Synopsis for 4×11: The Machine is forced to run simulations to determine which move will be the best one to make to get the team out alive. Unfortunately humans aren’t always as predictable as the Machine would like and not everyone gets out in one piece.
Part two of the Person of Interest episode trilogy, starting before the short holiday hiatus, is probably the best episode of the show to date. The writers really outdid themselves with this one and blew the idea of this show being a procedural straight out of the water. This week’s episode format lent itself well to a science fiction storyline and left me breathless and teary eyed during the explosive conclusion to the episode.
So here’s the story. Samaritan is royally screwing everything up, specifically the stock exchange. Stock values tanked, people lost loads of money, and Team Machine is forced to try and stop it from creating chaos. Of course that leads them into the heart of the New York stock exchange, which means taking them straight into danger. However, what must be done must be done, so the team minus Shaw all head into the building with a plan to code in a fix for what Samaritan’s doing.
I started yelling “TRAP!” Captain Mal style when they got into the elevator to go to the lower levels. Nothing good could come of Samaritan’s schemes, and the fact that they’d made a predictable move in response to a relatively weird brand of chaos had me on the edge of my seat. Naturally it was a trap all along and the team soon found themselves boxed into the basement of the New York stock exchange. No one wants that.
Trapped and forced into the only unlocked room, the team took cover as a barrage of bullets came through the door and began to destroy everything, as they hid behind a counter they looked to the Machine for help. There were some amazing shots in the slow motion, though, and I enjoyed watching a coffee pot shatter beneath a bullet a lot more than I probably should have.
Now the episode was formatted to continually flash back; Reese made a wisecrack about the Machine choosing a bad time to go on the fritz, but Finch just told him the Machine had a lot to think about. Going back to 2003, viewers had a chance to watch Finch begin to teach the Machine how to play chess. He instilled in his creation the idea that with every chess match you play, the number of possible games increases. There’s always another option or another scenario that will be left un-played. It teetered on the idea of parallel universes, a science fiction trope they expertly wove into the entire episode.
With millions of scenarios running through her circuits, the Machine had only just over six minutes to decide which one had the best chance to get the team out of harm’s way. However, the writers gave us a peek into the Machine’s process and we had a chance to witness the different scenarios as she ran through them. There were three, two which failed because they split up the team and one which succeeded only by means outside of the Machine’s predictions.
So first, the team split up and fell into their natural roles. Finch and Root went toward the computers to fix the stock exchange while Reese and Fusco headed in the other direction to try and restore power to the elevator to get them out of there. This scenario ended with Harold shot dead by Samaritan’s men. For a moment, it almost seemed real until everything rewound and we met the team back in the room where they were being shot at.
While the scenario was running for them in the building, Shaw had to deal with an issue outside of it. To throw more stress on top of everything, she was forced to deal with a man in the subway who had a bomb vest strapped to him. As the rest of the team worked through their scenario, so did she, and unfortunately more times than not it ended with her shooting the would-be bomber in the head and getting arrested.
The next scenario had them split up but switched the roles. Finch and Root made their way to the mechanical room to try and fix the elevator while Reese and Fusco were tasked with hacking the stock exchange. This scenario ended up with Reese and Root dead and the simulation was deemed unsuccessful, therefore it was terminated. There could be no loses, as explained by another flashback wherein Finch finished teaching the Machine how to play chess and explained he wasn’t particularly fond of the game.
It was also one of the many moments he tried to teach the Machine about the value of human life. He told her that those who see the world as a chess game deserve to lose, because people are not chess pieces and no one person is more valuable than another. Due to this lesson, the Machine refused to let any of the team die even if it meant a successful mission.
So the third scenario had the team sticking together the entire way through. My favorite scene in this sequence happened when the Machine ran low on time and had to simplify the simulation, dropping the entire cast down into dialogue that included phrases like, “witty retort” and other descriptions of dialogue instead of an actual conversation. It was well written and well acted; a nice breath of comedy in the midst of a relatively high stress episode.
In the end of the scenario the team managed to get to the elevator. Shaw managed to convince the guy on the subway to diffuse the bomb. Yet even with their successes, the Machine predicted only a little over two percent chance of survival. It was better than nothing and the Machine had no more time, so the choice was made.
The scenario went almost as planned, though humans always manage to be surprising. Nonetheless, the team made it to the elevator but not in the best of shape. Reese had been shot pretty badly and Root had been grazed. They were just about out of bullets and out of chances when Shaw appeared after, as she declared, crawling through the air ducts to get into the building. With Shaw there, the Machine’s calculated odds of survival skyrocketed and the team made it to the elevator.
Yet as they attempted to get it to take them up, they found it wasn’t working. There was an override button, but of course it was across the hallway which was still guarded by Samaritan goons. There was only one way to get the majority of the team to safety, and Shaw decided she’d be the sacrifice.
In a heartbreaking moment, Root refused to let her go, only to be promptly silenced with a kiss. Yup, that’s right folks, they kissed. On screen. It wasn’t even a simulated kiss like the earlier one between Fusco and Root. It was real.
Then she ran into a stream of bullets, leaving a screaming, upset Root locked in the elevator as the team made it to safety.
Kisses are killer on this show.