It was a moment long anticipated by fans. Actually, it was a lot of moments long awaited by fans. The big one though had to be the return of Sarah Shahi to Person of Interest this week as Sameen Shaw re-emerged from being a captive of Samaritan to getting back into the fight against the evil A.I. But what should have been an occasion for celebration had a veneer of suspicion as Shaw struggled against some kind of post-traumic stress from nine months of torture? Attempted reprogramming? Hours and hours of Mario Kart? Call me gullible, but this one had me guess right up to the end.
But seriously, it wasn’t hard to tell that something was wrong, and the episode kept upping the ante to see how much we, the audience, would take before we eventually called it a Matrix. Shaw escaping from Samaritan custody? Come on, that was inevitable. Shaw finally hooking up with Root? It seemed rather sudden, but the fans have earned seeing those crazy kids get together. Team Machine getting the drop on Samaritan and raiding their HQ? Why not? They were bound to get lucky eventually. Shaw shooting Greer in the head? Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time a major character checked out quite suddenly.
But the episode pushed things too far when the increasingly disheveled Shaw shoots Reese in the middle of a PTSD blackout. How could Reese be dead just like that, and not just because CBS aired a commercial for tomorrow night’s episode that quite prominently featuring Jim Caviezel before it happened. Way to be the glitch in the Matrix, CBS! Honestly though, the episode was excellently glitchy on its own, and director Chris Fisher I don’t think ever tips his hand to suggest that whether those blindsides are coming from Shaw, or coming from whatever’s programming her to set off on this suicide mission to end Samaritan.
For her part, Shahi showed no sign that her maternity leave dulled either her fighting skills or her intensity as Shaw. The key to Shaw is that she’s not really a character you’re meant to like – she’s curt, she’s misanthropic, she likes violence, she’s functionally and admittedly a sociopath – but you like her anyway. Shaw was in prime form threatening the poor stock boy at the store, who she not so affectionally calls “Milhouse,” but as the episode wore on Shaw seemed victim to her own surprising vulnerability. When Shaw sees Finch again for the first time, you could read her dismissiveness to him as anger, but was it? Was she maybe, really, disappointed that the team leader dropped the ball in finding her?
I also admire the series for its restraint. It would have been so easy (especially with the shortened and sudden final season) to smoothly stick Shaw back into the group and go on saving numbers like normal, but squeezing Shaw for every ounce of emotional turmoil in a reunion with Reese, Root, Finch and Bear (can’t forget Bear!) without them even really getting back together was bold. On top it all, the end of the episode paints a grim picture because as wrought as Shaw’s journey in the episode was, it was still the 6,741st time it’s happened, and it will keep happening until Greer and Samaritan learn the location of the Machine, or Shaw dies.
It might be easy to think that the episode kind of dead ends. It’s a “one-and-done” after all, the episode ends at nearly the same place it began, and to be honest, that’s just not the type of thing that good TV does anymore. In the back of your mind though, it’s quite the marathon, and it feels consequential even if its not. Perhaps it’s because after everything they’ve been through, Team Machine has earned a victory, and that doesn’t include saving the Machine by running it off a hundred Playstations. But for now, let’s just say that Shaw remains sleeping, ready to get back into the fight for real. Hopefully sometime soon.