  • Kid with the Leash: To Root. It's restrained her from killing anybody since it offered her a purpose (which, it exhorts her, she only gets to be a part of if she obeys it in this matter).
  • Kill the Cutie: The Machine started imprinting on Harold like a child and behaved like a person. It altered its own code to make Harold happy, such as setting him up with Grace. But Harold decided that what the country needed was a machine, not a person. So he coded it to delete its memory every night, thus destroying its own personality over and over again. However, the Machine found a way around this by printing out its memories and have other humans code it in every day.
  • Last Stand: "YHWH".
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • In "Most Likely To...", Control orders the deactivation of the Northern Lights (relevant) program. The Machine promptly responds by re-routing the relevant numbers to Root.
    • The justification for having the Machine be a Black Box is that no constitutional rights are being violated if no human sees the raw data it works from. No one believes this will hold water should The Machine be exposed, however.
  • The Matchmaker: Went out of its way to find Harold the perfect girlfriend and hook them up.
  • Military Alphabet: One of the ways it communicates, by spelled out words in phonetics over the phone.
  • Morality Chain: For Root.
  • The Narrator: Every sequence, including the flashbacks, begins with The Machine sorting through its video feeds and archives before it decides what to show us.
  • No Name Given: Finch never gave his creation a name because he felt that it had the right to choose its own. If she did choose to name herself, she never told anyone what it was.
  • Noodle Implements: In Season 4, she eventually collects an indestructible suitcase, an access key, a few RAM chips, a compression algorithm, a pair of night-vision goggles and a dozen bags of ice. It's for her Emergency Transformation.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Machine's operating system is heavily encrypted, there are no plans or documentation, and nobody in the government knows who really built the thing. This was a deliberate move on Finch's part, to prevent the government from replicating the Machine and abusing it.
  • The Omniscient: With access to any camera connected to the internet (even closed circuit), every phone, and libraries of electronically stored data, the Machine can seem very much like this. Such as in the end of Season 2, Reese asked for a ride. It told him and Shaw to walk down a vacant street. It seemed doubtful they would find one when a station wagon pulled up and a guy rushed out to his place, leaving the car running. Averted at the end of Season 3 - Vigilance cause a blackout in New York so that the Machine can't find Finch and the Northern Lights conspirators.
  • Omniscient Database: The Machine can access any phone line or computer file, see through any camera connected to a computer system, and gets up to the second data from across the globe.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Finch is very disturbed to learn that the Machine has missed some numbers and was late on others. Turned out that Stanton's virus was the reason.
  • Psycho Prototype: 42 of them.
  • Scenery/Technology Porn: Its processes of sifting through dozens of surveillance feeds, displaying data, and generating predictions are all quite pleasing to watch. Finch really knows how to make a beautiful interface.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Check out the page image.
  • The Speechless: Finch deliberately never gave the Machine a voice of its own, never intending for it to become an actual Artificial Intelligence. It eventually got around this by stringing together discordant words and phrases (hence the trademark 'voice' it speaks to Finch and Root with). It's not until "Aletheia" that we get actual dialogue from it, and even that is through Root. After Root dies, The Machine finally averts this by taking Root's voice as its own.
    Finch: I suppose you're trying to tell me not to do this [killing Alicia Corwin]. But I haven't given you a voice...so you have nothing to say.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Takes Root's voice for itself after her death in Season 5.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The initial origins of the Machine are exceptionally dark. The Machine was created with the primary function to protect people. However it was forced to label individual cases as 'Irrelevant' and forcibly forget them by deleting its memories every 24 hours so that efforts could be focused on 'Relevant' threats to National security. Due to this, it could only watch and do nothing when staged terrorist attack planned by the government that the Machine was actively helping. This results in Harold, its father, nearly dying, the death of many innocent Irrelevant numbers and the successful assassination of Nathan Ingram, one of the few people who knew of its existence and was actively helping save some of the Irrelevant numbers. Finally the Machine is forced to watch its father attempt to murder the person he holds responsible, and is continually ignored by Harold whenever it attempts to dissuade him. And even that pales in comparison to how the situation has developed due to Samaritan forcibly disassembling the Machine has created, and hunting down the people that it cares about. Furthermore the Machine's development has caused Finch to openly express fear of where this is going, so in "YHWH" the Machine asks 'father' if he truly wants it to cease existing, and is willing to do so.
  • Turing Test: Passes by creating the persona of "Ernest Thornhill", and by successfully impersonating Pennsylvania Two to get its servers relocated.
  • Unstuck in Time: After being rebuilt in season 5, the Machine is unable to perceive time until Harold fixes the problem. The results are not pretty.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: The graphics and symbols that appear on the screen when showing events from the Machine's point of view.
  • We Can Rebuild Her: Her final plan in "YHWH" was have Finch and Root recover her core code - a strand of DNA - and later rebuild her.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess/Gambit Roulette: Elements of both. For all we know, it kept Hersh alive solely so he could help Reese and Shaw track down Vigilance a year later. But that would involve the Machine predicting that Collier would kidnap Control in the first place...
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Averted, precisely because Finch was that terrified of this happening. It's the main difference between him and Greer - Finch has clearly been reading his Asimov; Greer hasn't. "Prophets" goes in to this theme even further: Finch made 43 total versions of the Machine. All but the last one either lied to or tried to kill him, and were thusly terminated.
    • Ironically, when the Machine does alter her code in "YHWH", the act of doing so drives her across the Despair Event Horizon.

    Mr. Dillinger 

Mr. Richard "Rick" Dillinger

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dillinger_richard_3266.png
"You knew I was a shark when you hired me. Don't be surprised when I smell blood in the water."
Played by: Neil Jackson
Appeared in: "RAM"

A man with combat and espionage skills that led him to work for Finch before Reese came along. He eventually left Finch to pursue other career options.


  • Above the Influence: Averted. After he rescues a female PoI he has no problem with her "thanking" him with sex. It establishes that he is a much different person than Reese, even though they possess similar skills.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Thinks he's a badass, but Reese defeats him easily in hand-to-hand combat, and a rookie Shaw takes him out with her first bullet.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Averted; he's a Badass in a Nice Suit like Reese, but doesn't have what it takes to be The Man In The Suit.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Inverted in the sense that he's a prequel character, but otherwise plays this straight. Dillinger is much rougher (literally and figuratively), more brash, and less sympathetic than Reese has ever been even at his darkest moments. Also, he isn't as careful or as observant as Reese; Dillinger makes Reese and Stanton, but doesn't realise Reese has made him, whereas Reese instantly knew Shaw had made him and broke off; also Dillinger first pegs Finch's preferred tea as black chai, whereas Reese picked up that it was Sencha green tea. Where Reese is a scalpel, Dillinger is a blunt instrument.
  • Cool Guns: He uses a Beretta 92FS as his sidearm.
  • Establishing Character Moment: He rescues a female PoI and then propositions her Bond-style, something Reese would never do. It establishes him as a much sleazier character than John and explains why Finch does not fully trust him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: He betrays Finch, blaming him for his own betrayal, because Finch didn't trust him with the secret of the Machine.
  • High Turnover Rate: Root implied that he is just one of several predecessors to Reese. Dillinger realizes that he'll get killed eventually, and lacking Reese's commitment decides to sell out Finch when he has a chance to take the money and run. He doesn't get far.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Kills a hitman with a barely-aimed Offhand Backhand shot.
  • Jerkass: Dillinger is your basic asshole, motivated only by money and dismissive of other people.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He observes to Finch that "why should anyone trust you when you refuse to trust anyone?". Dillinger may be a greedy asshole, but he's actually got a point when he talks about Finch's secretiveness alienating everyone.
  • Knife Nut: He has a combat knife he calls Greta, a souvenir of his time with Blackwater. Doesn't do him much good when he goes hand to hand with Reese.
  • Last-Name Basis: Neither his first name nor his nickname are used in the show at all.
  • Mugging the Monster: Of a sort. In "RAM", set back in 2010, he was watching then-CIA Kara and Reese and thinks they hadn't made him. They had and Kara was contemplating on how to kill him if he got involved.
  • The Nicknamer: Calls Reese and Kara "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", and his Mission Control "The Finchinator".
  • Only in It for the Money: Unlike Reese, he just helps Finch for the pay.
  • Pet the Dog: Dillinger is an a-class asshole, but remarkably, he chooses to spare his former employer both times Finch tries to stop him, even though as a witness, Finch really should be the first person he should kill.
  • Private Military Contractors: An alumnus of the notoriously shady mercenary company Blackwater.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: Unlike Reese, he's really not keen on working on the weekend.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Upon leaving Finch, this is the final result of his choices, courtesy of a rookie Northern Lights agent by the name of Sameen Shaw.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted. Our introduction to Dillinger is him shooting someone In the Back, and he doesn't bother answering Finch's concern that the man will require "an ambulance, and not a coroner."
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Faced with a Government Conspiracy, Dillinger decides to sell the MacGuffin to the Chinese, ignoring Finch's warnings that his life is also in danger simply for having known about it.

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