On Person of Interest, we meet the new Machine GangS

On last night's season opener for Person of Interest, the focus was entirely on the expanded Machine Gang for this season. Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) have joined the series as regulars, and in this episode we got a taste of what that would look like. Plus, we saw a new side of the Machine.

From the frenetic opening scene, where we see both Reese and Shaw rescuing POIs, it looks like the Machine Gang has been busy. Not only is it feeding numbers to Finch, but it's also giving them to Shaw (she helps some cops nab a plutonium smuggler), and it's having long phone conversations with Root in prison. So we know that Shaw is in pretty constant contact with Finch, though she refuses to carry a phone.

We also get a quick glimpse of Carter, who has been demoted from detective to police officer and — as Reese puts it — is looking "pretty badass" in her uniform. She's helping the Machine Gang out, but also still focused grimly on taking out the corrupt HR group that murdered her boyfriend. One thing that was a little weird is that we see Carter coming home to a very different house than she had last year, and we didn't see her son at all. Has he been retconned out?

One thing that Carter has also done between seasons? Somehow she got mob boss Elias out of prison, and he's hiding out in an underground lair eating seriously delicious-looking Italian food. Apparently Finch and Reese don't know about this little arrangement yet. He owes Carter some serious favors for his prison break, and I get the sense that he's now going to be part of the Machine Gang. He's their crucial underground connection, and of course he wants to take out HR as much as Carter does — so the enemy of my enemy, and all that.

Shaw, despite her promises last season to disappear on a killing rampage, is apparently available to help out with whatever is needed. She's wisecracking with Reese as they work with our POI of the week, a talented sailor in the Navy whose troublemaker buddy has gotten them in too deep with some corrupt special ops guys. Fusco comes in too, to defuse a bomb and wear a silly disguise (not in that order), which is par for the course.

After shooting a bunch of bad guys, Reese has some time to deliver some words of wisdom to the POI — and to reiterate one of the themes of this show, which is that the CIA is evil. He encourages the POI to continue working for the military, but to say no when "the guys from Langley show up."

One of the things I love about this show is that it never gives us a simplistic picture of the military, and shows us that it has good sides and bad sides. Intelligence agencies are generally the bad side, though of course the Machine Gang could rightly be called a vigilante intelligence group.

Speaking of intelligence, what is up with the Machine? Apparently it's spending a hell of a lot of time talking to Root in the prison/insane asylum. We see her chatting with her psychologist a lot, who decides that the best thing for her is to be put in solitary without any access to technology — especially the Blackberry she stole from him. Bad idea, Dr. Shrink.

In a final confrontation between Root and Dr. Shrink, there's a decided shift in Root's attitude toward the Machine. Now it's very possible that this scene is one of her elaborate ruses, to make Dr. Shrink think that she's completely unhinged instead of an evil hacker mastermind. But I'm not sure it is a ruse. It seems that she's gone from viewing the Machine as a human-equivalent entity in need of liberation, to worshiping it as a god. Oh, and also? She's started calling the Machine "she." Here's Root's speech to Dr. Shrink.

So basically Root thinks that the Machine is an 11-year-old god who has "chosen" Root. And the two of them are arguing over whether Root will kill Dr. Shrink. I like the part about killing, but I'm not so crazy about the god stuff. Let's hope she drops that whole thing and goes back to her mad hacker schtick how the Machine is an amazing new life form and humans are just "bad code." It doesn't make much sense for this brilliant technological mind to suddenly sprout religious feeling.

I also don't get why the Machine is suddenly using the female pronoun. Is that just something that it senses Root wants? Or is the Machine developing more human characteristics, by trying to adopt a gender?

As the episode comes to a close, we've got our Machine Gang players for the season in place: Carter is now a cop, Fusco continues to be a detective/HR mole, Shaw is the wisecracking sometimes-helper, Elias provides a connection to the underworld, Root is the Machine's best friend, and Finch and Reese are the soul of the operation. Love the players. Now, let's see them play at something a little more challenging than a squid whose buddy has gotten him in trouble.