Person of Interest: s05 e04 – 6,741

A resourceful woman

Shaw is back!

There’s a twist to this episode, hinted at throughout and not quite as concealed as it might have been, and thus not so much a surprise as in a perfect world it would be. I’m going to reveal it at the bottom. But not here.

Helter-skeltering through Person of Interest first time, I read somewhere that Sarah Shahi was originally going to be absent for something like eighteen months, which would have meant her return somewhere either late Season 5 (would have made for a brilliant season finale) or early Season 6 on Earth-2. Which became untenable with the reduced final order, so here we have her back, as intense and cynical as ever, and every bit as active.

‘6,741’ is Shaw’s show. It starts with her undergoing an unwilling operation, to have a microchip implanted in her skull, to make her compliant, turn her into a good little girl who’ll tell kindly old John Greer where to find the Machine. It fails, in wonderfully dry, undemonstrative manner: Shaw, after nine months imprisonment (nice touch there), is still Shaw.

Indeed, she’s more so. After a second operation, implanting a second chip, Shaw sits and broods and calculates, as a result of which she escapes. It’s a proper, wonderfully destructive escape, Shaw at her most Shaw-like, improvising like crazy, breaking things, breaking people, stealing a boat and returning to New York.

Of course, she needs to get the chip out of her head, and she needs to find her friends. So she phones in a call suggesting she’s about to murder an innocent and ineffectual drugstore clerk, knowing it will attract Samaritan. It does. Shaw defends herself, but she is not totally Shaw: she’s crippled with bouts analogous to epileptic fits, flashing lights, flashback visions, mental distraction, physical unsteadiness. Is she alright? This one lets the last Samaritan retriever get the drop on her. No need to bring her back actually alive… until the traditional offscreen shot fells him.

Enter two familiar figures, responding to a Number. Not expecting to find a friend. Root is almost overwhelmed.

But even without her confession of having been chipped, Root and Reese are cautious, paranoid you might say. They won’t take Shaw to a safe house or to the Machine: is she compromised? Rousseau said she’d been broken.

They take Shaw back to Root’s place, for Root to look after her. This leads to some wonderfully passionate and excited love-making (or, as one imdb reviewer puts it, nasty lesbian sex, and he/she doesn’t mean nasty in a favourable sense).

But Shaw feels her team-mates’ distrust and won’t put up with it. She’s still having the fits, even after her chip’s been extracted. Shaw will not be controlled by anyone else. She leads everyone in a direct attack on Samaritan that seizes Greer. Greer, the Primary Asset, the ex-MI6 Agent who won’t do anything without an out. Greer will have a kill-switch and he will have it on him. Or in him: a chip implanted in his arm.

But it’s all a trap. Greer talks his usual, imperturbable, self-satisfied bollocks but this is directed to Shaw, his ally, his asset, the one who set up this trap to murder all her friends.

It’s breaking down. Shaw shoots Greer. Escaping, she and Reese wind up in a dark alley. Reese suspects Shaw of warning Greer. She shoots him in the back, kills him. This is absolutely the last point at which you should have realised where we are. Shaw is nervous, sweating, disoriented. Root comes to her. Shaw takes her to a kid’s playground. She fought being broken by constructing a safe place to go to in her mind: this park, Root. Root was her safe place. But not any more. Shaw is driven to kill Root. Her only escape is to put her gun to her own head and blow her brains out.

We return to Samaritan’s hospital. The simulation has failed. Once again Shaw fried her own brains without getting them anywhere near the Machine’s whereabouts. At least it took her a whole hour longer to kill Greer this time. They try again, from the beginning. This one is simulation 6,742…

This is one dark, intense and horrific episode of Person of Interest. Sameen Shaw hasn’t just spent nine months strapped to a bed, she’s spent that nine months under intense psychological torture intent on breaking who she is and re-creating her as an ‘asset’. Just think for a moment: this simulation, taking place in her head, is the six thousand, seven hundred and forty-first time she has been induced to believe she has escaped, has been taught to see herself as suspect and unreliable, and been driven to destroy herself to protect her friends. Sameen Shaw has experienced dying 6,741 times. So far.

This is more than frightening. How many of us could survive that a handful of times?

I’d also like to come back to the love scene between Root and Shaw. Their relationship, Root’s flirting, was the cause of much adverse comment during the season, from unreconstructed types who didn’t want to think about such things let alone see them. Root and Shaw were women, and that was enough for the neanderthal brigade. They shouldn’t even be in an action, macho show, they’re girls!

So this scene, and that’s as far as you’re going to get, was always going to be an intolerable provocation. And all you get is Amy Acker in a black bra, the visual metaphor of crockery being knocked off a dining table and smashing on the floor (??!), and a side-by-side face-down scene in orgasm afterglow. And it never really happened. Some people…

26 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s05 e04 – 6,741

  1. “6,741” [5×04]
    Written By: Lucas O’Connor and Denise Thé
    Directed By: Chris Fisher
    Originally Aired 16 May 2016

    “6,741” is the dark mirror to last season’s “If-Then-Else”. That episode was all about showing us how the world looks from The Machine’s perspective. This one is all about how Samaritan views the world and its enemies. It’s also a triumphant return for Sameen Shaw, who’s sadly been gone for 15 episodes. Credit to Sarah Shahi for getting back on the acting wagon only a few months after having twins. And credit to the writers for giving her one of their best. Fast, furious, and frightening, this one excels in every possible regard–editing, sound design, acting, and, of course, writing. All of the little things that seemed like bad writing to me were exactly the opposite. The out-of-character behavior for Team Machine and the strange sex scene was simply because Samaritan doesn’t have a solid grasp of how humans operate, unlike The Machine, who accurately predicted what would happen in each scenario. They’re all hints to pick up on. And then it gets in one last breathtaking turn–I knew something was wrong, of course, but exactly how wrong? As bad as it can possibly be.

    Now, of course there are two types of detractors to this one, one whom I politely disagree with and the other I ignore. I think this is a vital character study that aptly gets us up to speed on Shaw’s whereabouts. Therefore it’s a vital piece of this shortened season. The other doesn’t deserve a response from me, so I won’t bother.

    Grade: A. A top 10 contender.

    1. Show me someone who could improve on this and I’ll show you a genius who reduces the Complete Works of Shakespeare to something scrawled on a toilet stall wall

      1. There are two types: the homophobes and the ‘I saw the twist coming and that ruined it for me/it’s a waste of time in a 13 episode final season’.

        The first group I disregard entirely. Root and Shaw had sparkling chemistry from their first scene in ‘Relevance’, and the writers merely capitalized on it. I tip my that to them for changing their plans to suit the best outcome of the story. Many tv writers don’t do that.

        The second? This is an ingenious character study with or without the twist. And though I would have loved an episode focused on Shaw sneaking her way back into the US…..this is a genuine masterpiece of television. So you take what you get.

  2. That Charles Foster Kane, for all he hasachieved, remained inside a child torn prematurelty from childhood, as represented by his sled. But I’m pretty sure Bill the Bard didn’t write that…

    1. I was going to bring up something snarky about Romeo and Juliet but I actually do not like that play.

      King Lear, though, I really do.

  3. I loved the ep despite picking up on the twist near the beginning. I guess growing up watching Twilight Zone (first run) did something to my brain. It was only 20 minutes into The Sixth Sense (first run) when I leaned over and whispered into my date’s ear: “Got it!” And I did.

    1. Did I say neanderthals? Where did I say neanderthals? Wouldn’t insult neanderthals, not when they could outthink the Government that told my city to literally fuck off and die yesterday. I am no longer English. My nationality is Northerner.

      1. It was in another episode with Root and Shaw’s relationship. Can’t remember which one, though.

        So you want your city to secede from the United Kingdom?

      1. Sadly I don’t have New Zealand citizenship :(. If you have a method of getting me there I’m all ears…..

    1. Maybe you’d buy a mansion in Monaco, like rich French used to do before they forced the micro-state to stop being a tax haven.

  4. That second to last paragraph….it’s quite true, going by IMDB. In fact there has been someone recently leaving negative reviews on every episode that prominently features Amy Acker, calling her the worst casting decision in TV history and that those who like the show are clap happy idiots.

    I had a good laugh at that this morning. But the Neanderthals really are especially vocal about this show aren’t they?

    1. It’s the fixation that bothers me. I have shows I don’t like but the worst I’ll do is say I don’t like them, and sometimes why, if I get in conversation with someone who does. I have too much sanity to spend hours of my life industriously trawling imdb monotomously saying the same thing over and over again.

      1. It really shows just how deeply rooted some of these disgusting attitudes are.

        Why won’t they believe this poor show alone? I also don’t mind someone disliking a TV show, but repeatedly spewing misogyny and homophobia is so gross.

        And the irony of bigots calling others foolish will never cease….pot, meet kettle.

      2. The double standard is quite clear. Men (such as Jim Caviezel’s Reese) can be virtually indestructible badass action heroes no problem. This somehow does not strain credibility to certain people. But Root and Shaw are just a bridge too far. You noted that as well, and I think it’s an astute observation.

  5. When you think about it, the ‘it was all a dream’ criticism doesn’t really work inherently. All fictional hours of television are dreams in the minds of writers. The question is–is it an entertaining enough dream to hold your attention? For me, I absolutely love this episode. It’s an intense, ingeniously constructed character study that wrings the maximal emotional impact out of everything it tries.

    For me, I know you don’t like rankings, but this is definitely in my top 5 POIs, right up there with If-Then-Else and return 0. The criticisms of it are very weak, I find. It wasn’t necessarily up there before, but I felt like re-watching it yesterday out of the blue, and what do you know……

    1. I rate it very highly too, as I’m sure you know. And anyone who thinks that this is ‘merely’ an ‘and it was all a dream’ experience is stretching. It uses the form in a very precise, calculated and scientifically rational manner, turning it into an ‘and it was all a purposefully induced dream intent upon a specific aim’, which is vastly different.

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