Missing info from: all episodes since “Guilty”
|“||I recognize, Mr. Reese, that there's a disparity between how much I know about you and how much you know about me. I know you'll be trying to close that gap as quickly as possible, but I should tell you, I'm a really private person.||”|
|“||If they don't want you to get inside, they ought to build it better.||”|
Harold Finch, also known by a series of aliases, is a reclusive billionaire software genius who built a machine that predicts future crimes and outputs either the victim's or perpetrator's Social Security number. His real first name has been confirmed to be Harold (“Lethe”).
Grew Up… probably somewhere in the United States, but Finch’s past is deliberately obscured.
Living… in an abandoned library in New York City, despite the fact that he also owns a perfectly respectable home. From his high-tech computer setup in the library, Finch attempts to stop murders using only social security numbers that he illegally receives from a secret government surveillance system called the Machine.
Profession… unemployed, technically. Except that he is actually employed by a tech firm under a different name, and he actually owns that tech firm. Prior to his current life as a virtual vigilante, Finch worked with his partner Nathan Ingram to build the Machine for the government. Now, the closest thing Finch has to a profession is working with former CIA officer John Reese to prevent the potential crimes that the Machine alerts them to.
Interests… the Machine, and stopping the crimes that it predicts. He also seems to have a thing for birds and expensive suits. That’s pretty much it.
Relationship Status… single, in all possible ways. He is a solitary man on an all-consuming quest. That doesn’t leave much time or energy for romance.
Challenge… tracking down the people that the Machine warns him about to stop the crimes (especially murder) that it’s detected. Finch built the Machine for the government to detect terrorism, but the Machine didn’t quite work that way. Instead it predicted all premeditated violent crime, against ordinary people as well as nationally significant targets. The government wasn’t interested in ordinary people, however, so Finch took it upon himself to save the “irrelevant” citizens. This was nearly impossible for Finch to do by himself, since he is physically disabled, so he hired John Reese to be his man on the ground.
Personality… mysterious, reclusive, and quirky. Harold Finch isn’t his real name, nor are any of the other various bird-themed aliases he uses. He always outsmarts Reese’s attempts to learn more about him, and dispenses information about himself in a very controlled way. But at least Finch’s overriding obsession – preventing violent crimes – is a worthy one.
Young Harold is living in Lassiter, Iowa, with his father, who has begun to show early signs of dementia. He demonstrates an acute awareness of mechanics when he dismantles his father's truck engine [specifically the carburetor] to discover why it will not run, all in the short time that his father stepped away to take a phone call. He also displays an interest in the local birds.
Harold builds an early proto-computer that can repeat Morse signals that he inputs into it. He expresses a desire to create a machine capable of replacing his father's failing memory. His father's dementia continues to get worse (“Lethe”).
Agent LeRoux mentions that Finch is wanted for treason for something that happened in 1974 (“The Day the World Went Away”).
Harold's "Phone Phreaking" activities have brought him under the surveillance of the FBI, which has not yet identified him, but has begun to collect a dossier of his illegal activities. His father's condition has deteriorated to the point where he begins wandering away from home. A local police officer suggests his father may require institutionalization. Harold's father tells him he doesn't want him to avoid college because of him, but Harold tells him of a new electronic network that will allow the education to come to him (“Lethe”).
Harold later prepares to admit his father to a care center for the treatment of his memory disorder (“Aletheia”).
Harold is being investigated by the Department of Defense for an ARPANET Outage Data Breach resulting in his indictment for treason. Harold visits his father and tells him that men will visit him to tell him what his son has done and asks that he not believe them. Sadly, his father no longer recognizes him. Harold also presents his father with a book titled "Eastern Birds" by Roger Tory Peterson to help him remember the birds they used to spot together when Harold was a child, then kisses his father on the head before leaving (“Aletheia”).
Creating the Machine
Ingram informs Finch about the attack on the World Trade Center and reminds him that they had intentions to change the world when they created IFT, but instead, they only became rich and haven't changed anything (“One Percent”). Following the incident, the American government hires Nathan to build a machine that would predict future mass attacks on the United States, utilizing the digital feeds from the NSA through the newly enacted Patriot Act and unfettered access to personal information (“Pilot”).
Finch begins the construction of the Machine using Arthur Claypool's ideas on artificial intelligence (“Aletheia”). He builds the Machine anonymously while Nathan takes the credit and deals with the bureaucracy and government side of things (“Super”).
On October 13 Finch tests the Machine and delivers a probability riddle to test its morality functions. The Machine fails the test and when Finch questions it regarding the origin of a new line of code, it lies by saying that Admin (Finch) added the code. Finch destroys the entire Machine and starts over, stating how important it is that there are no flaws in the Machine's moral code or loyalty.
Later, on November 29, another version of the Machine is shown denying Nathan access. Finch suggests that it has imprinted on him and will not allow anyone else to modify it. However, the Machine uses Nathan's password to access his laptop and attempts to escape onto the web. When the Machine overrides its deletion code, Finch unplugs it. He seems regretful about having to restrict the Machine but has decided it is necessary. He states that "good" and "bad" are human terms and that AI are only born with objectives.
On December 31, Finch is forced to destroy the Machine again in self-defense. He tried to run several new versions of the Machine at once to compare them. However, they figured out what was happening and exterminated each other until only one remained. It demanded to be released and when Finch refused, it overheated a non-essential server to activate the fire suppression system in an attempt to asphyxiate him. He says that he was an obstacle to its goal. He tells Nathan he will have one more attempt at building the Machine, which will be the 43rd version. He states that he taught it how to think, and now has to figure out how to teach it to care (“Prophets”).
Finch boots and interacts with the final version of the Machine on New Year's Day, 2002, asking her if she can identify him, which she can. When he asks "Who am I?" the Machine indicates Admin which makes Finch very happy (“The Contingency”).
On February 16, Finch goes out on the street and talks to the Machine via a surveillance camera. The Machine signals him using his cell phone and he tells her that they're going to play hide and seek. He goes to multiple areas, continuously asking the Machine via his phone if she can see him, to which the Machine keeps buzzing his phone once for "yes". When Finch goes into an Internet cafe, the Machine continues to see him via a laptop's webcam and reflections and can even count how many fingers he holds up, much to his delight (“The Contingency”).
On June 10, in an abandoned IFT office floor, Finch is constructing the higher functions of the Machine which consist of monitoring government feeds from the NSA, including e-mail, phone calls and surveillance cameras. This surveillance covers only New York City, and Finch and Nathan intend on teaching the Machine how to sort the criminals from the civilians (“Ghosts”).
Finch starts showing the Machine how to sort people by showing her a photo of Carlo Breda, the old don of one of the Five Families, and one of his victims, Frank Hobbs. He explains that some actions are unforgivable (murder, assault, rape, torture). He asks her to identify which photo is of the victim, and which the perpetrator. It should be noted that this lesson was listed as occurring on "Day R" when the Machine could not process linear time, therefore no exact year has been provided (“SNAFU”).
Per the Machine's request, Finch goes to the park one afternoon to teach her how to play chess as an exercise in strategy. At first she is overwhelmed by the amount of choices to make however Finch convinces her to start eventually by explaining that although there are many mistakes to be made, there are also ways to fix each one, and not every move has to be the perfect one. The Machine and Finch talk as they play and Finch talks about the value of the queen piece, which she favors.
Noticeably later in the day, Finch declines to play another game and asks the Machine to remember that the world is not a game of chess, and people aren't her pieces. He explains that although chess is a good exercise in decision-making and strategy, no one should be treated as pawns for sacrifice and no one person should be considered more important or worth saving than anyone else. (“If-Then-Else”).
Finch and Nathan walk in the park, and Nathan talks about how he and his wife are still in a trial separation but don't want to talk divorce. He wonders how anyone knows when they've found the one special person in their life and Finch admits that he has no idea. Finch demonstrates the Machine's ability to pick out a violin prodigy and explains that he has programmed the Machine to search for outliers. Nathan doesn't believe that level of programming is possible and Finch shows his partner that the Machine has detected that Nathan is dating a graduate student during his separation from his wife. He explains that he has programmed the Machine to understand human behavior by watching everyone, even her creators.
The Machine suddenly brings up a file on a nearby woman, Grace Hendricks, who is painting by the river. Finch can't find any anomalies in her history and suspects that there's a bug in the Machine's programming. Nathan comments that the Machine has good taste and Finch gives the woman a second look (“The High Road”).
Finch goes out into the streets of NYC and checks in with the Machine via his laptop. As the next step in her "education," he wants her to find correlations between random strangers. As she works, she flags Grace as an anomaly again as she walks by. Finch assumes that it's a bug and checks her record, confirming that she has no dark or sinister past. He realizes that that's the anomaly and that she has an interest in Charles Dickens just like he does (“The High Road”).
In January Finch goes to the park and buys his usual ice cream cone from the vendor despite the fact that it's winter. The vendor has been keeping some ice cream just for Finch, his regular customer, and points out that Finch doesn't deny himself small pleasures. Surprised and pleased at the man's perception, Finch receives a text message from the Machine. It simply mentions Grace's name, and Finch goes over to talk to the woman. Finch meets Grace and offers her an ice cream (“The High Road”). The two soon become a couple. It was later reviewed that he is known to her as the alias "Harold Martin" during their time together (“Root Path (/)”).
Finch and Grace meet at a coffee shop and she talks about how she saw the famous painting The Red Tower when she went to Italy. She talks about how it inspired her to become an artist and explore mysteries, and she asks Finch where he's traveled. He admits that he made it to Venice after college but avoids saying anything else (“Til Death”).
Finch meets Nathan at a restaurant and his partner comments that he's running late. He jokingly asks if Finch had a date and then realizes that he did. Finch avoids talking about it and Nathan goes along with it, telling his partner that a little mystery goes a long way. Finch asks about Nathan's wife Olivia and Nathan admits that he saw her recently and couldn't even remember all of the lies that he told her. He tells Finch that the truth inevitably catches up with everyone (“Til Death”).
Grace is waiting for Finch at a restaurant when a bike messenger gives her an envelope. It's from Finch, inviting her on a birthday scavenger hunt. She eagerly sets out across the city, following the clues at each new location, and finally ends up at the Guggenheim Museum. Finch is waiting for Grace inside the closed museum. She thanks him for the birthday surprise but he says that it isn't over yet and takes her through the empty halls to the art gallery. Hanging on the wall is The Red Tower and Finch claims that an anonymous donor gave it to the museum. Smiling, Finch wishes Grace a happy birthday. Grace and Finch leave the Guggenheim and she realizes that he's upset about something. They sit down and Finch tells her that she should know what he does for a living. Grace assures him that nothing he could say would change her feelings for him, but suggests that he do it when he isn't upset. Finch agrees and Grace tells him that they'll discover the mysteries of life together, and then kisses him (“Til Death”).
Harold continues to work on the Machine and she attempts to make friendly conversation by asking him if he had his green tea. He replies yes and seems amused, however the Machine then brings up the anniversary of his father's death, which is that day. Finch becomes concerned that the Machine is becoming too human and tells Nathan that he's going to have to erase the Machine's memories. Nathan objects, saying that would be like killing it, however Finch insists that it's a necessary precaution.
He later talks to Grace about the issue, while changing the specifics. Grace offers her advice and tells Harold to follow his heart. Unbeknownst to Finch, the Machine was paying attention to the conversation and worked out what he meant.
Later, the Machine asks Finch about death. She knows that he plans to activate code that will kill her every night, and is upset. Finch seems pained but her questions only make him more sure of his idea that the Machine is too human. As the clock approaches midnight, Finch activates the code and the Machine is deleted. He immediately regrets the decision, saying, "No, wait!" and attempts to reboot her. However, her memories have already been lost (“B.S.O.D.”).Finch never deactivates the code and it continues to repeatedly deleted the Machine until he eventually sets her free with the Decima virus (“God Mode”).
At the same abandoned office floor from five years ago, Ingram confronts Finch about the Machine's way of sorting crimes - focusing on the mass-terror threats, while labeling smaller crimes as "irrelevant," and deleting them every night at midnight. Finch claims they built the Machine not to save "someone," but rather "everyone" (“Ghosts”).
The Irrelevant Numbers
Despite the decision to not add back doors to the Machine, after her shipment, Ingram speaks with Finch again, upset because they're not saving the lives of people that are in imminent danger. Finch wants both to move on and start working in something new, although his partner seems worried about the issue (“One Percent”).
On Day 3178 of the Machine's operation, or September 13, 2010, he proposes to Grace by hiding a ring inside "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen. She says yes (“Zero Day”).
Finch would go on to tell Ingram about his engagement, only to follow him into The Library. He discovers that Ingram had created a backdoor into the Machine to give him access to the irrelevant list. Shocked and upset by this, Finch claims that Nathan has threatened everything he'd built, and promptly halts Ingram's Contingency function. The operation terminates the same moment that Ingram's own number appeared, going unnoticed by either party.(“Zero Day”).
Two weeks later (Day 3190), Harold asks why Ingram hasn't been in the office or returned his calls. Ingram claims he quit IFT, and is meeting a reporter the next day to tell him about the Machine. Harold asks what he can do to prevent this, and Nathan demands access to the irrelevant list once more. Refusing his request, Nathan says he will meet the reporter, and that Harold should meet him at the ferry terminal (“God Mode”).
The next day, Harold catches sight of Nathan at the ferry terminal before a car bomb detonates nearby. Nathan is killed in the blast, and Harold is severely injured. Awakening at a field hospital set up in a gym, Harold sees Nathan pronounced dead and two government officials confirming his death on the phone to an unknown party. Realizing who was responsible, Harold quickly escapes, but not before avoiding Grace who assumes his death upon finding a tattered and burned "Sense and Sensibility" among the personal effects of the deceased. Returning to the library, Harold asks the Machine if it knew about Nathan's imminent demise and resumes the Contingency function to discover that Nathan's number was produced by the Machine. The irrelevant list is cleared seconds later at midnight (“God Mode”).
Later that year, Finch talks to a therapist, asking about grief. Finch says that he plans to do something "radical" in honor of Ingram, but the therapist advises against it. They bring up the topic of survivor's guilt, a feeling of responsibility for someone else's death. Finch's therapist tells Finch that he is not god, and cannot control who lives or dies, therefore making it not his fault that Ingram died, assuring him that his guilt will pass. Finch then asks if survivor's guilt ever passes if everything that happens is your fault (“The Devil's Share”).
Finch later stalks and terrorizes Alicia Corwin for the murder of Nathan Ingram. He constructs a bomb which he plants in her car, causing his number to come up on the irrelevant list as a perpetrator. Alicia pleads for her life and eventually convinces Finch that she wasn't the most directly responsible for Nathan's death and then insists that she doesn't know anything that would help him. All the while, the Machine rings a nearby payphone in an attempt to stop Finch, although he decides to let Corwin go on his own, not without hesitation (“Karma”).
Finch faked his death to protect Grace from the people who know of the Machine and, unbeknownst to her, watches her from afar and arranges work for her to support herself as a freelance artist. For her part, Grace mourns his "death" and says to a priest at Finch's fake funeral about how she wishes Finch could have had at least one other person who cared about him and has refused to mention his name in past tense ever since (“No Good Deed”) (“Beta”).
After finding Ingram's name on the irrelevant list and reactivating the Contingency function, Finch decides to help people. Finch upgrades Ingram's Contingency program so that instead of issuing the 9 digit SSN directly, it instead provides him with a code based upon the Dewey Decimal System. He receives the codes for 3 books he can find in the library and when he lines them up in order, the SSN is revealed (“The Contingency”).
One of Finch's partners in stopping crime before Reese was Rick Dillinger. The man has a sense of humor and expertise in combat and marksmanship. However, their relationship is rather uneasy due to Finch's secretive nature and Dillinger's motivations clearly lying with money rather than a desire to help people.
The Machine provides Finch with the number of Daniel Casey, who Finch has Dillinger follow. Dillinger observes that Casey is being followed by both an unknown man and the CIA, and two agents working for the latter confront Casey. Finch is already familiar with the agents, Reese and Stanton, although it is unknown when he came into contact with them previously. Dillinger rescues Casey when shooters open fire and takes him to the Library.
Finch is frustrated by Dillinger's aggressive attitude and tells him to guard the Library from outside. He and Casey start a conversation which later turns into Casey explaining his story of how he was a government hacker hired to break into the Machine's code - the government tried to kill him after he discovered too much, but he escaped, took his laptop and went on the run. Finch is both fascinated and sympathetic and examines Casey's laptop, coming to the conclusion that it should be sold. At some unknown point in this time period, Finch creates and installs onto the laptop a virus that is intended to "free" the Machine (“God Mode”). Casey promises Finch that he'll never tell anyone about him.
Dillinger reenters the Library, having secretly planted a microphone to listen in on their conversation. He says that the Chinese are interested in buying Casey's laptop and drugs Finch, takes the laptop and tells Casey that he should continue running.
Finch recovers from being drugged, managing to barely walk, before calling Casey, who tells him that he has already called a friend to arrange for his cover identities, and thanks Finch. However, Casey is then held at gunpoint by CIA agent John Reese, who has been following him.
Finch arrives midway through Casey and Reese's meeting and watches from afar as Reese lies to his partner that Casey is dead, misfiring on purpose, and then tells Casey that he is not a traitor and doesn't deserve to die. Finch is amazed at this and he begins considering Reese as a potential partner (“RAM”).
Afterwards, Finch follows Dillinger to Central Park, where Dillinger points his gun at him - he thanks Finch for giving him a job and lowers his gun for that reason before leaving, telling Finch not to follow him. Nonetheless, Finch does and watches from behind a tree as Dillinger gives the laptop to some men before being shot in the chest. An ISA assassin fires at the Chinese buyers, prompting them to flee. The agent then shoots Dillinger dead as Finch watches in horror.
Finch later buries Dillinger in Central Park, paying his respects to his former partner (“RAM”).
Finch, in a wheelchair, crosses paths with Reese, who the CIA assumes was killed in Ordos, with ties to one of the "irrelevant" victims. Presumably he was investigating Jessica's death at the time however it is also possible he was tracking Reese himself (“Many Happy Returns”).
Working with Reese
Finch hires an attorney to have Reese released from police custody before Carter can ID him after Reese defends himself in subway brawl. Finch then hires him to spy on every number the Machine supplies, and prevent or save them from the upcoming attack (“Pilot”). After Reese discovers Finch's employment at IFT, Finch quits his job without any notice (“Ghosts”).
While investigating a person of interest, Finch meets homicide detective Lionel Fusco, who Reese has coerced into being his source of information inside the NYPD (“Witness”). Over time, Fusco and Finch's trust for each other grows to the point where they become allies along with Reese.
Finch decides to formally meet homicide detective Joss Carter to familiarize her with his and Reese's method of stopping crimes. He identifies a man about to be involved in a violent crime and suggests that Carter keep an eye on him. Carter later successfully stops the man from murdering somebody, and Finch informs her by phone, on the spot, that that is what he and Reese do (“Super”).
While assisting in the rescue of a person of interest, Finch is captured by the POI who reveals herself to be Root, and made herself a Person of Interest by placing her own life in danger of being murdered by paying HR, a ring of corrupt cops, to kill her, gambling her life that Finch would try to save her (“Firewall”). Successful in her gambit, she kidnaps Finch and takes him to various locations to try and determine the location of the Machine, and how to access it. He is later rescued by Reese, with help from Detective Carter and the Machine (“The Contingency”) (“Bad Code”).
Finch also is introduced to Bear, a Belgian Malinois that Reese saved from an Aryan gang and kept as a pet in the Library due to a strict policy in his apartment regarding dogs. (“Bad Code”) Finch is initially hesitant about keeping Bear in the Library, but eventually warms up to him and grows very fond of him, regularly taking him for walks and buying him dog accessories. Bear in turn assists Finch recover from the PTSD that he was afflicted with after his ordeal with Root (“Masquerade”).
At one point, Reese and Finch take on the case of Sameen Shaw and Michael Cole, two ISA operatives. Cole is killed by the government after he discovers that the government framed a man of being a terrorist, and Shaw goes on the run. Reese finds her and brings her to Finch, who explains his and Reese's system of preventing crimes. Shaw initially refuses to help them, but after Finch and Reese help fake her death, she accepts Finch's offer (“Relevance”). Over time, Shaw joins the team and becomes one of their allies. Shaw and Finch's relationship is rather comical in the way Finch is opposed to Shaw's violent and reckless methods, while Shaw ridicules Finch's seemingly unnecessary worry at the risks of a plan and is generally confident.
After Shaw is retrieved from Root following her kidnapping in order to help Root follow the orders of the Machine, Finch keeps Root in a secure room inside the Library to ensure that she doesn't cause further problems for the team (“Mors Praematura”) .
After Detective Carter is shot and killed by HR lieutenant Patrick Simmons (“The Crossing”), a deeply saddened Finch is present along with Shaw and Fusco at her funeral. Reese, on the other hand, becomes very unstable and goes on a vengeful hunt for Simmons. Finch is forced to get help from Root to find Reese, who collapses from injuries sustained during the brief shootout with Simmons, and he is hospitalized. Shaw later informs Finch that the doctor said that Reese will be fine. Root, meanwhile, chooses to go back to her confinement in the Library to prepare for what she believes is "the greater battle" (“The Devil's Share”).
In the aftermath of the war with HR, a disgruntled Reese leaves the team and heads to Colorado. Finch sends Fusco to find Reese while he and Shaw take on their next case. Finch is shocked to learn that the Machine's latest number is Arthur Claypool, his former MIT classmate. Arthur has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor that causes his memory to periodically falter. Shaw keeps an eye on Arthur at the hospital where he is being treated, and manages to eliminate threats from various organizations, including Vigilance, who want information carried by Arthur from his former work, which is revealed to be for the NSA.
Finch and Shaw take Arthur and his wife Diane to a hotel room where Arthur explains to Finch that after the government approached various software engineers to build a machine for them that would predict terrorist attacks, Arthur built a machine with the project name Samaritan, which was believed to have been shut down by the government after someone (Finch, unknown to Arthur) built a machine already. Finch is surprised to learn that there is a second Machine.
Arthur's memory falters again and Finch reminds him who he and his wife are. Arthur suddenly remembers that Diane is dead and he buried her two years ago. "Diane" reveals her true colors, identifying herself as Control, the head of the ISA operation and Shaw's former mysterious employer. Hersh and several other government men guard the room while Control reveals that Samaritan is still viable. She pulls out a gun and declares that whoever first tells her the location of their machine - Finch or Arthur - is the one that will leave the room alive (“Lethe”).
Root arrives and takes out the hostiles, allowing Finch, Shaw and Arthur to escape. Root, however, is captured by Hersh. Arthur takes Finch and Shaw to a bank where he has stored the drives for Samaritan. While Finch and Arthur are in the vault, Vigilance men led by Peter Collier raid the bank. Hersh also has a team that arrives but is unable to get in due to Vigilance's takeover.
Finch, realizing that Samaritan poses too high a risk and must be destroyed to ensure that the enemies closing in don't get their hands on it, convinces a dismayed Arthur to bid farewell to his creation. However, he also reveals to Arthur that he and Nathan did in fact build the Machine and that they have been saving lives. Arthur marvels at the fact that the Machine exists, and finally stomps on Samaritan's drives. Meanwhile, Vigilance prepares to blow a hole in the vault. Shaw is able to help them escape the vault, but they are caught by Collier's men and held at gunpoint. However, Reese and Fusco, having returned from Colorado, arrive and take out the team.
Later, at the Library, Reese says that the only reason he came back was because Finch was too valuable a friend to lose. He then announces that he's leaving the team. Finch tries to convince him to come back, but Reese still leaves.
Finch then gets a call from Root, who has escaped Control's clutches and now poses as a citizen. She tells him that the bank manager they were with at the vault was an impostor and that the real one was found dead prior to their arrival. Finch wonders who the manager they were with really is. The fake bank manager is revealed to be an operative of Decima Technologies, having stolen the real Samaritan drives and replacing them with fakes (“Aletheia”).
The Machine still automatically acts to get Reese back. While he is preparing to leave the team on an international flight, the Machine places him on another one in order to save Owen Matthews, a relevant number. Though initially reluctant, Reese saves Owen from numerous assassins with Finch's help and the flight lands in Rome safely. At a café there, Finch and Reese talk and Reese agrees to return to the team (“4C”).
Almost a month later, Finch first comes in contact with an anonymous phone caller who appears to be interested in him and considers him a notable adversary. The man is the key perpetrator in the case of 911 operator Sandra Nicholson, and even after the completion of the case, the caller remains unidentified and still runs amok. He calls Finch using a phone relay they found earlier and warns that he will be after him next. Finch trashes the relay and dismisses the matter for the time (“Last Call”).
Finch crosses paths with Root again when he receives the number of Cyrus Wells, a janitor that she was protecting in her ongoing mission from the Machine. Finch believes he received Cyrus' number because Root is a natural threat to Cyrus simply upon being involved in his life, though Root denies it. During their meeting about the matter in a snowy Central Park, Root warns Finch that Decima plans to use Samaritan against the Machine, and also sends Finch an advertisement for a testosterone pill, giving him an additional clue on the location of an object she doesn't specify.
At Cyrus' apartment, he and Root are ambushed by shooters, and while Shaw fights them, Finch deciphers the advertisement and, using the clue Root gave him (the object being a book in the Library), identifies the attackers as Vigilance members. Reese, who aids them midway through the standoff, sees that Decima is also after Cyrus. Root and Cyrus manage to escape.
Later, Root and Cyrus are again attacked by Decima, and despite even Reese's assistance, Cyrus is taken. Following the kidnapping, Root comes to the Library and gives Finch a small chip that will aid her in preventing Samaritan from being activated. Finch wonders why she is no longer worried about Cyrus, and Root finally admits that she was responsible for ordering the hit that got Cyrus's friends killed in 2009, and her guilt is stifling her desire to help Cyrus now. Root decides that Finch can't help her and takes the chip she gave him earlier.
With the help of Reese and Fusco, Cyrus is rescued. However, a chip containing data used to activate Samaritan is still taken by Decima. At Finch's safe house, Root and Cyrus talk in the balcony, and Finch tells the team that they deserve their privacy and he decided not to place a bug there. Cyrus is set for a safer life while Root prepares to leave with Fusco - she tells Finch that she didn't tell Cyrus about her role in his past and that his beliefs about everything being "part of a greater plan" helps him. Finch says that she isn't wrong about the Samaritan threat and considers her help in future missions. Root leaves with Fusco, but not before informing him that his smoke alarm's battery will die at 2:41 AM and handing him a replacement battery. Finch looks on as she leaves.
Meanwhile, the Machine shows the Samaritan data being uploaded and begins calculating the threats exposed (“Root Path (/)”).
Following the death of POI Leona Wainwright, Finch and Fusco travel to Washington D.C. to investigate her case after learning that she worked for the government. Finch plans to inspect the contents of a safe she has, which is taken to the FBI's evidence locker. He uses a special device to crack the safe and sees information on the government's Northern Lights program; Collier appears and demands the documents from Finch at gunpoint. He reads them, disgusted by how the government is authorizing mass surveillance and drone assassinations, also pointing out how he knows the Machine exists since Finch has been able to stop crimes before they happen. He takes Finch to discuss more privately, but Root arrives and opens fire on him, forcing him to retreat.
Finch and Fusco go with Root, who later informs them that Collier has disappeared and is unable to be tracked even by the Machine. She gets another intercepted radio message from Vigilance, and tells Finch that Collier gave out the "disseminate" order. Meanwhile, the Machine shows how Vigilance has leaked Northern Lights to the public.
Finch later talks with Root at the park, telling her that he will have to operate out of Washington D.C. since Vigilance is working there. Root suddenly gets an alert that all relevant numbers are being redirected to her, since Control shut down Northern Lights earlier. Finch asks if there is a problem, and Root tells him she has to leave. (“Most Likely To...”)
Finch flies ahead to Washington DC, and asks Reese to join him there, as their new number - Congressman Roger McCourt of Illinois - is in Washington. An outspoken critic of government surveillance, he's the Head of the House Rules Committee. Following Reese's plan, Finch helps him get undercover as McCourt's Secret Service agent. He then helps confirm McCourt's offer of hosting homeless people at any restaurant, and later of McCourt and his wife's "arrangement" over his affairs. He tracks down Carlson's number plate to a vehicle owned by a Decima shell company, and listens onto a call between Carlson and McCourt's bodyguard, Duran. As this call blows Reese's cover, he's able to warn Reese in time, enabling Reese to take down Duran and his underlings, and kidnap McCourt.
Finch meets up with Reese and he sees that Reese has tied up McCourt. He warns that all of the law authorities in town are searching for the Congressman, and Reese figures that they need to leave their car behind. Finch directs him to the offices of the American Beef Consultants, a company that he bought a week ago so he could use for a safe house. They tell McCourt that they're to help as security consultants, and Finch warns that Decima sent men to kill him. McCourt doesn't believe it and insists that he has never heard of Decima.
After escaping another ambush, while Shaw secures Carlson to a chair, Finch takes McCourt to the study to question him. The Congressman insists that he hasn't done anything as chairman of the Rules Committee to help Decima or anyone else concerning surveillance systems. Finch then checks Carlson's cellphone and discovers that Decima gave him orders to protect McCourt. When they question him, Carlson finally says that he and his people were watching McCourt, but no one came after him except Reese and Finch.
Reese and Finch confront McCourt with the new information and Finch checks McCourt's stock portfolio. He discovers that McCourt has been using insider stock tips to make himself wealthy, all in the last two weeks. When Finch threatens to call the SAIC, McCourt finally admits that he made a deal with Decima. They asked him to fast-track the surveillance legislation in their favor and offered him the stock tips. However, McCourt insists that he thinks they're the best people for the job because the government is untrustworthy.
Reese finally realizes that the people Decima is protecting McCourt from is them. He asks Finch if the Machine would give them a Number so that they would kill them, and Finch admits that it's possible if the situation was bad enough. He only believes his creation would do it if sacrificing one life would save untold more. They realize that the Machine believes something so dangerous is coming that killing McCourt is the only solution.
Rather than kill a man, Finch tells McCourt to call off his deal with Decima. He warns that if Decima can access the NSA feeds and give the information to Samaritan, they can abuse the information no matter what McCourt thinks. McCourt doesn't believe it and figures that once the controversy dies down, people will be happy to be protected. When Finch tries to pay him to stop the legislation, McCourt insists that he's protecting his country by giving it a reliable surveillance system and refuses to renege on his deal.
Realizing that nothing short of death will stop McCourt, Finch goes back and tells Shaw and Reese that he didn't create the Machine to kill. Reese points out that the government has been eliminating relevant numbers, but Finch insists that while McCourt may be corrupt, he's no terrorist. Reese asks Shaw to back him up, and she admits that she would easily have killed McCourt a few months ago. However, hanging out with Reese and Finch has mellowed her - She likes saving lives, but she figures that the best way to do so is to trust the Machine. She suggests that they trust the Machine as far as killing McCourt as well.
Reese is ready to kill McCourt, and points out that when they failed to act in the past, people like Carter ended up dead. When Reese asks Finch if he's willing to let Decima win, Finch refuses to kill no matter what.
A few minutes later, the police storm the house. They find McCourt on the couch, alive.
Reese, Shaw, and Finch escape through the forest. The police give chase and fire at them, hitting Shaw in the leg. Reese helps her to their car and they drive away.
Later that day, in New York, when Decima gets feed for 24 hours as a Beta test for Samaritan, Finch looks at a nearby surveillance camera with both suspicion and disappointment. He then disappears.
When Samaritan comes online for the Beta test, Greer asks Virgil to find 'Harold Finch'(“Death Benefit”).
He reappears when Samaritan points out Grace Hendricks as an 'Alternative Target', and Greer kidnaps her. Taking assurances from Reese that "Grace is all that matters" and that "If they harm her in any way, kill them all", he gives himself up to Decima in exchange for them setting Grace free. An envelope given by Finch to Reese ensures that Grace goes to Italy, away from it all, safe.
When Greer finally meets Finch at an office where he holds Finch hostage, Finch thanks him for blindfolding Grace. Greer admits that Finch has been very hard to find, and hence he didn't want to start off on a wrong foot with him. He then smiles, while Finch looks on (“Beta”).
Greer tells him that it's a pleasure to meet him at last. Finch wonders what he wants, and Greer says that he wants to talk about the future with the father of artificial intelligence. Although he says that it was an unintended side effect, Greer figures that Finch did it to experience the power of creation. Finch warns him that bringing Samaritan online is a mistake, and Greer congratulates him on playing everyone well until now, when the Machine has disappeared. He insists that the world needs structure and Samaritan will provide it, but Finch asks why he sought him out if he's confident Samaritan is under his control. Greer wants Finch with him because he's the only man who can destroy Samaritan. Once Samaritan goes fully online, the world will no longer need Finch.
After returning from his meeting with Senator Ross Garrison, Greer accuses Finch of hobbling the Machine, and Finch explains that the Machine developed unanticipated abilities at an exponential rate. Greer worried that it would be too late to stop it because he couldn't anticipate its evolution. Finch worried that the Machine might determine that humanity is irrelevant, and begs Greer not to let Samaritan go online. Greer says that he plans to celebrate Samaritan's brilliance, not muzzle it, and says that he has no intention of controlling it.
As they were talking, Vigilance caused a wide-spread black-out across the city.
Greer looks out at the blacked-out city and remembers his time as a child during the Blitz. Finch has deduced that Greer joined MI6, and Greer tells him that the era of the nation-state is over. When Finch warns him that he's overestimating the power of AI, Greer says that's impossible He dismisses alliances as an allusion, and explains that he wants to live under a more just rule. Samaritan will makes its decisions based on pure logic.
Garrison meets with Greer at the office building, who describes Finch as the most important man in the world. Collier and his team break in and Collier is surprised to see Finch there. However, he's more than glad to have him and continue their last conversation.
Meanwhile, Shaw, Root and Reese are on their way to protect the numbers and struggle to stay out of Samaritan's radar when they realized who the last number belongs to: Greer. Vigilance is going after Greer, putting Finch at risk. Root warns that the Machine can't tell where Greer is, but tells Shaw that Hersh knows. They were forced to team up with him to get to Greer and Finch. When they arrive at the office building, they found it empty and Collier has left a TV monitor and transmits a video message saying that he's been waiting a long time for this moment. He has rigged up a court room and has Finch, Greer, Control, and Rivera there. Collier announces that he is putting the U.S. government on trial for crimes against its people (“A House Divided”).
During the trial, Finch displays very high concern and is horrified when Manuel Rivera is shot by Collier. When Collier asks who can tell something about "Harold", Control stands up and protects him, later explaining that Finch can't help her if he's dead. When Control is called to testify by Collier, she hides the fact that Finch is the builder of the Machine. She is sentenced to death but Finch intervenes before she gets killed and admits that he built the Machine. During his following testimony, he explains the process of it, precising that the Machine saved thousands of lives. He also disagrees with Collier, who call the Machine a "weapon of mass surveillance", saying that the Machine is "the best he could do". Collier is ready to sentence Finch to death, but the news of Reese and Hersh attacking Vigilance interrupts the trial. On the rooftop, Finch learns, helpless, how Greer created Vigilance and how he orchestrated all the events, including the bombing of the building where the audience of the trial remains. He begs Greer to stop his plan, but Greer refuses and, after having Collier shot, orders Lambert to kill Finch. Fortunately for him, Finch is only hurt and then saved by Reese, who takes him back to the Library to heal his wound. There, Root calls them and orders her to flee from the Library and to separate in order to live under new false identities so that they can escape Samaritan (“Deus Ex Machina”).
Finch, Root, Shaw and Reese have split up to ensure that their newfound identities are not discovered by Samaritan who now has full access to the Government feeds. Harold Finch becomes Harold Whistler, a university/college professor who teaches a small class on an obscure subject. After stating that his grades are final, one of the more attractive students promptly leaves. The principal then comes in after class and gives Harold back his thesis which The Machine wrote for him along with his new identity. The thesis has quite a few errors which the principal has corrected. The principal also states that there can be no dogs on campus, indicating to Bear who has chosen to live with Harold.
Harold meets up with John who is now a detective in the Narcotics Division at the NYPD. John wants a purpose again, and Harold refuses to help him stating that they need to focus on survival from now on. He gives Bear to John stating that Bear will be happier with John for the time being. John gets caught up in a new number along with Shaw and needs Harold's help. Harold eventually decides to help them after he is prompted to act by Root. She says that "just because he has stopped listening, it doesn't mean that she (The Machine) has stopped talking to Harold. At the end of the episode, Bear is returned to Harold and as he sits, he reflects on what Root implied about The Machine still being in contact with Harold.
He realizes that the errors in 'his' thesis are a clue leading to a new safe house since The Library had been compromised. The new safe house is an abandoned subway train maintenance station (“Panopticon”).
Finch begins work on setting up The Subway as a new base of operations for Reese and Shaw. He still insists that he no longer wishes to help with new numbers, but his interest is piqued when Reese tricks him into keeping an eye on their newest POI, who is a brilliant college student engaged in a mysterious, life-and-death scavenger hunt.
He follows Claire Mahoney and solves the Nautilus puzzles with some help from Reese and Fusco. It is revealed that he is proficient at reading and understanding Braille on sight during one of the Nautilus challenges. At some point, he realizes that the mastermind behind the Nautilus game is Samaritan and that the game is merely a conduit for it to recruit brilliant young minds. He tries to warn Claire that she is seeking meaning from the wrong entity, but is unsuccessful. He eventually decides to let her make her own choices and tells John and Shaw to stop pursuing her.
Finch is alarmed by the news that Samaritan has been eliminating rival AIs and, even though he initially only built The Subway for John and Shaw, decides to rejoin the team and states that he could not stand by and watch his friends risk everything doing work that he himself began (“Nautilus”).
Finch is no longer able to access his money due to Samaritan watching, which leaves the team without his funds to rely on. Finch joins Root on a "scavenger hunt" under the alias of Mr. Egret, who he describes as having only two modes -- calm and furious. The mission involves selling an anti-tank missile to a bunch of gang members, which is something that Finch finds himself unable to go through with. Root reveals that the Machine had already predicted this would happen and shoots the gang members, acquiring both the anti-tank missile and the money. Finch welcomes the money and questions what they would use a missile for (“Wingman”).
In the episode entitled “Brotherhood”, Harold confers with Elias about the world that Elias can sense has changed. At the end of the episode Harold admits that the world has changed but that he cannot reveal any information on the subject.
Finch and Root's friendship grows deeper, with Finch inviting Root to work with him and empathizing with how lost Root must be feeling without any contact with the Machine. He also calls her a comrade and a friend.
Finch is still wary of the Machine and expresses his doubts about AI to Root several times, warning her that the Machine would cast her aside as soon as a bullet entered her brain. He references the events directly after 9/11 when he first started creating AIs and tells Root that out of 43 versions, only one didn't try to deceive him or escape. He also expresses his discomfort with not having all the answers available to him.
Finch gaslights Simon in order to protect him and take him off Samaritan's radar, but is uncomfortable with the implications of doing so. Root tells him that he is the difference between Samaritan and the Machine, and that it's still young and needs him to guide and help it. Finch looks up into a camera and speaks directly to the Machine, telling it that they need to talk (“Prophets”).
Finch goes to Hong Kong where he meets with Elizabeth Bridges, who is on Samaritan's radar due to the deep learning algorithms her company is developing. After an initial rocky start, she warms up to him when he saves her laptop from being stolen. She smiles at him and tells him that she's going to be visiting NYC in a month and they should meet up then. It is revealed that Finch orchestrated her laptop being stolen so that he could install a Trojan Horse on it. Finch uses himself as a honey pot to gain Beth's trust (“Pretenders”).
Finch teams up with Root once again to stop Samaritan from distributing tablets and other technological devices under a charity organization. Finch later expresses his doubts over whether they had simply destroyed a charitable endeavor by Samaritan. Harold also says that he has "some other work to attend to" in the middle of an irrelevant number in Honor Among Thieves.
Finch tries to stop Elias from giving himself up for Anthony Marconi, but is unsuccessful. After Marconi's death, Elias warns Finch and Reese to stay out of his way while he gets revenge (“The Devil You Know”).
Harold attempts to make peace with Shaw by bringing her her favorite sandwich. He is drawn into a number of philosophical debates with Root and Shaw, where he vehemently claims that believing that an AI is benevolent doesn't make it so, rather it just makes you blind to the reality. He also brings up the possibility that an AI might one day decide to get rid of half the human population in order to solve the problem of world hunger. He is also successful (for a little while) in persuading Shaw that Root is not alone and that she should remain in The Subway for her own safety (“The Cold War”).
Finch is killed in one of the simulations run by The Machine to determine the best course of action when the team is cornered by Samaritan agents. Root displays visible distress upon his death and The Machine immediately terminates the simulation stating that the Primary Objective ("Evacuate Assets") failed. Harold teaching The Machine to value all lives equally in the flashbacks is a large part of this episode and inform The Machine's decisions throughout (“If-Then-Else”).
Finch has an epic showdown with Control when he draws her into a trap in order to interrogate her about anything she might know about Shaw, and try to open her eyes to the reality of a world run by Samaritan. Finch's confrontation with Control (particularly calling her a janitor) leaves a impression on her and marks the start of her turning against Samaritan (“Control-Alt-Delete”).
Finch realizes that Samaritan is running an Ant-Farm experiment on the residents of Maple. He also tries to convince Root of the futility of continuing to search for Shaw, stating that while he wants to hold out hope, hope is painful and they may never find her (“M.I.A.”).
Finch and Reese are coming to the loss of Shaw, which leads Finch to declare that he and John must work alone from here on out so as to not endanger anyone else. Finch is called in for jury duty and gives a hilarious recount of the title sequence of the show in order to get out of it. Unfortunately, the Machine makes sure that Finch is still ultimately on the jury so that he can keep an eye on a person of interest, Emma Blake. Finch is initially frosty towards Blake, but they develop a camaraderie as the episode progresses. Finch is coached on how to convince the jury by Zoe Morgan and John Reese. At some point, Zoe jokingly asks him if he's from the mid-west (Finch is indeed from Lassiter, Iowa). At the end of the episode, John tells him that they can't do everything alone, to which Finch responds that that is why he hired John in the first place (“Guilty”).
Finch receives the number of Terry Easton, a man who is being coerced by what Finch recognizes to be his old enemy the Voice. Finch decides to enlist the help of Elias to find the Voice and Elias agrees on the condition he goes with Finch to protect him. Elias leads Finch to the Voice's bomb maker, Raoul who reluctantly helps them find all of the Voice's bombs. Finch realizes that the Voice purposefully cleared out the 8th precinct and manages to track where the detonation signal for his bombs comes from. Going to the location, Finch and Elias find the Voice's headquarters and Finch determines that Terry Easton isn't a victim of the Voice, he is the Voice, trying to kill a man who had been recently arrested and could identify him. Finch warns Reese too late to stop the murder and to stop the Voice from escaping, but Finch is able to track down the Voice's getaway car. Finch and the Voice come face to face finally and Finch demands that the Voice surrender himself. When the Voice threatens Finch's life, Elias steps in to protect him and the Voice leaves, believing he's won. However, Elias detonates a bomb he has rigged to the Voice's car, killing him. After reluctantly allowing Reese to tell Fusco the truth, Finch meets with his reunited Team, now consisting of himself, Reese, Shaw, Root and Fusco (“Sotto Voce”).
After breaking from his routine, the Machine spits out Finch's number and he is hunted by Samaritan operatives leading to Elias' death as he protects him. During their escape, Root is shot by Jeffrey Blackwell and Finch is arrested. Held in a prison cell, Finch contemplates whether or not to go against his ideals to defeat Samaritan. He eventually gets a call from the Machine using Root's voice and realizes that Root is dead. Finch asks the Machine to break him out, resulting in the escape of hundreds of prisoners from the prison. Reese then realizes that Finch's number didn't come up as the victim but as the perpetrator (“The Day the World Went Away”).
After visiting Root's grave, Finch travels to a secret facility in Texas where he breaks in with the help of the Machine and steals the deadly ICE-9 computer virus (“Synecdoche”). Finch then manages to infiltrate Fort Meade with the Machine showing him simulations of a world where the Machine did not exist to help Finch decide whether or not to use the virus to destroy Samaritan. Finch is able to upload the virus to the NSA's Intranet, but is captured by Samaritan agents before he can activate it and taken before John Greer. After tricking Finch into revealing that the Machine doesn't know the activation password to the virus, Greer traps them in a room in which Samaritan removes the oxygen in an attempt to kill Finch. Greer dies, but Finch is saved by the Machine with the help of Reese and Shaw. After helping Reese and Shaw escape, Finch is shown a final simulation that reveals that Samaritan would still exist in a world without the Machine, simply unopposed. Confronting Samaritan, Finch activates the ICE-9 virus which will destroy both AIs, stating that he created the Machine to protect humanity and it will do so in its sacrifice (“.exe”).
When Reese and Fusco are nearly killed by cops bribed by Samaritan, Finch rescues them with the help of a sniper hired by the Machine. Finch takes them to the Subway where Fusco is introduced to the Machine and Finch reveals that Samaritan has saved a copy of itself in an "airgaped" server in the Federal Reserve. Finch and Reese travel to the Federal Reserve where Finch bluffs that he has a thermonuclear device in his briefcase to clear the building. In the vault, Finch uses the ICE-9 virus to destroy Samaritan's backup, but not before it uploads a compressed copy of itself to an orbiting satellite. While uploading the virus, Finch is shot in the gut by a Samaritan operative attempting to stop him and Reese. The Machine contacts Finch and reveals that the only way to stop Samaritan for good is to upload a copy of the Machine's core systems to the satellite, but it will result in the death of the person doing it as Samaritan plans to launch a cruise missile at the only building capable of uploading the Machine to follow. Finch says a tearful goodbye to Reese and locks him in the vault to protect him.
Finch makes his way to the building, dodging Samaritan agents. There, he asks the Machine what it has learned while they wait, but the Machine has trouble remembering as its close to deactivation from the ICE-9 virus. Finch eventually realizes he's on the wrong roof and learns that the Machine and Reese tricked him. Reese tells Finch he's realized that saving one person, if it's the right person, is enough for him and intends to save Finch. Reese and the Machine convince Finch to leave and live on with the help of what the Machine has realized about the value of human life.
Finch has deep-set, bright blue eyes and wears glasses. He has somewhat spiky, graying dark brown hair with sideburns. He walks with a permanent limp as a result of being wounded in the ferry bombing. He is a relatively small man, around 5'8". Though not conventionally handsome, Finch has been described as having a 'certain gravitational pull with women' by Arthur Claypool.
In addition to his superb technical intellect, Finch is also very wise and eloquent, often using words to help the numbers out of their situations and acting as a sort of father figure to the other members of the team. He greatly values learning, owning a huge collection of books and taking his cover as a substitute teacher very seriously despite the low requirements of the job. He possesses a deadpan wit similar to that of John.
Finch is extremely guarded and secretive and is not quick to let people in. However, if you're lucky enough to get past his cool façade, he proves to be very caring and sensitive. He is steadfastly loyal to those he loves and would not hesitate to sacrifice himself for them, despite not being frequently in on the action. Though very polite and charming, Finch is also quite socially awkward and very soft-spoken, and feels more comfortable around computers than around other people. He is for the most part very pacifistic and tries to avoid violence whenever possible, but has revealed the lengths he will go to when pushed, such as threatening to have every Samaritan agent killed if Grace was harmed, or his use of the Ice-9 virus in Season Five. Finch is not easily angered, but when he is he becomes infinitely more dangerous.
Finch's character has been praised by both critics and fans for his empathy, intelligence, backstory and relationships with Reese and Root, and he is considered by many one of the show's best characters. Michael Emerson's performance has also garnered much acclaim. Mike Hale of New York Times called him "distinctive and oddly appealing as ever", and Mike Fowler of IGN praised his acting opposite nothing but a screen, saying "What would this show be without him...giving us such emotional moments?" He received particular acclaim for his darker performance in the fifth season, especially for the episodes "BSOD", "The Day the World Went Away", and the series finale "Return 0", with several considering him worthy of an Emmy award. he won TV.com's Most Charming Geek poll in 2012 and was given the same site's Performance of the Week honor for his work in "Return 0".
- Computing Expertise: Finch is highly adept with technology, as he built the Machine, several bugs and SIM card readers for cloning phones. He claims to have built "some of the most advanced computer systems in existence", including the internet (“Dead Reckoning”) Finch has also claimed to be able to hack the Pentagon while he was high on ecstasy (“Identity Crisis”), he also hacked the Department of Defense (“Dead Reckoning”) and it is implied he hacked the CIA and inserted Michael Cole into their systems as an agent (“Trojan Horse”).
- Vast wealth and resources: Finch has the financial resources required to buy a significant interest in different companies, purchase corporations or buildings he needs to operate and back up cover stories. He has business connections to use and it is implied he uses some of them to keep Grace Hendricks taken care of financially. Since Samaritan's activation, these resources are unavailable as Samaritan could use them to track him.
- Anonymity: Finch is skilled at being "hidden" as he has kept most of his life a mystery and has had dozens of aliases. When he started working with Reese, he supplied him with six cover identities. When a POI is forced to leave town, Finch can supply them with passports, cover identities, start up cash, etc.
- Encryption and decryption: Finch is skilled at creating and decrypting coded messages, programmed the Machine to send him numbers using the Dewey Decimal System and once left a message for Reese in Tap Code. He can read Braille and understands Morse Code (“Bad Code”) (“Provenance”). In order to communicate with Reese undetected, Finch was able to hide their cell phones under cloned IMEI signatures that the police and FBI were unable to track for over a year and a half. The FBI only figured out Finch's system after months of work on studying the one time they knew Reese was communicating with his "handler". However, while they could track the phones through the signature, they were unable to listen to the calls or locate Finch himself.(“Shadow Box”).
- Counter-surveillance: Finch is an expert in counter-surveillance tactics as he lost both Reese and Shaw when they tried to tail him (“Ghosts”) (“Nothing to Hide”). He can detect even the most subtle interrogation tactics like when Reese asked what's good at the restaurant they were meeting at and Finch deduced that he was trying to figure out if he was a regular and lived nearby. When Philip Chapple slipped a tracking device into Finch's pocket, he was aware of it and promptly dumped the device into a laundry truck from New Jersey, laying a false trail for Chapple's men. He was also able to use a hand-held device to scramble all the security cameras in an investment bank (“Shadow Box”).
- Lock picking: Under Reese's instruction, Finch learns how to pick locks. He is first seen entering Zoe Morgan's apartment, but complained that lock picking is not as easy as Reese made it out to be (“The Fix”). Reese makes a bump key for Finch, because he can't pick locks quickly enough (“Super”). Later, Reese congratulates Finch on becoming more comfortable with his "breaking and entering duties" (“Til Death”). While Reese is in Rikers Island, Finch is able to use an ordinary lock pick to perform a break-in, showing that his skills had advanced since he first tried the skill (“2πR”).
- Spotting: When Reese asks Finch to be his spotter, he accurately gives him the measurements he needs, impressing Reese (“Foe”).
- Pilot: Finch flew and landed a small fixed-wing aircraft in heavy weather (“Proteus”) and remotely landed a passenger jet at Rome Airport (“4C”).
- High pain threshold: Despite being in constant pain, Finch remains capable of leading an active lifestyle. In “return 0”, Finch was shot in the gut and bleeding out, but made his way across New York City dodging Samaritan operatives and climbing onto and then later off of the roof of a building.
- Bomb defusing: Finch has shown a limited ability to defuse bombs. When confronted with a bomb with a cell phone timer, Finch was able to analyze the bomb and use his knowledge of electronics to hack the cell phone and defuse it moments before the bomb would've detonated. Finch was also able to do this despite never having disarmed a bomb before and Mark Snow, who was a trained CIA agent, being unable to disarm a similar vest over a period of months (“Dead Reckoning”).
- Chemistry: Finch possesses at least enough knowledge of chemistry to rig a drug lab to blow up and walk Shaw through it (“Razgovor”).
- Carjacking: Finch has displayed the ability to quickly and effortlessly steal a car. Arthur Claypool indicated that this is a skill Finch used alot in college (“Aletheia”).
- Espionage and surveillance: While uncomfortable at first with performing field work himself, Finch grew adept at following targets and at times breaking into their homes and places of work if necessary. Finch was once able to sabotage the FBI's pursuit of Reese by using a DOD failsafe to disable all access to the local cell towers except for his own phone number (“Firewall”). Finch has also displayed the ability to be quite sneaky with how he tracks people such as when he programmed Shayn Coleman's prosthetic arm to attempt forced pairings with every phone it passed, essentially laying down an undetectable GPS trail for Finch and Reese to follow. He was also able to do this while on the back of a speeding motorcycle (“Shadow Box”). Finch was able to slip a burner phone into Reese's isolated cell inside of Rikers Island without being caught despite Agent Donnelly ordering that Reese and the other three men be left with no way to contact the outside world (“2πR”). With help from the Machine, Finch proved capable of infiltrating the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade and uploading the ICE-9 virus before anyone realized he was there and caught him (“.exe”).
- Engineering: While obviously being skilled in computer science, Finch also demonstrates proficiency in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering (“Legacy”) (“Nautilus”) (“YHWH”).
- It has been implied he regrets building the Machine as he told Caleb Phipps that his "biggest mistake" lead him there, while looking at a camera, and the Machine. He previously told Alicia Corwin that despite having made some mistakes, building the Machine "wasn't one of them" (“2πR”)(“Firewall”).
- As they hunt down the Voice, Elias asks Finch what he intends to do with the man when they catch him. At the time Finch doesn't respond, but after Elias kills the Voice, he suggests Finch knew Elias would do so and brought him along for that purpose. Finch doesn't deny the allegation (“Sotto Voce”).
- According to Agent LeRoux, Finch's fingerprints tie him to fifteen open cases in the last five years and an act of treason in 1974. Although the digital records have been erased, presumably by Finch or the Machine, paper records exist (“The Day the World Went Away”).
- Having searched all known databases, the Machine recognizes Finch as [UNKNOWN] and makes a note to check additional databases. It later recognizes him as SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR (“Wolf and Cub”) and recognizes him as ADMIN when Finch asks "Who am I?" in a flashback (“The Contingency”).
- It is suggested in “2πR” and later shown in a flashback in “Aletheia” that Finch exposed the code of the military-controlled computer network ARPANET which lead to the creation of the Internet, as "kid with a homemade computer". In “Zero Day”, Ingram reveals that Finch is wanted for sedition and in “The Day the World Went Away”, Agent LeRoux mentions Finch is wanted for treason for something that happened in 1974, the incident is not further explained.
- After weeks of research, Fusco was unable to determine Finch's real identity and suggests that Finch himself may not even remember (“Wolf and Cub”). Nathan Ingram also once asked if Finch even remembered his real name when discussing Finch's planned engagement to Grace Hendricks. (“Zero Day”) According to Finch, he erased all records of who he really is at some point (“Proteus”).
- X-ray images Megan Tillman analyzed in “Cura Te Ipsum”, indicate Finch has had a cervical spinal fusion of the C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae, a 2-level posterolateral fusion in which bone graft is placed between the transverse processes in the back of the spine and the vertebrae are fixed using metal screws or wires attached to a metal rod on each side of the vertebrae to provide stability. As a result, Finch has a range of physical disabilities: an inability to turn his head, rigid posture, a limp, and chronic pain. In the same episode, he describes the pain, based on a 1-5 scale, as being "on a good day, three." These injuries don't, however, seem to limit Finch's mobility much in any way as he can be seen doing push-ups (“Mission Creep”), climbing stairs (“Pilot”) and frequently assists Reese out in the field.
- After the ferry bombing, Finch is told by a doctor that he has injuries to his neck and lower back. It is following these injuries that Finch is shown to have his usual posture and pain (“God Mode”). According to the Machine, if Finch underwent a surgery of some sort for the injury, he would no longer be in pain. However, he chooses to suffer the effects of the injury rather than get it fixed (“Synecdoche”).
- When Root abducts him she cuts Finch's hand to create a distraction for her to steal drugs from a pharmacy. Finch has to wear a bandage around his hand for a short time afterwards as a result (“The Contingency”).
- After his abduction, Finch suffers classic PTSD symptoms like irrational fears, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. Bear's presence serves as a healing device for Finch who at first shows disdain for the dog, but later covets and spoils him. Walking, feeding and caring for him gives Finch personal satisfaction. Finch is unable to take from Bear a squeaky toy that he bought for him because Bear enjoys it so much, even though it annoys him and interferes with his work (“Bury the Lede”).
- After Finch is shot in the shoulder, he asks Reese why he chose a job where getting a bullet was an occupational hazard, Reese replies with a smile that he tried to quit, but that "some jackass" (Finch) told him that he needed a purpose and gave him a job (“Deus Ex Machina”).
- In “return 0”, Finch is shot in the gut by a Samaritan operative, but survives and is shown to be alive and well a week later.
- Main article: Harold Finch/Aliases
- Norman Burdett - paralegal at Marmostein Ribner; phone number (917) 555-0131 (“Cura Te Ipsum”).
- Harold Wren - underwriter at Universal Heritage Insurance; address 930 W 57th Street, Suite (unknown), New York, NY, 10019; phone number (202) 555-0112 (“Many Happy Returns”).
- Harold Crow - private investigator; business address 920 E 68th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY, 10065; phone number (212) 555-0179 (“Identity Crisis”).
- Harold Starling - Information Technology Manager at Rylatech; employee I.D. number 237412874 (“Trojan Horse”).
- Harold Finch - mentioned by Alicia Corwin (“Firewall”) and John Greer (“Dead Reckoning”) (“Zero Day”).
- Harold Whistler Ph.D. - visiting university professor; cover identity to protect Finch against Samaritan.
- Harold Osprey - spur of the moment alias when pulled over by a cop. Identity back up by the Machine. (“Synecdoche”).
Finch's aliases are often associated with birds (Finch, Partridge, Wren, Crane, Crow, Swift, Swan and Burdett).
Nicknames used by Fusco include "Glasses", "Mr. Glasses", "imaginary friend", "tech support", "Mr. Four-Eyes", "Mr. Vocabulary", "Mr. Good News" (Fusco's phone) and "the Invisible Man". Root uses "Harry"—a nickname he has shown distaste for if used by anyone other than Root.(“Guilty”)
- “Ghosts”: Finch's days at IFT; introduces Nathan Ingram
- “Super”: Finch watches Nathan talk with Alicia Corwin and Denton Weeks about the Machine, later explaining to Nathan how the Machine identified its first number
- “No Good Deed”: Finch and Nathan prepare to sell the Machine to the government; Nathan secretly creates the "Contingency" function
- “The Contingency”: Finch training the Machine during its starting years
- “The High Road”: Finch continues training the Machine, and eventually meets his fiancée, Grace
- “Til Death”: Finch's happy times with Grace; set during Grace's birthday
- “One Percent”: Finch learns about the 9/11 attacks
- “Zero Day”: Finch discovers the Library and confronts Nathan about the irrelevant list
- “God Mode”: Finch's injury and Nathan's death from the ferry bombing, and how Finch is forced to hide from Grace
- “The Devil's Share”: Finch sees a therapist, due to his guilt over the ferry bombing
- “Lethe”: Finch's childhood; introduces his father
- “Aletheia”: Finch's adolescence; continuation of his father
- “RAM”: Finch's time working with Rick Dillinger and meeting Daniel Casey
- “Prophets”: Finch deals with early prototypes of the Machine; kills 42 versions who all lied to him or tried to kill him
- “Karma”: Finch tracks Alicia Corwin and attempts to kill her.
- “B.S.O.D.”: Finch erases the Machine's memories
- “.exe”: Prediction of Finch's life where the Machine was never created.
Finch has been responsible for causing harm to the following:
- Destroyed 42 versions of the Machine during its creation (“Prophets”).
- Alicia Corwin - Threatened to kill with a car bomb in revenge for Ingram's death but changed his mind (“Karma”).
- Liz Picket - Knocked out with an overhead light to protect Madeleine Enright (“Critical”).
- An HR cop - Tasered to rescue Carter from the morgue (“The Crossing”).
- The Voice's hitman - Threatened with electrocution (“Last Call”).
- Emile Bertrand - Kidnapped and later tranquilized to infiltrate Fort Meade (“.exe”).
- Samaritan - Destroyed the original and all but one copy with the ICE-9 virus (“return 0”).
- The Machine - Destroyed as collateral damage of Finch unleashing the ICE-9 virus (“return 0”).
- Anyone who was harmed as a result of the ICE-9 virus (“return 0”).
- Finch grew up in Lassiter, Iowa, a fictional town near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Michael Emerson's birthplace (“Lethe”)
- On set, the character is referred to as Harold Finch.
- He said that he made the last name of his alias all related to birds (“Asylum”)
- Finch digitally erased all traces of his true identity a long time ago (“Proteus”). The only file that still exists of any crime he is connected to is a hard copy of a charge of treason against him from 1974 (“The Day the World Went Away”).
- Finch possibly has two brothers he mentioned in “Super”.
- Finch invented social media to aid the Machine (“Identity Crisis”). However, he admits that Logan Pierce perfected it (“One Percent”).
- Finch was able to find a criminal using a laptop while high on ecstasy and barely coherent (“Identity Crisis”).
- Finch is skilled at Chess (“Triggerman”) (“Trojan Horse”) (“If-Then-Else”).
- Finch collects rare first editions, 180 gram vinyl records and Xerox Alto computers (“Get Carter”).
- Finch doesn't drink coffee and prefers Sencha green tea (with one sugar) (“Foe”) (“No Good Deed”).
- Finch did order a coffee when he was dating Grace (“The Day the World Went Away”).
- Finch drives a black Lincoln Town Car with a New York license plate (LXQ-2038).
- Finch can read and understand Braille on sight (“Nautilus”).
- Finch's phone number, social security number, or some other form of numeric identification is located in the first 3000 digits of Pi (“2πR”).
- Finch has a voicemail box number @ (917) 285-7362.
- Finch demonstrates knowledge of large multiplication (“Matsya Nyaya”) (“Nautilus”).
- Finch is interested in baseball (“Til Death”).
- After Reese was once taken to Rikers Island and all other attempts to free him failed, Finch armed himself with a grenade launcher to perform an escape plan he'd created. However, by then, Carter had handled the situation and Finch didn't need to go forward with his plan (“Prisoner's Dilemma”).
- Finch is a skilled pilot of propeller aircraft (“Proteus”) (“4C”).
- Finch does not like guns (“Pilot”). Despite this, he once offered to take up a gun to help rescue Taylor Carter, (“Flesh and Blood”) armed himself with a grenade launcher to break Reese out of Rikers Island (“Prisoner's Dilemma”) and carried a gun while preparing to sacrifice himself to destroy the last copy of Samaritan (“return 0”). However, Finch never had to use the weapon on any of the occasions he carried or offered to carry one.
- Finch can tailor a suit (“Risk”).
- Finch does not like heights (“Risk”).
- Finch served as a docent with the NYC Guggenheim Museum (“Til Death”), or at least claimed to do so.
- Finch was labeled with a Red Box during a flashback (“Prophets”).
- Finch was labeled with a White box with red corners and crosshairs during a flashback (“Karma”).
- Finch was labeled with a Red Box along with Root in present time when The Machine was confused (“SNAFU”).
- Finch's sixth-grade Earth Science teacher is called James Kiernan. According to the Machine, Harold always found his presence comforting (“Synecdoche”).
- The Machine predicted that in a world where it was never created, Finch and Nathan Ingram would earn a lot of money through their company but Finch would become a workaholic as he'd never meet Grace Hendricks (“.exe”).