Person of Interest has always been a little hard to describe. When the series debuted on CBS in 2011, many reviewers dismissed it as just another crime procedural, but one with a clever computer-centric gimmick. Even today, the final season’s packaging refers to it as both “science fiction” and a “conspiracy crime thriller”. But viewers who actually tuned in and paid attention over the past five years could describe Person of Interest in many different ways: as a slightly paranoid snapshot of the ever-increasingly digitally surveyed world in which we live in, an action-packed vigilante fantasy, a love story between two people tragically torn apart, an examination on what it actually means to be human, or even a skewed buddy comedy of sorts. At its heart, however, it has always been a story about vastly different, yet deeply flawed people coming together to fight for the common good.
In its fifth and final season (CBS canceled the series due to its budget, but there has been talk of a movie or spin-off), Person of Interest mostly found itself trying to tie up the loose ends of its complicated series mythology. At the end of season four, all that remained of “The Machine”, the computer/sentient being at the heart of the series, was a blinking briefcase of source code.
This season finds the world under the control of the Machine’s evil twin of sorts, Samaritan, a truly heartless computer program with its own ideas about right and wrong and the full support of secret branches of the US government. Its answer to all the world’s problems, ranging from unethical airplane manufacturers to pandemic outbreaks, is to send out earpiece-wearing assassins to kill whoever is predicted to be involved. Samaritan occasionally appears as text on a computer screen, or in a confusing subplot, as a blank-eyed little boy (Oakes Fegley), but most of its chilling villainy is carried out through the role of mysterious government agent John Greer (John Nolan), a true believer in Samaritan’s worldview who tries to seduce The Machine’s allies over to the dark side.
Another hallmark of season five is just how much time is spent on character development. The five series regulars that make up The Machine’s team all have their own subplots that require solo screen time in an effort to not only showcase the actors who have become fan favorites, but also give some sort of resolution to their storylines. For example, former corrupt cop Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) spends most of this season doing serious police work, investigating a series of missing persons cases that eventually lead back to Samaritan.
Meanwhile, The Machine’s “father”, former tech billionaire turned anonymous protector Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) finds himself with a crisis of conscience. He has created, for better or for worse, a computer program capable of both saving and destroying the human race, and he struggles with what to do about it. Spending most of the season hiding from Samaritan’s goons in the team’s abandoned subway station headquarters, he eventually finds himself on a one-man mission to basically delete the internet.
Regardless of Finch’s role in The Machine’s creation, its biggest ally and savior is occasionally delusional former hacker/mental patient, Root (Amy Acker). Her character, on a gradual journey towards sanity since her initial antagonistic debut in the second half of season one, not only saves The Machine with a truckload of black market PlayStation 3 consoles (It’s a long story), but also literally becomes its heart and soul at the end of the series.
It’s a little surprising that John Reese (Jim Caviezel), arguably the star of the show, is now mostly relegated to serving as a background character. Up until the big finalé, his most memorable moment is getting unceremoniously dumped by his police therapist girlfriend (Wrenn Schmidt). Still, the fact that season five was able to do all of this in 13 episodes, almost half of its usual 22-episode length, is pretty impressive.
Season five still has its share of fan pleasing “what if” scenarios, similar to season four’s more outlandish plot devices (such as the episode that was filled with fake death scenarios or Taraji P. Henson’s guest appearance as a ghost/hallucination of her former character). “.Exe”, for example, deals with what would have happened to the individual members of the team if The Machine had never been invented (including this season’s only reference to Detective Carter, pictured in a fictitious photograph.) Shaw (Sarah Shahi)’s big return in “6,741” features many death scenes and what will likely be a much-talked about love scene, but viewers might be disappointed with the way the episode ends.
What makes Person of Interest a pleasure to watch is its ability to include the levity and stand-alone episodic plots required to be a interesting TV series. Episodes like “A More Perfect Union”, in which Reese and Finch crash a wedding in order to stop an assassin, or the computer glitch-based farce “SNAFU” could even be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with the rest of the series.
Without giving too much away, I can say the final episode (“Return 0”) has some tearjerker moments, but there are enough happy endings to serve as a satisfying conclusion to the series. However, it’s an earlier episode, the slightly superior “Synecdoche”, that leaves the door open for a potential spin-off featuring different characters.
Person of Interest: The Fifth And Final Season is available on standard DVD, but due to the show’s new look (many scenes were shot outdoors in several different greenery-filled locations that allowed more color and natural sunlight to seep through), Blu-ray is the better choice. The menu navigation is a little confusing (the contents of every individual disc is listed on all three discs, prompting frequent “please insert disc 1, 2, or 3” messages), but my biggest complaint remains the relatively scant bonus features. There’s footage of the cast’s panel discussion at the 2015 Comic-Con and two separate round-table interviews with Michael Emerson and the show’s producers, but considering the history of the show, viewers should have gotten more retrospective featurettes as well. Season Five is also a part of Person of Interest: The Complete Series, which is also now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.