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401Panopticon 409The Devil You Know 417Karma” (Finch)
402Nautilus 410The Cold War” (Greer) 418Skip
403Wingman 411If-Then-Else” (The Machine) 419Search and Destroy
404Brotherhood 412Control-Alt-Delete 420Terra Incognita” (Reese)
405Prophets” (Finch) 413M.I.A. 421Asylum
406Pretenders 414Guilty 422YHWH
407Honor Among Thieves 415Q&A
408Point of Origin 416Blunt




Air dateSeptember 23, 2014

Running time43:28

Production code3J5401

Written byErik Mountain
Greg Plageman

Directed byRichard J. Lewis


ID(s) from IntroNonstandard Intro

Images (39)


We're getting numbers again, Harold. We need to get back to work.

— Reese

[Suggest quote]

Season Premiere. "Panopticon" is the first episode of season 4, and the 69th produced hour of Person of Interest. It originally aired on September 23, 2014.


Forced to take on new identities created by Root, the team tries to adapt to their new lives. However, some find it hard to ignore the Machine’s numbers, which puts them all at risk of being detected by Samaritan.

Origin of the Title[]

A panopticon is an architectural form developed for prisons, as conceptualized by philosopher, economist and theoretical jurist, Jeremy Bentham in 1791. It is designed such that one guard can keep all (pan-) under observation (-opticon), without the guard being observed. Panopticon is said to derive from the mythical Greek giant with a hundred eyes, Panoptes - the hundred eyes made him an effective watchman. The term panopticon identifies a society or an area where all the citizens are under pervasive, ever-present surveillance by unobserved, but untiring entities: a surveillance state. The French philosopher Michel Foucault in his book Discipline and Punish refers to the "panopticon" as an experimental laboratory of power in which behaviour could be modified, and as a symbol of the disciplinary society of surveillance.

Main Plot Points[]

The events in this episode are in Samaritan point of view.

  • The team's new identities and roles are introduced. Each must hide in plain sight by living ordinary lives.
  • John, now a narcotics detective, begins receiving numbers again. He and Shaw also find themselves receiving messages from the Machine designed to allow them to meet in seemingly ordinary ways.
  • Person of Interest: Ali Hasan, an electronics store owner who is being forced to develop a mesh network for drug dealers who are threatening his son.
  • Finch is reluctant to help the team, but finds himself drawn into the case when Ali needs help only he can offer.
  • Greer and Samaritan begin the hunt for the team, and a new operative, Martine Rousseau, is introduced.
  • The Brotherhood, a gang of modern-day drug dealers lead by the mysterious Dominic, who are challenging Elias's older methods, is introduced.
  • John must enlist Elias and Scarface to defeat the drug dealers while he appears to be acting as an ordinary detective.
  • The team co-opts The Brotherhood's mesh network, and finds themselves with a way to communicate undetected by Samaritan.
  • Finch realizes the errors in Harold Whistler's doctoral dissertation are a message from the Machine. Having decoded it, he finds himself in an abandoned subway repair siding.
  • John is transferred to Homicide, and assigned as Fusco's new partner.
  • Shaw is approached by an online dater named "Romeo", who turns out to be a thief in need of a driver.

The Characters' New Identities and Lives[]

While under surveillance by Samaritan, four of the five main characters must assume new identities, which allow them to live ordinary lives while still behaving in a way that is reasonably natural to them; only Fusco is able to carry on in his usual role. Each of them must remain in character, and their activities must appear normal and appropriate to their cover identity to Samaritan. These identities are:

POI 0401 Cover1
  • Reese: Det. John Riley, from Narcotics, then promoted to Homicide.
  • Finch: Harold Whistler, Ph.D., a visiting university professor.
  • Shaw: Sameen Gray: a sales woman in the cosmetics department at Bloomingdale's.
  • Root: Root's name and persona change frequently, allowing the Machine to place her where it needs her to be.

As the Machine's analog interface, Root remains in contact with the Machine, although on a considerably reduced basis. The others must depend on calendar reminders and analog telephone calls to communicate with the Machine. The team must avoid being seen together, which would allow Samaritan to make connections between them that might lead to detection. They can only meet in places that seem random, such as Reese and Finch's meeting at a chess park. These new rules for living quickly force John to hire Elias when he needs the pretext of acting in the capacity of a narcotics detective to enter the house where the drugs are being packaged for distribution.

References to Early Episodes[]

As part of the process of laying out the "new world order" under Samaritan, the writers included a number of references to early episodes of the show, including:

  • In the first scene with John, he looks out over the river, much as he did when he met with Finch below the Brooklyn Bridge in “Pilot”.
  • Reese arriving at just the right moment with badge in hand, this time as Det. Riley.
  • Reese, in a balaclava, fires a grenade launcher before he cleans out bad guys in a bar, including throwing one out a window.
  • Reese instructs Dominic's thugs not to hold their guns sideways, and begins his warning about what will happen.
  • "Hello, John." Elias's traditional greeting. The two last appeared together in “Prisoner's Dilemma”.

Episode Notes[]

  • IRT

    An antique IRT map

    The Machine places typographical errors in Finch's dissertation that lead him to the tunnels of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Company, the first operating subway system in New York, now part of the New York subway system. The IRT began service in 1904 as a private company, and operated until 1940, when it was purchased by the City of New York. Its lines are identifiable as the numbered lines on the modern New York subway system.
  • MeshAP

    A simple mesh network

    Ali is able to build a mesh network by linking a series of routers, and broadcasting the signal across disused VHF television antennas. A mesh network is a routing technique where phone calls and messages travel by hopping from router to router within the network area. These small routers behave similarly to a home wireless router where one node is physically wired to an Internet connection, which is transmitted to other nodes in its vicinity. The network can be expanded simply by adding more nodes. All telecommunications, such as cell phones, are sent via Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Mesh networking is known for its simplicity, reliability and ease of use. In their commentary for the episode, writers Erik Mountain and Greg Plageman noted that this method of communication was used by protesters during the Arab Spring, notably in Egypt and Tunisia.
  • VHF (very high frequency) is a broadcast standard covering radio waves from 30 MHz to 300 MHz. It was traditionally used for analog FM radio and television stations. Television and radio signals are frequency modulated (FM), and travel short distances over line of site. VHF was the standard for 12 low-numbered television stations (cf. KCBS, Channel 2 in Los Angeles) until the U.S. conversion to digital television; FM radio (87.5–108 MHz) continues to be broadcast in this way. VHF broadcasting is also used for a range of applications from emergency broadcast, air traffic control and military systems among others, to cordless telephones, amateur and marine radio, but does not carry digital television signals well. Because VHF signal travel line-of sight, they require placement of antennas at a height, thus the antennas atop most residential structures, such as was seen in the episode.
  • Following the bombing attempt, Reese recognizes that Ali has specialized military training, and identifies him as a member of Egypt's Unit 777. Unit 777 is a counter-terrorism and special operations unit, founded by Anwar Sadat's government in the late 1970s as part of Sadat's efforts to gain peace with Israel. The unit acts principally on threats occurring on Egyptian soil, but has been dispatched to international incidents as well. They train with units including the U.S. Army Delta Force and U.S. Navy SEALS.

Garrison's Transgressions[]

As part of its monitoring of Senator Garrison, Samaritan notes the following transgressions, leading Samaritan to classify him as a possible threat:

  • 81 counts of misconduct
  • 661 counts of receiving a bribe
  • 21 counts of conspiracy to subvert the Constitution
  • 124 events of alcohol abuse

Production Notes[]

  • With the title card, the show morphs its graphics from the Machine's point of view (MPOV) to Samaritan's point of view (SPOV). In SPOV, the graphics include a circular motif, in keeping with the panopticon model of surveillance. We also see the graphic interface used on Greer's telephone, which include the iconic red triangle.
  • The season picks up several weeks after the events of the finale, with New York now an "Orwellian surveillance state," according to Greg Plageman. We see the team as they meet up for the first time, and the first time they receive the calendar alerts from the Machine.
  • The crime scene with Reese and Fusco shot on the roof was the first scene of the season. It was an extremely hot day, making production uncomfortable for all concerned.
  • The stuntman Reese throws into the trunk of the car wore a protective back plate to avoid injury from the trunk lid hitting his back during the multiple takes.
  • During one take of the scene under the bridge, an NYPD police helicopter began circling near the bridge. The director rolled cameras, but they were unable to use the footage.

Bloopers and Continuity Errors[]

  • When Finch finds the hidden message in his dissertation, he begins to write them down. He starts with the left page of the notepad. However, when the camera captures from a closer angle, he's writing to the right page of the notepad.
  • A fraction of a second before Scarface rams the black pick-up truck with the trash truck, the new vehicle is replaced with an older 2000-2005 model for the crash sequence.
  • After Ben was successfully rescued and the police arrived, the unknown Samaritan operative arrives and identifies herself as Homeland Security, but according to Samaritan, she is an agent for the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Agency).
  • During the drug exchange with Reese undercover, the thug who aims his gun at Reese alternately holds his gun properly and sideways as camera angles change.
  • In Finch's office, the name of the school on one of his diplomas has been reversed. "Nicholson-Taft" should read "Taft-Nicholson", an extension of the University of Utah specializing in Environmental Humanities.
  • During the scene where Finch and Reese meet up over a game of chess, they are each shown making only one opening move. However, when Finch storms off, the SPOV shows several pieces in play.
  • Samaritan's map of Europe doesn't display any land mass where in reality the Kaliningrad Oblast is located.



  • The ending music was also used in the episode promos.
  • Jim Caviezel and Navid Negahban (Ali Hasan) both appeared in the 2008 film "The Stoning of Soraya M."
  • Reese sits at Carter's old desk after being promoted to Homicide.
  • Both Scarface and Link, the second-in-command in their respective gangs, have a scar on one cheek: Scarface on his right, and Link on his left.
  • Reese again got disappointed by two shooters for holding their gun sideways.
  • The first scene and last scenes we see with just Reese in them involve three key elements: The police arrive because they were responding to suspicious activity, then Reese flashes his NYPD badge before a cop that has his weapon drawn and aimed at Reese.
  • Harold's new alias "Professor Whistler" is another bird name. Whistler is also the last name of Hugh Whistler, an English ornithologist.


  • "I'm sure whatever rock they decided to hide under, we'll find them as soon as they emerge." (Greer, to Samaritan)
  • "Hey it's me. I need you to drop the eyeliner, pick up a gun and help me take down a criminal street gang." (Reese, to Shaw)
  • "The world has changed, I'm sorry. It's about survival." (Reese, to Finch)
  • "Sorry, you have to pick a side, because this is war. And the thing we're up against, it has virtually unlimited resources. Governments working unwittingly at its behest. Operatives around the globe protecting it. You know how many we have? Five . . . six if we count the dog." (Root, to Finch)
  • "Every life matters. You taught me that." (Root, to Finch)
  • "You got your friends into this mess, least you can do is get them out of it." (Root, to Finch)
  • "Which brings me to the other reason I'm here: I'd like to hire you." (Reese, to Elias)