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Recap / Person Of Interest S 03 E 23

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Season 3, Episode 23

Deus Ex Machina

Root: This was never about winning... it's just about surviving.

After the events of the previous episode, things are looking bleak for Team Machine — they're literally and figuratively "in the dark," caught in the middle of a blacked-out New York City, separated from one another, and almost entirely cut off from the Machine's guidance. Finch is in the hands of Vigilance, who are looking for a scapegoat to publicly punish for Northern Lights's surveillance project (an act of treason in their eyes). Root, who remains in touch with the Machine directly, attempts to infiltrate a Decima facility (along with Shaw, who arrives later to cover her ass) as part of a last-ditch effort to thwart the threat Samaritan poses to the Team. Fusco is busy attempting to contain rioting and looting as part of the NYPD. This leaves Reese alone in his efforts to rescue Finch from Vigilance's clutches, once again forcing him to team up with a former enemy in order to effectively cover as much ground as possible.

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Tropes present in this episode include:

  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Root brushes some mud off Shaw's cheek. Curiously, Shaw doesn't break her hand (she settles on taking a deep breath and rolling her eyes but accepts the touch anyways).
  • Agent Provocateur: A Vigilance member who wants them to adopt more radical methods turns out to be an FBI agent. Collier kills him, ironically providing this.
  • Aside Glance: In-Universe. Finch looks at the camera at the trial just before dumping all the information about the Machine.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Granted his methods were rather extreme, but Collier thought he was doing what was best for the people of the US. It must have been harsh to find out he did all that for nothing.
  • Bait-and-Switch: It looks like Control will betray Finch to save herself, while Greer promises to protect him. Control refuses to name Finch, while Greer intends to kill him after his Batman Gambit succeeds.
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  • Batman Gambit: Decima Technologies have been assembling one and during this episode, put it into action. By the end of the episode, all their enemies are dead or on the run and they've successfully completed everything that they've set out to do.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Decima thoroughly annihilates Team Machine's infrastructure, leaving them with little more than their new cover identities.
  • The Bard on Board: Greer paraphrases Hamlet:
    What a piece of work is your Machine, Harold. In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Collier kills Manuel Rivera when he starts disputing his right to trial them.
  • Breaking the Fellowship
  • Broken Masquerade: Subverted. Finch did tell the court (and, he believed, the world) about the Machine, but the courtroom is blown up and the only ones who survive knew about it already.
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  • Bullet Proof Human Shield: Hersh, with Guns Akimbo for good measure.
  • Call-Back:
    • Hersh steals someone's bike the same way he got himself sent to jail, by shooting into the air.
    • Root's cover identity photo is that of Caroline Turing. Shaw's is that of Nadya Ferraro.
    • Decima appeared on Northern Lights' radar due to an RFID implant they recovered from Alicia Corwin's body. It appears here as the method of accessing Samaritan's server room, in lieu of a key card or more conventional biometric locks.
    • Rylatech equipment is used to broadcast the trial.
    • Root points out their window to stop Samaritan ended when they failed to kill Congressman McCourt.
    • Yet another season-ending Call-Back to the pilot episode.
    Reese: I tried to quit, but some jackass told me I needed a purpose.
    • As the SWAT team tear up the library a file spills onto the floor, with photos of past Numbers including Joss Carter.
  • Chekhov's Gun; The seven servers Root stole are used to hardwire seven gaps in Samaritan's surveillance — the false identities of Root, Shaw, Reese, Finch, and the three hackers who were helping Root.
  • The Chessmaster: Greer and Decima created Vigilance to expose and shut down Northern Lights and later frame them for a staged terrorist attack to goad the U.S. Government into allowing Decima's open system access to the government feeds.
  • Cliffhanger: Calculating response...
  • Climactic Music: Radiohead's "Exit Music (For A Film)."
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Alone and trapped on a rooftop with Lambert aiming a Glock 19 at him and getting ready to pull the trigger, Finch is saved by John getting up there in time to screw up Lambert's aim with a well-placed bullet.
  • Cool Car: Fusco turns up in an armoured NYPD Hummer.
  • Coup de Grâce: After Team Machine does their kneecapping thing, Hersh finishes them off with a bullet in the head.
  • Determinator: Hersh. Takes several bullets near the climax but still does his damnedest to defuse a large bomb which Decima has planted. Ultimately, he fails.
  • Deus Est Machina:
    Greer: Good morning.
    Samaritan: What are your commands?
    Greer: I assure you, it's quite the other way around. The question is, what, my dear Samaritan, are your commands for us?
    Samaritan: Calculating response...
  • Deus ex Machina: Averted. Nothing comes out of the blue to save Team Machine this time, the title refers to Samaritan going fully active.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Hersh and Reese use hockey masks to get someone from Vigilance to think they're part of it themselves. Shaw and Root do the Mugged for Disguise version.
  • Famous Last Words: Hersh is trying to defuse the bomb.
    Reese: Hersh, get out of there now.
    Hersh: [trying to cut a wire] I can get it...
  • False Flag Operation:
    Greer: Gods are not easily born. And to bring mine into being, I needed a devil.
  • Foreshadowing: Vigilance using a Rylatech satellite to "stream" the trial across the world. What was the name of that company that had agents planted inside Rylatech, and thus has control over their technology? The Machine appears to notice this as it recognizes an anomaly with the transmission.
    • In the previous episode, when Greer was talking to Senator Garrison about the sudden kidnappings, the former noted "We don't have much time". At that very moment, who walked in? Collier. A vague hint that Greer had organized his own capture from the beginning.
    • Also, the previous episode showed that he had brought a large security detail with him to conduct his operation and during "A House Divided" when he gets "captured", they're conspicuously absent and reappear in this episode to destroy Vigilance and rescue their boss.
    • It also explains how Vigilance knew where to find them.
    • Even more so during the trial apart from the others who were stoic, terrified or defiant in the face of a shotgun-wielding Peter Collier, Greer was the only one smirking and jovial, a hint that he knew the trial was staged and he wasn't in danger.
    • Fusco has no idea what broadcast Reese and Hersh are talking about. Likewise the news broadcasts are only focusing on the power blackout.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Decima frames a bunch of privacy terrorists for a major terror attack.
  • Game Changer: Samaritan is online. The library has been compromised. Team Machine can't move beyond the bounds of their cover identities, or they will be detected and eliminated by Samaritan.
  • Go Fetch: Bear brings Reese another gun during a firefight.
  • Heroic Sacrifice/Chronic Hero Syndrome:
    • Finch offers his own life for those of Greer, Control and Garrison. He then tries the same with Collier after Greer turns on them. Both fail.
    • Hersh takes multiple gunshot wounds attempting to defuse the very large bomb Decima has set up, but expires due to his injuries before he is able to prevent its detonation.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Hersh jacks a biker and gave it to Shaw so she can catch up to Root.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: It's no longer an option for Team Machine to hide given the massive surveillance abilities Samaritan has, so they need an innocuous identity. Fusco is the only exception; either because his link to Team Machine is unknown, or because his ignorance of the Machine means he's not a threat.
  • Hollywood Law: The charges Collier lays against the people in his Kangaroo Court include treason. This has a very specific definition under the Constitution which the Northern Lights program doesn't qualify for (though this doesn't make any of the other charges technically wrong). Nobody calls him out on this, though Control does call him out on the fact that his interpretation of due process is an outright farce.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: More Les Yay between Shaw and Root. "I'll do yours if you do mine."
  • Hope Spot: Team Machine has failed for now, but they are alive. Root even uses Pandora's Box as an analogy.
  • Hypocrite: Peter Collier, who states that illegal surveillance is wrong, prosecutes the Northern Lights defendants... using illegal wiretaps.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Collier was convinced to join Vigilance after being told "Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered". Greer tells him the same thing, revealing that it was he in fact who created Vigilance.
    • An In-Universe version; given Collier's fondness for quoting Revolutionary War heroes, Greer quotes Benjamin Franklin for his Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • Irony: Greer wants a world governed by benevolent computer overlords devoid of human biases. The analogy he invokes is...the Greek pantheon.
  • Just in Time:
    • Reese shoots Lambert milliseconds before he would have executed Finch.
    • Reese and Finch walk out of the library moments before a NYPD SWAT team storm the place.
  • Kangaroo Court: Collier claims that it isn't, and admittedly, the lengths to which he goes are a lot greater than you would expect: the defendants have a defense attorney, a jury, and the media has access to it. The one problem: all of them were brought in at gunpoint. The judge is also a member of Vigilance, the defense lawyer doesn't get to speak with his "clients" (or at all), the jury isn't given time for deliberation, etc. Plus, Collier summarily executes Rivera on the stand, and is going to just execute everyone else when The Cavalry show up.
  • Karmic Death: Of all people it's Collier who turns into this, when Greer has him shot, after informing the man that all his actions were for nothing and helped pave the way for the establishment of another omnipotent surveillance system.
  • Kill 'Em All: The members of Vigilance are hunted down and killed by Decima or the NYPD.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Reese and Hersh have to split up to search the courthouse, leading to Hersh's death.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Fusco.
    Fusco: What machine?
  • Long Last Look: Finch when they abandon the Library. Finch/Reese and Shaw/Root exchange final looks before Breaking the Fellowship.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Decima has been this for Vigilance the whole time.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong
    Finch: Thank you for protecting me, although I am baffled as to why.
    Control: The same reason I've done everything, Harold. For my country. And you can't help me if you're dead.
  • Not So Different: Collier addressing Control; his words could apply equally to himself.
    Collier: I believe you love your country. I believe that when you started, people thought what you were doing made a lot of sense. But it's gone too far, and it has to stop.
  • New Era Speech:
    Greer: I'm glad that you've lived long enough to see the dawn of the new world you created, Harold. But the time has come for your god, and mine, to do battle. And, regrettably, our paths diverge here.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: As of the end of the episode, the members of Team Machine must separate and assume their cover identities, lest Samaritan detect them.
  • Oppressive States of America: Decima creates the beginnings of one when Samaritan finally gets the government surveillance feeds. Fully demonstrated with Samaritan racking up potential "Deviants" to be terminated along with Decima assets and American law enforcement gunning down the remnants of Vigilance en masse using the information Samaritan provided to track and eliminate them.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: Finch offers himself as the person responsible to Vigilance if they let the others go.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Samaritan classifies potential threats through "deviance". Naturally, over 20 million Americans count.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Greer, to Collier.
    Greer: Three can keep a secret, so long as two of them are dead.
  • The Purge: A montage shows the elimination of Vigilance, and Samaritan identifying thousands of targets for elimination, starting with Team Machine.
  • “The Reason You Suck” Speech:
    • Control delivers an epic one against Collier, invoking her own personal experience on 9/11 when she dealt with the aftermath of the plane which tore through the Pentagon and calls him out on his actions as terrorist:
    Control: Where were you when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon? Because I was inside it. I carried out the wounded. I covered up bodies. And I have spent every day since putting bullets in the heads of the people responsible, and in anyone else who even thinks that they can do that to our country again. You want to shoot me because I had to tap a few phone calls, read a few e-mails, then you go right ahead. But you better turn that gun on yourself next, Mr. Collier, because you have broken just as many laws, and the only difference is I didn't wrap myself up in the American flag, and try to convince people that I was a hero.
    • Greer also doesn't miss a beat when systematically shattering Collier's beliefs.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Manuel Rivera, though more in regards to simply this episode than the season.
  • Samaritan Syndrome:
    Root: I'm sorry, Harold. I know it's not enough...
  • Sealed Evil in a Can
    Root: We're inside a sleeping giant, Shaw. Try not to wake it up.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Just before he dies, Collier finds out that Vigilance is nothing more than a smokescreen created by Decima to further their own ends, and that everything he did ultimately ended up playing into their master plan by creating a legitimate terror threat that Greer exploited to justify seizing control of the U.S. government's surveillance feeds.
  • Shout-Out: to The Prisoner:
    Root: When the whole world is watched, filed, indexed, numbered, the only way to disappear is to appear, hiding our true identities inside a seemingly ordinary life. You're not a free man anymore, Harold. You're just a number.
  • The Reveal:
    Greer: It's high time you and I had a talk about the true nature of Vigilance.
  • Take Me Instead: Finch offers himself to Vigilance in exchange for the lives of everyone else.
  • The Unmasked World: Subverted. It looks like Collier's Kangaroo Court about the existence of Northern Lights is streaming to millions of people worldwide, thus exposing the existence of the Machine to everyone, but in reality, the video is actually being streamed on a closed network to a Decima facility, and virtually all of those millions of viewers are bots on a server.
  • Trash the Set: Happens when the library's location is compromised by Samaritan. Even The Big Board is smashed.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Collier.
  • Villainous Rescue: Greer's security detail arrives and kills off most of Collier's men, saving Finch, Garrison, Control and Greer.
  • Villainous Valour: Control is Defiant to the End when facing Collier on the stand, and refuses to expose Finch to save herself. Hersh stays in a futile attempt to defuse the bomb despite several gunshot wounds.
  • We Need a Distraction: Vigilance black out the city and stage acts of vandalism to divert the attention of the police.
  • Wham Episode: The mother of all Wham Episodes. The government gives Samaritan full access, Team Machine abandons the library and goes into hiding, and Decima is poised to take over the world.
  • Wham Line: "Mr. Collier...you didn't really think this was a democracy, did you?
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Shaw wants to blow up Samaritan's server room, but Root explains it's just one of thousands all over the world.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Decima created Vigilance and used them to shut down Northern Lights then frame them for a major terrorist attack that would justify Samaritan's activation.
  • You Are Too Late: And Root/The Machine has known this all along.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Greer has Lambert blow away Collier after revealing to him that he wasted four years of his life becoming a terrorist and unwittingly helped pave the way for the sort of evil he despised.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Played with. While before a Vigilante Firing Squad, Finch urges Collier to stick to their agreement that he will spare the others in exchange for his confession. We see Collier hesitate...and then Decima performs a Villainous Rescue, so we never know what his decision would have been.

Calculating response...
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