Person of Interest: The Day the World Went Away

“Who wants to go quietly?”

Person of Interest has driven the victim who turns out to be a perpetrator twist into the ground. But this time, they surprised me. (Contains spoilers for a lot of other things so be careful.)

When I first heard of Root’s death (before I watched the episode, curse you, time zones!), I was really upset, thinking about all the women and, in particular, all the gay women we’ve lost just in the past few months of television. I was pissed off and ready to write a review lambasting the show for killing a fan favorite and part of a fan favorite ship in its hundredth episode just to shock viewers. I had links to gifs of people throwing things all ready, but instead, I have surprised myself to find Root’s death bizarrely beautiful.

She wasn’t taken down by a stray gunshot as so many others have. I’m thinking Tara Maclay, Denise from The Walking Dead, and Lexa. She took a bullet for Finch and not in the way female characters usually take bullets for male characters. You know what I mean, she jumps in front of a gun to save him, and lives long enough to share parting words of love and devotion as he cradles her head, all this preferably occurring in the rain. Root was on mission, and, callous as it may be to note, her existence is not, strictly speaking, necessary to the Machine’s continued survival, but I believe Finch’s is. In effect, Root didn’t sacrifice herself to save Finch, but to save a being she thinks of as god. She’s a martyr, in the original sense of the word.

There are fan theories about that Root isn’t dead. We saw her on what appeared to be a slab in a morgue looking very much dead but wow isn’t it weird they didn’t show her die? If they were going to kill her, why wouldn’t they do it onscreen? Were they afraid it would lack emotional punch coming so soon after Elias and that it would be more devastating to find out about her loss in her own voice? No one ever said “Root is dead.” Neither the Machine nor John’s phone call from Fusco yielded that would-be definitive proof. For my part, I think she’s gone. I think it would be lazy and mere fan service to bring her back, although I desperately want them to bring her back.

Believe it or not, other things happened in this episode besides the loss of Root. Finch’s turn from lovable yet set upon group leader to…whatever the hell he is now was downright terrifying. I’m reminded of a season two episode, “Proteus,” where Finch and Reese (and Carter, R.I.P.) encounter a chameleon serial killer able to shed and assume personas as easy as the rest of us breathe. He has a very telling scene with Finch where he compliments Finch’s ability in doing the same thing. Finch has been a big question mark since the series began. We’ve seen precious few flashbacks of him and really just have a basic outline of his history before 2001. Is the Harold Finch we’ve come to know and love just a persona, a mask?

What he said about his rules really struck me and reminded me strongly of a line from Doctor Who. “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.” Ingram is dead, Grace is lost to him, Elias is dead, Root is gone, with Shaw, Reese, and Fusco possibly soon to follow. He’s at the end of his rope and ready to throw out the rulebook. It’s day one and he already let hundreds of violent prisoners escape just so he could get away from the FBI. I’m not sure this is going to be pretty. Yes, Finch’s number is up, but not in the way any of us imagined.

Bits and Pieces

This episode borrowed very heavily from the Whedon playbook.
  1. Killed a character played by Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse)
  2. Amy Acker remains on the series in the part of a god using the deceased character’s body (Angel)
  3. Killed one half of a loving couple an episode after they get (back) together (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel)
  4. Killed a character early on to fulfill the expectation that someone will die, waits a bit, then hit you with the more devastating loss (Serenity)
Quotes

Shaw: “I swear to god, you flirt at the most awkward times.”

Root: “If we’re just noise in the system, we might as well be a symphony.”

I could really include every single thing that came out of Root’s mouth.

four out of four major character deaths
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sunbunny, person of interest and Bear the dog fangirl

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

This was an exceptional episode, and sunbunny, you wrote an excellent review. You hit on pretty much everything I felt about this episode.

I'm usually so careful about avoiding spoilers, but stupid me, I went to TVLine before I saw the episode on my DVR, and there it was. So I went into it absolutely furious that they were killing off my favorite character, that I was going to lose yet another gay character who had just reunited with the love of her life. I expected to stay mad. Instead, I cried through the entire episode. It was just too good. I was trying to think of another episode of Person of Interest that affected me more, but I couldn't. "Terra Incognita" came close, but not quite.

Person of Interest has never been a huge favorite of mine, even though I've seen every episode and have been a fairly faithful viewer. It hit me this morning (I watched the episode last night) that the reason I was so deeply emotionally involved with this episode was that I can't help but still see these actors as other characters I loved a lot -- Fred, of course, but also Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars. And of course Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus, a deeply conflicted character on Lost, because the change in Finch was also like a death.

Unleashing the Machine was something that had to happen this season. And the Machine choosing Root's voice was perfect.

I need to make another cup of coffee and stop crying now. :)

Patrick said...

Something that struck me after this episode: If the Machine is now using Root's voice, does that mean it was actually the Machine we heard doing the voice-over at the beginning of the season premiere?

migmit said...

2Patrick: or Root herself, continuing to live as a simulation inside The Machine.