PERSON OF INTEREST: Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman Interview re Season 2 Finale and the Deadly Tug-Of-War for The Machine (2013)


In the first season finale last year, we found out that The Machine was more than just a computer spitting out numbers – it was a form of artificial intelligence.  We also were introduced to the mysterious person known as Root (Amy Acker), who had the audacity to kidnap Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) right out from under John Reese’s (Jim Caviezel) nose.  In addition, as this second season has demonstrated, Root is not someone to underestimate.  She is ruthless, a super genius, and she will do anything to get her hands on The Machine.  But she doesn’t want to possess or control The Machine, she wants to set it free.  Free to do what?  That is the scary question.  In a recent exclusive interview, creators and executive producers Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman candidly shared who now has control of The Machine and whose life may be sacrificed in protecting The Machine.

"Person of Interest"
“Person of Interest”

You’ve brought back Root (Amy Acker) and you’ve brought back Shaw (Sarah Shahi). It seems like there is going to be a big collision of people and their priorities in the finale. So what can you tease about it?
JONAH:  I think it is a question of how every season we try to raise the stakes. We love these characters, we love these relationships and, perversely, we love nothing more than challenging those relationships – smashing them to pieces – killing off great characters.  Some one should fire us and say, “Stop killing off great characters!”  We’re completely irresponsible.  (Laughs) But I think towards the end of the season the big questions we have been really asking this season is:  Who is Harold Finch?  Why does he do the things he’s done?  And what do those decisions mean for the future?  We aim to answer all of those questions — and we aim to answer many of those questions in the finale.

You also brought back Grace (Carrie Preston).  It was fun to see that little romantic moment between Harold and Grace in the middle of the last episode.  Is she going to have a part to play in the finale as well?
JONAH:  Yes, she is and I wish I could say it was a happy part – but sadly that is not where our story is headed.

"Person Of Interest"
“Person Of Interest”

It also feels like you’ve set it up so that The Machine is its own entity — and it may not be aligned with Reese and Finch anymore. Is that correct?
GREG:  That is a big question for the finale: Who controls The Machine now? And what does that mean for the future?

Are we possibly looking at another force or entity that we are not aware of?
GREG:  I think it is safe to say that The Machine is bucking against the constraints that Harold imposed on it.
JONAH:  I would say that the identity of the entity that is in control of The Machine at the end of the finale will be a surprise to most people.

It seems you set it up in a way that perhaps Harold’s former partner, Nathan (Brett Cullen), might somehow be connected to The Machine, whether he is still alive or not.  Is that reaching too far to imagine that a person could be tied up into the consciousness of The Machine?
GREG: I think that’s a fun notion. And certainly the question of how much of Nathan and how much of Harold is in The Machine is something we can continue to explore.  It’s made after themselves. So to the degree it was fashioned in the image of its maker – well, that’s getting a little bit biblical there – but the truth is that we have been interested since the beginning in: what artificial intelligence would be?  I think a lot of versions of that, which I’ve seen in science fiction is dystopian, where immediately A.I. becomes self-aware and it leads to nuclear Armageddon. Where we suspect that is not the case and there’s a weird anthropocentrism to that: “well, humans are good (and that’s up for debate), and machines are bad.”  Our show kind of takes a different tact on that, which is Finch is a careful, considerate person and this intelligence that he built is certainly and, at the very least, thoughtful.  The question of what exactly is the nature of that interaction between artificial intelligence and old-fashioned human intelligence, really that’s what the show is about and that’s what it will continue to be about.

"Person Of Interest"
“Person Of Interest”

You had initially set it up at the end of the first season where Root was the bad guy. She wanted to set The Machine free and we wanted to get Harold back and to keep control of The Machine.  So do you think The Machine sees Root as friend or foe?
JONAH:  That’s a really good question.
GREG:  Certainly what Root is espousing are things that Harold can understand, whether he agrees with them or not. And she is clearly a worthy adversary, someone who can fully comprehend the magnitude of what Harold’s created.  I think in and of itself those are attributes that make her a fascinating character, or villain if you see her as such.

The virus —  is it actually a reset or is it something else?
JONAH:  I think in last week’s episode the virus storyline paid off in full in the sense that the virus was an attempt – and we had to pack a lot of story into that episode – what we resolved was that the virus was an attempt by Decima, using code they found on a laptop that Reese and Stanton had tried to retrieve in China in flashback. That virus was designed and altered by Decima in order to force The Machine into this “god mode” and into giving them access to it for 24 hours.  Of course what Root wants to do with that access – Root, Harold, Reese and Shaw are working somewhat at cross-purposes, but all are working against Decima – proved to be too formidable.  Decima has now left the stage for this season.  The fall-out from what happened in last week’s episode involves other people.  So at this point, the virus has played its part.  The Machine is cracked wide-open and as discovered in the last minute of the last episode, both Root and Reese have for 24 hours an all-access pass.

Just who or what the “other people” are and what stake they have in controlling The Machine shall be revealed in this week’s episode.  So be sure to tune in on Thursday, May 9th at 9:00 p.m. on CBS for the gripping 2nd season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST.

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