That’s definitely one way to celebrate 100 episodes! The landmark and adrenaline pumping hour, which was also a showcase episode for Michael Emerson, featured the death of two major characters. “The Day the World Went Away” is a culmination of several seasons worth of work and is definitely a game-changer for the show in more ways than one.
We open with Finch sitting at a cafe talking to The Machine. Sitting there, Finch, who admits he imagines his death so much it seems like a memory, asks his creation if his friends would possibly make it out alive. A waitress interrupts the one-sided conversation when she returns with his order and says it’s nice to see him again. Uh-oh, she recognizes him! Finch denies ever being there and scurries off.
Finch returns to the subway to find Root waiting to confront him about his decision to close The Machine. It’s not entirely clear how Finch arrived at this decision between “Sotto Voce” and now, but let’s go along with it. Root argues that closing The Machine will make them “the most principled corpses in Potter’s field” and accuses him of never giving The Machine a voice or a name because he expected one day he might kill it again.
“I imagined one day that it might wish to choose one for itself,” replies Finch. Then, he sits down at the computer and locks the system.
Unfortunately, it’s right at that moment that The Machine receives a new number: Finch’s. His cover is blown and now it’s time for the team to keep their fearless leader safe. So, the team rendezvous at the safe house and makes a plan: Elias will help keep Finch off the grid while Reese and Fusco follow a Samaritan lead and Shaw and Root hang back at the safe house to fend off Samaritan’s operatives. Before they separate, Root informs Finch that she gave The Machine the ability to defend itself before Finch closed the system, however it will only work if Finch activates it. Good to know.
Elias decides to hide Finch where we first met Elias way back in the first season: the high-rises. While they’re together, Finch realizes that Samaritan was able to find him because he returned to the same cafe he took Grace to many years ago, which means Samaritan has started looking back at what they’ve done in the past in order to find them. This also means that Shaw can stop worrying that she’s the reason Finch’s number came up.
Back at the safe house, Root and Shaw share a very tender moment where Root opens up to Shaw about how working with Team Machine is the first time she’s ever felt like she has belonged. It’s a nice moment that reminds us of just how far all of these characters have come in the past 100 episodes. Do you remember what Root was like when we first met her? I’m pretty sure she just doesn’t think we’re all bad code anymore. I really like how this episode is structured around two-person scenes like this. They allow for intimate character and relationship developing moments like this.
NEXT: A heroic end
Unfortunately, Samaritan is able to track Finch to the high-rises because it notices that the gangs have stopped warring, which is unusual. Elias makes a valiant effort to help Finch escape, but two Samaritan assets corner them outside and shoot Elias in the head. It’s a brutal scene: The dialogue cuts out, the music takes over and the camera remains focused on Emerson’s face as Finch is forced to confront the death of one of the few people who got him. I think this is a fitting death for Elias because he went out fighting for someone he called a friend and loyalty was always one of the most important things to him.
Finch is already gone by the time Reese and Fusco arrive at the scene. Luckily, one of the kids in the neighborhood who respects Elias caught the car’s license plate number and the Machine tracks the car all the way to a parking garage where Greer is waiting to greet Finch. Greer informs him that Samaritan has decided not to kill because it wants him to work for it and has decided to lock him away somewhere until he does. So, Greer has his men transfer Finch into another car that will take him to his prison for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully, Root and Shaw arrive right before Samaritans whisks Finch away. Naturally, a fire fight ensues. Root spends most of the gunfight flirting with Shaw, which is quite funny, and actually makes a pretty good case for why it doesn’t matter if what Shaw is experiencing is a simulation or not.
“The real world is essentially a simulation anyway,” says Root. “Even if we’re not real, we represent a dynamic, a tiny finger tracing a line in the infinite…If we’re just information, just noise in the system, might as well be a symphony.” That’s when they stand up and start shooting harder.
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It’s a weirdly hopeful sentiment when you think about it. The world in Person of Interest is absurd and the characters confront that absurdity on a daily basis as they fight a seemingly losing war against Samaritan. At this point, they have every reason to give up, especially given the uncertainty of the future. But, that uncertainty also means they have every reason to live as much as possible right now, to fight, because it’s better than the alternative. Root has already learned this lesson, but it will take some time for Finch, who has been half-heartedly fighting this war, to realize this.
As Root, Shaw, and Finch get ready to flee the scene, a Samaritan vehicle equipped with a turret gun shows up. Shaw volunteers to stay behind and hold it off while Root escapes with Finch. As Finch and Root speed down the highway, a wounded Root makes another attempt at convincing Finch to actually fight back, but Finch believes they’ve already lost the war. However, their conversation is interrupted by one of the show’s best action sequences to date when the Samaritan car with the turret gun catches up to them. Root pulls out her own big gun, stands up through the sunroof while steering the car with one foot clad in a heel and shoots the hood off of the Samaritan car, causing it to crash and explode.
NEXT: The apotheosis of Root
However, we mustn’t forget that this is also a battle between ASIs. While The Machine is guiding Root through the chase, Samaritan directs Jeff Blackwell to a sniper post in a suburban area where he lies in wait until Root and Finch drive by, because Samaritan is always thinking 1,000 steps ahead. Luckily, Root sees Jeff right as he fires his shot and swerves the car so she takes the bullet instead of Finch. Then, Root and Finch hit a police roadblock and the police take Finch into custody and an unconscious Root to the emergency room.
At the precinct, the feds are called after they run Finch’s prints and discover that he’s wanted for treason, among other things. His past is finally catching up to him in the episode; however, it’s not just his past crimes, but his decision to create The Machine, create this new world, in the first place. Sitting there in that interrogation room, Finch is at his lowest point and isn’t even paying attention to the FBI agent interrogating him. Instead, his attention is turned toward the camera, i.e. Samaritan. “I’m going to kill you, but I need to decide how far I’m willing to go, how many of my own rules I’m willing to break,” he vows to Samaritan.
“The Day the World Went Away” is an episode that’s all about how Finch responds when confronted with the consequences of the world he created and death. It makes sense that Root and Elias’ deaths work as like the Toby Ziegler’s to Finch’s Jeb Bartlett, finally galvanizing him to stand-up and fight back. As I’ve mentioned before, these two are the people who seemed to understand Harold the most. (Again, note how they exclusively call him by his first name) They offered the strongest challenge to his rules and appealed to his dark side, a side that we’ve seen hints of throughout the series (just look at “Beta”).
The FBI agent starts escorting Finch back to holding, but gets distracted by another cop. A nearby pay phone rings and Finch answers it. And, he’s surprised by the voice on the other end: It’s Root. Yes, The Machine has finally picked a voice — and it’s Root, which seems like the best ending for the character. The Machine chose the voice of her biggest advocate. Becoming the voice of The Machine is kind of like the apotheosis of Root. Finch asks her if she can get him out of there and she says of course and shuts off the power in the prison.
Reese and Shaw arrive at the jail right after the power goes off, freeing hundreds of inmates. Fusco calls them from the hospital where Root was taken and Shaw knows Root’s dead without Reese having to tell her. But, Shaw moves on quickly and wonders why The Machine gave them Finch’s number and Reese realizes that Finch wasn’t the victim. He’s the perpetrator.
Right now, the 100th episode is currently duking it out with “6,741” as my favorite episode of the season so far. The tragic hour benefits from the amount of work this show has put into building its characters and this world. In a way, everything in this episode feels kind of inevitable, even Root’s death/ascension to The Machine.
The Even More Irrelevant List:
- “That man is not a professor. He’s the architect of the future.” —Root, when they interrupt Finch’s meeting with an annoying student
- “Grab your guns, Sameen. You’ll feel better once we shoot some people.” —Root, to Shaw as they get ready to defend the safehouse
- “I swear to God, you flirt at the most awkward times.” —Shaw, after Root says she has a nice figure in the middle of a gunfight.
- The point Finch reaches at the end of the episode reminds me of how The Joker warns Batman in The Killing Joke that we’re all just one day away from going over the edge.