'Our heroes aren't going to make it out of this one intact,' EP Jonathan Nolan says

By Shirley Li
June 21, 2016 at 02:45 AM EDT
Giovanni Rufino/CBS
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WARNING: Spoilers for season 5 of Person of Interest ahead. Read at your own risk!

The techno-thriller’s fifth and final season has already seen heartbreaking exits (R.I.P. Amy Acker’s Root), and the long-awaited showdown between the Machine and Samaritan will only add to the death toll. “Our heroes aren’t going to make it out of this one intact,” says creator Jonathan Nolan. “It’s a bloodbath, as usual.” After all, the Ice-9 virus that Finch (Michael Emerson) released doesn’t just cripple Samaritan; it also leaves the Machine and its assets more vulnerable than ever.

In other words, Person of Interest is about to head into its biggest battle yet. Below, Nolan and fellow executive producer Greg Plageman tease the team’s final hour.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is going to be the final battle against Samaritan. What can fans expect?

PLAGEMAN: Armageddon.

NOLAN: They should be hoping that someone makes it out alive… Definitely fans are going to be angry with us once again as they so often are, because our heroes aren’t going to make it out of this one intact. That just means [the fans] are invested, and that’s good. [Laughs.] It’s a good thing. Listen, it’s a bloodbath as usual, but I still feel it’s bittersweet. For me, it’s the right ending and a powerful one.

Will the hour close the series’ biggest loops and wrap up all the stories? Will there be even more questions raised afterward or any cliffhangers headed our way?

PLAGEMAN: I think this definitely feels like we’re closing the final chapter on this tale, in a very satisfying way. There’s a sense of resolution. I think it’s pretty definitive.

NOLAN: [There are] no cliffhangers this year, no uncertainty. In the world that we created, the story continues in a sense, but there’s nothing that’s left ambiguous for the audience. We didn’t think that would be fair.

You say this finale will be a “bloodbath.” What is the headspace for each of the members of Team Machine going into the finale?

PLAGEMAN: In releasing the virus into the world, Finch understands that it’s the only way to bring Samaritan down, but coupled with that could mean the destruction of his own creation, The Machine. It’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make for the greater good of everyone. So Harold Finch has definitely turned a bit of a corner here, you could say, in terms of being more proactive in trying to take down Samaritan. There’s a bit of a different side of his character, who we think is a lot of fun.

I think Shaw is now just coming to grips with reality. Coming back from all the simulations, she now realizes what’s at stake in the present world. Of course, with the loss of Root, she’s grappling with all that, so all of this is happening and all hell breaks loose. I think it’s interesting now because Fusco’s character has been let in and fully understands what we’re up against. For he and Shaw, the train literally leaves the station.

And what about Reese?

PLAGEMAN: I think this final episode really brings home what Reese’s character was meant to do, what he set out to do, what Harold Finch hired him for. He’s a soldier. He completely understands what’s at stake.

Tell me more about the final showdown, the final fight between the ASIs. What else will we see, other than “armageddon”?

NOLAN: [Laughs.] It’s gonna be like two cats in a bag. The arena they’re fighting on is land, sea, air, space… I mean, these are two titans. You know, our network world is so pervasive, and here’s where you wish you had a few more episodes and a couple hundred million dollars to do the movie version of this, but I’m very proud of what we were able to do. These guys square off globally, which is very fun.

PLAGEMAN: What I’m most proud of is after all these episodes, it shouldn’t be difficult to do a larger serialized story in broadcast these days, and I think we managed to pull it off in an entertaining way. That’s the first priority, to make the show entertaining, but also to tackle the show’s complex themes. It’s thought-provoking, and I think the thing I’m most proud of is it was entertaining to the end.

You mentioned that this finale will be satisfying to fans, but was it satisfying for both of you, how it wrapped?

NOLAN: I’m very satisfied and proud of these episodes in this season, and we ended the show the way we always conceived of ending the show. I think [with] this show, clearly, it’s nice to go out on what we consider to be a high note and a creative note. Until the very end, everyone on the show was creatively excited to be there and did, frankly, their best work. We definitely had more stories to tell, but there’s nothing incomplete about this last season.

It would have been nice to spend more time exploring the turn of Finch’s character, and I think it’s a shame that that chapter had to be, you know, compressed a little bit. It’s a very lucky situation in this day and age when shows get canceled, and the audience is left holding the bag going, “Where the hell was the story going?” We’re happy that we were able to tell the end of our story. We loved making this show, we love this cast, and we love this crew and the writers. We love the fans we were writing for. We would have happily kept on going, but 103 episodes is a big, long run.

What is the main takeaway you want viewers to have after watching the finale? Before the show began, Jonathan, you told EW, “If you stare uneasily at your cell phone at the end of an episode, then we’ve done our job.” Is that still how you want people to feel after finishing the series? 

NOLAN: Most definitely, yeah. I think the world is getting weirder and weirder in terms of how much we’ve given up in terms of our own privacy. I think it’s gonna rear its head in some fascinating ways beyond Person of Interest. So we’ll see, most of us have gone in the name of convenience, but there will be repercussions for that, I believe, down the road.

PLAGEMAN: Yeah, and I mean, to all the Irrelevants out there, we just want to say thanks for hanging on to the ride, and we hope you enjoyed it.

Person of Interest‘s series finale airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

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