Is Finch Finally Ready to Let the Machine Run Free?

“Sotto Voce” sure felt like they knew this was the endgame, didn’t it?In a recent Buzzfeed article, Person of Interest showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman said that even though their show wasn’t definitively canceled when they were writing the current season, they saw the writing on the wall and approached this fifth season of Person of Interest as though it were its last.

There was a trio of major events that happened to Team Machine in “Sotto Voce,” two huge neon-lit ideas for fans of the series, and one subtle but incredibly important development for Harold Finch (Michael Emerson). Let’s start with that one, which may not have been as crowd-pleasing as the other two (we’ll get to them later), but has monumental ramifications for the final four episodes of the series and answers the big question looming over Finch’s relationship with the Machine.

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The number of the week (or, with the final season burn-off, biweekly number) belonged to a man named Terry Easton (Neal Huff), who, through the magic of television twists, would later be revealed in super-cool fashion to be The Voice, the mysterious villain behind Season 3’s 911-operator-in-distress “Last Call.” As Finch tapped away on his laptop and got closer and closer to not only discovering The Voice’s true identity but also figuring out The Voice’s escape path, he made a decision that could alter the future of the series. He let frenemy Elias (Enrico Colantoni) loose on The Voice — which, in Elias’ interpretation, meant a car bomb that turned The Voice into charcoal.

Michael Emerson, Person of InterestMichael Emerson, Person of Interest

Sure, The Voice’s death was at the hands of Elias, but it actually said more about Finch than anyone else. Harold Finch is no dummy; he knew that bringing Elias into this meant it would be curtains for The Voice, which makes Finch somewhat complicit in the murder. Death and killing is part of Finch’s business, sure, but Finch has always stayed firmly in the camp of “human life is valuable,” avoiding unnecessary casualties at all costs, even when it could help them win the war. Finch allowing the murder of The Voice to happen — and yes, he had to know it at least could happen — showed that his moral compass may be spinning south.

What makes this so important is that this could also be a preview of Finch finally opening up the Machine to do what it needs to do in its battle against Samaritan. The simulations he’s run with closed versions of the Machine and Samaritan — literally millions of them, with thousands more added each minute — have all ended in Samaritan victories. Root (Amy Acker) has begged Finch to go under the Machine’s hood and give it the tools it needs to win the war, but Finch has always countered that doing so would be dangerous for everyone. Is Finch softening up his stance about the price of human life and what’s needed to do to win? As much as I respect Finch’s stance, this war won’t end without casualties, so they may as well belong to the bad guy.

On to other things! Root and Shaw (Sarah Shahi), television’s most electric couple, same-sex or otherwise, finally reunited IRL and outside of a computer simulation that ended up with someone’s brains getting splattered all over the place. But the repeated sims (7,000-plus, according to Samaritan) took their toll on Shaw’s mental stability. Can you blame her? It’s amazing she isn’t drooling out of her mouth and rolling around on the floor after what she’s been through. Telling Root that every simulation ended with her shooting herself, Shaw wasn’t ready to reunite, for fear that it would endanger Root or herself.

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Well, Root had one hell of an answer, saying that she’d shoot herself because “You can’t live with me, and I can’t live without you,” and pointed a gun at her own chin. The mutual suicide standoff gave Shaw no choice but to back off, and Shoot/Raw is back, baby! It’s the best possible Memorial Day gift we could have received.

But the best moment of the episode was so long coming that we had to wonder if it would ever happen at all. Fusco (Kevin Chapman), having voiced frustration with Finch and John Reese (Jim Caviezel) over being left out of the team meetings and generally having no idea what was going on, was finally let in on the big secret that’s been kept from him. Reese told him, “There’s a system, listening through every microphone, watching through every camera…” straight out of the show’s credit sequence. I GOT THE CHILLS, MAN! Could there be a better place for Reese to tell Fusco that than on a rooftop looking over New York City, the blissfully unaware pawns going about their business below them? It’s a monumental moment for Fusco, and one so well-deserved for such a likable character that if you didn’t get emotional, you may just be a robot. Go get that checked out.

We’ve got four episodes left to go in this wonderful series’ run, and “Sotto Voce” felt like it. The final shot of the entire team — Finch, Reese, Fusco, Root, and Shaw — back together while The National’s “Fake Empire” played was an incredible turning point for this final season, and one that didn’t leave me bummed that the series was almost over, but rather excited for what’s to come in its final four hours. What a fantastic episode.

(Full disclosure: is owned by CBS.)