“Person of Interest” recap (5.11): Going Rogue

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Root/The Machine: “Comforting, isn’t it? Fixing something, creating order amidst chaos?”

I suspect this line was something of a mission statement for “Synecdoche,” which offers a mainly procedural plot after a practically traumatic character death. I, for one, was hoping for a Samaritan-heavy, vengeance-laden episode. My priorities are basically Shaw’s: “No more numbers! We get Finch, we go after Samaritan, that’s it.” Unfortunately, neither of us really gets our wish here. (I wonder if this is one of the procedural episodes the network insisted upon having.) At this point, I’m sincerely unsure if it’s possible to do a “protect the President” story that isn’t hackneyed, but they did try.

tumblr_o8gnjxiolj1qfhb5no2_400Ugh. (Via adecogz)

I’m going to focus, then, on the aftermath of Root’s death. The episode draws a parallel—perhaps for the first time—between The Machine and Shaw. Like Shaw, she watched Root die thousands of times in simulations. “You can’t conceive of my grief because you don’t experience it like I do,” The Machine observes to Harold in Root’s voice. “But it’s there.” John makes the same point about Shaw to Fusco later in the episode.

Shaw, of course, is in not a great place. She had only just started to believe that what she was experiencing wasn’t a simulation (or at least, not one of Samaritan’s simulations), and then the same thing that she killed herself to prevent in every one of those simulations happened: Root died. Naturally enough, then, Shaw defaults to the more comfortable assumption. This must be a simulation (because Root can’t really be dead), and it sucks. John and The Machine manage to prevent her from actually jeopardizing herself, but the Shaw who grudgingly joins the mission to Washington is not the relatively tamed, humorous, even dorky Shaw we’d come to know over the last few seasons. She’s much more the feral, taciturn, angry assassin we met in “Relevance” and immediately after—which makes sense, as that Shaw had just lost a partner she cared for, in her own way.

tumblr_o8gnvbLGPH1riftaxo1_400(Via cantcontrolthegay)

She offers the most open expression of her feelings we’re likely to get when torturing the waiter-cum-terrorist: “I’m angry. I’m angry because you have people that you can love, and you chose to sign their death warrants.” She explained a long time ago to Gen (the little girl who was an amateur spy) that while she doesn’t do feelings well, in general, angry is something she does very well. So her anger here, her impulsiveness, her aggressiveness and recklessness—this is how Sameen Shaw does grief. It’s probably intensified by all the time she spent in simulations (living without consequences for thousands of hours is enough to make anyone reckless), but it’s obvious that she’s taking real pleasure in scaring and, yes, hurting this man, and that is rooted in her experience of grief. (I would like to note for the record that “my girlfriend is dead” is not a justification for torture.) Root was much the same after she lost Shaw, though she expressed and described it differently; hurting someone she saw as an obstacle helped her feel like she was doing something. Maybe even “creating order amidst chaos.”

By the end of the episode, Shaw essentially goes rogue to try to take the fight to Samaritan, because “that’s what Root would have wanted.” She seems to have grasped that what’s going on is probably not a simulation; enough so that she can at least proceed as though it matters. For once, John doesn’t even try to stop her. I appreciated that. (Also appreciated: Shaw’s expression at listening to the most basic and boring possible platitudes about security vs. privacy at the fundraiser.)

tumblr_o8g3h9RKPi1v8rxs9o4_250 tumblr_o8g3h9RKPi1v8rxs9o8_250(Via shoot-rootandshaw)

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