The Theme of Person of Interest, Season 4: People are Complicated

Finch's still small voice.
(Spoilers) The most profound statement of Person of Interest, Season 4 occurs in the episode "Karma." Desperate to stop a husband from avenging the death of his wife, Finch cries, "Life is infinitely more complicated than that!"

Finch speaks of what he knows--his desire to avenge Nathan is halted by the Machine (as conscience) and Alicia Corwin's tremulous confession (Finch's confrontation with Alicia in this fourth-season episode pays off the first-season's tension between the two characters: Alicia's fear of an unknown assailant and Finch's odd sense of guilt regarding her).

"Life is infinitely more complicated than that!" is more or less the theme of Season 4 and explains why, generally speaking, the viewer should continue to root (ha ha) for the Machine (rather than Samaritan) and Control (rather than Greer).

Samaritan's resolution to the problem of humanity is simplistic--this is, I believe, deliberate on the part of the writers and the reason Samaritan is portrayed as a child. Killing off the most dangerous 100 people/outliers in society is silly; it ignores the tendency of human nature to break out in odd ways, to stay non-confined, to "find a way," as Malcolm says in Jurassic Park. People don't behave as bidden. They don't stay happy when supposedly given what they need and want. They don't even understand that they are supposed to be happy!

And they blame themselves for their choices. Root, Finch and John all hold themselves accountable for Shaw's "death" (only the pragmatic Fusco knows better and truly appreciates Shaw's sacrifice for what it is). The emotional climax of Season 4 occurs when Finch learns that the Machine too has blamed herself. The purpose of prior episode "If-Then-Else"--in which the audience gets to see inside "the box"--is not, as Finch would argue, to illustrate the Machine's readiness to dispose of certain team-members when necessary but to highlight the Machine's desire to resolve things to the benefit of her human companions. All along, Finch (despite his protests) and the audience (to an extent) have been led to believe what Root would have us believe: the Machine is god, remote, dictatorial, and (to Finch) beyond empathy. But the god of the final episode's title--and therefore what constitutes the nature of a god--is debated by the Machine herself.

When constrained (voluntarily) by freewill, the Machine cannot save humans through instrumentality and percentages. Neither can the Machine survive without human aid. The Machine's strength--in the long run--is the ability to trust the human penchant (and ability) to stray outside the lines.

Control strays into the Machine's camp for the same reason: although Control--who gladly justifies means to achieve ends--is not exactly on Finch's moral wavelength, she places a premium on using human agents to keep chaos at bay. Her means are questionable; her willingness to fight daily against chaos rather than completely wiping out that chaos places her on the side of Finch's angels. One maintains the world one knows; one doesn't replace it with a populace that behaves as forced by a manufactured concoction of nurture, nature, and indoctrination.

Note on John: Finch consistently speaks on behalf of his less cerebral (not less intelligent!) and more action-oriented companions. This is done without any fanfare. When John introduces Shaw to Finch, he escorts her to Finch, then steps back to allow Finch to explain their purpose. Succinct and persuasive explanations are, after all, what Finch is good at!

Yet John remains a consistent moral compass for Finch. In "Control-Alt-Delete," when Control taunts Finch ("You believe [Shaw] is dead!"), Root flinches; John, however, responds gently to Finch, not Control: "You don't know that." He alone of the group guessed what Finch had assumed and moves to combat Finch's pessimism and sense of guilt.

What each member of the team brings to the team is distinct and not always anticipated* As the Machine states, "You are not interchangeable."

The phone rings.
*One of my favorite examples of a non-anticipated response is John's readiness to hold himself, not Finch, accountable for Ordos. Finch's plan to free the Machine arguably took John away from the United States when his ex-girlfriend needed him most. But John refuses to blame Finch; his own choices led to his absence, not Finch's efforts to fix his own mistakes. Everyone is trying his or her hardest; everyone makes mistakes; the good guys keep going. It's Tolkien's morality.

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