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301Liberty 309The Crossing 317Root Path (/)
302Nothing to Hide 310The Devil's Share” (Multiple) 318Allegiance
303Lady Killer 311Lethe” (Finch) 319Most Likely To...
304Reasonable Doubt 312Aletheia” (Finch) 320Death Benefit
305Razgovor” (Shaw) 3134C 321Beta” (Grace)
306Mors Praematura 314Provenance 322A House Divided” (Collier)
307The Perfect Mark 315Last Call 323Deus Ex Machina” (Collier)
308Endgame” (Carter) 316RAM
Deus Ex Machina

POI 0323 Main.png



Air dateMay 13, 2014

Running time43:26

Production code2J7622

Written byGreg Plageman
David Slack[1]

Directed byChris Fisher


Images (51)

You expect us to believe that you gave one thought about people's rights as you were building the government a weapon of mass surveillance?

— Peter Collier

Season Finale. "Deus Ex Machina" is the 23rd episode of season 3, and the 68th produced hour of Person of Interest. It originally aired on May 13, 2014.


The team takes desperate actions in its race to prevent their opponents' AI program Samaritan from coming online and making them its first targets. Meanwhile, the months-long battle with the anti-surveillance terrorist group Vigilance comes to a shocking conclusion.

Origin of the Title

"Deus ex machina" (literally, God from the machine) is a literary or theatrical term that refers to an impossible situation that is suddenly resolved by the appearance of some previously unseen device or character. It is often used to refer to a contrivance, although here the near divine capabilities of the Machine are also highly relevant.

Main Plot Points

  • Reese, Shaw and Hersh watch on the feed in the Decima hideout as Peter Collier announces that Finch, Control, Senator Ross Garrison and Manuel Rivera are on trial as are the US government.
  • Collier calls Manuel Rivera to the stand and when Rivera refuses to cooperate, Collier murders him.
  • Reese, Shaw and Hersh make their way through the Dark streets of the blackout. They get a call from Root who gives them directions and a time from the Machine. Shaw realizes that Root is going after Samaritan and decides to go help her on a bike Hersh steals for her.
  • Reese and Hersh are ambushed by an NYPD Hummer only to have Fusco and Bear emerge from it.
  • At the Samaritan facility, Root and Shaw attempt to install servers on behalf of the Machine.
  • Garrison is put on the stand where Collier questions his knowledge of Northern Lights.
  • Dressed as Vigilance members, Reese and Hersh work together to find the location of the courthouse.
  • The jury find Control guilty, but before Collier can execute her, Finch takes the stand and starts outlining the Machine's history.
  • Finch testifies that by the time the Machine was turned over to the government, it had stopped 54 terrorist attacks and saved an estimated 4,000 lives though he doesn't know how many its saved since.
  • In the courthouse, Hersh finds the Vigilance technicians dead and a huge bomb in the basement wired to blow when the power comes back on. Hersh then sets to work on disarming the bomb.
  • Greer gets the NSA feeds and Samaritan goes online.
  • In the Library Reese treats Finch's wound before they are contacted by Root who tells them to take the envelope containing their new identities, destroy everything else and abandon the Library. Root tells them that any chance they had of stopping Samaritan ended when they didn't kill Roger McCourt. "This was never about winning. It was just about surviving" explains Root.
  • In a voiceover, Root explains to Reese and Finch that she and the Machine were unable to save the world so they had to settle for saving the seven people who might be able to take it back from Samaritan: Root, Reese, Finch, Shaw, Daniel Casey, Jason Greenfield and Daizo.
  • As Root speaks to Finch, he destroys his computers and abandons the Library with Reese.
  • Samaritan comes fully online and is greeted by Greer.


  • In 2010, Peter Brandt is kidnapped and left in a metal storage container in front of a computer. An unknown person begins communicating through the computer, telling Brandt that they are an insurgency group called Vigilance against those who use surveillance as a weapon. The person lists Brandt's brother as one of the people affected by the surveillance program and tell him that he's a leader and they are offering him a call to arms. Brandt is directed to a mask, phone and money in the desk and is told that if he agrees to join Vigilance, his name is now Peter Collier. Moments later, Vigilance operatives enter and ask if he's Peter Collier. After a moment's consideration, he tells them he is.
  • In 2012, Collier and Vigilance return to their hideout where they celebrate having taken down a street cam. Collier gets another message from the same unknown sender that led him to join Vigilance in the first place stating that they need to do more. Collier tells his comrades that they aren't doing enough and they need to target someone who is abusing the system and teach them a lesson that won't be forgotten.
  • In 2013, Collier leads Vigilance back to their storage locker and orders all of their phones destroyed and the lockers used only to pass on messages. One of Vigilance, Adams, pushes to take more violent measures but Collier reveals Adams as an undercover FBI agent. Collier then executes Adams and reiterates his orders, noting that he no longer needs his mask as his cover is blown.

Root's Closing Monologue

"The Machine and I couldn't save the world. We had to settle for protecting the seven people who might be able to take it back, so we gave Samaritan a blind spot: seven key servers, that hard-codes it to ignore seven carefully crafted new identities. When the whole world is watched, filed, indexed, numbered, the only way to disappear is to appear, hiding our true identities inside a seemingly ordinary life. You're not a free man anymore, Harold. You're just a number. We have to become these people now, and if we don't, they'll find us, and they'll kill us. I'm sorry, Harold. I know it's not enough. A lot of people are gonna die, people who might've been able to help. Everything is changing. I don't know if it'll get better, but it's going to get worse. But the Machine asked me to tell you something before we part. You once told John the whole point of Pandora's Box is that once you've opened it, you can't close it again. She wanted me to remind you of how this story ends. When everything is over, when the worst has happened, there's still one thing left in Pandora's Box: hope."

Episode Notes

  • Control cites the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to move the "trial" along. The sixth amendment sets out the rights of the accused in a criminal trial. They include the right to be informed of the charges against them as well as the right to a speedy trial, the right to an impartial jury of one's peers, the right to counsel, and the right to confront one's accuser.

    The Bill of Rights on the storage container wall.

  • Collier responds to Control that he, "knows the Bill of Rights." The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit government and establish states' rights. In the scene in the storage container, the Bill of Rights appears on the back wall, written in ink visible only in black light.
  • Finch's line, "Because I built it!" calls up his opening monologue, seen in most episodes.
  • The Machine's prediction of a mass casualty event, first mentioned in “Root Path (/)” as happening at [40.71448 / -74.00598], or near New York City Hall, occurred in this episode.
  • Garrison's testimony reinforces Greer's statement in “Death Benefit” that he became involved with Northern Lights in 2008 after its development. He was not involved in the early phases of the Machine.
  • Dante Gabriele Rosetti's "Pandora" c. 1879

    At the end of the episode, Root's voice-over references Pandora's Box. The Greek myth of Pandora's Box tells the tale of an unopened box (sometimes a jar) that contains all the miseries of the world. It remains closed until the curious Pandora, the first woman on earth, opens it, releasing its contents. She quickly closes the box, leaving one small being, hope, behind. Pandora's box has become a metaphor for actions that have significant, negative and unexpected consequences, or which will cause nothing but trouble.
  • FBI Agent Adams, while undercover with Vigilance, refers to "doxxing" a Senator. Doxxing (also spelled doxing) is the practice of using internet resources to research and publish material from databases, social media and/or hacking in order to identify an individual. The practice has been used by law enforcement and the media, but originated with hackers and cyber-bullies whose intention was to harass or embarrass their targets.
  • The photographs on the Library floor at the end of the episode are Wayne Kruger from “Nothing to Hide”, Fermin Ordoñez from “C.O.D.”, Patrick Simmons from “The Devil's Share”, Ian Murphy from “Lady Killer”, and Joss Carter. There are also print outs about Lifetrace and an article from The New York Journal.
  • Root's message to Harold paraphrases Number 6's quotes in The Prisoner (1967), "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered!" and "I am not a number, I am a free man!"
  • To celebrate Person of Interest airing on Netflix starting September 1, 2015, asked Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman to pick a few of their favorite episodes. Plageman picked "Deus Ex Machina" as one of his favorite episodes because when it was revealed that Vigilance was a plot by Decima, it takes your breath away, and makes people wonder what could be next.[2]

Literary Quotes

  • "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives every thing its value." [The American Crisis, Thomas Paine (1776)]
The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets written by Thomas Paine under the signature "Common Sense" between 1776 and 1783. They were written to inspire the American colonials during the Revolutionary War, and were notable for their use of language easily understood by the average person. Collier's quote appears in the first pamphlet, which begins with the famous line "These are the times that try men's souls...", also briefly quoted by Collier. It was read to the American army before the Battle of Trenton in December, 1776 as a way to boost morale.
  • "In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a God." [Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, William Shakespeare (c. 1603)]
Hamlet's bleak soliloquy, quoted by Greer just before he intends to eliminate Collier and Finch, describes the accomplishments of man, but ends in the realization ("what is this quintessence of dust?") that in the end, no matter what we do or what we achieve, we must die. It also contemplates how much of what we did really matters once we are gone. Greer also paraphrases the opening line of the soliloquy when he tells Harold, "what a piece of work [is your Machine]."
  • "Three may keep a secret, as long as two of them are dead." [Attributed to Benjamin Franklin]

Production Notes

  • The courthouse is the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank on Chambers Street.
  • All blackout scenes were shot during the day with special effects added during post production. In old film vernacular, these are known as "day for night" shots, and can be identified by the actors' shadows.
  • The Vigilance member who is attacked by Bear is really Graubaer's Boker's trainer.
  • The idea to have Vigilance be a plot by Decima was thought up by Jonathan Nolan.[2]

Michael's Emerson's Commentary

Michael Emerson provided solo commentary on the episode, which was posted the day following the episode's broadcast on and appears on the Season 3 DVDs. In his commentary for the episode, he:

  • notes that the graphics are new, and we are seeing events from Samaritan's point of view.
  • discusses the weather during production, and that it felt as though it was unusually cold the entire season. The final scenes, shot on April 2, were filmed on a day as cold as any day in mid-winter.
  • describes the care with which Jim Caviezel deals with the terminology, weapons and combat methods Reese employs to be sure he is handling equipment accurately, and looks authentic. Emerson also commented that special forces troops who stop him in the airport compliment the authenticity of the show's portrayal of that world.
  • explains that the names of the characters who are members of Vigilance are taken from real participants in the American Revolution.
  • comments that his wife often has to explain the big picture to him because he gets lost in the details of an episode.

He also laughingly describes the experience of watching oneself on camera, and the angles at which he sees his head in close-up that differ from one we see ourselves in the mirror.

A transcript of the commentary can be found here.

Bloopers and Continuity Errors

  • In the part where Samaritan was eliminating a deviant in NYPD 8th Precinct by Lambert. The spelling of "accessory" is spelled "accessorty" (with an added "t")
  • When Root explains to Shaw about how the Samaritan servers work, her ear is visible, when the camera angle switches, it cannot be seen.
  • At the first scene Greer is seen sitting beside Finch, but later moves to the other side when Finch talks to Control



  • Collier also used the DarkNet, previously mentioned by Finch in “C.O.D.”, “Mors Praematura”, and “RAM”.
  • Vigilance uses satellite technology made by Rylatech to broadcast the trial all across the world. Later, Greer tells Collier that the broadcast was watched by one person, and it was made to look as though millions were watching. The Machine detects this "transmission anomaly" right at the beginning of the episode, when she was searching for Finch.
  • Hersh's autopsy report is dated April 16, 2014. He died on April 15, 2014.
  • When leaving the Library, Reese can be seen carrying Plan B.
  • At the end of the episode, the dialog Root is referring to when Harold told John about the point about Pandora's box is in the extended version of the “Pilot”.
  • In retrospect, the graphics and overall design of the Season 3 opening sequence can be seen to be from Samaritan's point of view.
  • At the end of the episode, when Greer asks Samaritan what its commands are, Samaritan starts calculating its response when in the exact moment, the lyrics in Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)" are "We hope that you choke, that you choke." In “Dead Reckoning”, Greer recruits Kara Stanton to work for him by using the tale of the mythical Titans as an analogy. He tells her that the Titans were so afraid of the new gods, their own children, that they ate them. The Titans were finally killed after their youngest child, Zeus, wrapped a boulder in his clothes right before his father would eat him, and watched as his father choked on it.


  • "What? They're Decima. They'll go out the window before they talk." (Hersh)
  • "As a sworn officer of the US government, I can neither confirm nor deny anything pertaining to this matter. And I will say the same damn thing to every other question until the moment you put that gun to my head and pull the trigger." (Control)
  • "Where were you when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon? Because I was inside it. I carried out the wounded. I covered up bodies. And I have spent every day since putting bullets in the people responsible, and in anyone else thinks they can do that to our country again. You wanna shoot me because I had to tap a few phone calls, read a few e-mails? Then, you go right ahead. But you better turn that gun on yourself next, Mr. Collier, because you have broken just as many laws, and the only difference is I didn't wrap myself up in the American flag, and try to convince people that I was a hero." (Control)
  • "Stop! I can help you. The questions you're asking I know the answers. Because I built it." (Finch)
  • "We're inside a sleeping giant, Shaw. Try not to wake it up." (Root)
  • "You expect us to believe that you gave one thought about people's rights as you were building the government a weapon of mass surveillance?!" (Collier, to Finch)
  • "Nothing wrong with a dictatorship, so long as you're the dictator." (Collier)
  • "Unless you're looking at a big-ass bomb wired to blow when the power comes back on, I think I win." (Hersh, to Reese)
  • "In 20 years time, life on earth will come to resemble the myths of the ancient Greeks. A pantheon of super-intelligent beings will watch over us, using human agents to meddle in our affairs." (Greer)
  • "But, the time has come for your god, and mine to do battle." (Greer)
  • "Then, by all means, let there be life." (Greer)
  • "Well, I tried to quit, but some jackass told me I needed a purpose." (Reese, to Finch)
  • "Any chance we had of stopping it ended when we didn't kill the congressman. This was never about winning. It was just about surviving." (Root)
  • "What are your commands?" (Samaritan, to Greer)
  • "I assure you, it's quite the other way around. The question is, what, my dear Samaritan, are your commands for us?" (Greer)