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Person of Interest Ep. 3.21 “Beta” is cliched but narratively necessary

Person of Interest S03E21

Person of Interest, Season 3, Episode 21: “Beta”
Written by Dan Dietz and Sean Hennen
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on CBS

In every story, there are certain necessary contrivances that, while you wish could be side-stepped, the narrative simply needs to enact. In Lost, for example, the survivors need to leave the Island to realize that they belong there. Even though it’s eye-roll inducing, it’s a direction the story needs to take and is allowed that. The same can be said of “Beta”.

In the case of Person of Interest, its story called for the fact that the very existence of Finch (Michael Emerson) would at some point put the life of his former fiancée Grace Hendricks (Carrie Preston) at risk, despite her not even being aware that he’s still alive. It’s a tired and tried plot element that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of how story works would be able to predict. It’s a story beat that would’ve been difficult for the writers to avoid, however, since Finch’s history with Grace has been an ever-hovering cloud over everything that Finch has done since his faked death.  Grace had long ago been set up as an obstacle that Finch would have to deal with in later episodes, and “Beta” is simply the fruition of that arc. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t try to bite off more than it can chew and focuses only on Grace’s safety being at risk, and not her discovering that Finch has still been alive for all of these years. The latter will be something that the show deals with at a later time, but the economy of plot was important here. This was all just vital to getting Finch back on the radar and on a collision course with Decima and their machine, Samaritan. It wasn’t the best way to go about doing that, but it is executed nicely and it certainly could have been handled worse.

With “Beta” starting with the team in a bit of disarray after Finch goes AWOL, a very welcome and oddly calming part is Root’s (Amy Acker) appearance throughout. It’s becoming more and more worrisome, however, that this season might end with Root ultimately giving her life to protect the Machine from Samaritan, thus making her a bit of a martyr for her “god”. It would be an effective thematic end to her character, especially since it’s hard to imagine Acker doing this for too much longer. With her being an ever rising star, Acker will likely find somewhere else on TV to call home. It’d be great if that wasn’t true, but it’s feeling like more of a chance the closer we get to the season finale.

The show’s experiencing a little bit of a break from its other big villain, Vigilance, but we can probably expect to see them back next episode, what with Samaritan getting closer to being a live entity at the disposal of the US government. They make for too much of a compelling villain to not be present for the finale and mess with Decima’s world a little. An all-out juggernaut fight between Decima and Vigilance would make for a great end to this season, although it’s more than possible that one of these two will still be around for next season, becoming a bit like HR — a group that absolutely refused to finally go down. Person of Interest will always need a push like that and one of the two will likely be it, unless the show decides to come up with another group for Finch and Reese to contend with.

With just one episode left before the third season comes to an end, there’s a great many ways the show can go. Will Root ultimately bite it, or will she continue to be at the Machine’s beck and call? Will Decima and Vigilance still be around for next season, and how far will either of them eventually go? Regardless of what happens, Person of Interest has proven that they can make it as enthralling and exciting as anything on television right now, and will no doubt end the season in a truly great way.


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