There is and will be no let-up after the loss of Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi disappearing from the credit as she enters maternity leave), and there will be no deflection from the fight against Samaritan and its ever-growing control of everything. But there can be unexpected angles from which the gathering storm can be seen.
This one was clearly unforeseen. Shaw is gone and Team Machine want her back. No matter that Finch believes she is dead, Reese and Root are convinced she has been taken and are on a violent rampage to determine any lead that will take them there. We don’t see this, all we hear are reports of two ski-masked assailants, one male, one female, blazing a trail whose links we can understand but an uninformed public will only see as random.
So, to fill in the time,and to open things up, we have our dear friend, Control. She’s seen at first in her human aspect, dropping her daughter off at an exclusive Washington private school, before going on to the White House and her Ops Room. There’s a mission, a four-man Muslim terrorist cell in Detroit, identified by Reasearch, i.e., Samaritan. We watch the operation live, three men shot and killed on site, our old friends Grice and Brooks leading the charge. But the fourth man, Yasim Said, isn’t there.
And Yasim Said will turn out to not be a terrorist, but a fall guy, set up as a target on false, deliberately misinterpreted information, not that that will save his life. What Yasim Said is is a pebble.
He’s not there. He’s carrying his laptop. Control wants its data. But Access is Denied, by Samaritan on screen and by Greer’s spy in the cab, Mr Travers (Michael Potts), a round-faced, bespectacled man with far too smug a grin to accompany his manner. The data is irrelevant, he says, and in terms of finding Yasim, he’s correct. But this is Control we’re dealing with, she who delivered a very shortened version of Finch’s opening narrative at the start. She is an arrogant, aggressive, self-satisfied woman whose code-name sums her up: she is in Control, and denial of her wishes is not an option.
So Travers switches Research off, completely, until Control reluctantly relents, having been schooled alongside the President’s Chief of Staff, Mike Richelli, that Samaritan does not belong to them, and they are not allowed to control it. You’re not going to expect Control to take that sitting down, are you?
She diverts Grice and Brooks from killing Yasim to retrieving and analysing the laptop, overriding standard orders: she knows Grice let Shaw go, and this is his reprieve. But Yasim gets away, minus laptop, which promptly fried itself. Control herself ends up in Detroit, trying to intercept Yasim herself, and she would have done it too if not for those pesky two ski-masked assailants, one male, one female, the male one of which finally gets to fire Reese’s prized shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.
Our gang are onscreen after half the episode, holding Control prisoner in a mock-up of the setting where, in season 2, she interrogated and partially deafened Root. Camryn Manheim does such a marvellous job of incarnating the woman: you can see that she is a perfect fit for the role but that that perfect fit requires her to be a loathsome woman, not the least for her impervious ignorance. Once she gets an idea into her head, she will not consider any counter-argument, not the least shred of ambivalence as to the accuracy o what she thinks.
Thus she’s completely unable to understand Finch and Co: what they do, why they do it, what they want of her. Of course they want Shaw’s whereabouts, that’s their whole purpose. Control has no idea, and says so, but it’s equally clear that if she did know anything she wouldn’t tell them. It’s who she is, she gathers intelligence, she does not share it, no-one but her is worthy of knowledge, no-one but her can be trusted.
Finch begins to open her eyes, though she refuses to understand him or waver. She knows nothing of the battle under the Stock Exchange and regards it as a fantasy to undermine her. She will never tell. anyway, she has operatives following jher, even if one of them is a Samaritan implant. Finch tries to educate her as to wht Smaritan is, its own agenda, but the woman is too stupid to listen.
A battle ensues. Reese faces Grice and gets the upper hand, at some cost. He’s about to kill him when, in a far more plausible and effective pre-shadow of the ‘Martha’ moment in Batman vs Superman, Shaw’s name comes out and the pair realise that in this one, tiny but vital respect, they are not enemies.
The team escapes. Finch has uiploaded a worm into Samaritan’s private network, to search for any mention of Shaw. Root is convinced she’s still alive, Reese demands to follow the least possibility and Finch may doubt but, like Bear, he would want nothing more than to find her alive: he misses her. The trail leads to upstate new York.
Another trail leads to Canada, Yasim Said’s bolthole. Control carries out this mission herself. Yasim explains himself and his friends differently: winners of one of those seashell trails, coders working on developing environmental control systems, set-up to be plausible fall guys, none of this is getting through except to the audience. Wearily, he asks her if she’s ever considered the possibility that she’s been lied to. She shoot him through the heart and says No.
Or does she? Samaritan is reaching out to POTUS via its creepy kid avatar and Mike Richelli. And Control is looking at a sub-basement six floors below the Stock Exchange, reached by a mintenance lift. There isn’t a sign of anything, no evidence that anything ever happened here. Except that the paint on the wall is still wet…