SPOILER ALERT: The story includes spoilers about tonight’s series finale of Person of Interest.
As teased by the series’ producers, CBS’ Person Of Interest ended its five-season run tonight with a bang, killing off one of the main characters, Reese, played by Jim Caviezel. Actually, two main characters saw their demises as the Machine also was destroyed but, in a twist, came back to life in the final minutes of the show, reaching out to Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi) who emerged as a potential Reese successor. Meanwhile, Finch (Michael Emerson), who was gravely injured for most of the final episode and appeared on the brink of death as he sacrificed himself to destroy Samaritan, lived on after Reese tricked him (with help from the Machine) to take his place. In the second part of their two-part POI exit interview, creator/executive producer Jonah Nolan and executive producer/showrunner Greg Plageman discuss the decision to have Reese die and Finch and the Machine live in the finale and how the ending was foreshadowed in the pilot. They also share the original opening sequence they’d had in mind for the pilot that couldn’t be filmed and address the possibility for a Person Of Interest follow-up or spinoff (with Control at the center?). You can read Part 1 of their interview here.
DEADLINE: Was this the original ending you had in mind for the series? When was that idea formed that a character will be killed off?
NOLAN: Greg, this is pretty much what we talked about from the beginning, right?
PLAGEMAN: Yeah. It seemed to spring organically from the sacrificial nature of what Reese was doing. It felt right in terms of that relationship from the very beginning. The moment Finch hired him at the end of the pilot, he said, ‘I should warn you, we’ll probably both get killed.” You almost knew at some point in time that sort of sacrifice was going to be required in order for them to ultimately defeat Samaritan and for one to allow the other to go on.
NOLAN: You get a sense that these guys are on a tragic journey — we announced it right from the pilot that they are not both going to make it. So it’s really a question of the arc for these characters and also the idea of friendship and sacrifice.
Reese, when we find him, is an extremist. In a sequence that we weren’t able to shoot because we couldn’t get permission, originally the pilot starts with Reese about to throw himself off the Manhattan Bridge. The city wouldn’t let us shoot it. They would let us shoot it on the bridge to Roosevelt Island, but that’s only about 20 feet off the water so we didn’t think we would get quite the same level of spectacle. So we weren’t able to shoot the beginning of the pilot the way it’s supposed to play out.
When we find Reese, he’s in a very dark place, an assassin at the end of his rope. Finch gives him a reason to live, a new purpose. There’s great affection. This is really where the season started with the relationship between these two characters. When we get to the end, there are so many amazing characters that we found along the way and they all play a role in that finale. But it’s really that relationship — Finch, Reese, and the Machine but specifically Finch and Reese and their evolving friendship over the seasons. It’s probably the heart of the show, the essence of the show from the beginning. The sort of odd couple.
So we wanted to see Reese, as he says in the finale, he gets a chance to repay that great favor that Finch gave him a new lease on life. It’s a redemptive arc for Reese, the sacrifice at the end is him giving some of that back to Finch in the hopes that one of them could make it out alive.
PLAGEMAN: Just to add to that, there is a sense, I believe, that all the characters on this show have sort of pushed away people in their lives and lived quiet lives of tortured anonymity to an extent. Reese really didn’t have anyone else in his life in the end, but Harold Finch had a fiancé that he had pushed away. We do have that sense that Harold will be able to go on and have a life with her in the end. Lionel Fusco is saved in the end in terms of going on and being able to have a life. Who knows what could happen with Shaw as well. It really felt to us like Reese fulfilled his purpose in order to allow everyone else to go on.
DEADLINE: So Finch got his happily ever after?
PLAGELAN: I think so. I feel like Harold Finch is a character who’s been on the run his entire life. When he made that connection with Grace on the show it was genuine. He met the one person who understood him and he felt like he could actually have a life with. The final note when Harold is meeting up with Grace in Italy I think will give fans that sense that perhaps now Harold Finch can find happiness.
DEADLINE : What about Shaw, is she the new Reese? There was a hint in the finale that she may take the mantle.
NOLAN: I think that’s the suggestion at the end of the finale. As Finch says in the pilot, the numbers never stop coming. We assume that someone has to pick up that mantle. There’s no better candidate than Shaw. She’s capable and has a somewhat redemptive arc through this. I think that purpose and that relationship with Root as the Machine, to us we always imagined that someone would pick up the mantel and carry it forward. Shaw was always conceived of as that character.
DEADLINE: Let’s talk about the Machine. Was it important for you that it lived on?
PLAGEMAN: I do think it’s important. I think it’s important to understand that there is an artificial intelligence in the world that considers humanity. We talked about artificial intelligence quite a bit on the show and what could happen, will there be just one or will there be multiple artificial intelligences that proliferate. For now, at least in the ending of this show, as far as we’re aware there is only one. That is the one that Harold Finch originally encoded.
DEADLINE: Were there any scenes you shot for the finale that didn’t make it?
PLAGEMAN: We had a little more dialogue between Shaw and the Machine.
DEADLINE: Are you interested in doing a Person of Interest follow-up?
PLAGEMAN: Look, I think the premise that Jonah came up with in terms of an artificial intelligence that takes in all this information, processes it and gives, you might say, a predictive output in some regard is so strong that there’s no doubt that that could be revived in some sense. I don’t know if it would be with these characters. In Episode 11 this year we understood that the Machine had been providing information to another group of people. So could it be that this show is strong enough that it could come back in a different form? I would say never say never in a world where we’ve seen the X-Files and 24 and a number of really strong premises come back as well.
NOLAN: We had such a ball making this show that if there is an opportunity to revisit it, in a heartbeat I’d be there.
DEADLINE: The Episode 11 that Greg mentioned, was it envisioned as a potential spinoff?
NOLAN: Definitely not an attempt on our part to do a spinoff. If we were ever going to do a spinoff it would have been with the Control end of things and the relevant side of things which would have been great fun to take a look at three seasons ago. We didn’t want to do a spinoff. We’ve watched friends go through this where it’s like, the series is doing great, spin it off and then you wind up impoverishing both shows. So definitely not an attempt on our part to spin the show off. It was an attempt to answer a big question that’s always been there in terms of what happens to all the numbers that come up outside of New York City and to see that there is this master plan with the Machine in terms of the numbers along the way, everything adding up to something new and different.
DEADLINE: One last question — did you consider a Shakespearean tragedy ending where everyone dies?
NOLAN: Oh, just killing everyone?
PLAGEMAN: Nellie’s darker than us.
NOLAN: We always think about killing everyone off. That’s always option A.
PLAGEMAN: Originally we were going to smite everyone but the dog.