As Benjamin Franklin said, Three men may keep a secret — if two of them are dead.
Person of Interest
, (POI) unlike Game of Thrones and Madmen is neither fantasy nor nostalgic but contains evil both massive and banal. The story now in its fourth season is described as "A former CIA operative is recruited by an enigmatic billionaire to prevent violent crimes.". However, more relevant to DK is exactly the kind of humorless matter that causes DK pie fights over security theater and its security state except the drones and digital surveillance actually have a certain reality given pathos by its characters or rather their shifting identities. Unlike the Brazilian pubic wax of most TV fare, this series is more like the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil
, where small details matter in a large cybernetic bureaucracy and the fears and criminality of a National Security State are in full flower. The series began much like series like Leverage
or the much older Equalizer
, where the conflict was solved by human agency with POI's difference located in the seemingly random selection of numbers representing individual people sentenced to die not so much by random fate but by a massive global supercomputer network "The Machine" whose probability estimation of that individual's demise where the notice of that forthcoming death is transmitted to a small team of vigilantes including its original maker. Every one of this series's heroes is psychologically damaged in very serious ways related to actions performed for the government whether National or local since the series is mainly set in NYC. Death for them ultimately gets cheated by a “Deus Ex Machina”, the name of this season's finale. The beauty of POI is the plausibility of the first season's narratives as being relatively local to New York and highly relevant to primarily police corruption by an NYPD rogue organization called HR, but the lingering omnipresent machine tracking us via the complex CGI graphics that bracket each episode and its scene breaks comes to the anachronistic payphones that we see less and less in urban areas. A payphone will ring just as one of the main characters passes by. Less clear is how the potential victim is identified so quickly, which in some ways moves the narrative, that we all including the Machine don't have all the information. This is a program with very strong female characters and plenty of close quarter battle situations, as well as the usual cellphone or computer interaction with some omniscient supercomputer network. What has changed in this season's last episode is the issue that a competing machine was created as well as the projection of artificial intelligence into the overarching narrative such that the Machine like its competitor, Samaritan has the capability for human dominance even to the ability to move itself out of danger or in the case of Samaritan, to become precisely what our dystopian fears imagine - a machine operated by private capital that takes over government information and executes all presumed enemies without democratic processes using human agents with embedded RF-ID chips. Survival is the concluding message this week as all of the major characters will have new names in the next seasons since they only just escape a libertarian terrorist organization unknowingly created by the owners of Samaritan, one of whom is a former MI-6 agent.
Coincidentally PBS Frontline presented United States of Secrets a reconsideration of the case of Thomas Drake who was charged with violation of the Espionage Act in terms of leaking classified information extending from the Bush administration through the Obama administration. This of course moves to the Edward Snowden intelligence leak of 1.7 million documents which will be covered in Part II "Privacy Lost". Reality meets fantasy in far more imaginable contexts as we enter the Summer, noting of course that the same issues exist in the series on AMC Turn which is about the American Colonial spy ring.
Tonite's season finale article featured POI's executive producers' Jonathan Nolan & Greg Plageman take on the season finale broadcast on 13 May. This is its IMDB synopsis and hope that previous episodes are worth your time:
A billionaire software-genius named Harold Finch creates a Machine for the government that is designed to detect acts of terror before they can happen, by monitoring the entire world through every cell-phone, email and surveillance camera. Finch discovered that the machine sees everything, potential terrorist acts and violent crimes that involve ordinary people. When the government considered violent crimes between normal people "irrelevant", Finch built a back door into the system that gives him the social security number of a person involved in a future violent crime so he could act. Partnered with John Reese, an ex-CIA agent, the two work in secret to prevent violent crimes before they can happen. Eventually their activities lead to being hunted by the New York Police Department, CIA Agents in pursuit of Reese who was listed as dead, a computer hacker named Root who wants access to the Machine, and government officials who want to keep all knowledge of the Machine a complete secret