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‘Person of Interest’ EPs Serve Up Death and Closure in Final Season

by  in TV News Comment
‘Person of Interest’ EPs Serve Up Death and Closure in Final Season

It’s man and the Machine versus machine in the fifth and final season of “Person of Interest” on CBS. The series revolves around reclusive billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and former CIA agent John Reese (Jim Caviezel), who — along with a few allies — team up to prevent crimes before they happen using an advanced artificial intelligence surveillance system dubbed “the Machine.”

Season 4 culminated with a ruthless rival AI, known as Samaritan, orchestrating the Machine’s dismantling. The May 3 “Person of Interest” season premiere picks up almost immediately after those events with the team scattered and on the run — desperate to somehow rebuild the Machine, in order to put an end to Samaritan.

Executive Producer Greg Plageman — along with a quick cameo from fellow EP Jonathan Nolan — recently spoke to SPINOFF about Team Machine’s dire circumstances, the return of Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and the inevitable Machine and Samaritan rematch.

SPINOFF Online: Season 4 ended with the destruction of the Machine. How is Harold Finch dealing with saying goodbye to his creation?

Greg Plageman: The story we want to tell right out of the gate was how dire the situation was. We saw in the finale last year how much Harold Finch actually cared for Machine when faced with its imminent death. The task for Harold and Team Machine this year becomes, “How can they possibly reconstitute this thing? And, if they do so, as is explored in the premiere, will it be different this time?” That’s what Harold Finch has to decide. “When you are living in this Samaritan-dominant world, what are our alternatives? Can Harold Finch help rebuild this machine and help our guys fight back?”

The ultimate goal is to bring the Machine back — is there a trial and error process?

Plageman: Most definitely. What you are going to see is just how dominant Samaritan has become. Even conducting simulations, it’s how veracious Samaritan is at destroying the Machine. “How in the world can we possibly rebuild this thing, and create something that can protect our guys, when it’s down so low right now?”

In the premiere, Harold notes the team is delving into “uncharted waters.” What challenges are they facing without the Machine?

Plageman: As you can see from scenes like Root (Amy Acker) on the train, where all of a sudden ordinary people’s phones just start to light up next to them, you realize you are living in a world where you are not only being watched at all times, but every microphone can pick you up. Not only that, Samaritan is now reaching out, issuing propaganda and misinformation to other people in a way that is terrifying. But, there is nowhere to go. Your identities are blown and you are being hunted. How in the world can our guys even conduct any form of resistance when they are being watched at all times and hunted?

The group comes across as scattered at this point. They are operating on their own merits…

Plageman: And what sort of skills can they call upon? Root reaches back in her past to find a new identity. Our guys are wondering if their new identities will even hold up in this world. We live in a world now where most people get their information and news from social media, which is pretty terrifying if you think about it. That’s not news. That’s tailored to you. That’s what you want to read and hear. What’s that look like if it was a Samaritan-dominated world?

How is the criminal underworld operating in the wake of Elias (Enrico Colantoni) and Dominic’s (Winton Duke) demise?

Plageman: What we wanted to show is if Samaritan had the power to reach out and destroy anybody it deemed as subversive. In their own odd ways, Dominique and Elias, even being criminal overlords, had their charm. They were operating outside the parameters of ordinary society. In a Samaritan world, Samaritan can choose to deal with them in any way it wants to. On the plus side, it could eliminate crime.

Shaw has been missing in action. In what ways does her return shake up the team?

Plageman: It’s a real mind-bender. Shaw has been gone so long. We don’t know what happened to her. When she returns, you’ll see Root is ecstatic about her return, but there’s also a level of trepidation. We don’t know what exactly went on with Shaw. It becomes an issue of trust. We know she’s been put through the wringer.

We miss the character so much. She was damaged in her own way already. She’s a sociopath with a personality disorder, but, at least she was our sociopath. Now we’re not sure where her allegiance lies. That’s where it becomes tricky for all of our characters and how they deal with her and understand what exactly happened to Shaw and whether or not she can be trusted.

Viewers witnessed a softer side of John Reese with him grieving over Carter’s (Taraji P. Henson) death and developing a recent love interest. What is his arc this season?

Plageman: John Reese realized the most important thing in the world right now is Harold Finch and his machine. Maybe a big sacrifice is going to have to be made in order to save it. That was John Reese’s mission all along. His relationship with Harold Finch is to get Harold to understand the importance of his machine. Harold now understands if he’s able to reconstitute the machine, he can’t put any limitations on it. It’s our only viable alternative. John Reese is integral to Harry Finch coming to that revelation.

What can you tease about the inevitable Machine and Samaritan rematch?

Plageman: What we’ve always stipulated is if these two things confronted each other, it would be total destruction. They would attempt to cancel each other out or subdue the other one. The trick for our characters this year becomes not only how do we reconstitute it, but how do we allow the Machine to grow where it becomes something viable that can actually be used to take on Samaritan? Up until this point in time, Harold Finch’s relationship with the Machine was he tried to keep it at arm’s length. We saw in the finale last year a genuinely emotional moment where Harold Finch was confronted with the Machine’s imminent demise. He showed how much he really cared for this thing. What you are going to see happen, as we start to rebuild the Machine this season, is how much further we can take that in terms of giving a voice to the Machine.

“Person of Interest” received a smaller, 13-episode count for Season 5. How has that affected your storytelling and the show’s pace?

Plageman: For us, it’s obviously disappointing to hear that we had the reduced order out of the gate. But, then there was a moment where we sat back and said, “Well, okay. If this is it, let’s go for it.” The 13-episode order in some ways freed us up to tell a more compelling, larger arc that felt connected. In the past, when we had larger season orders, we tended to do three or four episode arcs and then veer off in a different direction and come back around. There was always a larger story, but this felt more like a straight shot. It felt like an opportunity to really go for it and tell a story that had a real end, that had a satisfying resolution for our fans. I think we did an admiral job. I really liked what we came up with.

Greg, you are stepping behind the camera for the very first time in the episode, “.exe.” What spoke to you about that script?

Plageman: For me, it was an opportunity to tell Harold Finch’s story. You are going to see a different Harold Finch, particularly down the stretch and understanding what he is capable of. In order to get there, we had to tell a story where Harold Finch would understand what the world would look like if his machine had never been built. For me, the opportunity to be on the set and work with Michael Emerson, John Nolan — those two together was unbelievable. To see what they can do and the nuances that they give you was incredible. I wanted to tell a smaller, character-based story, for obvious reasons. Every time we do stunts and blow things up, it’s money and time. This was super-compelling to me and sets us up for an emotional finale and to really go out with a bang.

This is “Person of Interest’s” last season. How much closure can audiences expect in the show’s finale?

Jonathan Nolan: It will be closure in the way that we like to deliver it best, which is in the form of death. There will be a great deal of closure.

Plageman: I’m really proud of this show. We talk about “The X-Files” a lot. We talked about shows that had an episodic feel, but also had a larger story to tell. I also think the shows that stick to you like the “Twilight Zone” become adjectives almost. When you describe something as, “You’ve entered the ‘Twilight Zone,'” we all know what that means because of what that show did. If this is it for the show, I almost wish “Person of Interest” would become an adjective. But the big thing for me is did we tell an interesting, compelling show and was it about something else? It clearly was, and that’s what I’m most proud of.

The fifth and final season of “Person of Interest” starts at 10 tonight on CBS.

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