“Person of Interest” recap (5.4): Together Again

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I did anything else but write this review after “6,741.” I joked with my M.A. graduating class on Facebook. I made summer plans. I WATCHED SE7EN. (Please take that in. I watched one of the bleakest and most violent movies in existence for recovery.) I started writing, stopped, started again, went to sleep (usually I write these in the middle of the night). I simply could not figure out how to approach this.

To be honest, I still don’t know how. That’s partly because it was simply an overwhelming episode; it’s partly because while so much happens in this episode, almost nothing happens at all. Which brings me to my conundrum.

When Root and Shaw finally had not just a moment, but whole days of not longing or flirting or what-if-ing but being together, I was overjoyed. This was always my problem with Shaw’s not-death last season: I could live with her “dying” and coming back, but I was still unhappy with the idea that the show was willing to give us all the “what if” and none of the “is.” All of the “maybe someday” and none of the “yes, now.” So, of course, I loved their reunion, their first onscreen physical union, their incredibly emotional scene at the park—it was not only everything I’d wanted, but more.

tumblr_o7b2peFBv01qbljqoo2_500via bottomshaw

And then it turned out none of that was real.

Hear me out, okay. On the one hand, it was real, in that it was emotionally real for us as the audience watching it until the final reveal, and in that it was emotionally real for Shaw. Shaw experienced that as real life: every emotion she expressed, choice she made, or touch she felt was real for her. It was what she would have done—or at least, would have wanted to do—in the scenario. This is the point of Greer & co.’s simulations. So on the level of: is it confirmed beyond even the most stubborn of doubts that Shaw loves Root too, desires Root too, cares for Root and the rest of the team too? Yes. It was real.

On the other hand, in the literal sense, none of this was real. It never happened. It was all inside Shaw’s mind (and Samaritan’s) and on an evil doctor’s monitor. And for me, at least, there was something deflating about realizing that yet again a love story between women on television has a “but…” attached to it. This doesn’t negate the possibility that when Root and Shaw are reunited in reality, we might get something similar, or something different but also exciting and affirming. But for now, at this moment, I find my feelings still very confused.

I swear to god I’m resorting to pros and cons here. Let’s do it.

PROS:

  • The sex scene wasn’t just intimate and accurate to the characters (of course they would fight for dominance and break things); it was a lot more explicit than a lot of sex or love scenes between non-straight characters on television. Often such scenes are filmed with the height of modesty, as though to split the difference between doing what the story requires and not freaking out any straight people. I appreciate that this one did no such thing! I appreciate it very much. (Some homophobes on Twitter were pretty upset, so you know the show was heading in the right direction!)
  • The episode’s conceit allowed Shaw to be effusive and demonstrative with her affection to a degree she never would be in reality. She just doesn’t like being that open about her feelings, unless said feelings are a desire for food or violence. Sarah Shahi actually kind of backs me up on this right here on AfterEllen (though I won’t quote and dissect her statements, as that leads me to some conclusions I think might count as spoilers).

tumblr_o7bpzidIa81qfdofwo5_r1_500Via rileyssblue

  • In a kind of return to “If – Then – Else,” Shaw’s killing Reese felt almost like an apology for the fact that we all know he should have died in that episode, and would have, were it not for unexpected developments in Sarah Shahi’s life. (Or it did before I found out it didn’t really happen.) While I like Reese enough that I’d like his actual death to have a little more buildup and emphasis, at the same time the idea of his being unceremoniously sacrificed on the altar of Shaw’s return was not something I was mad at. And her little broken whisper of “No, don’t, please don’t” when she thought he was going to draw his gun and press her to shoot him again was truly moving.
  • Having this all be a simulation means one of two things, possibly both, depending on how much we think Samaritan vs. Shaw was controlling the course of events: First, that Shaw has absolutely no doubt in Root’s love for and commitment to her, and second, that Samaritan ships #2SAM2FURIOUS as hard as the most dedicated Tumblr blogger. Possibly Samaritan has a Tumblr. (Did you think I had forgotten about #2SAM2FURIOUS? That’s adorable. I will never give it up.)
  • It also means the show can go to the level of commitment that has Shaw killing herself rather than endanger Root—thousands of times, so strong is that dedication—without Shaw…actually…killing herself.

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