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Recap / Person of Interest S02 E22

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Season 2, Episode 22:

God Mode

"You said you wanted to set The Machine free. I already did."

Decima is foiled for now. Reese and Root each have 24 hour unlimited access to The Machine, and they and the ISA are racing to find it. Carter is about to be framed for Elias' murder.

Tropes present in this episode:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: It is now, as no-one knows what the Machine will do next.
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  • All for Nothing: Root has put a lot of time, effort and planning into trying to find The Machine. When Harold reveals he set it free before she could get close, she was furious. Ultimately subverted, when The Machine gives her a call once she's incarcerated in an asylum.
  • All There in the Manual: Given that the Machine was activated on January 1, 2002, the bombing ("Day 3191") was on September 27, 2010.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Shaw speculates that Finch wants control of the Machine for himself, given that he willingly goes with Root and was the originator of the virus.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Terney threatens to kill Fusco and Carter's son if she doesn't stop her investigation into HR.
  • Answer Cut: To Lawrence Szilard.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Nathan one-ups his one from the previous episode with one that smashes Harold into pieces:
    Nathan: You've never trusted anyone. Not me, not The Machine. Have you even told your fiancee your real name yet?
    (cue dissonance chord)
    Harold: *Gasp!* (beat) I'm waiting for the right moment.
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  • Ballistic Discount: As Shaw and Reese need More Dakka and a fast car, the Machine sends them the number of a person about to be executed by gangsters who have both.
  • Batman Gambit: Finch reveals that he did sell the laptop to the Chinese, but that he included a virus within the source-code they used to create the virus that infected the Machine ("a virus within a virus") which enabled the Machine to free itself.
  • Beneath the Mask: Terney finally drops the pretense of being Carter's friend and threatens her directly.
  • Blindfolded Trip: The series version — Elias gets black-hooded because he's going to be killed.
  • Blind Without Them: Root smashes Finch's glasses with the hidden tracker, but thanks to God Mode quickly steals a replacement with identical prescriptive lenses.
  • Bookcase Passage: Reese and Shaw find Nathan's wall safe hidden behind a bookcase.
  • Bookends:
    • The Machine calls Root at the beginning and at the end of the episode:
    The Machine: Can you hear me?
    Root: Absolutely.
    • Reese has to find Finch who is with Root, like in the season premiere, and has to negotiate with the Machine to find him when once again the Machine doesn't directly reveal his location. Even the theme music for Reese cracking the code in the library is reused.
  • Bound and Gagged: Hersh finds Special Counsel this way, having been abandoned by Root.
  • Brick Joke: Reese finally steals a helicopter like he tried to in the season 1 finale, "Firewall", back when he first met Root.
  • Call-Back: Tons. To name just a few:
    • Like the season premiere, this episode begins with Finch asking The Machine a question.
    • Finch told Reese that New York shutting down its libraries is "the decline of Western civilization". Turned out Finch told Nathan the same thing.
    • Reese addresses The Machine through street cameras like he did in "Firewall" and "The Contingency."
    • The book title that The Machine directs him to in the Library is the one he found while snooping in "Number Crunch."
    • Reese escapes from an overturned sedan and walks away, like he did in "Pilot."
    • The episode ends with someone answering a ringing payphone.
    • Elias being taken out into the woods to be killed by his father's men in "Flesh and Blood" is lampshaded when he's about to be executed in the woods a second time.
    • Reese doesn't blame Finch because it was his own decision to say no to Jessica "at an airport seven years ago" that set him on his Start of Darkness.
  • Cassandra Truth: Finch warns Nathan that the government appears to be killing anyone who built the Machine. Nathan refuses to believe that Alicia Corwin would have him killed.
  • Casual Danger Dialog:
    • Reese and Shaw are both Deadpan Snarkers, so they engage in a fair amount of this.
    • Elias has some as well when he realizes his "transfer" in the van is "that kind of prisoner transfer".
    • Special Counsel's reaction to his imminent execution? "...Fair enough."
  • Compensating for Something: On seeing the Ferrari, Shaw hands Reese a SPAS-12 shotgun.
    Reese: What's this for?
    Shaw: To help you feel less inadequate while I drive this thing.
  • Content Warnings: In light of the Boston Marathon bombing a few weeks earlier, there was a warning advising that some viewers might find the contents of the episode disturbing (specifically, because of the ferry bombing).
  • Continuity Nod: At the end of the episode, we learn that Reese has been giving 90% of his salary to charity. That probably explains why his old apartment—seen briefly in "Many Happy Returns"—was such a run-down place: he didn't leave himself enough to afford anything better before Harold gave him a new one.
  • Cool Car: A perk of gaining admin status: the yellow Ferrari that Reese and Shaw are led to by The Machine.
    • A more understated version would be the Mercedes S-Class Reese and Shaw use to escape from NYPD cruisers at one point in the episode.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman, and Richard J. Lewis all make a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo near the end.
    • The kidnapped man whom Reese and Shaw rescue from being killed by mobsters is played by producer David Slack.
    • Producer Amanda Segel as Lawrence Szilard's daughter
  • Dirty Coward: Tierny pleads for his life—"Please, I Have a Family!"—when Carter rescues Elias, despite having been arrogantly about to commit murder a few seconds before (not to mention threatening Carter's family).
  • Doomed Appointment: Obviously, Nathan's decision to meet with a reporter was not going to end well.
  • Easter Egg/Shout-Out: The library book that The Machine leads Reese to is Arthur Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine, a non-fiction work of philosophy critiquing the "Cartesian dualist" argument that mind and body are separate entities.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    Elias: I'm true to what I am. Like my friend Mr. Yogorov here—I killed his father, so now he kills me. Fair is fair. (to Terney) But you, you're oath-breaker. You're a worm."
    • After being threatened by that same officer, Carter notes with bitterness that at least Elias is loyal to his own.
  • Exact Words: Shaw says the next time she sees Root she's going to shoot her, "and not in the knee." She does — in the shoulder.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Special Counsel, having ordered the execution of countless others who've stuffed up or knew too much, accepts his Karmic Death with a subdued "Fair enough."
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Before Reese realizes the Machine is using a clock positioning system, it tells him "4 o'clock". He looks at the clock and raises his eyebrows, because it's midnight.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Averted. Shaw makes a point of shooting the road with her sidearm when she carjacks a Mercedes Benz for her and Reese.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: Close enough anyways.
  • Foreshadowing: The Machine doesn't know the purpose of the Hanford plant even though it was supposed to be located there.
  • Friendship Moment: Reese makes it clear he doesn't hold Finch responsible for Jessica's death.
  • From Bad to Worse: When Hersh fills Special Counsel in on events from the previous episode, SC notes that this is bad news indeed. By the end of the episode the Machine has vanished and he's been executed for letting this happen.
  • A God Am I: Root quickly forgets her no killing agreement with Finch, luxuriating in the God Mode.
  • God Mode: The title of the episode. And given the stunts Team Machine (Shaw and Reese) pull off, such as walking away from a car-crash (off a highway) and hijacking a helicopter, it is well-played.
  • Gunpoint Banter: Between Northern Lights and Team Machine; justified as the former can't afford to kill the latter, as they need Finch alive to help them regain control of the Machine.
  • Hazmat Suit: Everyone gapes as Root and Finch casually stroll past workers in radiation suits, into a hazardous waste storage area. Their dialog doesn't help either.
    Root: Come on, Harold. Time to meet God.
    Harold: Please don't set your hopes too high, Ms. Groves.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Hersh finds out about an impending suicide bombing, then shoots the translator!
    • All the engineers who designed the Hanford site have fatal accidents, and the last is shot by a Northern Lights sniper to stop him revealing the location.
    • On the orders of his unseen boss, Hersh kills the Northern Lights personnel who know the Machine was moved, including Special Counsel.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: A Running Gag; Shaw/Reese and Finch/Root help themselves at gunpoint to cars and even a helicopter and private jet.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Northern Lights justify their actions as preventing acts of mass destruction by terrorists. They then allow a suicide bomber to carry out his mission, just to kill Nathan Ingram.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Machine isn't buried in a salt mine or an anonymous government office, it is (or was) hidden in a nuclear waste facility built solely for that purpose, to provide a location with power, personnel and high security that no-one's going to go casually nosing around in.
  • His Name Is...: Szilard is shot just as he's about to tell Root where the Machine is.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted; Harold has to flee after the bombings despite suffering neck and back injuries, with consequences that we all know.
  • How We Got Here: The episode begins with the flashback of a distraught Harold asking the Machine "did you know?"
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Lawrence Szilard mentions that Alicia Corwin was killed last year, Root remarks, "Such a tragedy," and Finch gives her some serious side-eye.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Finch knew there would be unforeseen consequences to letting the Machine go free.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Attempted by a man at his ex-girlfriend's wedding. Then Reese and Shaw pull up on the curb, shoot the homicidal ex, congratulate the couple, and leave.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: One of the many perks from gaining admin status is the ability to detect Mooks. Reese uses it to great effect in getting rid of a Decima Technologies hit squad while Root actually has the machine customize her cues to deal with the Mooks hiding behind doors and walls.
  • Irony: Elias notes this after having his life saved by the woman he tried to kill in Season One.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: After having to suffer some smug gloating, Carter gets even with Terney by cracking the butt of her Glock over his head when she rescues Elias.
  • Law of Conservation of Normality: In spite of everything that's going on during the episode, Reese and Shaw still find time to save a few of the Irrelevant numbers that the Machine points out to them along the way.
  • Made of Iron: Shaw and Reese drive a car off a bridge, land upside down, and then walk away before the gaze of an astonished medical helicopter crew.
  • Meaningful Name: A nuclear engineer named "Lawrence Szilard."
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: Reese takes the news that Finch both received Jessica's number before she was murdered, and was the man responsible for the mission that prevented him from saving her, remarkably well. It helps that her death took place at a time when neither of them could do anything about it.
  • Mission Control: The Machine.
  • Mook Chivalry: The Decima agents keep appearing in ones and twos. Justified as they've been called in from the other public phones they've been staking out, and if the Machine wasn't telling Reese and Root where to point their guns they'd have a much tougher time of it.
  • My Greatest Failure: The event that drove Finch to protect the "non-relevant" numbers was his discovery that Nathan's death had been predicted by the Machine, but it was unable to warn them because he had blocked Nathan's access to the list.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Terney. Revealing to Carter that he was HR and threatening to murder her son was the catalyst for her to begin planning to systematically destroy his life and those of his fellow HR cops in Season 3.
    • The mass murder committed by Northern Lights protected their secret from becoming public, but it also convinced Finch to set the Machine free.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Now that the Machine has been freed of all constraints, the series starts to involve much higher stakes.
    Finch: I think we both understand that what's at stake here has moved beyond just defending the country.
  • The Oath-Breaker: Elias calls Terney one.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: Grace is convinced that Harold is dead after finding the book he was carrying among the victims' personal effects.
  • Red Alert: Shaw has an Oh, Crap! moment when the sirens stop, knowing that Northern Lights is on the scene.
  • Save the Villain: Carter saving Elias. Also, in a more minor (but equally important) example, Finch insists that the group take Root with them when they evacuate the Hanford site, because he knows that she'll be killed when Northern Lights arrives to clean the mess up.
    • It's Character Development for both characters, but most telling for Finch. In the first season, Finch insisted on saving everyone (including mob bosses), and not killing anyone unless it couldn't be helped. Then he's kidnapped by a madwoman who threatens innocents, physically harms him without warning, drugs him into compliance, and even tortures a man in front of him (and then murders the guy to boot). In the wake of this trauma, Finch had been showing occasional lapses in conscience, such as telling Reese they shouldn't be protecting a trained killer (the Finch/Reese debate is backwards from Season One), and using Root's pet term "bad code." But in this episode, the same woman who just threatened his beloved fiancee, and who so shook his worldview that, despite his protests, he'd internalized part of her abhorrent beliefs — that's the same woman he insists on saving here.
  • Season Finale: Of Season 2.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Root starts to do this by showing Szilard video footage of his daughter, but Finch intervenes. Turns out Szilard is only too willing to help Root anyway, as he supports her goal.
  • Shoot the Builder: Anyone who built the Hanford site is targeted by Northern Lights. Nathan scoffs at the idea that he might also be on a death list, and in fact this only happens when he threatens to go public. As the supposed inventor of the Machine, he would not be as expendable as the engineers.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Shaw can't believe they're chasing Irrelevant numbers when there's an impending "AI apocalypse". Reese just replies that you're expected to do both when you're the good guys.
    • Lampshaded by Special Counsel when he reprimands Shaw for her 'treason' in joining Team Machine, while facing the calamitous disappearance of the Machine itself.
  • Special Edition Title: There are no opening credits as such, just The Machine rebooting.
  • Take Up My Sword: Finch took up Nathan's crusade to save those on the Irrelevant List after his death, and hoped that Reese would do the same if he was killed. Carter takes up Reese's vigilante protector role, saving Elias despite his kidnapping her son in "Flesh and Blood".
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The government stages a suicide bombing on a ferry full of civilians in order to silence Nathan.
  • The Triple: Everyone worries that the Machine will stop sending the numbers, but the Machine sends them to Northern Lights, Team Machine...and communicates directly with Root.
  • Villainous BSoD: Root suffers from one that leaves her practically catatonic for the final ten minutes of the episode.
  • Visual Pun: Shaw handing Reese a shotgun while saying that she'll be driving the Ferrari the Machine pointed them to.
  • Voice Changeling: Special Counsel demands to know why the tech didn't call him to confirm the orders to ship out the Machine. The tech protests that he did so, implying that the Machine can imitate voices as per The Terminator.
  • The Voice/The Woman Behind the Man: The mysterious Control who gives Special Counsel his orders.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: Shaw has a big grin while racing about the city saving Irrelevant Numbers, enjoying the sheer madness of it all.
  • Wham Episode: The Machine is fully self-aware and is now controlling itself, Special Counsel was executed by his own henchman and a new Big Bad has taken his place, the cause of Nathan's death and the reason for Harold's injuries are finally revealed, The Machine is calling Root now too, and Carter saved Elias' life.
  • "What Now?" Ending: Carter's storyline ends on this note.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Root's experience with gaining, and then losing, full administrative access to The Machine is similar to the protagonist's arc in Flowers for Algernon, — the book Hanna Frey recommended to her in the flashbacks in "Bad Code".
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Almost happened, but Team Machine crashed the wedding long enough to take down the hostile wedding crasher.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Subverted; Terney says he doesn't like the idea of killing a woman, but he can always hurt Fusco or Carter's son.
  • You Have Failed Me: Done to Special Counsel.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The reveal that the Machine is no longer located in Hanford, Washington.

"Can you hear me?"