Person of Interest Bosses on the Premiere's Format Twist, Machine Drama, and Fusco's Journey

Marisa Roffman
Person of Interest, Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson Spoiler Alert
John Paul Filo/CBS

Spoiler alert! This post contains spoilers for the Person of Interest Season 5 premiere.

The Machine is back on Person of Interest, but its functionality remains to be seen.

Team Machine managed to get the very compressed AI back to the subway sanctuary—after run-ins with Samaritan operatives and dealing with the Machine's dwindling battery—they were finally able to restart their vital asset...albeit after it overheated.

Elsewhere, Fusco (Kevin Chapman) was interrogated about the suspicious deaths of Elias (Enrico Colantoni) and Dominic (Winston Duke). He was surprised to learn he was cleared and was being hailed a hero—though he kept insisting some unknown person really took out the criminals.

We spoke with Person of Interest bosses Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman about what comes next for the CBS series.

The very beginning of the episode kicked off with a Root (Amy Acker) voice over, set sometime in the future, as viewers saw the abandoned subway sanctuary. At what point will the show catch up to that moment?
Jonathan Nolan: It’s going to take some time to catch up there.
Greg Plageman: I have never quite seen a season that began with the end before, so it takes a while to get back there.

Right now, Fusco was let off the hook for what happened with Elias and Dominic, but he's intent on getting to the bottom of what went down. How dangerous will that journey be?
Plageman: Fusco’s an interesting character; he’s always maintained his real identity. The reason we kept him at arm’s length in terms of the world of the Machine and Samaritan was for his own good. If they knew who he was, they could get to him, and consequently get to our guys. It was always with a reason we kept him on a need to know basis. The collision this year for Lionel is that world of Samaritan has become so dominant now, that it’s starting to creep into his everyday life, and his ability to do his job. He’s a homicide investigator; he investigates things. That’s the path he chooses to go down for his own sanity. And unfortunately, it could wind up being the thing that gets him killed.

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The final moments of the episode saw the Machine turning back on. Now that Root knows how deep Samaritan has wormed its way into the general public's devices/lives, how will that impact her influence on any possible changes to the newest version of the Machine?
Nolan: I think she makes the point early in the season that they’re totally f---ed. Greg and I have been working together on the show for a long time, watching with dismay as even post-Snowden revelations, you see that the general public—we all use phones; I don’t use social, I don’t use Facebook and Twitter. We’re aware now the government might be the most benign of people who are growing digital versions of us inside servers somewhere in an effort to understand and control us: our spending habits, the s--t that we buy, the stuff that we think.

The reason that Samaritan hasn’t been an easy enemy to defeat is we’re not defeating it. Big Data is out there. We don’t seem to give a s--t. Years on, nothing has happened, nothing has changed. Other than this absurd proxy, with Apple—of all companies—as some f---ing heroes refusing to let the government into their devices. And then it turns out the protection isn’t that strong and the government hacked it anyway. The whole thing is a joke.

We wanted to mirror that in Root’s understanding of just how grave the situation is. Once you can start to organize that information and access it, you can begin to control things. Even in his wildest imaginations, Orwell couldn’t see the scale of how bad this was going to get. He imagined you’d need a human apparatus. None of us imagined this would be automated, the shape of our world could be altered. We’re literally building the Matrix. One of the threats of the season is Root and Reese and Finch and Fusco and Shaw all see the world has changed, invisibly, around them—and no one seems to be the wiser.

How damaged was the Machine during this entire process, and what sorts of glitches might we see going forward?
Plageman: We also tested whether it was waterproof, but we cut that. I think the fundamental argument between Root and Harold has always been that her issue is that he has always had a limit on his own creation; it was an issue of trust. It’s the Oppenheimer dilemma for Finch: how can he possibly free something into the world that is more intelligent than us without ensuring at the end of the day, a human being controls whatever information it processes? Samaritan never had that problem. And as a consequence, it’s never clear over whether human beings being collateral damage is a concern to Samaritan.

At this point, our poor little Machine’s been getting its tail kicked so bad by Samaritan, that when they do reconstitute this Machine, what Root wants to know is, how will it be different this time, Harold? I think that’s the journey for Harold Finch: not only embracing the idea he realizes that he can’t live in the world without his Machine, but he can’t deal with its demise. If he’s going to bring it back, is he going to give it a fighting chance? And what does that mean for Harold Finch’s character and an examination of his own principles? What world does he see us coexisting with an AI in, if at all?

RELATED: Person of Interest bosses on the creative freedom in the final season

As Root and Finch (Michael Emerson) work on that, Reese (Jim Caviezel) is above ground, still using his cover identity. What will his journey be this season?
Plageman: I think the question becomes: Will the identities that Root plugged in hold? I think there’s only so much time, it’s only a matter of time until all of our characters have their covers blown. We know it’s already happened with Shaw. I think that’s something they’re going to all have to confront: how in the world do you fight against an Orwellian entity once it knows you and has seemingly endless amount of resources and manpower to send at you? How can you coexist? That’s a lot of fun, from a narrative. It’s difficult, but that’s a lot of fun and very challenging. I think our audience is going to find it a fascinating journey.

Person of Interest, Mondays and Tuesdays, 10/9c, CBS.