Person of Interest
Episode 16: Relevance
By: Carlos Uribe
Person of Interest is a drama about preventing planned crimes before they happen.
The viewer should know that this is going to be a different kind of episode when the opening titles are cut short. It begins like it normally does with Finch telling the viewer that they're being watched. It's always been an ominous way to begin the show but it's one that allows the audience to get into the mood. It is an exploration of the show's theme of the surveillance state that has formed in order to counteract terrorism. He doesn't get far as he's interrupted by the machine. There is always information relayed by the machine's interface but it's crucial in this episode to realize what's going on. The idea is that instead of seeing Finch and Reese go after the irrelevant numbers, the ones of ordinary people about to get involved in crime, we get to see how the government goes after the relevant numbers. This requires a significant change of perspective. Most episodes follow the journey of Reese and Finch but they're reduced to supporting players in the narrative. The voice-over itself is different as we don't hear Reese or Finch talking about the case but rather Sam Shaw and her partner. This change basically means that we follow her journey from beginning to end but it allows the show to set her character up in a way that no other weekly person of interest has been established. We don't find out she works for the government in a big twist nor do we follow Reese having to discover this information. We know from the very beginning what she does, that she's a very good agent, and that she'll probably make another appearance in the future. This break from form is what allows Person of Interest to really get the viewer not only behind her journey but also an insight of how the machine functions in it's official capacity.
It should come as no surprise that Shaw and her partner don't know anything about the machine. They think they get their numbers from a government agency called “Research”. All Shaw knows is that they're never wrong. Her partner starts to question this when he believes that one of their targets wasn't being paid by Hezbollah but by the government. He has raised this issue with the agency as he's beginning an internal investigation of the matter. It should come as no surprise when their next number turns out to be a trap. The partner is killed on the scene but Shaw is able to get out alive. That's partially due to the aid of Reese but she shoots him before he can properly introduce himself. It's an excellent way to set up the rest of the episode which is basically what Shaw is going to do now. Her first need is to get a bullet out of her gut as she got shot. She can't go to the hospitals or the agency will be able to find her in order to finish the job. She basically holds local criminals under gun point so that she can use their materials in order to remove the bullet by herself. By this point, the show has managed to establish she was a pretty good agent at the opening sequence and when she survived the trap. This sequence is supposed to cement her at Reese's level of danger. She's not only able to remove the bullet but she's able to take care of the situation by herself. This is a completely lethal agent who is a major threat to anyone in her way.
Once she's back on her feet, she decides she's going to seek revenge. She decides she's going to contact her dead partner's CIA contact to try and get the information she needs to find out the truth about Research. Here's where the episode is able to make a great use of Root. The previous episode had established her as the secretary for the Office of Special Services. She gets a slightly larger role this week as she uses a wiretap to find out how to use this information to the best of her abilities. Shaw and Root meet. The two are trying to get information from each other so that they can find basically the same thing. When Shaw learns that Root is only pretending to be the contact, she's actually subdued by Root. This makes sense. She may be capable but Root is currently the main villain of the show. As badass as Shaw is allowed to be, Root has to be the bigger danger in order to remain a credible threat going forward. Root's interrogation is cut short when the agency arrives but the two are able to get away. Root before the agency arrives and Shaw with the help of Reese. There's a wonderful meeting scene where she meets Finch but she's not interested in his help. What she is interested in is in setting up a meeting with the people who ordered the kill hit. She doesn't get her exact order but she does get to meet with the person who represents them for the audience-the guy that Root works for in the Office of Special Services.
It seems like she's going to seek revenge but it's a little more complicated than that. She does seek retribution by killing the lead field agent but she doesn't kill the director we know. All she does is give him the information that could lead to the machine. Why? She's still a good soldier. It's complicated but she still gets attacked by Hersh. He injects her with a kind of poison that causes her to quickly collapse. Looks like she's dead, right? Wrong. Carter, Fusco, and Leon (!) are able to arrive just in time to bring her back to life but only after pretending that she's died. She wakes up at the same graveyard where Reese and Finch met. The show using imagery alone is stating that she's now a ghost like they are. They sort-of state this but Shaw isn't joining the team. At least not yet. She's got to figure out what to do with the rest of her life now that she cant' be a solider for the nation she's dedicated her life to serving. It's a great ending with a pretty good song filled with just the right amount of humor and tension. This is a show that has a good way of introducing most recurring characters but this one easily takes the cake. Shaw was given the best origin story and here's hoping she plays a role on this show for a long time to come.
The episode titled “Relevance” refers to how numbers are deemed relevant or irrelevant by the machine. The title basically gives away the special nature but only in retrospect. It is a fantastic episode and one of the best that this show has been able to do. The change in perspective allows the show to basically show what's it like to be one of the people being saved by Reese while at the same time giving us a memorable impression of a new potentially recurring character. This creates an action-packed episode that tells the story of a female spy seeking revenge on the government who killed her. I wouldn't say it's the best episode this show has done but it would definably rank among the top five or ten.