‘Person of Interest’: 10 Burning Questions Before Season 5

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"I can't wait to see what happens now that we've got the Machine in a little box," says Acker (with Michael Emerson).

With Person of Interest’s intense season finale leaving malevolent supercomputer Samaritan triumphant, the Machine stuffed inside a briefcase, and our heroes on the run, it was time to grill the show’s masterminds—executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman—for a postseason debrief and a look at the perilous road ahead in Season 5. (Also, more season 5 secrets will be revealed at Person of Interest‘s Comic-Con panel on Saturday, and visit TV Insider’s Comic-Con page for more features.)

First of all, what was the meaning of the title of the Season 4 finale, “YHWH”?
Plageman: It means Yahweh [the Hebrew name for God]. It’s called the tetragrammaton. The ancient Israelites didn’t want to spell out the word [for religious reasons], so they’d often use YHWH.
Nolan: He who shall not be named.

As in recognition of the supreme being that, as things stand, is Samaritan.
Nolan: Yes. For the moment, I would say the Machine has been vanquished. Pretty much down, though not necessarily out.

What are the challenges of keeping the Samaritan vs. the Machine story fresh going into next season?
Plageman: Well, it’s pretty fresh insofar as our guys are completely hosed right now.
Nolan: Next season will really deal with the idea of rebuilding the Machine in the face of a superior threat. And assuming they can get it back in the game, how will it fight back?
Plageman: It will explore what it means for Samaritan to have that firm a grip on things. If an artificial intelligence were actually to appear, would humanity even notice?

Did you always envision Samaritan as a multiseason storyline?
Nolan: You don’t build a god and then dispose of it conveniently in one season. A lot of fiction has treated artificial intelligence as a singularity—one mind that absorbs other minds into it. But this show presents AI proliferation as similar to nuclear proliferation—an idea that intelligence begets other intelligences. It’s an arms race that the Machine is currently losing.

This past season, Reese [Jim Caviezel] seemed to undergo a bit of a spiritual change. Will that continue?
Nolan: Season 4’s storyline forced our guys into hiding as normal people. And with Reese, it was like your mom telling you not to make a face too often because it might stick. So Reese is maybe starting to enjoy being a normal person and being emotionally involved with other people on a level he hasn’t been in decades.

Comic Con SIP: Person of Interest, Season 4, Episode 22, series, drama, Sarah Sahai

“I wanted her to go out with a bang,” Shahi says of Shaw’s midseason exit, “saving the people she’s grown to care for over the last couple of years.”

His hallucinatory experience with Carter [Taraji P. Henson] in “Terra Incognita” also helped that along. How did that come about?
Nolan: I reached out to Taraji last year. There’s really nobody who can engage with Reese on an emotional level like Carter can. From their first scene together in the pilot, she always had the goods on him in a way that no one else did.

Apropos of Reese’s emotional awakening: Are he and Iris [recurring guest star Wrenn Schmidt] definitively a thing now?
Plageman: Reese clearly has strong feelings toward Iris, but given his occupation and the activities he’s engaged in, it’s always fraught with peril, so…

So they’re not a couple?
Nolan: It’s baby steps. Baby steps.

The episode “If-Then-Else,” in which Shaw (Sarah Shahi) was shot and abducted by the Samaritan operatives, featured a full-on kiss between Shaw and Root (Amy Acker). Is there a mutual romantic or sexual thing going on between these characters?
Plageman: Whether it was amorous or more a platonic sense of respect for a friend, we haven’t had a chance to explore.
Nolan: I think there’s definitely an amorous streak between the two of them. Root feels it, and Shaw is maybe a little bit in denial about it.

Reese (Caviezel, standing, with Kevin Chapman) "is a very broken dude who has, with teh help of Finch, Shaw, Fusco, and Root, been working his way back," executive producer Nolan says.

Reese (Caviezel, standing, with Kevin Chapman) “is a very broken dude who has, with teh help of Finch, Shaw, Fusco, and Root, been working his way back,” executive producer Nolan says.

Have you heard from Shahi whether she’s going to come back? [Shahi departed midway through Season 4 on indefinite maternity leave.]
Nolan: It’s an ongoing conversation. We hope to get her back on the show sometime soon.

You introduced three new kickass female guest stars this season: Harper Rose (Annie Ilonzeh), Dani Silva (Adria Arjona), and Frankie Wells (Katheryn Winnick). Was that a way of hedging your bets in the event that Shahi doesn’t return?
Plageman: Well, yeah. A couple of those ladies are certainly people we brought back because we were interested in them.
Nolan: That said, nobody replaces Sarah. We just love having firecracker women on our show.