Warning: This story contains major spoilers about the Person of Interest series finale. Read at your own risk.
Team Machine suffered one more casualty in the final battle against Samaritan.
In the Person of Interest series finale, John Reese (Jim Caviezel) died heroically while uploading a copy of The Machine to a satellite where it could fight and defeat the last remaining version of Samaritan. Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) was prepared to sacrifice himself to do it, but at the last moment, Reese took his place to save his friend. (For more, read our recap.)
“This is kind of the most poetic ending for John Reese,” executive producer Greg Plageman tells EW, explaining they decided to kill Reese when they first started discussing the season. “If you really look back on the season, you can really see the foreshadowing of what was coming.”
Plageman and series creator Jonathan Nolan thought killing Reese off in this way would bring his and Harold’s story full circle. “When we meet Reese in the pilot, he’s in extremis and is going to hurl himself into the East River or shoot himself or something, but the pilot begins with Finch saving Reese’s life (and Carter, who is an important part of that as well). The pilot begins with this relationship between these two guys, and Finch reaches out and says, ‘You need a purpose,'” Nolan explains. “So, the symmetry in the end of having Reese saving Finch, for us, was very moving.”
“There was no one else in his life at the time, but Harold Finch did have someone and John Reese understood intuitively that it was more critical that Harold continue on and live the life he’s never been able to have with Grace,” says Plageman.
Finch and Reese said goodbye to each other from opposing rooftops, and Emerson says filming that scene was one of the hardest days on set. “He was on top of the next skyscraper over and they were kind of communicating our cues back and forth on walkie-talkies,” says Emerson. “The work was fairly emotional, so it required some focus and some feeling. Yet, the circumstances under which we were shooting the scene were so abstracted and fragmented technically.”
The Lost alum wasn’t completely surprised that Finch survived the show. “I kind of thought if anyone could survive the show, maybe Harold was good a candidate for that,” says Emerson. “Wherever Harold goes, there’s hope for a brighter technological future. He carries a torch of an older ethic and an older humanity. It’s important and it’s a wonderfully reassuring idea that someone like that might be in a position of power, technologically at least.”
That said, Emerson was always less concerned about whether Finch survived and more concerned with bringing closure to Finch’s relationship with his fiancée Grace, played by his real-life wife Carrie Preston. “I think that a subplot like that needed to have a period put on it. It needed to be acknowledged at the end,” says Emerson. “It could’ve ended tragically rather than hopefully or something as long as it was acknowledged as something that the audience cared about. I think the audience has taken who these people were before and the things they have lost or given up, and they wanted there to be something to celebrate at the end.”
Even though Finch found his happy ending with Grace, Emerson, Plageman, and Nolan don’t think this means he’s officially done helping people, especially since The Machine did survive the fight and the world is in chaos when the series ends because of the virus Finch used to cripple Samaritan. “I don’t think the tiger can change his stripes,” says Emerson.
“I always imagined The Machine would endeavor to let Harold Finch have a ‘normal life,’ if such a thing were even possible. If you extrapolate out into the future, I imagined there’d be a point in time where Harold Finch and The Machine would meet again,” says Plageman.
Although Emerson is looking forward to not having to walk with a limp and “worry about the domination of the planet by an artificial intelligence,” he will miss the show. “I’ll miss those character relationships: the family feeling and the fun that existed between Team Machine and the crazy, dramatic and outrageous situations we’d get into. All those days shooting on top of tall buildings, speeding cars or seeing stuff get blown up,” says Emerson. “It was like being a superhero for a few years. It’s nice.”