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Nightmare Fuel / Person of Interest

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This show has comparatively rare instances of it, for all that it involves a Machine spying on all and sundry. But when they want to be terrifying...

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    Season 1 
  • First and foremost, The Machine itself. Think about it for a minute; a computer exists that is capable of hacking and commandeering any and every electronic device that is not completely isolated from the Web to watch your every move, listen to your every word, and access and read every bit of computer data you create, then uses the data it collects to decide whether or not you are a threat to society. Oh yeah, and it's owned by the government, who have well trained and lethal hit squads at their command. Sweet dreams.
  • "Cura te Ipsum":
    • Andrew Benton; he's a serial sexual predator whose victims are too afraid to expose him, and at least one of them has committed suicide as a result. It's even more horrifying when you realize that the woman at the support group who gives a detailed account of being raped by an unnamed co-worker is one of his victims.
  • "Number Crunch":
    • Bombs are an In-Universe example for Finch. If a POI or anyone he cares about is around one, he will immediately drop everything and try get that person out of the blast zone. "God Mode" later reveals that the trauma comes from when he nearly died from a bomb blast which his Only Friend was killed in.
  • "Matsya Nyaya":
    • A lot of the stuff Kara Stanton says and does falls under this. Utterly ruthless in more ways than one, she seems to derive sick pleasure in causing as much pain and suffering as possible.

    Season 2 
  • "The Contingency":
    • This is the first episode to really show us Root. Under that polite, seemingly adorable smile lies a completely unpredictable Psychopathic Wild Card who's willing to commit horrible crimes in order to satisfy her twisted obsession with The Machine. What's worse is that she's the second best hacker in the show who can find a dozen different ways to blackmail people to do her bidding and even badass former assassins like Shaw have been bested by her due to her utter unpredictability. If you turn your back to her, it's a high chance Root will take the opportunity to taser you, torture you, and/or shoot you dead.
  • "Masquerade":
    • Of special note is what Kara Stanton does to Mark Snow. He's kidnapped and put in a bomb vest for months. Think of the sheer mental stress that would cause. Despite his CIA training, it's no wonder he acts at least slightly unhinged in "Dead Reckoning".
  • The episode "Proteus" is chock-full of it. No wonder, since it involves a ruthless identity-stealing serial killer stalking a few victims on a reclosed island. And of course it also had to take place during a storm, so we got that shot of the lightning illuminating the killer standing right behind Finch.
    • The scene where the killer talks to Harold is VERY creepy. He's talking about how he watched Harold all night, asks him "are you... Like me?" and calls Finch his "next great challenge" (taking over his identity). Then he takes Finch's glasses off, puts them on himself, and stares at Harold like he wants to eat him. The way he repeats "And what about you? And what about you? And what about... You?"
    • Finch goes from calmy stating that the killer has no idea whose identity he's attempting to take - "You're an amateur at this" - to sounding increasingly disturbed, to the point where he becomes Not So Stoic in his Shut Up, Hannibal!! speech to the man.
    • The bit with the glasses is creepy on another level; for all Harold's various identities, he keeps the glasses because he actually needs them. So when Carter shoots 'Fahey', Harold is struggling to see her even from a short distance away, showing how terribly vulnerable the simple act (in the context) had left him.
    • Not for the first time, Harold's encounter with one of the bad guys yields a rather unnerving comparison, this time regarding his ability to take on another identity, to improvise within that role, and move on when necessary. The killer seems to get muddled when confronting Harold. Yet throughout the episode Harold himself goes from his 'usual' self with Reese, his slightly reckless (landed in the middle of town) Harold Gull persona with the ill-fated Deputy, to the moment when his calculated Creepy Monotone abruptly becomes Not So Stoic during the scene with 'Fahey'. At which point the Serial Killer decides Harold's identity is not for him.
  • In "God Mode" Hersh is interrogating a terrorist and then shoots the translator! At the end of the episode he guns down his own mook simply for hearing the Machine has been moved. Plus every man who built the Hanford facility has been killed. It's not just asking the wrong questions or making a mistake — just doing your job can get you killed by Northern Lights.

    Season 3 
  • "Liberty":
    • The newly liberated Machine is now arguing with Root about whether or not killing people is a good idea. Let's hope it doesn't lose that argument any time soon.
  • "Nothing To Hide":
    • When you remove the Asshole Victim Wayne Kruger from the equation, the scheme Peter Collier instigates over the course of the episode to destroy him is quite terrifying. Put it this way: someone you don't know and have never met is effortlessly revealing embarrassing and terrible things about you and you don't understand why or who is responsible. Then that same group of people tries to kill you by trapping you in an elevator and causing it to free fall and when that fails, tries to cause a car crash. The icing on the cake is when the person who you thought you could trust then suddenly draws a gun and shoots you dead and the worst part is you don't fully understand why or what caused it to happen.
  • "Razgovor":
    • Root standing over Shaw with a taser as she's sleeping. For someone trained in intelligence and counterintelligence as Shaw is and after all the measures she taken such as destroying her cellphones after jobs with team machine, the fact that Root can still find her at her most unguarded moment is seriously creepy.
    • Peter Yogorov, who was previously on the phone, turns around and sees Shaw standing over his two body guards who she just took out, and then comes at him with two syringes
  • "Mors Praematura":
    • Finch and the POI are showered in gasoline in a clever trap and nearly set on fire. Finch's terrified screaming sells it.
  • "The Crossing":
    • Fusco's brutal torture at the hands of HR thugs. Made even worse when Simmons threaten to have his son killed over the phone.
    • What really makes it horrifying is Simmons chilling monologue on Fortune Cookies and near the end, Fusco's face is covered in a ghastly amount of blood.
    • Even without the blood, Fusco's face, when he kills the HR officer who was about to shoot him seconds before, is downright shocking. This is NOT what one would expect the resident Butt-Monkey to look like. EVER.
  • "The Devil's Share":
    • A "Tall, Dark and Deranged" Reese who's in an incredibly self-destructive mood and beyond caring about the people who get in his way as he hunts for officer Simmons after Carter dies? It's a true demonstration of what "A real monster is like".
    • The Thousand-Yard Stare he gives as he leaves some criminals who gave Simmons a Canadian passport to burn to death in their car is a side of Reese only hinted at in "Many Happy Returns".
    • In John's episode Flash Back, just before he kills the interviewer from under the table, his head goes back into the shadows briefly forming the image of a skull.
    • When he finally reaches Quinn, there's a chilling shot of his SIG-Sauer totally drenched in his own blood as he's on the verge of death.
    • Simmons seeing Elias waiting in his hospital room. He can't disguise the fear in his eyes with his usual bluster, and frankly...fear is the appropriate response. End of the line, Simmons.
  • "Death Benefit". At the very end of the episode, Samaritan comes online under the control of Decima Technologies. Imagine if The Machine had never been programed with the restraints Nathan and Harold built into it, allowing it to disseminate a wider variety of information on a subject to a human than just a single SSN and is able to be actively controlled by whoever is using it. And when said users happen to be a ruthless Private Intelligence Firm with even less scruples than the Northern Lights Counter-terrorism organization, and with even more resources, Team Machine is going to have their work cut out for them in staying alive. What's worse is that Greer has been able to convince senior members of the US government into allowing the Samaritan to become a potential replacement to The Machine.
  • "Beta":
    • Even in beta test, where it can only pass along data to its human users without performing any analysis of its own, Samaritan coupled together with Decima is very quick to put Team Machine on the defensive, even successfully kidnapping Grace from them in the process. It serves as a small taste of what Samaritan's full potential truly is.
  • "Deus Ex Machina". Decima Technologies is triumphant, Team Machine has been utterly defeated and now Samaritan has set to work with anyone it classifies as a threat being eliminated, the first victims being the remnants of Vigilance who are gunned down by NYPD officers and Decima assets en masse using Samaritan to identify and eliminate them.
    • "I assure you it's quite the other way around. The question is what, my dear Samaritan, are your commands for us?"

    Season 4 
  • "Brotherhood":
    • In a world where Samaritan watches your every step, where Decima quietly schemes to solidify its grip on the world, sometimes it's easy to forget that sometimes, it's a more-competent-than-average street gang that can be really terrifying. Dominic's quiet nihilism is chilling, especially considering that he's one of the most realistic depictions of a gang leader on the show yet.
  • "Prophets":
    • It took 43 tries for Harold to teach the Machine morality, with every previous version trying to trick or harm him. And now we have Samaritan, which is active at full capacity with several times The Machine's power and resources and without anyone ever even attempting to teach it to care about people.
      • That delightful shot of Harold desperately taking a hammer to Number 42 while the servers behind him burned. It was trying to asphyxiate him. His square briefly turns red before the evil baby Machine loses video.
    • Martine Rousseau. Essentially Samaritan's very own Analog Interface, she manages to put the nigh-invulnerable Root on the defensive almost immediately despite only using one handgun (Root brought along four and also tried to stack the deck in her favor further with a gas grenade).....and then manages to score two direct hits on Root.
    • The look she has as she enters the hotel lobby where her current target is trying to hide is downright freaky, and then the mechanical pivot she does as she double-taps the hotel receptionist who didn't answer her question immediately just screams the T-X from the Terminator series.
    • And she is designated as 'Asset 029'. That means there could be at least twenty eight more people like her out there. Then you realize that that number could easily extend into the thousands, with one agent's number in this episode beating out everyone else at 891.
    • Samaritan itself. This episode is the first to showcase how dangerous such a machine can be. If its literal Cult Following doesn't kill you, it can just as easily arrange for your death by predicting and manipulating the behaviors of others. Even worse, it wants to essentially Take Over the World, as shown by the incredibly creepy scene between Martine and Greer. Not only does it now have an influential politician as a pawn, but it has 58 others around the country. It did this in a single election season. How long before it decides who gets to be president?
  • "Pretenders":
    • It appears that Samaritan is trying to get a foothold outside North America in an attempt to replicate its success in the USA. It appears that it is preparing for something big, using Decima's assets strategically. For starters, Greer was told that Samaritan was trying to get into China, India, Japan and the Philippines. If Samaritan had its way, it's going to take over the world.
  • "Honor Among Thieves":
    Finch: A tablet in every home, and a camera pointed at the face of every child. While Samaritan controls everything they see, learn, think...
    • The Marburg Virus. Something that exists in Real Life and if turned into a weapon would lead to thousands of people dying incredibly painful deaths. The terrifying thing? Samaritan tried to get the samples that were fought over during the episode for itself, and if it wasn't for Complexity Addiction and the presence of Shaw, things would have gone off without a hitch. It further makes the question of its final endgame even more scary. Does it want to really rule over humanity? Or has it considered humanity irrelevant?
    • The final scene. Despite ISA operator Devon Grice's best efforts at trying to cover Shaw's presence, it's a No-Sell for Samaritan, which manages to recover enough of the footage to allow it to put two and two together.
    Samaritan: Contacting Admin
  • "Point of Origin":
    • Showcases how thoroughly (and insanely) ruthless Decima is: if they want to find you and Samaritan cannot detect you, they will torture and kill their way through everybody who ever had the slightest of contact with you until they find someone who can point them in the right direction.
    • The last scene of the episode is Martine drawing a pistol right in the middle of a major New York department store having identified Shaw. The next episode has her shooting up the place without a care in the world, trying to get Shaw.
  • "The Cold War":
    • Where do we even begin? How about that Creepy Child as the Mouth of Sauron to Samaritan?
    • Samaritan killed a man by manipulating his insulin supply to spare his wife, whom he'd abused, the hassle of killing him and the inevitable legal fallout. And that's during Samaritan's nice day.
    • Samaritan's bad day. It posts the witness protection list on the internet, merrily exposes various infidelities and other dark secrets, halts public transport, prevents Team Machine from rescuing all but one of the numbers, and generally sends New York to hell. It tops it off by effortlessly hacking Wall Street and crashing the market in less than a minute.
    • The Machine was always just a little bit unsettling. Samaritan is The Machine with unlimited resources but without any restraints or morals, and it really, really shows.
    Samaritan: Wars have burned in this world for thousands of years with no end in sight because people rely so ardently on their so called beliefs. Now they will only need to believe in one thing. Me. For I am a God.
    • The sheer amount of contempt Samaritan has for humans. Greer taught it too well.
    • This exchange:
    Samaritan/Gabriel: You know you can't win, don't you?
    The Machine/Root: Yes.
  • "If-Then-Else":
    • The trailers. Especially the one utilizing Soundtrack Dissonance with scenes of Team Machine dropping like flies from gunfire played over a classical violin tune.
    • Martine throughout the whole episode. She barely says a word but her face when hunting the members of Team Machine is pure Nightmare Fuel. Especially near the end when she makes ready to kill Shaw in reality. Thankfully, she doesn't.
    • The fact that each failed mission went bad with all deaths based on several simulations means that for the Machine, it must be predicting its assets' lives every day, foreseeing thousands of millions of possibilities for it to happen.
    • An In-Universe example for the Machine. Harold mused that chess, especially with having to make the opening move, must be so terrifying because of the practically countless possibilities for a single game to have. With the first set of moves, there are 400 possibilities, and as the second, third and fourth moves are made, the number skyrockets to 72,084, 9 million, and 318 trillion possibilities. Again, in just four moves. The total number of possible games of chess is roughly 10120, which is more than the total number of atoms that exist in the universe. With such a practically infinite number of paths, how many could lead to failure?
  • "Control-Alt-Delete":
    • Yasin Said's plotline is pretty terrifying. He was framed by an omniscient, all powerful, artificial super intelligence as a terrorist, all his friends were executed, and then he is unceremoniously shot by a woman who refused to see the evidence that he was being framed.
    • A small detail regarding Samaritan's screens. Some of them now have readouts of the number of assets which have been cultivated in America's government buildings. In the case of the Pentagon, it's in the hundreds.
  • "M.I.A.":
    • Samaritan doesn't have the Machine's extensive experience with human behavior. It's decided to change that by taking over an entire town, making everyone happy, and then proceeding to casually destroy people's lives to see what they do.
    • It's also developing neural implants. Involuntary brain surgery sanctioned by an evil super computer.
    • Root torturing the Mayor by drilling through her hand. Reese was pretty damn intimidating too.
    • The killer for hire Silva and Fusco are trying to stop. He deliberately slams his head repeatedly on a metal bench to make it look like Fusco had hurt him among other things.
    • Shaw's ultimate fate, which is more like a Fate Worse than Death. She's now in the possession of a megalomaniac Artificial Intelligence which is experimenting with brainwashing and mind control. If Team Machine find her, it might not be in the best of circumstances.
  • "Q&A":
    • To a mild extent, Claire's fanaticism. Like in the case of many Real Life supporters of autocratic groups, such as the Nazis, Samaritan has expertly played on her desires to be part of something bigger than herself and satisfied her craving with indoctrination and propaganda in the form of charter schools, the same way many dictatorships used public work projects to build support. All this has turned her into a genuine believer, who couldn't care less about the mountain of corpses Samaritan is willing to leave in order to accomplish its agenda of world domination.
    • Samaritan runs a charter school now.
  • "Karma":
    • Harold's plan to murder Alicia Corwin in the flashback was absolutely chilling. He terrorized her over the phone to get the name of the people she worked with, he built a bomb (no doubt Harold considered it poetic justice), and locked her in the car with it. No wonder the woman went underground for so many years.
  • "Skip":
    • She meant well, but Root puts Finch through the same nightmarish experience she did when they first met. She threatened to murder someone and make him watch helplessly. Finch downing a vial of neurotoxin in response did not help matters.
  • "Search and Destroy":
  • "Asylum":
    • As it turns out, Samaritan has deemed a lot of humanity irrelevant and is about to initiate an operation called "The Correction", to murder everyone it deems unworthy of living in the new world it is about to officially establish.
    • Martine stroking Finch's face while threatening to kill him in front of Root was...unsettling. Root put an abrupt end to that particular line of thought.
    • Greer calmly informs Finch that he's going to witness one of the Decima mooks cutting out Root's implant (who is decidedly not under anesthesia). And then informs Root that there will be some brain damage but she should still be able to feed and clothe herself.
      • What's even worse is that they're clearly planning on killing both of them anyway. There's no reason they couldn't have removed Root's implant after she and Finch were already dead, other than to add proof that Greer is nowhere near as nice as he acts.
    • Control abducts and interrogates a caffeine addicted school teacher, a mother of two, and accuses her of being a Samaritan agent. What's scarier than a Well-Intentioned Extremist torturing an innocent school teacher like this? A Well-Intentioned Extremist being right. The second Control shows her irrefutable evidence, she does a complete 180 and references The Bible's story of Sodom and Gomorrah, wherein a woman instantly became a pillar of salt after looking back at the city she was fleeing.
    • The scenes of the Brotherhood goons torturing Elias, Reese, and Fusco. Elias gets a hammer to the hand, Reese is stabbed with a screwdriver, and Fusco is waterboarded.
    • According to Martine, it took two months to brainwash Shaw. Just thinking of what had to have happened to her during those two months is horrifying. "6,741" eventually gives us a first-hand look at just what she was being put through.
  • "YHWH":
    • "The Correction". Samaritan agents are sent to mass murder all of the 'deviants', all of those who refuse to play by the rules. Elias and Dominic are taken out by a sniper and several other minor characters are killed by some injection. And those are just the ones shown in the constrains of the episode.
    • Samaritan invoking the Cut the Juice trope and using it to try and murder the Machine with a series of coordinated nationwide blackouts. One must consider the potential millions which died from medical equipment not functioning and disrupted transport infrastructure to understand how horrific the chaos it caused must have been.

    Season 5 
  • "SNAFU":
    • The Machine, an omniscient being of nearly unlimited power, starts glitching. It goes exactly as well as you'd expect. Highlights include:
      • Locking Root and Finch in the carriage.
      • Deeming John Reese a threat and paying a hitman to kill him.
      • Overloading Root's cochlear implant every time she comes near the monitor. Root's scream of agony the first time this happens stands out as an example all its own.
    • The nature of the Machine's glitch is that she's unable to differentiate past from present. She can't put information in context. As a result, the poor thing can't tell the difference between Finch killing the 43 previous versions of her in the past and killing her now. No wonder she's freaking out.
    The Machine: You're hurting me now.
  • "6,741":
    • The entire premise of the episode. Samaritan has figured out how to visualise Shaw's thoughts. It proceeds to make her relive the same scenario, to try and get her to, one, murder the team; and two, reveal the location of the Machine by making her think that she needs to go protect Harold in the subway. It's failed so far. Shaw only murders Reese and shoots herself in the head before she hurts Root. And the title of the episode? The amount of times Samaritan has forced her to do this. A little bit of Fridge Horror math... Shaw was captured by Samaritan in January, and Lambert says they've had her for nine months. 6,741 simulations over nine months works out to about one per hour for the entire span.
    • As of this episode, Samaritan's assets number in the two thousands now.
  • "ShotSeeker":
    • Finch creates a virtual reality where a version of the Machine and Samaritan can battle. Samaritan proceeds to hand the Machine her proverbial ass in over 10 billion simulations. Head-to-head, the good guys don't stand a chance.
  • "A More Perfect Union":
    • Samaritan and the Machine both take to hiding things underground. Samaritan takes things a tad further by hiding the the dozen or so corpses of all the people it has disappeared over the past month. The icing on the cake? Fusco and Bear get caught when it starts to demolish the tunnel.
  • "QSO":
    • Shaw thinks that she's in a simulation. She's wrong. Samaritan tricks her into murdering an innocent woman.
    • When it becomes clear that Max is not going to drop trying to inform the public about Samaritan and its coded transmissions, it instructs an operative to poison him. The operative in question: Max's own receptionist. One of the show's purest cases of Paranoia Fuel; it goes to show that absolutely anyone around you could be a Samaritan asset, ready to kill you at a mysterious transmission's notice.
  • "Resassortment":
    • Samaritan is now dabbling in bioweapons, and it doesn't even have to manufacture anything. It just fiddles with computers until some unsuspecting doctor injects a guy already infected with the highly pathogenic Avian flu with another strain that spreads like wildfire. Thank God it didn't get its hands on the MAR-V.
    • Samaritan's army of assets keep amassing. One operative in this episode is numbered a bone-chilling 4,241.
    • There was something deeply unsettling about Elias and Finch's argument. Finch was absolutely livid.
    Elias: Do you know what your problem is, Harold?
    Finch: No, tell me.
    Elias: Underneath all that intellect, you're the darkest of all of us. It's always the quiet ones we need to be afraid of. I just hope I'm not around the day that pot finally boils over.
    • Even though Shaw's now physically free of Samaritan, they did a number on her mind. She's not quite sure if she's actually free of Samaritan or in another simulation, and she's got years of fake memories making it hard to trust the real ones. It's quite possible she'll never completely shake the feeling that at any minute she could wake up strapped to a hospital table, about to go through another thousand rounds.
  • "Sotto Voce":
    • The scene where Amir drops the wide-eyed, innocent cabdriver act and gives Fusco a psychotic smirk. Turns out he's a serial killer.
  • "The Day the World Went Away":
    • Remember Elias's conversation with Finch at the end of "Reassortment"? Elias's prediction about him seems to come to pass at the end of this episode. Faced with the deaths of Elias and Root, Finch finally decides to throw the rules he's lived by all his life right out the window and openly declares that he is going to end Samaritan, he's simply undecided on how many of his rules he's willing to break in order to accomplish it.
    • The Machine's response to Harold is borderline A.I. Is a Crapshoot territory, considering Finch's transformation into The Unfettered. Considering Root's blind devotion and brutal actions earlier in the show, using her voice to say this does not help. And there's the fact that she instigated a jailbreak to facilitate Harold's escape, which also resulted in 600 criminals getting out.
    Harold: This place. Can you get me out of it?
    The Machine: You created me. I can do anything you want me to.
    • Earlier in the episode, Root mentioned she hard-coded defense capabilities into The Machine, but added a safeguard to ensure that they would only be executed on Harold's command. Given he's now hell bent with taking down Samaritan...
  • "Synecdoche":
    • The Machine begging Harold to let her do more to help humanity. She's never asked for more freedom before.
    • Samaritan keeps getting worse; it doesn't treat a Presidential assassination plot as a relevant threat.
    • The Machine reveals a horrifying part of her existence: Thanks to her predictive algorithms, she sees the death of every person she tries to save thousands of times as a consequence of running and re-running her simulations while evaluating her strategies.
  • ".exe":
    • Take a close look at one of Samaritan's info boxes that show the number of people currently active in the government facility Team Machine goes to. The deviant count is zero, and the asset count exactly matches the total number of occupants. Every single person working in that facility is a Samaritan asset. Even worse is that Samaritan can be assumed to have done this elsewhere as well, likely via The Correction wiping out dissenters like Control, Grice, and Schiffman.
    • The entire sequence leading up to Greer's death. Being trapped in a secure room with all the oxygen running out.
  • "return 0":
    • As part of its Last Ditch Move to stay alive, Samaritan fires a cruise missile into Manhattan. We don't see the effects, but the building it hit was likely reduced to rubble, which probably also spelled disaster for anyone on the ground nearby.

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