"And Maybe This Isn't The End At All."
Was the television series Person Of Interest cancelled, ended, or like many die hard fans believe, just gearing up for a return on another network.
To make things clear, Person of Interest was not cancelled by CBS. Not officially at least. According to it's producers, it was their decision to pull the plug on the show. They were convinced CBS would never give them a sixth season, so they used this season to wrap the series up.
The final episode had the destruction of The Machine, an artificial intelligence super computer that was capable of detecting violent crimes in their planning stages. Each week The Machine would inform it's programmer, Harold Finch, of the pending crime via a social security number that would either be the intended victim's number, or the number of the crime's perpetrator. Finch would then tell one of his hired agents to investigate and prevent the crime. There is more to the explanation as to why The Machine only gave out a social security number, and if you want to know why, then I suggest you stop reading this article and binge watch the entire 103 episode series. Haven't seen the series before and can't be bothered watching it, then you may not only be a little lost reading this article, but it will spoil the series for you should you ever change your mind.
The final episode didn't just destroy the machine. It killed off lead character John Reese ( Jim Caviezel ) on the final episode, another lead character Root ( Amy Acker ) a couple of episodes earlier, and Finch ( Michael Emerson ) apparently retired from the crime fighting business and returned to his old girlfriend. The final season tied up every loose end, answered every question from the past seasons, and seemingly brought an end to the series that satisfied most viewers. And yet, fans have been petitioning for either a sixth season, or a spin off series with all the same characters. One petition with nearly 50 thousand signatures even calls for the producers to decanonize the final season so that even the dead characters may return. A sort of do over of season five with a different outcome. That may seem improbable, but the writers of the series have already seeded the idea when they left clues that the season was actually a simulation the machine was running. Of course, if it had all been a simulation, then it would have been revealed before the series ended.
Producers Greg Plageman and Jonathan Nolan have been cagey about a possible continuation of the series, neither confirming nor denying one is in the works. But if it was their decision to bring the series to an end, then why would they already be interested in bringing it back? From the start, Nolan knew his series would have a definite ending. But he had hoped that ending would take place years from now. In some interviews he stated that the Decima organization and it's super computer Samaritan was not planned to be the final villains in the series. The Samaritan story arc, which had dominated the series for the past three seasons, would have concluded this season even if they knew there was going to be a season six.
Problems with the series arose in last years up fronts, where Nolan was shocked to find out that CBS had not only reduced the season five episode order to 13, but had not scheduled the next season in the fall, and could not tell Nolan when or if CBS would air the fifth season. Basically Person of Interest was on standby, waiting for a slot to open. If enough of the new shows failed, then the fifth season of Person of Interest could have begun airing as early as late October, with the possibility of CBS ordering more episodes to expand the season into the May sweeps. If no slots opened during the regular season, then the shortened season would air during the summer, which would be well beyond the 2016 up fronts, and without Nolan knowing if any further seasons would be ordered. And there was always the possibility that CBS would not even bother airing the final season. This left an air of uncertainty, not only for the producers, but for the cast and crew who got paid by the episode. Nolan could not tell them if the season would be extended, or if there would be any further seasons. And if CBS ever did order more episodes, when those episodes would be filmed. If no more episodes were to be filmed, they would need to find work elsewhere. They could not sit in limbo forever.
Furthermore, Nolan felt CBS had no reason to treat his series this way. While the ratings may have declined since it's first two seasons, it was still among the top rated shows on the network, and had enough ratings to warrant more seasons. Elementary, which had fewer rating points, was renewed. Furthermore, the other networks had begun to air their own clones of Person of Interest. FOX with Minority Report, loosely based on the movie, but reimagined as a psychic who can see a glympse of a pending crime, and working with a police detective, atemmpts to solve it before it happens. NBC had a more blatant rip off with The Player where a shadowy organization predicts crimes with a similar super computer to the one in Person of Interest, and then uses that data to place bets among wealthy high rollers whether an agent will be able to prevent the crime or not. It seemed odd that while the other networks saw Person of Interest as a show to copy, CBS was not even sheduling an air date for the next season.
Nolan tried attempted to force a final decision from CBS by announcing he was having the shortened fifth season written as if it was going to be the last season. If CBS still wanted the series then they would need to stop Nolan from ending it. But CBS still made no final decision. Claiming they were convinced CBS was going to cancel the show anyway, Nolan beat the network to the punch and announced season five would be the last. The 13 episodes they had were used to conclude the series. Inevitably CBS accepted that this was to be the final season. They finally made a decision as to when the episodes would air. In between the season finales of the regular series and the beginning of the summer season. CBS began airing 2 - 3 episodes a week, so that Person of Interest would end before the scheduled debuts of Brain Dead and the second season of Zoo. While Nolan was ending the series before CBS had a chance to cancel it, he was well aware that there were other networks capable of picking up the show. The paren production company, Warner Brothers Television, had their own network, the CW. But even if Warner wanted to move Person of Interest to the CW, there was one huge stumbling block. Supergirl.
By the 1950s most of the major studios had their own television divisions. As the studio system was coming to an end, studios saw the transition to television production as the next logical step. They had the resources, and more important, the vast back lot standing sets, to produce high quality programs that the networks were incapable of producing. For the next two decades the major studios and the television networks were separate entities. In the late 70s Paramount made an attempt to launch their own television network, one of the first programs being a revival of Star Trek. Plans for that network fell apart, and their Star Trek television series wound up becoming the Star Trek movie series. In 1986 20th Century Fox launched the FOX network. In January 1995 both Warner Bros. and Paramount launched The WB and UPN respectively. That same year Disney Studios acquired ownership of ABC. Four years later Viacom bought CBS and combined it with it's other acquisition, Paramount Studios. NBC would remain the last broadcast network not affiliated with a major studio. But that would not last long. In 2004 NBC was purchased and became NBC-Universal.
You would think that by this point each network was exclusively airing shows produced by their affiliated studios. But that was not the case. For example, there was more money to be made by Warner Bros. selling a new series to ABC than airing it on their own network. Similarly, ABC made more money selling a new series they produced to CBS or NBC rather than airing it on their network. The cold facts are that only a fraction of new series get enough ratings to make money. Most new series are cancelled within their first seasons. When you sell a series to a rival network, you know that network will pay for the production costs. If the show fails the it is the rival network that looses money. If the show succeeds and becomes a hit, you may have handed over ratings to your competition, but you still share in the profits of that series, sometimes making nearly as much of a profit than if it had aired on your own network. True, each network picks what they believe is the cream of the crop of their affiliated studios new series before offering the rest to their rivals. But what one network rejects, another network may believe has the potential to be a hit. No one seemed to think selling shows to the competition was a problem, until Buffy the Vampire Slayer reached it's fifth season.
Produced by Joss Whedon for 20th Century Fox studios, the show aired on The WB. For it's five year run it had been among the networks best rated programs, only trailing their #1 show 7th Heaven by two million viewers in the 2000-2001 season. But FOX had been producing the show at a loss. Production costs topped at $2 million per episode, and The WB was paying less than $1 million per episode. Whedon and 20th Century Fox were willing to eat the costs because the pay off was the revenues earned once the series was sold to syndication. However, once Buffy the Vampire Slayer reached it's 100th episode, that incentive went away. There was a cap on how much the show would earn in syndication. They needed the series to run for 100 episodes so it would qualify for syndication. Once it reached that 100 episode threshold Fox did not need to make any new episodes. In fact, making more episodes at a loss would not earn them any more money on the syndication deal.
The WB was told that they would need to pony up at least $1 million more per episode if they wanted Fox to continue producing the series. The WB declined. They knew that while the ratings on Buffy were great for a secondary network like The WB, they were just not good enough for the three major networks ABC, CBS or NBC. Five million viewers was the number at which the major networks usually thought of canceling a series. Another option existed. 20th Century Fox could have moved Buffy to their own FOX network, bringing all the viewers with it. However, The WB knew that 20th Century Fox could not do this for a simple reason. If they moved a hit show they produced onto their own network, then no other network would ever again buy a series produced by 20th Century Fox. Why would they? There would always be a risk that if a 20th Century Fox show became a hit, then the studio would just move it to FOX. There had always been a gentleman's agreement between the networks that they would never pilfer each others hit shows, and FOX was not about to break that agreement. Instead they elected to end the series at the conclusion of it's fifth season. Joss Whedon himself wrote the episode where Buffy Summers dies saving her town.
But that was not the end. UPN shocked everyone and offered Whedon $3 million per episode, and a commitment to order two full seasons. What was suppose to be the series finale aired on WB. Buffy's death was far less dramatic because by that time news had already broken that the series would be back on UPN. All Whedon needed to do was explain why Buffy was alive again the following season. And fortunately she had a friend who was a sorcerer, and was able to come up with a revival from death spell. Buffy the Vampire Slayer continued for two more season on UPN, and everyone forgot about that nasty time when a television production studio nearly stole a hit show from a rival network and put it on their own. That is, until Warner Bros. took Supergirl off of CBS and put it on their CW.
The television landscape changed since 2001. Viacom had bought CBS in 2000 and began gradually combining CBS and UPN, as well as combining both with Paramount's television production studio. In 2005 Viacom split into two separate companies, one being CBS. The CBS network retained control over UPN and Paramount Television, which was eventually renamed CBS Studios. With Paramount Studios no longer in control, UPN became a second redundant network for CBS. And besides, both UPN and The WB had been struggling since their launch, both loosing a combined $2 billion in their 11 years of operation. For years both Viacom and Time-Warner had discussed the possibility of merging UPN and The WB, so at the least they would not be competing against each other, and at best they could reduce their programming to their best rated shows. . The old Viacom could not agree to terms, but CBS could. In September 2006 both UPN and The WB ceased to exist, and the CW was launched. ( The name a combination of CBS and Warner Brothers ).
Another major change came with DVDs. Television series were just beginning to come out on DVD in 2001 when 20th Century Fox was considering canceling Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At that time studios could only count on the additional revenues from syndication. By 2010 the revenues from DVD sales surpassed that of syndication. In addition, programs that did not reach the 100 episode threshold could still be sold on DVD. Even series that were cancelled halfway through their first season got DVD releases. And unlike with syndication where there was usually a cap on revenues no matter how many episodes beyond 100 the series ran, series sold on DVD were sold by season, and generated more money with each additional season. Studios were no longer concerned about syndication, but DVD sales. This is one of the reasons why the winter and summer seasons became possible. Because studios were more willing to produce shorter 13 episode seasons. It would take five seasons to reach 100 episodes with a full 22-24 season order. It would take eight seasons to reach 100 for the shorter 13 episode seasons. And the average lifetime of a hit series is 6 seasons. While it is doubtful any spring or winter season series will ever reach 100 episodes and thus syndication, it does allow for each season to be sold on DVD.
It was inevitable that DVD revenues would factor in to which shows a network cancelled. The aforementioned Elementary was produced by CBS Studios, which would be the studio that cashed in on the DVD revenues of additional seasons. Person of Interest was produced by Warner Bros. which would be the studio that cashed in on DVD revenue. Is it any wonder why Elementary is still on the schedule while Warner Bros. produced shows like Person of Interest and Mike & Molly with slightly better ratings were short ordered and removed from the regular season. This, of course, was incentive enough for Warner Bros. Television to move their shows from CBS to the safety of The CW. And that is just what they did with Supergirl. But with the Supergirl deal going down, Warner Bros. could not think about moving a second CBS series to The CW.
Lets backtrack a bit to the same pilot season when the CBS executives decided to give both Mike & Molly and Person of Interest short seasons and keep both off of the next season's schedule. Warner Bros. Television had three successful series based on DC comics on The CW, Arrow, iZombie and The Flash, and they wanted to bring more superheroes to the network. Since CBS partly owned the network, they would need to be brought in to any decisions on new shows. When they heard the pitch for a Supergirl series they decided they wanted it for the CBS network. And Warner Bros. eagerly sold it to them, instead developing Legends of Tomorrow for The CW. Gradually Warner Bros. began to have regrets about giving Supergirl to CBS. Regrets that only intensified when CBS delayed the series premiere by a month so that Thursday night shows could air on Monday while Football aired on Thursday. And intensified even more when CBS proved reluctant to allow a crossover between The Flash and Supergirl, and was only talked into it if it happened on CBS and was not mentioned on The CW. By the end of the season Warner Bros. realized that they wanted Supergirl on The CW. But even though it had fallen in the ratings, CBS was willing to give it a second season. Basically Warner Bros. needed to convince CBS that it was in their best interest to give Supergirl up and allow it to be moved to The CW. This would have been about the same time Nolan wanted Person of Interest off of CBS. But while convincing CBS to give up a high profile show was a long shot, convincing them to give up two high profile shows was unthinkable. They could not even think of asking CBS for Person of Interest while negotiations for Supergirl were still going down.
And furthermore, since CBS waited until June to begin airing the fifth season of Person of Interest, the window for picking new series for the CW fall schedule had passed. As it was, moving Supergirl to The CW knocked out one weekly time slot, forcing the delay or cancellation of at least one new series they had planned for the Fall season. If they did pick up Person of Interest, it would need to wait until at least the 2017 pilot season for The CW to either schedule it as a full season series, or as a shorter Winter or Summer series. And despite the shabby treatment CBS was giving Person of Interest, and producer Jonathan Nolan's frustration with the network, there was no way Warner could move Person of Interest to The CW without it looking like they stole a hit series. Much like 20th Century Fox being reluctant to move Buffy to FOX, Warner did not want to be the first television production studio to get blacklisted for stealing hit shows. Ironically, the only way for Warner Bros. Television to continue the series was to end the series. If it was perceived that CBS disowned the series, even making the decision to cancel it, then Warner Bros. would not take the flack for taking it for The CW.
Or at least that is what fans of Person of Interest are counting on. Rumors of a spin off featuring the same characters began long before the last season ended. Was it all wishful thinking among the shows fans, or was their any truth to the rumors? Did Nolan craft the fifth season to appear to end the series, just to fake out CBS? Did Warner Bros. Television want to move the series to the CW all along? Or perhaps just wanted it free of CBS so they could offer it to another network or streaming video? While at the time of the writing of this article there has been no word from Nolan or Warner Bros. Television on any possibly continuation, there have been some clues in the final season that it was not really a final season after all.
According to Nolan, he had instructed his writes to use the 13 episodes CBS gave them for season five to wrap up the series. This was a rare luxury. Most of the time producers either do not find out their series is being cancelled until after they have finished filming the final episode, or are only told within a few episodes of the end of the season, giving them just two episodes to finish the series which needs to be written within a weeks time. Nolan gave his writers plenty of time and plenty of episodes. So if this was to be the final season, then no loose plot ends should be left behind, right? But as all fans of the series know, while almost every question was answered, there was one major story line that was never resolved. The fate of Control.
Control, played by actress Camryn Manheim, was the mean bitch of an ISA agent in charge of Northern Lights, the government operation the The Machine was initially built for. Northern Lights used intel from The Machine to prevent terrorist plots within the United States and to neutralize terrorist cells. But since the presence of a computer that violated everyone's constitutional right to privacy would have been a major scandal, Control and her predecessor spent more of their time eliminating anyone outside the ISA who knew The Machine existed. When Northern Lights replaced The Machine with a new super computer called Samaritan, Control eventually became suspicious that Samaritan was using ISA agents to assassinate civilians not associated with terrorist cells. In the final episode of season four, Control uncovered Samaritan's duplicity, and was promptly captured by Samaritan operatives. It was never made clear if she was being taken to a prison, or taken some place to be executed and dumped. In interviews Nolan admitted that had they been given a full season, then the fate of Control would have been revealed. Apparently 13 episodes was not enough.
But the fate of Control could have easily been revealed with a single sentence. Someone in the last episode could have mentioned that her body had been found, or that she had been rescued or escaped from her captors. Midway through the season, several of Samaritan's victims were found dumped in a tunnel. Control could have easily been among them. Many fans suspect the reason why the fate of Control was never resolved is because Nolan was saving that for another season, or a spin off series. Of course, one could also argue that Control being captured by Samaritan agents was, in itself, a resolution. Her character had been written out of the series and that was that. But then again, the fate of another character had been left up in the air at the end of season four. The mob boss Elias had been shot by a sniper and presumably killed. Season five took the trouble to show that Elias had survived the sniper's bullet, and had recovered, only to be shot through the head by a Samaritan agent later in the season. If Nolan took the time to reveal the fate of Elias, who we could have easily presumed dead at the end of season four, then why not reveal the fate of Control?
Okay, so maybe not resolving something from a previous season is understandable. But what about the unanswered questions from this season? Remember, Nolan and his writers were claiming they were ending the series. Which does not explain why it was revealed that Finch had committed treason in 1974. Of course we knew that Finch had been a hacker in his youth, and was at least accused of treason for stealing classified data in the 80s. But until it was mentioned that he was wanted for treason in 1974, and then never elaborated on. What did Finch do? Was it even possible to hack anything in 1974, and if it wasn't a hacking offense, then what? Could the treason charges have been manufactured by Samaritan, and if so then why when Finch was already wanted for treason in 1980? None of this is answered. Which leads some to believe it is an answer being saved for another season.
The same can be said about the mysterious grave of Lawrence Dixon, a veteran killed in battle in 2005, a few years before The Machine went online. Fans of the series have gone over every episode and can find no reference to Dixon, nor can they find a real soldier with that name that had died on the same date. Some fans suggest that Dixon's grave did not matter. It was the grave next to it for John Tal.... We never see the rest of that name, but many have speculated it was John Reese's grave. But if so, why those who gave him a grave marker misspell his last name? And exactly who gave John a grave? Most of the characters had no idea he was killed. More important, if it was John Reese's grave, then why was it not framed in center? The more obvious answer is that the grave belonging to a John was not important enough to be fully on screen, and that the grave we were suppose to be looking at was Dixon's. Which means in the final minute of the series, the writers threw in another unanswered question, and one that had nothing to do with anything we had seen in the series before.
Aside from unanswered questions that need another season to be answered, there was the introduction of a new character, Terance Beale. He was John's superior when John was still working for the CIA, and until the third episode of the season, had believed that John was dead. But rather than having John arrested, he allows him to walk away with the suggestion that he may need John some time in the future for off the book operations. The problem is that this is the last we see of Terance Beale. He does not ask for John's assistance in any of the remaining episodes, nor does John call him for any assistance, even on an episode where The Machine has sent them to Washington DC to prevent the president from being assassinated. With only 13 episodes and no further seasons, why was any screen time devoted to establishing Beale as an ally when there would be no more episodes with him? Just as with the unanswered questions, establishing a relationship between Team Machine and Beale strongly suggests groundwork for future seasons. Written during the time Nolan and his writers were supposedly writing a final season.
But that point is moot if key characters, including the machine, have been killed off, right? Without The Machine and the series main character John Reese, how could there be any future seasons? Well, while The Machine was clearly destroyed along with Samaritan in the final episode, the final scene of the series suggests that an offspring of the machine that avoided the virus in a satellite has returned to Earth and had gone online. And while Reese and Root from Team Machine are gone, there are still former team members Fusco and Shaw who survived the carnage of the last episode. And there is team leader Harold Finch, who despite coming out of the cold to finally be reunited with his girlfriend, could easily be lured back into leading a new Team Machine. And another revelation during the final season, that The Machine had contacted others to establish Team machines across the country, does allow for a spin off to have a new cast. But then there is that dead end relationship with Reese and CIA boss Beale. If he was introduced for future episodes, then Reese is going to need to be around to introduce him to Team Machine.
And here is where the final episode gets interesting. Reese needed to upload a backup copy of The Machine onto a satellite to fight a backup copy of Samaritan. To prevent this, Samaritan ordered a navel submarine to fire a missile at the building with the satellite uplink dish. It also sent an army of operatives to the roof to take out Reese. He was able to hold off the operatives long enough for the upload to take place, but not before being shot multiple times. The last we see of him he is lying on the roof covered with his own blood. Moments later the missile Samaritan launched explodes, apparently destroying the roof Reese was on. However, most fans could not help but notice that the episode cut to a commercial a split second after the missile hit. In fact, all you see is a flash before the scene cuts, and never actually see what the missile hit. If this was the final episode, shouldn't it have ended more spectacularly? Showing the entire massive roof explosion? Cutting away before you can tell if the missile actually hit it's target, or seeing how much damage it had done, smacks heavily of a typical cliffhanger ploy. Had this been a season finale instead of a series finale then we would have expected the next season to show that the missile came nowhere near blowing Reese up, and while his gunshot wounds looked nasty, was lucky enough not to have been hit anywhere vital. The Samaritan operatives could have easily ended Reese with no questions had they aimed for the head, just as they did with Elias.
So basically, while the final episode suggests that John Reese sacrificed his life to save Finch and to destroy Samaritan, it was also edited in a way where we do not actually see Reese die. This would be typical if Nolan wanted some wiggle room to bring Reese back for another season, should that opportunity arise. But the final episode also established wiggle room to bring Root back, despite her having been killed and buried a few episodes earlier.
Root first appeared as a villain. A crazy master hacker obsessed with finding The Machine who kidnapped Finch in more than one episode. But Nolan liked actress Amy Acker so much that Root went from the occasional episode, to recurring character, and then after a stint in a mental institution, reforming and becoming a regular on Team Machine. By the fourth season Root had become the show's most popular character. Similar to how other minor one shot characters like The Fonz and Urkle ended up becoming the stars of their respective series. So it was a shock when a sniper got the best of Root and killed her four episodes before the series ended. But it wasn't the end for Amy Acker on the show. Shortly after we see Root in the morgue, Finch gets a phone call from The Machine, which has selected Root's voice as it's own. For the rest of the season whenever The Machine talks with Harold, it is Acker's voice. And in the final episode the ghostly image of Root can be seen walking through scenes, representing the presence of the machine.
The season opened with a flash forward. We see Team Machine's base of operations destroyed, the floor covered with bullet shells. The phone rings, and we hear Root's voice. Apparently the war with Samaritan is over. Root says she has no idea if they have won, or if anyone else is alive. She begins to tell the story of who they were, and how they had taken their last stand. The show then flashes back to the last moments of the past season. The assumption was that Root was the only known survivor in the final episode. But then four episodes before the series ended, Root became the first to die. It was then assumed it was The Machine's voice on the phone. But then it was established that The Machine was destroyed. The backup copy would have not known to use Root's voice. As the final episode begins to end, we find out the voice came from an analog tape recorder. Something The Machine would not have been able to interface with. So once again the assumption was that it was Roots voice, perhaps recorded before her death.
But then there was that one scene in the final episode where Shaw visits Root's grave and discovers it had been dug up and her body is gone. Ahh, the empty grave. That cliche discovery made in stories just before it is revealed the character supposedly buried in it was never dead to begin with. The second Shaw discovers the grave has been disturbed, the machine contacts her for the first time. The Machine tells Shaw that it guesses Samaritan operatives dug her body up to get at her cochlear implant, and in turn use them to ascertain the location of The Machine's servers. Which seems to be the case when operatives eventually do show up at Team Machine's secret base of operations not so long after. The machine further explains that the reason why it had failed to cremate Root's body was because it could not bare to do it. One problem. There are holes in The Machine's story.
In the final episode we learn that The Machine will lie, at least in order to protect one of Team Machine's members. Finch was lied to when The Machine gave him the false location of the satellite uplink, allowing him to live and Reese to make the sacrifice instead. Could The Machine also have been lying about Root? To the best of my knowledge, and to the knowledge of others I contacted who are more tech savvy than I am, it is very unlikely that Samaritan could ever use Root's cochlear implant to find the base of operations. For one thing, the implants are only receivers. And they were implanted long before The Machine's servers were relocated, so any data that did exist would have been obsolete. There is also the question as to how Samaritan would even know Root had the implant in the first place. And if Samaritan operatives wanted to examine the body, they could have done so freely at the morgue rather than waiting a week and digging the body up. Also, why is the machine guessing that Samaritan operatives were the ones who dug the body up. If The Machine could see Shaw at the gravesite, then it would have seen who else had been there and what they were up to.
Which brings us back four episodes and to how exactly Root's death was depicted. We see her get shot. We see the car she and Finch is in get pulled over by the police. We see EMS workers attending to the injured Root as Finch is taken away by the police. But we never actually see Root die. The only way we know she is dead is later in the show Fusco finds what looks like her body in a morgue. But you never see him examining the body. Root is buried the following episode, and in the final episode we discover it was The Machine that had made the burial arrangements, right down to it's decision not to cremate the body. We discover that The Machine had gone behind Finch's back and on it's own began recruiting it's own operatives to prevent crimes in other cities. It also began hiring operatives in the final episode. Is it possible that there were operatives among the EMS workers? And if so, did they somehow fake Root's death? Allowing Samaritan to believe that Root had died long enough that they could move her body to a safe location to recover? That it did not tell the other team members it had done this for their own safety? And that Root awoke from her coma or whatever after the battle between Samaritan and The Machine, returned to the base of operations only to find the place destroyed and the servers gone? Was it then that she left the analog recording, not knowing if anyone else survived?
This brings us to a curious comment made by Nolan about the last episode. The last thing we see is a phone that Shaw is passing ring. She picks up the phone, hears something, then gives a smile and walks away. The assumption was that the offspring of The Machine contacted her, and she was happy to know Samaritan was defeated. But Nolan said that, thanks to poor editing, you could not tell that what Shaw was smiling about was that she heard Root's voice. The assumption here was that The Machine was using Root's voice again. Only one problem with that. The Machine was destroyed. And the new Machine had not chosen Root's voice to be it's own. Supposedly Root died before it ever came online.
This does not mean that either Root or Reese are alive. Just that the writers built in wiggle room where either one or both could be brought back if needed. So why do that if this was to be the final season? It could be that Nolan did intend this to be the end of the series. But at the same time the television producer in him did not want to prevent any possibility that the show could ever be revived. So basically this was the final season. There are no plans to continue the show elsewhere. And it is our over active imaginations and deepest desire not to see one of our favorite shows go away that has us seeing proof of a continuation out of poor editing and unintended plot holes.
Of course there are two more possibilities. One is that Nolan fully intended to bring Person of Interest back in some form, but then can not convince Warner Bros. Television to put it on The CW, or find any other network or streaming service willing to revive it. So even if there were plans to turn what looked like a series finale into a cliffhanger for the next season, the series never does come back, and we will all have to accept that it and a lot of characters we liked came to an end. The other possibility: Nolan did end the series, had planned to move on to his next series, but because of the demands of the fans, decides to bring Person of Interest back. For me, I will just take solace in two quotes from the final episode. One from Shaw on not knowing what happened to either Finch or Reese: " No news is no news." The other from Root's voice on the analog recording, the last line of the series: "And maybe this isn't the end at all."
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