So how do you follow that? Well, if you have brilliant writers and a genius showrunner it isn’t a problem: you just look at things from a different angle. Rather than immediately go on the Shaw-hunt in ‘Control-Alt-Delete’ – although the first half of the episode is peppered with references to offscreen mayhem being caused by a man and a woman in masks – the show returns to the character of Control (Caryn Mannheim), and once more engages with the show’s ambiguous morality.
The thing about Control, and the government she works for – represented here by White House Chief of Staff Michael Gaston; of course Michael Gaston – is that both regard themselves as having a duty to keep people safe, and to take sometimes drastic steps in pursuit of that goal. (I know I keep returning to this, but – rightly or wrongly – I think it’s absolutely central to Person of Interest.) So when Samaritan identifies a cell of four Islamist terrorists who are about to detonate bombs in Detroit, Control – tellingly, after demanding to see the evidence, rather than simply taking Samaritan’s word for it – is prepared to authorise their extrajudicial execution, although one of the suspects escapes.
But while she thinks that Samaritan is a tool for her to use in pursuit of arguably laudable intentions, she starts to find out that, in fact, it’s the other way round; she’s working for Samaritan, which in all likelihood fabricated the evidence. And when she starts to wonder why she can’t be allowed access to a laptop belonging to the surviving suspect, a Samaritan operative simply shuts the system down, denying the government access to valuable intel.
By this point Control is thoroughly suspicious, and orders that when the fourth suspect is tracked down the priority is recovery of his laptop. At this point, though, the offscreen masked man and woman intervene and capture Control, giving Root the chance for some revenge torture. The thing is, though, Control doesn’t know about Shaw or where she is, nor was she aware of a shootout at the Stock Exchange. So even after she is rescued, and tracks down the missing “terrorist”, she starts to make further investigations into what Samaritan is up to. Bizarrely, I can now kind of see circumstances in which she might become an ally of sorts for Team Machine, particularly as Samaritan’s creepy kid avatar is making visits to the White House and demanding a meeting with POTUS.
By contrast the next episode, ‘M.I.A.’, is a little more hit-and-miss. There’s a Number – Albert Weiss, a sad sack who might or might not be a gangland killer-for-hire – and Fusco has to handle it, as Root and Reese are still on Shaw duties. The case is somewhat perfunctory, though, and seems to be there largely to re-introduce us to Dani Silva as the sort of lone-wolf-fiery-young-woman who don’t need no-one’s help but actually does, while grudgingly looking hot in a dress.
The rest of the episode, though, is up to the show’s usual standards: the only lead Root and Shaw have in their search for Shaw takes them to the apparently idyllic town of Maple, in upstate New York, which is quickly revealed to be a Samaritan company town: it took over the local factory, and appears to be monitoring the residents – including manipulation and experimentation – as part of its ongoing study of human behaviour.
Root, by this point, is on a hair-trigger, and when she and Reese take the town’s mayor and factory CEO, Leslie Thompson, as a captive, she’s not in the mood to temporise: she immediately threatens Thompson with torture if she doesn’t give up some information about Shaw’s whereabouts. Reese is fine with that; meantime Finch, at the other end of a phone, is pleading with them (“We can’t become monsters!”) not to go down that route. As Finch knows, though, they crossed that line some time ago. By the end Root still doesn’t know Shaw’s fate – we, at least, know whether or not she’s alive – and pleading with her God doesn’t get her any further. The theological takeaway this time seems to be that even if you believe in an interventionist God s/he won’t always do your bidding; and that sometimes your God will allow things to happen which you don’t understand.