The "Person of Interest" Season 2 premiere, "The Contingency," answered many of the questions left over from Season 1 while creating many more questions that need answering. And just like that, the intrigue of the already intriguing series has been raised by a factor of 10.
The episode only partially solved the question of how smart the Machine is. Now the question is, how far will it go? Is it really smart enough to make decisions about what is right and wrong, or to "stretch" the limits of its programming? If so, could it be considered "alive"?
The Machine becomes a new character
Throughout the episode, we see flashbacks to the days when Finch (Michael Emerson) was programming the Machine. In the flashbacks, Finch communicates with the Machine as if it is a human who cannot speak. It answers by sending short text messages and ringing Finch's phone a specified number of times.
Later, Reese (Jim Caviezel) communicates with the Machine in a different way -- by asking it for help in finding Finch. This level of communication with a Machine brings the show to a new place, somewhere between "science drama" and science fiction. We can communicate with our phones on a low level, but how far a journey is it to creating artificial life? That fuzzy area makes the show a great option for lovers of drama and science fiction alike.
What is the Contingency?
Reese deduces that he must be the Contingency, because it leads him to a man who needs help (Ken Leung): the sort of case Finch usually gives him. The Machine doesn't want Reese to find Finch! He only wants him to keep helping people.
Later, however, the Contingency (Reese) goes awry when he threatens the Machine that he'll remove himself from the equation unless it (he? she?) helps him find Finch, thereby forcing the Machine to make a decision. It seems to decide on Finch's side, but we'll see.
Reese as the Contingency is a great leap forward for the series, giving the character a whole new place in the food chain. Reese now knows the secret to communicating with the Machine, after having received the clues from it and figuring out how to translate them into the social security number of a person. It will be interesting to see how they work together once Finch is back in the fold.
Fusco is jealous of Carter
The episode had plenty of its usual lighthearted comedy relief, mostly in the form of Fusco (Kevin Chapman). Fusco is still doing the right thing, despite complaining bitterly about it. Carter (Taraji P. Henson) is like the big sister, while Fusco is the whiny little brother having tantrums. The relationship between the two of them is interesting and hilarious.
Fusco seems genuinely upset to learn that Carter gets to be on a first name basis with Reese. He also whines about Carter getting a better task than he gets. You can't, however, blame him for being upset about an assignment that leads to him getting bound and gagged, and nearly killed by a dog!
Root is truly a psychopathic woman
Root (Amy Acker) has come to think that people are just "bad code" who have come as far as they can in their evolution. People (such as her, for example) can do horrible things. The Machine, on the other hand, is "perfect." Her goal seems to be to set the Machine free, to perhaps become the new "human," fixing all of the problems in the world. Finch wants to protect the Machine from people like her (and even from himself), who want to use it to "fix" people.
The question of whether machines can be used to fix or replace people has been asked before. We currently create machines that can take over the tasks of people. Sometimes it creates opportunities. But what Root is suggesting, the replacement of humans, is of course insane. Or is it? It will be interesting to see how far the story will go in attempting to answer that question. Perhaps it is only Root's "code" that is bad.