Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4 (Part 1 of 2)

Person of Interest, from opening

As usual–for anyone that reads my media reviews, that is–I’m writing about something that is not new.  We don’t have cable or satellite, but in the case of the show Person of Interest, we couldn’t even get the channel in on our TV that ran it (CBS).  So, I finally was able to watch the latest season, the 4th, on DVD (it’s now available on Netflix, too), and will share my “God is working in the world” observations with you.

After not expecting much, really, from a show in its 4th season (the writing tends to go south in aging shows), I was pleasantly surprised by this season’s quality and freshness.  That basic laud can be considered a recommendation, if you will, but I’m not here to write a review.[1]   I’m here to discuss the show’s underlying God/Anti-God story, which seems more obvious than ever this 4th season.  I’m just happy to see that there are still stories being presented in the US that don’t altogether ignore the Judeo-Christian God.  Of course, the concepts brought up in Person of Interest (PoL)may be too subtle or esoteric for most of the population to understand in any other sense than a generalized “good vs evil.”

A little call out, or shout out, here.  Person of Interest is produced by JJ Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, as well as the show’s creator, Jonathan Nolan.  I’m not into all of Abrams’ shows, but I had been pleasantly amazed with the overt Christian elements in the quirky and highly watchable Fringe (2008-2013).  Both Fringe and PoI include finely-paced humor, something that makes them much more intelligent and personal, in my view (the humor adds character and a means by which the viewer can “draw closer”), and which is sadly lacking in many stories.  More important to the theme here, however, is that JJ Abrams is Jewish and his wife is Catholic.  Abrams implied in a 2009 interview both a respect for his wife’s faith and that his own faith was important to him.[2]

Person of Interest, Ep 21, compact Persian sociopath
Person of Interest humor. “Don’t get your hopes up, Root,  . . .” (Ms Groves looking for Sameen).

 

About Person of Interest

TV.com calls Person of Interest “a masterpiece,” while io9 writes that it’s “the best, most thought-provoking show on network television” (from DVD case cover).  But what’s it about?  In case you haven’t watched any of the show yet, here’s a synopsis.

Genius programmer Harold Finch develops an artificial intelligence that, with a huge enough system to support it, will monitor US residents in order to counter terrorism.  Concerned over probable future abuses of such an AI, Finch painstakingly builds a morality into the AI; a simple directive to “not hurt people” is not good enough.  The Machine, as it’s called, develops a true AI and hides itself from anyone who’d attempt to change it or shut it off.  Indeed, our government, as depicted in the series, is not in actuality run by those with pure motives.

While the AI-in-hiding stays in contact with Finch via coded public phone calls, and mysteriously chooses a killer-for-hire female (brilliant but misguided) as its “voice” (or proxy), Decima Technologies develops another AI that our government chooses to use for national surveillance instead, called “Samaritan.”  John Greer is Director of Operations of Decima, and he plays that role under Samaritan, too; yes, Samaritan appears to be the one in charge. Together they are truly inhuman and terrifying, doing whatever actions are necessary to enable their plan to take over the US and the world (“one world order” is heard in the series).  That level of control necessitates finding and neutralizing The Machine and its human agents, of course.

Person of Interest, The Machine
Graphic by V Priest

What makes Person of Interest a weekly show instead of just a movie-length story, as the synopsis could imply, is that The Machine identifies people who will need assistance in avoiding violence or death.  Its morality doesn’t allow it to only search for and identify possible terrorist targets–that is, attacks resulting in mass casualties or attacks on “relevant” targets.  Instead, each person is deemed just as important as any other (none are “irrelevant”), and therefore any single person in danger is worthy of attention and assistance, even criminals.

So The Machine informs Finch and his partners of those in imminent danger, resulting in all the action-packed episodes that fill out PoI.  In the mix is the thought-provoking theme of official government vs underground governance (organized crime)–the exposure and/or comparison of corrupted government officials with crime bosses who aren’t completely bad (season 4 introduces a pure and simply evil crime boss, however). This theme was dominant in the first two seasons, giving way to the AI vs AI theme developed in season 3 and shown full-bore in season 4.

God and Anti-God in Person of Interest

The heart and basic theme of the series is the already mentioned complete worthiness of each individual human being. This is the Judeo-Christian concept of human life, played out blatantly and consistently throughout the series.  Conversely, the utterly controlling Samaritan acts under an opposing philosophy, clearly showing its contempt for individual life throughout the latter part of the series.  It does this while publicly deceiving everyone into thinking that it’s wiping out evil and ushering in a new benevolent age.  In reality, it is simply taking control.  Think of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (I’m not talking anti-socialism here, since Orwell was a socialist, but against any entity that deceptively tells people what they want to hear in order to take control).

So, if every human being has ultimate worth, it’s wrong to either destroy or control any of them for personal gain.  God gave us free will, and no man can change that, though he may try.  Samaritan destroys persons and is attempting to take away people’s free will be obtaining ultimate control.  In the last episode of season 4, near the end, John Greer comments:  “Men have gazed at the stars for millennia and wondered whether there was a deity up there silently directing their fates. Today for the first time, they’ll be right.”

This carefully worded statement by Greer means to say, I believe, that mankind was both wrong in thinking there was a God and that even if there was one, that we’d be mistaken to think he had control over our lives in any way.  Now they’ll know for sure that there’s a god directing their lives, though.

Person of Interest, ep 20 quote
Graphic by V Priest

Christians believe that God intervenes in our lives at times through miracles, and that His ultimate will for mankind will come to pass, but that our own choices and actions are real and have consequences (good or bad, depending).  No one can know how much God does and doesn’t do in our lives, really.  No one can really understand how it all works, since as a Christian I would say that there are no coincidences, while at the same time I know that I’m no puppet.  (One way to consider it is the theological position of “middle knowledge,” or “molinism.” This article may help, especially the last paragraph.)

If God was controlling everyone and everything, then wow, I’d have to agree with some critics that He’s doing a pretty awful job at it all.  But that’s just not the God of the Bible. He’s for mankind, He’s for saving us and not hurting us.  The reason we hurt is because we allowed it to begin with (original sin) and continue to allow the hurts in our lives. That choice was and is ours, with the result that the ruler of this earthly realm is Satan, not God.  People seem to forget that important piece of information provided to us in scripture, and that, as CS Lewis reminds us, we live in enemy occupied territory.

And . . . the enemy is now taking over.  Samaritan itself claims god status for itself in episode 10, saying that people will come to believe only in It.  It says these things through a carefully chosen mouthpiece, a young boy by the name of “Gabriel.”  The name Gabriel means “God is great,” and in scripture, the angel Gabriel is an important messenger of God.

The end of season 4 saw the beginning of the new god’s societal “Correction,” which is in sorry contrast to the saving activities The Machine and its agents carry out.  Instead of saving people on a case-by-case basis, Samaritan’s “Correction” meant the killing of criminals and people who simply questioned It on a case-by-case basis.  This is in high contrast, indeed, with The Machine and with God, neither of which care if you question them or even accept their help; by “care” I mean that The Machine and God are going to do the good they intend, whether you accept it or not–they don’t get rid of you for not agreeing with them.

Belief in God usually means a belief in an afterlife, and this was covered in season 4 too.  The false god Samaritan certainly can’t provide an afterlife, and it certainly wouldn’t care to give it even if it could, since control, order, and Itself are the only things that matter.   So, just to make sure viewers “get it, ” I’m sure–since the episode was otherwise superfluous–episode 20 was included.  This episode is called Terra Incognita, which is Latin for an “unknown land.”  The title has a double meaning.  It can refer to the property John Reese traveled to in the show, which was not monitored by either AI, or our road before us and the afterlife.

In this episode, John, in his role as detective, picks up an old cold case that his late friend, detective Joss Carter, had worked on.  He started thinking of her again, of course, and at some point, without it being obvious since the transition point is blended, his remembrances stop and his conversation with her spirit in the present world begins.  This spiritual conversation takes place in the country, in the freezing winter, while John finds himself stuck in a unresponsive car.  He slips dangerously close to death from hypothermia/freezing, and has what may be categorized as a near death experience.

While talking with Carter, he complains about being too hot, and she says the heat is a hallucination–she never says she is.  When he’s close to death, she asks him a question, saying “No point taking secrets where you’re going. Trust me.”  Death isn’t the end, since he’s going somewhere afterwards.  In the next episode, we see the results of this whole affair on John–he actually starts opening up to people, verbalizing the good he recognizes instead of remaining silent.  It was in this episode, too, that John said what I had quoted above:  “I just meant things tend to work out the way they’re supposed to.”  If there is no “fate,” or God, or plan for humankind, then there’s nothing that is supposed to be anything.

I’ll end Part 1 here.  Part 2 will include bible verses pertinent to the God/Anti-God theme, and a discussion of Samaritan as analogous to the Anti-God (anti-Christ) in history and prophecy.   Why was “Samaritan” chosen as the name for the anti-God?  We’ll answer that.  In the mean time, thanks for reading and see you next time!  (Hope you enjoy the PoI humor at bottom.)

Notes:

[1] Person of Interest is a really top-notch show. It does, however and unfortunately, bow to current social whims by including a (very) small amount of lesbianism. If the idea of the two main female characters having feelings for one another bothers you too much, then don’t watch the show.   We live in a fallen world and this sort of thing is going to happen; I just wish film makers and the like (or their financiers) didn’t feel it necessary to insert such unnecessary elements into a story just because they’re popular with a certain crowd.

[2] My research into Jonathan Nolan yielded nothing to indicate that he’s a faithful person, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. His making of the sexually controversial Westworld and the future Foundation Trilogy (atheistic) for HBO doesn’t bode well, however.

Person of Interest, ep 21 humor, 1/2Person of Interest, ep 21 humor, 2/2

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