Person of Interest: If - Then - Else

“Somebody’s gotta be the hero.”

This is probably the closest Person of Interest will ever come to doing a Groundhog Day episode. I’m going to say it – this is my new favorite episode of Person of Interest ever (apologies to “Relevance”). It was fun, funny, fast paced, emotional, and, ultimately, devastating.

When the chess flashbacks began, I assumed we were going with the whole extended metaphor thing. So Finch is the King, Root would probably be the Queen, Reese and Shaw were Knights, was Fusco a pawn?…Finch’s speech to the Machine beautifully disabused me of this concept. In Finch’s mind, at least, life is not like chess because in chess, certain pieces are more valuable than others, whereas in life, every life has equal value. It’s a maxim the Machine has inarguably taken to heart. If not, it would’ve sacrificed Fusco, the most replaceable member of the team, to save everyone else. Instead, it devised a plan that saved everyone. Or rather, that had a 2.07% chance of saving everyone. Although with our people, those are fair odds. The flashbacks were also a great way to break up the necessarily repetitive main action.

The central conceit of the episode, the Machine’s simulations, were a fun, fantastic concept and very well executed. It was smart not to include the information that what we were watching was a simulation the first time around. Finch’s sudden and anticlimactic death was shocking and horrible, only to be undermined seconds later with a reset. Very well done indeed. You’d have to be an AI not to appreciate the humor of the simplified simulation. It was a nice change to have such a thematically dark episode lightened. My favorite shows are those that combine humor and drama and Person of Interest hasn’t always done that brilliantly, tending to take itself too seriously in the arc episodes and occasionally be too light and inconsequential for the standalones.

Option 336,742 sends Root and Finch to the server room while Reese and Fusco secure the escape route. Shaw gets advice from Reese and ends up killing the bomber. Finch dies.

Option 506,738 sends Reese and Fusco to the server room while Root and Finch secure the escape route. Shaw gets advice from Reese and ends up killing the bomber. Reese and Root die.

Option 833,333 (the one ultimately selected) sends Root, Finch, Reese, and Fusco to the server room together and then to secure the escape route. Shaw gets advice from Fusco and saves the bomber. Reese and Root get shot and Shaw…well…

The end of the episode seemed to pretty definitively establish that Sameen Shaw is dead. Yet the preview for next week shows the team looking for her and Shaw has been known to get out of tight spots. Real life information may make you more hopeful: Sarah Shahi is leaving the show because she’s pregnant with twins (for which we begrudgingly congratulate her) and neither she nor the show’s top brass have said that her absence is permanent. Maybe she’ll back back next season either as a guest star or as a regular cast member. If she really is dead, we can always see her in flashbacks. There is always hope, right?

With Shaw’s absence (be it permanent or temporary), Root is likely to take on a larger role. Sorry, Root haters, I know there are a fair few of you out there. Or maybe the team will get a new ally? What about that Reese’s captain? I liked her. In any case, the show is going to need a new person to carry the stunt-heavy action scenes. Did you know Sarah Shahi did most of her own, because I didn’t.

This episode reinforces the idea established in last year’s "The Crossing." Kissing kills. At least, kissing between two main characters kills. Although that’s probably the only commonality between Carter and Reese’s tender “one of us is probably going to die tonight” kiss and Shaw and Root’s “okay fine I’ll kiss you if just shut up” smooch. Whether or not you ship ‘Shoot,’ it was a nice finish to the constant less than subtle flirting between the two. Of course, it did mean that Root’s anguished look as Shaw sacrificed herself was that much more anguished. Why do writers love to make Amy Acker suffer? If she was a worse actress, things like this wouldn’t happen.

Shaw’s death, if she is dead or presumed dead, will affect everyone on the Team, not just Root. She had a very sibling-y relationship with Reese and Finch had a strong relationship with her too. Don’t get me started on Bear. Really, don’t. I think it’s a testament to Finch and Reese’s mentoring of her that she was able to resolve the subway bomber without shooting him (although it should be remembered that it was Fusco’s advice that allows her to successfully talk him down). Old Shaw wouldn’t have even bothered trying and would have taken the kill shot immediately. At the very least, Shaw was able to go out (again, if she is out) saving her friends, sacrificing herself for the greater good, instead of being heartlessly gunned down like Carter.

It’s easy to forget that Fusco is out of the loop insofar as the Machine is concerned. His bewilderment at who Root was talking to and what was going on was very cute. I do have the faint impression that it is unfair to Fusco to keep him in the dark when he’s been a valuable and loyal member of Team Machine for years, but it must be remembered that Fusco’s ignorance is what keeps him safe from Samaritan. Or at least, it has been. Did Lambert and Martine see Fusco? Do they now know he’s working with Team Machine? If Fusco is no longer protected, I hope Finch and co. finally fess up. Fusco deserves better.

Bits and Pieces

I loved people slowly moving away from Finch, a man apparently talking to and playing chess with himself.

In simulations, Fusco calls Root “Nutter Butter” and “Nutella.” In real life he calls her “Banana Nut Crunch.”

Root saves the Degas sketch.

According to MPOV, the team’s chance of survival after Reese and Root got hit was hovering around 1.3% and decreasing, but shot up to 20.53% when Shaw showed up.

In the second simulation, Root, facing certain death, talks to Shaw and gets her to admit that they could be together “Maybe someday” and heartbreakingly says it’s “good enough” for her before dying. Root begins the exact same conversation in real life after she gets shot, before Shaw turns up.

Quotes

Finch: “You like the queen, don’t you? She can move in any direction, target anything.”

‘Fusco’: *kisses Root*
‘Root’: “Why did you just do that?”
‘Fusco’: “Why not? We’re in a simulation.”

‘Reese’: “Coolly delivered sadistic warning.”
‘Fusco’: “Self-deprecating inquiry into the time necessary to infiltrate system.”
‘Root’: “Funny yet insightful retort.”
‘Finch’: “Mildly agitated declaration of mission completion. Gentle exhortation to further action.”

‘Root’: “Overly affectionate greeting.”
‘Shaw’: “Greeting.”
‘Root’: “Transparent rationale for conversation.”
‘Shaw’: “Annoyed attempt to deflect subtext.”
‘Root’: “Overt come-on.”
‘Shaw’: “Mildly embarrassed defensiveness bordering on hostility.”
‘Root’: “Playfully witty sign-off.”

Finch: “I don’t enjoy playing. You know why not? Because it was a game that was born during a brutal age, when life counted for little and everyone believed that some people were worth more than others. Kings and pawns. I don’t think that anyone is worth more than anyone else. […] Chess is just a game. Real people aren’t pieces and you can’t assign more value to some of them than to others. Not to me. Not to anyone. People are not a thing that you can sacrifice The lesson is that anyone who looks on the world as if it was a game of chess deserves to lose.”

Fusco: “Got what? Who’s she talking to?”
Interesting that the Machine correctly predicted Fusco saying this every time.

Root: “What good’s saving the world, Harry, if we can’t enjoy it?”

Root: “We’re so good at this together. You’re gonna realize that some day.”

Shaw: “Root, no offense. You’re hot. You’re good with a gun. Those are two qualities I greatly admire. But you and me together would be like a four alarm fire in an oil refinery.”

four out of four simulations

sunbunny, who always holds out hope

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love the character development we're getting for a character that doesn't have an actor.

And I love the implication that The Machine simulates fanfic and ships its assets in its spare time.

Billie Doux said...

Fangirl sobbing. Best episode ever.

Anonymous said...

MAGNIFICIENT.

Splendid, awesome, and a lot more superlatives.

Josie Kafka said...

Congratulatory opening.

Assertion of show's excellence.

Pseudo-profound observation that touches on religion.

Quote from review.

Acknowledgment of agreement with quote from review.

Mention of other relevant works by Jonathan Nolan.

Open-ended question.

VĂ©ro said...

I wanted to say something insightful about how much I loved this episode (having already been spoiled about Shahi's pregnancy today before watching the episode warned me of what to expect), but Josie's comment just won the "comment of the year" prize, so I'm not even going to try! ;-)

Mark Greig said...

I am both one very happy and one very sad Shoot shipper. And, yes, Josie has just won comment of the year.

Anonymous said...

Ditto for Josie !

Patrick said...

The Machine's shorthanded dialogue for the Team immediately reminded me of this little nugget, taken from an old IRC chatroom: http://www.bash.org/?23396

Martin Sherratt said...

Josie's comment is as close to perfection as is possible in an imperfect world.
I absolutely adore these reviews, and have never commented before. But Josie's comment is somet else.

If I were you, Josie, I'd expect at least a fruit basket or a gift certificate from The Ancients for that.

Doc said...

Amazing post, Josie. As I started reading it I thought I wish i had thought to do that!

Patrick--I remember reading that one way back when I was on IRC all the time and bash.org was bookmarked. Thanks for the reminder of good times past.