Finch continues his mission to take down Samaritan as we pause occasionally for simulations of what would have been had the Machine never existed. It was a lovely penultimate episode totally worthy of the series that came before it.
On our trip to the world that might have been, we got to see clips from throughout the show’s five seasons, neatly wrapping together the entire series and refreshing the memories of viewers. The actual simulations themselves echoed past scenes, particularly Shaw’s as she confronted Peck, who figured out Samaritan just as he had figured out the Machine.
The only one that underwhelmed me was Finch’s. It didn’t connect to anything that we’ve seen before as the others did. The big revelation was that, without the Machine, Finch would never have met Grace so he would still be alone. But Ingram was alive and the two of them were successful. We get a hint that there have been more attacks in the intervening years than in the real world or in the PoI-verse, but the world is not demonstrably different.
Without the influence of Reese and Finch, Fusco stayed dirty and, instead of being partnered with Carter, made an enemy out of her. Now, Fusco is out of the police force and disgraced. This segment represented another disappointment: I wish they’d been able to get Taraji P. Henson back for a cameo. As with Finch’s simulation, Fusco’s showed that the world without the Machine was both better and worse than ours. Fusco’s life certainly could be considered a disaster but Carter lived and, to use Finch’s word, prospered.
Shaw’s simulation was my favorite. It combined two excellent episodes of the series: “No Good Deed” and, of course, “Relevance.” More than anyone else’s, Shaw’s simulation spoke of a world parallel to ours in inherent goodness or badness. She was still working at her old job but, unbeknownst to her, her intel was coming from Samaritan, not the Machine. Her old partner, Cole is still alive although his questions mirror those of “Relevance” and suggest that it might not be long before the events of that episode replay themselves. Shaw is, as ever, a good soldier, shooting Peck because she’s told to and feeling no remorse over the taking of an innocent life. After all, only knows what Samaritan tells her.
The most affecting simulation was Reese’s. It’s been years since we saw it last but the situation with Jessica was that she called him and he wanted to go to her but was prevented by a Machine-related CIA mission. Without the Machine, he would’ve reached her in time and saved her life. Still, he doesn’t get the girl and ultimately returns to where he was in the pilot episode: homeless and suicidal. He kills himself and is buried as a John Doe. It almost made me cry. All those lives he would have, should have saved are lost. He never found his mission, he never found Finch, he never found Carter. He died hopeless and friendless and unmourned.
Finally, Root. Without the Machine to pledge her loyalty to, Root became an acolyte of Samaritan, filling the role of Martine. It is this, perhaps, that makes Finch realize that the world is really improved by having the Machine exist, although I’m frankly not sure why it was this one and not Reese’s.
As for the main action of the episode, Finch is determined to destroy Samaritan, even if it takes the Machine with it. The Machine knows it and has accepted it. Contrast that with the behavior of Samaritan, which kills Greer in the hope of taking out Finch and his ability to destroy everything. It might be tempting to compare Greer’s sacrifice to Root’s but I think that’s a false equivalency. Root died so that her god might live, whereas Greer allowed himself to be killed by his god. If the Machine were given the choice between its survival and the survival of another person, especially one of its team members, I don’t think it would hesitate. Despite Arthur Claypool’s good nature, Samaritan is thoroughly amoral and completely self-interested.
Bits and Pieces
In the beginning we see Shaw with a copy of “Sense and Sensibility.” Finch proposed to Grace with a ring hidden inside an older edition. “Dashwood,” the password for triggering the virus is the last name of the protagonists.
Reese: “Just remember what happened to that fat German kid in Willy Wonka.”
Greer: “For a genius, you’re truly obstinate in the face of evidence.”
Finch: “But the world without you wasn’t definitively better or worse than the one we currently inhabit. It was just…different.”
Machine: “Are you sure, Harold?”
four out of four simulations
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