‘Person of Interest’ Bosses Promise Answers About The Machine

Sarah Shahi in Tuesday night's episode of "Person of Interest" (Photo: CBS)

It’s ladies night on “Person of Interest” when Carter (Taraji P. Henson), Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco) combine their woman power to bait a playboy who is either a predator or prey.

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“The fun thing about introducing new characters is you have new relationships,” creator/executive producer Jonathan Nolan told a handpicked group of reporters, following a screening of the “Lady Killer” episode.

“The world of the show has expanded from Season 1. You get a chance to see those three ladies together, which is just great fun. It puts a spin on what they do.”

But the episode also features Root (Amy Acker) as The Machine helps her plan an escape from her psych ward confinement — and she demonstrates that she may be getting “better,” but she can still be deadly.

“I think this is a good example of a fun, stand-alone story that opens up Carter’s character in a nice way, but also the Root storyline is giving us a glimpse into the greater serialized aspect regarding her relationship with The Machine, and what that is going to mean for Harold Finch [Michael Emerson],” adds executive producer Greg Plageman.

Watch last week’s episode of “Person of Interest”:
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In addition to teasing tonight’s episode, Nolan and Plageman gave us scoop on what we can look forward to for the rest of the season, including big bad HR, Elias, a look at Carter’s backstory, why Shah is the way she is, and more.

Where is The Machine?

Jonah: One of the ideas at the end of last season is, in freeing itself, The Machine’s location is less important, but there still are people actively, at this point, vying for control of it. Our hope had been that that question becomes secondary this season. Wherever it is, it seems to have a plan.

Part of the mandate for the show is to ask big questions, but give big answers, too. We didn’t want the audience to go nine seasons before getting an answer that wasn’t terribly satisfactory. We want to regularly answer big questions that, hopefully, pose new questions. The question from last season was: Where is The Machine? The answer is: It isn’t where you think it is because Finch has set in place this elaborate plan to try to rescue it from the people he gave it to in the first place. This season, The Machine is taking a more active role in protecting itself, or them. What exactly it is up to is what we are going to spend the rest of the season dealing with.

How does The Machine go about deciding who to help?

Jonah: It is a good question and it is a question we hope to answer and get more clarity on. Hopefully, by having a character whose relationship with The Machine is much more transparent and new, in contrast to the relationship Finch designed for himself with The Machine. Root will explain this later in the season.

Where does Root’s story go after this episode?

Jonah: Her relationship with The Machine is different than Finch’s relationship with it, or Control’s relationship. Where it is heading on our show is inevitably all roads lead to conflict. It is not heading anywhere safe or relaxed. It get tense and dangerous.

Greg: I think it will become increasingly unsettling to Harold Finch how The Machine is reaching out to her, in what capacity, and why that is different than the way it communicates with our guys.

Jonah: The bigger question for the season is: If The Machine has a plan, what is that plan? It obviously involves Root. We are seeing through her sketches of what The Machine is trying to do now that it has more autonomy.

What can we expect from HR this season?

Jonah: In a word, fireworks. Nothing but trouble. Those guys are not a lot of fun.

Greg: Obviously, Carter has an axe to grind with what happened to Cal Beecher (Sterling K. Brown) and that is something we saw at the end of the premiere. She is starting to track and pursue on her own the leader of HR. What is she up to? How does she plan on taking them on? We think that is a really juicy story line that is going to continue to evolve. We are also going to learn more about Carter and her backstory this year as we go along.

Also, at the end of Episode 2, we saw the character of Peter Collier (Leslie Odom Jr.) emerge as someone who is espousing something that is counter to the surveillance state or the Orwellian state that we play on the show. I think that is an interesting conflict as well.

How in danger is Carter from HR?

Greg: They play rough. I think the big question for Carter if she is going to take on a big organization like HR is … you have to remember, they were crippled when FBI Agent Nicholas Donnelly (Brennan Brown) went after them. They managed to rebuild themselves, so the question is: What is she going to do different if she is going to take them on?

Between now and Christmas, what are the arcs you are focusing on?

Jonah: We are breaking the season up roughly in half. We will have aired Episode 11 by then. HR is a big storyline for us this year and so is vigilance. The question is how Root connects to vigilance and what The Machine may be anticipating other groups will do.

One of the graphics we built into the end of the season premiere was this new graphical space inside The Machine’s mind, so you see that it is just not analyzing and predicting, but planning … taking on a more active role. If the show is reflective of where we think technology is now, sort of the heightened, more dramatic AI, science-fiction version of where we think it is right now, we think data is starting to reach out actively in ways it hasn’t until now.

Where does Shaw fit in right now, and how will she evolve?

Greg: Episode 5 is going to be a pretty eye-opening episode about her character, who she is, and how she became the person she is today. We get a glimpse of an origin story for her there. I think the difficulty of a character like Shaw — we refer to it as the Groucho Marx conundrum: Never wanting to be a part of a club that would have you as a member — that is how we see her character.

At the same time, she is an extremely valuable operative. Even Reese acknowledges that. We like to think that the skills she brings to the table are complementary to Reese. The challenge with that type of character, who is emotionally standoffish, is finding the connection to the heart of that character. That is the challenge to us.

Will Elias be returning in these first 11 episodes?

Jonah: We sure hope so. We love working with Enrico [Colantoni]. He is a wonderful actor and a phenomenal character. We have a couple of fun beats planned for him.

Any other guest stars — new or returning?

Greg: We would love to have Leon Tao back, if Ken Leung is available.

Jonah: Ken Leung is great. Again, you have people going in and out. They have jobs on other shows, but we always make it work. We sweet talk the other networks. We are very, very lucky that we have a growing group of incredibly talented actors who love doing this show. We get them back when we can and when it dovetails with the direction we are taking the show.

Can we talk about Bear (Graubaer’s Boker)? He seems to be building a relationship with Shah.

Jonah: You have these, frankly, quite reserved, private characters. I think the audience really enjoys the tiny glimpses of friendship that you see between Finch and Reese, Finch and Shaw, Shaw and Reese, and Carter and Fusco. It’s little pieces. We don’t hit people over the head with the emotions between these characters, but everyone, even the most stoic people like Shaw, has an emotional response to the dog. A lot of people in the writers room are dog people. I have two myself. We love the idea that you can short circuit the stoicism of these characters. It has worked really well with Shaw, who does relate best to Bear. You just get to see a totally different facet of her personality.

Greg: [Joking] We think The Machine may be communicating with Bear on frequency.

“Person of Interest” airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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