In the fourth episode of the fifth season of Person of Interest, Shaw resists. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.
Trigger Warning: For consent, nonconsensual medical procedures, torture.
So, if you’ve been following the Mark Does Stuff brand of reviews, y’all know that there’s a trope I really dislike in episodic television. (It does appear in fiction in general, but given the nature of television, it’s more likely to show up in TV scripts than anywhere else.) In general: I like storytelling that matters, that bears a weight on the characters who are forced to experience something. I want writers to commit to the things that they create! So when a script pulls a punch that is ultimately meaningless, it annoys me. I don’t like reset buttons, sort of like the one that utilized a lot in the first two Star Trek shows I watched for this site. It feels lazy. It feels like a show wants to explore something without having to deal with the ramifications of it when they do this.
In some respects, then, I could see how “6,741” technically qualifies for invocation of this trope. At the end of this episode, we discover that the events we just watched—as ridiculous and shocking though they are—were nothing more than a simulation, an attempt to break into Shaw’s mind in order to reveal the location of the Machine. None of it mattered, right? None of it happened.
Yet I feel compelled to consider that perhaps this is one of those rare instances in which a reset button manages to tell a story that remains beyond the rest. That number—6,741—suggests more than just the number of simulations. It is the scope of it that is so wholly impressive and damning. How many of those simulations ended seconds after they started? How many times did Shaw lead Greer and his team down dead ends just for the hell of it? And how many times did Samaritan’s team begin to doubt the efficiency of what they were doing?
Of course, this would be better if we knew for certain that Shaw was aware of what was happening, and I suspect that we do get enough in the way of context clues to make this determination. She says multiple times within this simulation that she was taught to escape to a safe place in her mind if she was being tortured. Thus, it’s possible that she’s returned to the same safe place every single time: Root. How many times have the Samaritan techs had to watch her reunite with Root? How many times have they seen Shaw sacrifice herself before she harms Root or the Machine?
That is what makes me feel a lot better about the use of this trope. It tells a story. Shaw’s love for Root is undeniable at this point, and while their relationship (if you can call it that???) is canon, this episode explores it in a different way. It’s how Shaw survives, and I believe that this counts as character development. Would I have preferred that the sex scene happen outside of a simulation? Of course. That’s the ideal scenario.
But what “6,741” accomplishes still felt immense to me. I love that she has resisted for so long, that there seems to be no hope of her ever being “broken” by Greer and his associates. I love that they all have to watch themselves die over and over again. I love that progress is measured not in how close they get to the location of the Machine or the headquarters, but in how long each of them survive before Shaw kills them. Unsurprisingly, I love the idea that amidst such an unending nightmare, Shaw still returns to Root, perhaps the biggest thorn in Samaritan’s side, and all of these people have to watch her experience joy while all of them fail.
This episode was an EXPERIENCE, y’all.
The video for “6,741” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff