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…