“I couldn’t stand to lose someone today.”
Person of Interest deals with loss in a fascinating way by intertwining the human side with the technology side, the direct emotional fallout with the larger societal implications. It doesn’t forget about any character, and it takes care to allow loss to reverberate throughout the rest of the show’s universe. In “M.I.A.”, we get an incredibly intriguing look at the reactions from Root, Finch, Reese, and Fusco about the possibility of Shaw’s death, about the possibility that their friend truly sacrificed herself for them back at that elevator. The episode shines when it zeroes in on the characters’ emotions and thoughts and feelings, but at the same time, the episode stumbles a bit when it focuses on the larger picture.
Throughout the hour, we are privy to some very interesting conversations about Shaw, the primary one being the conversation in the car between Root and Reese. The former explains the story behind Schrodinger’s cat, and here, the episode is grappling with the concepts of reality and hope: when is something truly reality? If you don’t have concrete proof of something, how much hope can be injected into the situation? “We’re going to see reality soon,” Reese says at the end of the scene, and interestingly enough, the episode ends without either of them having a concrete answer. What matters, though, is that they’re still searching, that they’re not going to stop until they find their friend. “Hope is painful! I need an answer!”
What makes this whole situation even more interesting is the fact that the team can’t really agree on a certain viewpoint to take. The show sets up Finch’s worldview against Root’s worldview at the end, but it doesn’t necessarily lean one way or another; it simply presents the two ideas, demonstrates why they clash, and lets us come to our own conclusions about the characters we know and love. We can see exactly why Reese and Root are willing to torture information out of Miss Thompson, but we can also see where Finch is coming from when he says that they “can’t be monsters”. Following orders vs. taking responsibility is the key thematic idea here, and the episode does well by it. At the end, it’s all taken up a notch due to the Machine telling Root to “stop”; a rift is growing between her and her goddess, and I can’t wait to see how that’s explored in the coming weeks.
In general, though, I do believe the episode stumbles when it comes to handling the “ant farm” idea. It’s a fascinating idea, and I really hope the show comes back to it because it feels like it’s not thoroughly engaged with in “M.I.A.”. There are a few revelations here and there, but each idea doesn’t feel like it has enough room to breathe. The concepts of social balance (with the homeless man) and displacement of the few and a “good life” and following orders are all compelling ideas, but the episode doesn’t really zero in on any of them; it seems to skip over them a bit in service of the plot. Again, that’s completely fine if the show returns to Maple in some way, but as of right now, it feels pretty underdeveloped.
The episode is still very enjoyable, though, and at the end of it all, it returns to the idea of pawns, the idea that has been explored in depth the last few weeks. When Samaritan controls and studies the inhabitants of Maple, how much free will is there? Are these people just pawns in a much larger game? Is there an ability to break free? A very telling exchange comes near the middle of this episode, and it perfectly encapsulates the show’s opinion on the matter:
“We really are just pets.”
“Pets don’t carry guns.”
-Oh hey, Shaw! So glad to see Sarah Shahi again, and so glad to see the character still alive and well. At the same time, it’s pretty ominous whenever Greer shows up, and I have a suspicion that the brain transponders/implants are going to play a role here with Shaw.
-That final scene is reminiscent of the Stanton-Greer meeting.
-Great performance by Amy Acker in this episode.
-The Silva-Fusco plot is pretty enjoyable, and as the opening quote above suggests, Fusco’s mindset here ties into the idea of loss and not wanting to lose anyone else.
-Apologies for the late review. I wasn’t able to watch the episode before it aired this week,
Photo credit: Person of Interest, CBS