“It wouldn’t be the meaning you want.”
“It’s the only meaning I have.”
The first half of “Nautilus” throws us into what seems to be another “case of the week” episode, but a flip is switched at the midpoint of the hour when it’s revealed that Samaritan is behind the creation of the game Claire’s playing. Through this revelation, the writers begin to draw ideas and characterization from last week’s premiere, effectively setting up the rest of the season when all’s said and done.
One of those drawn ideas is the idea of purpose, of meaning. “Panopticon” was about our main characters attempting to find some kind of purpose, some way of breaking apart from the monotony of their cover lives, and “Nautilus” paints a similar picture with Claire Mahoney. She has a brilliant mind, but she is never able to feel satisfied with her utilization of it until she comes across Samaritan’s game. The scavenger hunt imbues in her a sense of direction, of–in Finch’s words–“order, structure, and meaning”. When she receives the “I will protect you” message from Samaritan at the completion of her journey, we can see the satisfaction written on her face, the feeling of accomplishment, the sense that this is her prize. This is simply a formula that makes sense to her: you win, and you’re rewarded. This is the only meaning she has.
That, of course, makes her a perfect Samaritan recruit; not only is she brilliant, but she’ll follow orders and do anything it wants her to do. In essence, Samaritan is creating its own Reese-Finch-Shaw-Root team, and Claire fills the Finch quota quite nicely. Throughout the episode, Finch–who sees a lot of himself in Claire and grows attached, as Reese points out with “the exceptions become the rule, especially when you start using their first names”–attempts to convince her that although a life controlled by a greater force may feel safe and meaningful, it’s actually restrictive, rigid. He does not succeed.
However, where he does succeed is feeling like he’s done all he can, like he’s “given her all the facts”. At the end of the day, that’s all he can do, and the case also reinvigorates him with regards to continuing to save people and fighting Samaritan. He uses what Root tells him–that humans make their own choices–to deal with the loss of Claire to Samaritan, and while there’s certainly an irony in the fact that she makes her own choice to serve a very restrictive higher force, it’s also a resonant message for the rest of the group. A new world order is being ushered in by Samaritan, but standing in its way are a group of people and a machine, all of whom (or which) have a sense of purpose. As Finch states at the end, the subway repair line is “living underground, resisting new age”, and he makes the connection to the group. They all still work, and a fight is what Samaritan will get.
-About the grade: this is a perfectly enjoyable episode with very intriguing implications for the future, but the case just takes a while to get going, and when it does, it’s not as emotionally resonant as it could’ve been. I never quite feel the connection between Finch and Claire, and the conversation at the observatory isn’t exactly subtle when illustrating the themes of the episode. That, however, is great when compared to the final sequence, which veers into being just as much about the audience as it is about the group. They’re old, but they still work, just like YOU! A bit groan-worthy, in my opinion.
-New title sequence! ‘You’re being watched’ is now ‘we’re being watched’. ‘I designed the Machine’ is now ‘I designed a machine’.
– “Are you abducting someone?” That’s a fantastic scene for Root, and the combination of someone in the trunk and the message she gives to Finch is a perfect encapsulation of her character and the growth that’s occurred. It seems like when she speaks now, she’s speaking more from her heart, and that illustrates some semblance of vulnerability under that Root exterior (which is awesome).
-Fusco solves that puzzle like a badass.
-Bear! Why isn’t he listed as a main cast member yet?
Photo credit: CBS, Person of Interest