In the twelfth episode of the fourth season of Person of Interest, why is this show doing this to me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of extrajudicial executions, racism, Islamophobia, and racial profiling.
Good god, WHAT IS THIS SHOW.
I’m inferring from context clues that Shaw is probably alive, unless we’re heading for the most cruel plot twist since Carter’s death last season. (Seriously, I’m gonna be so pissed if they find her, only to discover that she’s been dead this whole time.) Even then, context clues COULD NOT HAVE PREPARED ME FOR THIS EPISODE. Oh, what a brilliant turn of the story, y’all. It’s such a disturbing way to examine how Samaritan is turning against the people who are using it within the government, yet they seem unwilling to accept the truth. The focus this time is on Control, the otherwise unnamed character who has run Research for the US government for years. She’s the perfect target here because few people have been as openly complicit in this nightmare as she has. She has no qualms about acting as an agent determined to deny legal rights to those accused of the “crimes” that were handed to her, initially by the Machine and now by Samaritan. National security is protected through execution.
Thus, the opening sequence of this episode is, by and large, something that Control is used to seeing. At that point in her life, she had been responsible for killing 850 people before they carried out an act of supposed terrorism. The intel had always been solid, and on that front, we can at least assume that the numbers given by the Machine weren’t lies. Those people really were terrorists. But for the audience, that facade of certainty has eroded ever since Samaritan came online. We know Samaritan has set people up, has tricked them into being pawns of its greater plan, has absolutely had innocent people executed. Thus, it became clear to me that something was wrong with this case as soon as the team entered that home and there didn’t appear to be anything that spoke to those men as terrorists.
But it was outright confirmed as soon as Samaritan denied Control, refusing to let her see what was on Yasim Said’s hard drive. There was a reason for that, right? What was it that Samaritan didn’t want Control to see? For what it’s worth, Control recognized that this was suspicious and weird, and so she butted heads with Travers. (Played by yet another alumni of The Wire. IS THAT ENTIRE SHOW A GUEST ON THIS ONE, JESUS.) Michael Potts plays Travers, the lead of the Samaritan team within the Pentagon, with a frustrating sense of superiority, and it’s perfect. Travers knows that he has the upper hand because, as he puts it, the US government is the guest of Samaritan. Yes, they’re using the NSA’s feeds, but at this point, Samaritan could probably still do a lot without the government.
So what plays out is an aggravating and deeply disturbing nightmare. Control becomes subject to Samaritan’s spying as she tries to get her operatives to determine what was on Yasim’s laptop. A theory started to formulate in me: What if this was it? What if this was when Control realized that Samaritan was running the show? At that point, I assumed that Yasim’s hard drive contained evidence that he was innocent, as well as his three other friends. Samaritan was far too determined to have Yasim executed for his “crimes,” so I was suspicious. But how do you turn someone like Control against a surveillance program? It’s not like she had no experience with this sort of system, and it wasn’t like she was thrown into it unknowing. She knew what Samaritan was, and she knew what it was that Research has been involved in since the Machine was first sold to them. She inherently believed in the power of the government to protect itself and its citizens by any means necessary. So why on Earth would she suddenly question Samaritan?
It’s personal. Which is a damning indictment in and of itself, y’all. Control never questioned what she was doing until she was denied one piece of information. Yes, she does start to question the supremacy and power of Samaritan, but she also relents fairly quickly once Samaritan is shut down in the midst of tracking down Yasim. Even then, how far was she willing to go? She certainly tried to hide from Samaritan and got a couple of her operatives to track down Yasim’s hard drive. Yet even then, it’s not until John, Root, and Harold get ahold of her that she is given enough information to truly doubt what she has and has not been told. And lord, I DIDN’T REALIZE THAT SHE DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE SHOOT OUT IN THE BASEMENT OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE. I assumed she would! It seems like a HUGE thing to not be told about!
Of course, in hindsight, it’s obvious why she wasn’t. Samaritan has been using the NSA feeds for its own agenda, and Control has no idea that’s happening. (Especially since Greer has his own team of operatives, like Martine, who are working for Samaritan.) She can’t know, either. If she finds out, then she will realize the truth: Samaritan can lie to her. Has lied to her. HAS ORDERED THE EXECUTION OF INNOCENT PEOPLE FRAMED AS TERRORISTS.
So why didn’t Harold try to change her mind more than he did? Since this episode is from the perspective of Control most of the time, it limits information and understanding. The regular protagonists are focused on a different goal: locating Shaw. Thus, I imagine that the Machine never gave numbers for the men that Samaritan had murdered, so they weren’t concerned about interrupting Control’s pursuit of Yasim. He tries to tell her that she has no idea what Samaritan is really for, he tries to get her to open her eyes, but at the end of the day, that’s not his goal. He just needs to find Shaw.
Plus, there’s a deeper problem at play here, one that Yasim vocalizes before Control executes him. Samaritan picked four men to do something for it that would be easily mistaken as terrorists. It’s one of the main reasons that I believe that Control needs something much bigger than the events of “Control-Alt-Delete” to get her to really question Samaritan. Yasim looked like a terrorist: on paper, in person, in theory. Those three men were killed without hesitation, and few people would ever question the death of three men who appeared to be terrorists because… well, that’s just who we are these days, right? They’re brown. They’re from “terrorist” countries. And the evidence of their act was compelling enough because it fit a definable pattern… which is the whole fucking point. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t break any laws. In the minds of the people of the US government, they were already guilty, so executing them was their national duty.
Maybe Control is finally starting to unravel this nightmare. That visit to the room where Shaw was shoot is a start, but guess what? Control has blood on her hands. She did long before this, but she executed an innocent man. She’s a pawn of something greater and more terrible than herself.
The video for “Control-Alt-Delete” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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