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Person of Interest - Sotto Voce; The Day The World Went Away - Review

This is technically a double review of the two Person of Interest episodes to air this week - “Sotto Voce” and the 100th, “The Day The World Went Away” - but it’s more a review of the latter, for two reasons. Firstly, I wrote a short piece about Monday’s episode on my blog, a little of which is included below. The main reason, however: It’s difficult to really care about an episode like “Sotto Voce” after an episode like “The Day The World Went Away.”

Dear lord. What an episode.

I noted back in my review of “6,741” that while I didn’t think the show supposedly killing off a couple of its major players that early seemed too improbable, it wasn’t ever going to be my first assumption. Here, however, with only three episodes remaining until the end of the series, it’s unlikely that Root’s death, as some on Twitter have speculated/desperately hoped for, is a simulation of some sort, which means that this is the end for her. It was a fitting end too, with Root choosing to sacrifice herself to not only save the man she greatly admires, Harold Finch, but the Machine along with him. Really, there is little better way for her to go out.

Much of “The Day The World Went Away” foreshadowed a death, and all signs pointed towards it being Root. Her mid-shootout discussion about shapes and metaphysics (regardless of how Finch wasn’t in the mood to discuss it) and how the world is essentially a simulation anyway indicated a lack of concern of the idea of death, opting instead to focus on what they do before they go out rather than death itself. I said, somewhat sarcastically, last week that perhaps the entire season - or series - is a simulation, and while that still may be true in the sense that I meant, Root’s reference of Schrodinger and how the Machine knows these characters so intimately in order to predict them took the approach in a different direction. “As long as the Machine lives, we never die,” she says, with her belief that the AI watches over those they’ve lost - Nathan, Carter, Elias - despite them having died. Perhaps my only real criticism of the hour was that Root’s death was telegraphed far too heavily: In the moments before she swerved to take the bullet, her talk of living on through the Machine and how Finch will “know what to do,” “when the time comes” along with her previous discussions left little doubt that she was not long for the world.

And her sacrifice to save Finch makes a lot of sense. He is the ‘father’ of the Machine, and Root knows that he is crucial if they are going to survive, let alone win, the battle with Samaritan. There’s a level of intimacy that he has with the AI that she could never have, regardless of how much she tries. Even now, with the Machine using her voice, there isn’t that relationship between them. Root was the Machine’s analog interface, and it cared deeply for her - Finch’s line back in season four’s “Prophets” (“The second that a bullet enters your brain, the machine will cast you off and replace you”) was proven very wrong - but she didn’t create it. Even the adoption of Root’s voice has little to do with this, rather that she is dead and the Machine wants to try and honour her in its own strange way. And, yes, because the Machine deems itself female - Finch’s frequent female pronoun usage back in the simulations of “If-Then-Else,” before he was comfortable using them in real life, suggest a knowledge or belief of gender - Root’s voice was chosen; had Root not died, I imagine that her voice would have still been used.

Not only does it make a lot of sense from Root’s perspective, but she was the only character whose death would push Finch to a place where he - and, presumably by the end, the team - will be able to take on Samaritan once and for all. Over the course of a hundred episodes, Finch’s rules of morality have been well established, both through his direct actions and what he has taught the Machine. “Death Benefit” gave the perfect opportunity to put an end to the malevolent AI before it even began, but morality meant Finch was able to convince Reese not to pull the trigger. Even this season, when times have become more and more dire, Finch remained reluctant to make changes to the Machine for fear of abuse and the chaos that abuse might cause. All the while, Root has been the one pushing him to equip them with the ability to have a fight in this war. Her death has finally opened his eyes to realise that there is no boundary that Samaritan will not cross, and so trying to remain inside those restrictions themselves is futile and will end up getting them all killed.

Had another member of the team - say, Reese - died, would Finch have been pushed on in the same way? It’s possible. His insistence throughout that his friends shouldn’t be risking their lives for him, because of his mistake, could indicate that any of their deaths would have forced his hand. But none of the team were as close to the Machine or so focused on changing its code as Root, and her demise really illustrates how desperate things are.

Somehow, I’m nine hundred words deep into this review and have yet to mention Finch’s scene in the interrogation room. Michael Emerson, your Ben Linus is showing. Were there to be any justice in the world, this would be Emerson’s first Emmy nomination since his role on LOST (*). We’ve seen hints of his darker side in a mostly harmless performance over the past five seasons, perhaps most notably in season four’s “Wingman,” where Harold Egret got to intimidate, while Elias’ comment in “Reassortment” about Finch being the darkest of them all was an eruption waiting to happen (or, as he put it, a pot waiting to boil over). Here, as he outlined his dilemma over having to break his rules to kill Samaritan, Emerson was able to convey all of Finch’s inner demons that have built up over years and years of suppression as he abided by those rules. As his voice deepened and became less and less controlled, it was Emerson’s rarely blinking eyes - a characteristic borrowed from his LOST stint - that sealed the deal. There’s a reason that Emerson’s Emmy nominations and wins have come from playing a serial killer on The Practice and an evil leader on LOST: He’s never not excellent, but when given the opportunity to get down in the mud and to be intense and creepy, he delivers with ease.

(*) As always, Ron Swanson can accurately sum up my feelings on the Emmys.

And that’s to say nothing of the hour’s opening scene, where Emerson was able to showcase a completely different side, lamenting the potential for his friends to die and wondering if they could somehow survive even if he doesn’t. Again unblinking, Finch expresses a somewhat restrained sadness over his and his friends’ impending demise, wonderfully paralleling the interrogation scene in both acting and character: Here, Finch is desperate for the Machine to give him some good news yet unwilling to make some of his own; by the end, all hope was out of the window and he was about to take matters into his own hands. An all-around phenomenal performance from Emerson.

Amy Acker also got a chance to shine, as she so often does, she too able to showcase her full range of talents, first as Root was resigned yet severely disquieted in response to the news that Finch was about to revert the Machine back to an open system, and later as she displayed an immense level of calmness and insight in the middle of a warzone. Her scenes of the latter were particularly great, Acker providing both the fun, playful, “you flirt at the most awkward times” Root combined with a whole lot of philosophy. It was quite something, so wonderfully crazy yet grounded and nothing but a pleasure to watch. Now that she’ll be voicing the Machine, Acker will be able to take on the new style briefly glimpsed at in the final moments here. I imagine there will be no long speeches or even long lines, but the intensity that will be present will complement Emerson’s dark turn perfectly, and it should make for some thrilling scenes across the final three.

Whether or not it’s fair to describe “The Day The World Went Away” as the best episode of Person of Interest, I don’t yet know. But it’s certainly up there with the best of the best.

Some other thoughts:

More on Root’s death: While it would have been great for her to be in the company of her friends in her final moments, Person of Interest has long since established that people probably won’t get happy endings when they go out. Shaw’s reaction to the news is in line with her character - despite expressing her feelings a little more freely this season, actually losing Root isn’t something her simulations dealt with (and even then, that’s her subconscious; given her Axis II Personality Disorder, actually conveying all of those feelings was never going to come to pass), and so her fleeting expression of anguish before reverting back to her standard emotionless temperament, much like her reaction to witnessing her father’s death as a child, makes sense. Finally, I’m confident that she was dead when Fusco got that phone call and decided he would go to the hospital, waiting to tell his partners of her fate until he was certain.

The 100th also said goodbye to Elias (Enrico Colantoni), only a few episodes after he returned having seemingly been killed. It’s a real shame to lose Elias, given his always considered take on the world and his allegiance to the team (plus, Colantoni always puts in a great shift - his very casual "Shame, I don't think we'll have enough place settings” as Samaritan operatives stormed the building encapsulated him perfectly), but it was fitting for him to die outside the very building where he first came in contact with Team Machine as ‘schoolteacher Charlie Burton’s’ number came up.

Root shooting at Samaritan's operatives with a big ass gun while steering with the heel of her boot? More, please.

Between "Temporary Resolutions? Is it just me or is dispatching hitmen more of a permanent resolution?" and “What about Glasses? He's not exactly Indiana Jones, you know,” Fusco got some killer lines.

If only Root had killed Blackwell when she had the chance in “ShotSeeker.”

With regards to “Sotto Voce,” I’ll keep it brief (if you want to read some slightly longer thoughts, visit my blog post). In all, a solid episode, but the return of ‘The Voice’ was vastly underwhelming, and I’m curious as to why the show elected to make the switch from him being an adversary for Finch to being more involved with the action-oriented Reese. The parallel between him and Elias was notable, but it was handled with far less finesse here. Still, Finch got to hint at his darker side, allowing Elias to blow up “Easton,” and it was nice to have that loose end tied up, even if it wasn’t especially satisfying. Shaw’s reunion with Root and the team was a good way to wrap that hour up, especially considering that’ll probably be the last happy moment the team will ever have. Plus, Fusco finally learning the truth really was a long-time coming, and seeing him with a yellow box was a lovely touch.

What did everyone think of these two? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author - Bradley Adams
17 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email
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