The Two Hands of Person of Interest, Season 3

Finch saves John. In the end, Finch will try to save even Collier
I recently finished watching Person of Interest, Season 3.

On the one hand, my heart sank the moment the writers introduced Vigilance. Oh, man, I thought, this is going to muck up the ending. (I was right.)

The reason: Vigilance is the worst-run activist movement in history. If I am an organization opposed to Big Brother surveillance, and I am based in New York, and I don't mind going a little too far--maybe not kill but definitely destroy--what do I do?

I vandalize street cameras.

If I have unlimited resources, I vandalize lots of them.

In the series' finale, the writers back-write the possibility that Collier et al. began this way. The problem: whatever Vigilance did to hinder surveillance affected NO ONE in NYC from our heroes to city citizens. Finch & company are never forced to fall back on "old-fashioned" investigative techniques  (like using Bear) due to Vigilance's activities. Lionel never mentions that surveillance in any part of Manhattan has suffered. More criminals don't get away.

The writers get Collier to argue that going after technology--specifically, the technology that put his brother in jail--is useless. Vigilance needs to "teach a lesson."

So . . . the group goes after the equivalent of the people who run That is, they go after a "lesson" that nobody gives a hoot about. It's a "tree falling in the forest but nobody hears" stuff and has zero impact on the world as we know it.

To sum up: this is an activist group that fails to successfully impact the news media, the police, the Machine, the public, and, for that matter, the viewer. (When Elias and the Russians were producing collateral damage on a daily basis, everyone was discussing it.)

And yet at the end of the season I'm supposed to believe that this group of home-grown terrorists has had such an impact on the mind of America that a bunch of self-serving Washington politicians have been frightened into giving up their government feeds to a private corporation.

It isn't that the latter couldn't happen (Big Business meet Big Government); it's that politicians don't expose themselves to voter dissatisfaction and ridicule by "standing up to" the equivalent of Soccer Moms Against the DMV. The public doesn't fear Vigilance. Nobody cares about them at all (this would be hilarious if the writers didn't expect me to take it seriously).

Presumably, blowing up the courthouse *is* the trigger--so why didn't Decima do that to begin with? A completely useless activist organization that nobody is talking about is not only time-consuming to start but expensive to run. It also results in massive clean-up and potential exposure. (I guess Decima is run by idiots.)

At least Hersh kidnapped his fall guy and blew up the ferry himself.

On the other hand . . .

I love the ideas that Nolan pours into the third season episodes, specifically the Machine as God. Root's fantastic faith in the face of what she perceives as senseless priorities (more about this later); Reese and Shaw's decision to follow Finch rather than the seemingly omniscient Machine (or, to be fair, to follow Finch rather than what they perceive the omniscient Machine's request to be); the idea of ownership ("MY" machine); Saul Rubinek's touching performance as Claypool and his beautiful words to Finch that describe the Machine as both supplicant and transcendent "other":
Arthur Claypool: Everything slides toward chaos. Your creation: it brings us poor souls a cupful of order. Your child is a dancing star.
Harold Finch: It's not my child; it's a machine.
Arthur Claypool: A false dichotomy. It's all electricity. Does it make you laugh? Does it make you weep?
Harold Finch: Yes.
Arthur Claypool: What's more human?
Not to forget the questions, What does the Machine want? Does the Machine understand Finch's intentions? Is the Machine still influenced by Finch's deep, abiding kindliness? Does she (or "he," according to Reese) understand what Finch is to his own creation?

Nothing points to the religious theme more strongly than the difference between Decima and Root. Both wish the Machine to be free. Yet Root (backed by Finch) sees herself as a free agent. She chooses to follow, to demonstrate faith. Their relationship is about dialog, a state of affairs that the Machine encourages. Root is all about talking to God.

Decima is about being controlled by God. Tell me *your* commands.

And it raises the interesting theological query: Does God deliberately limit himself (like Finch's Machine) in order to keep us from being Decima?

Awesome stuff.

Occasionally dumb plots.

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