Person of Interest Season 4 Review “If-Then-Else”

Person of Interest If-Then-Else Season 4 Episode 11 1

Last year, we faced the devastating loss of Carter. Could Person of Interest be cruel enough to take away another strong female lead? The answer appears to be yes and no. We’re losing Sarah Shahi’s Shaw while the actress is out on maternity leave, but there is still a chance that she will return some day. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, because our darling bundle of surliness is an integral part of Team Machine.

At the end of the last episode, Samaritan unleashed an attack on the stock market. We pick back up with Team Machine trying to undo the damage. Root, Finch, Reese, and Fusco head to the stock exchange to install a computer program that will reverse Samaritan’s actions. Naturally, Shaw can’t come along since she’s the most wanted on Samaritan’s hit list, so she’s tasked with getting a code that will help the others gain access to the computer room.

Team Machine unwittingly walks into a trap as dozens of Samaritan operatives swarm the building. This was a brilliantly crafted episode. As Team Machine cowers in an office kitchen, the machine runs through possible scenarios for their next move. In the first iteration, you don’t know that this is all hypothetical and watching Reese take a bullet is shocking. I enjoyed the different outcomes because it increased the feeling that anything can happen and any of Team Machine’s members are vulnerable. It was also beautifully shot with slow motion bullets flying. This physical representation of disrupted time made the machine’s efforts feel more believable and urgent. In the midst of the chaos, the machine is like the eye of the storm – it calmly slows everything down and weighs the options.

Sometimes the connection of the present to flashbacks can be a bit clunky, but it worked exceptionally well this week. As the machine runs through the various outcomes, we go back to 2003, to a time when Finch is teaching the machine to play chess. In the beginning, the machine struggles to make a decision because there are too many possible ways that the game will play out. Like a parent, Finch coaxes the machine to move forward even when it is frightened by uncertainty. It was particularly effective that the point of the chess game wasn’t just to teach the machine how to make strategic decisions. In a poignant, fatherly moment, Finch tells the machine that every life counts equally and strategic decisions can’t be made by putting more importance on one person’s life than another. The machine forgot this lesson when it previously tried to get Team Machine to kill the congressman to prevent Samaritan’s rise.

One thing is for sure…watching our main characters take bullets was brutal. It says something about the show that even though I know Finch can’t die because there wouldn’t be Person of Interest without him – when he got shot, it still felt like he could be dead. I think by killing Carter, the writers created a sense of paranoia for viewers that things could dramatically change at any time.

There were several smaller points that I really enjoyed in this episode. I liked that in the final scenario, Root saves the Degas drawing from destruction. As Finch said, “What’s the point of saving the world if you can’t enjoy it?” I also loved when the machine simplified the dialogue, “overly affectionate greeting” and “playfully witty sign-off.” Martine has become a great nemesis for the group and it will be extremely satisfying when one of them takes her out. If it can’t be Shaw who does it, I hope it’s Fusco. Martine wouldn’t expect it from him. The Shaw/Root kiss wasn’t terribly surprising, and I like that there is still some ambiguity on whether Shaw actually has romantic feelings for Root. As Shaw says, she’s a sociopath, so maybe that’s not really possible.

When we got the Finch flashback talking about sacrificing the most powerful, I thought Root’s time was definitely up. I was surprised by the direction things went in. But, it makes sense that Root will need to stick around for the ultimate showdown between the machine and Samaritan. I am glad that there is still a potential for Shaw to return because I really do love her character.