Summary: Joey and Janine go out with Monica and Chandler, but Joey is put in an awkward situation when Janine reveals she doesn't like them. Rachel buys furniture from Pottery Barn but has to lie to Phoebe who hates Pottery Barn.
The Good: Ross passionately defending Pottery Barn is hilarious and all of his petty acts in this episode made me laugh. Joey comes off well in his struggle to choose between Janine and his friends.
The Bad: Most of this episode was really bad. Phoebe and Rachel's story is terrible as Phoebe comes off as a total idiot for not picking up on Rachel's lies, and she looks even worse when she forsakes her morals for some nice furniture. What happened to the clever humour that made this show so good? The best episodes of the show have never relied on characters being stupid to be funny. Monica and Janine's conflict is very bad. They both act like children and it is painful seeing Monica so simplistic without any depth to her character. Chandler is treated similarly.
Best Moment: Ross venting about Phoebe hating Pottery Barn was hilarious, and I particularly liked his joke about Phoebe being a twin.
Character of the Episode: Ross.
Conclusion: Ross carried this episode but other than him, this was awful. This season is very hit or miss so far and has easily been the least enjoyable. I'm hoping this isn't the start of a downward spiral.
Summary: The next POI case directs Reese and Finch to a wedding. Root joins them and they soon resolve the case. The photographer Maggie is being targeted after she took a picture of something she shouldn't have but Reese and Root save her. Fusco continues investigating Samaritan and hears of a plan to demolish a tunnel. Fusco investigates the tunnel and discovers all of the missing people, including Moran and Krupa. He is caught in the tunnel when the demolition happens. Greer lets Shaw out into the world in an attempt to get her to switch over to team Samaritan. However it's all a simulation again but Shaw seems more convinced in favour of Samaritan's cause.
The Good: I thought the POI story was nothing special but it was easy enough to watch. There was a lot of humour, some fun character moments and some decent examples of drama. I particularly liked the dance scene with Finch and Root which led to some good continuation of their conflict over what to do with The Machine. Also Finch's hilarious Irish accent and singing was a guilty pleasure of this episode. Just dumb fun.
Greer and Shaw's story was really strong. It was great seeing Greer attempt a different approach to break Shaw and I thought his idea of showing the benefits of Samaritan made sense. It put Shaw on the spot and forced her to consider abandoning her friends and joining the righteous cause. The simulation twist somehow got me again and it also made Greer look more competent as he wouldn't dare risk taking Shaw out into the world without keeping her restrained.
Fusco's investigation appears to have put him in a world of trouble. He discovered all of the missing peoples in a great scene and it became evident that Fusco is beginning to suspect a major threat is responsible for everything he has been involved in. Then, Fusco appears to have tragically been caught in the demolition of the tunnel and it remains to be seen what his fate is. I don't believe he is dead but he may have ended up in the hands of Samaritan.
The Bad: The POI story is mostly dull with forgettable characters, predictable twists and very little of note happening during the story. After so many previous episodes connected with an overarching story, it's very disappointing to get an episode that doesn't do this and it ends up being notably weaker than the other episodes as a result. It may not be as poorly written as some of the show's worst episodes, but it is still a very dull episode.
The episode had a very hokey feel to it and most of the episode relied on comedy to make up for the lack of tension. Unfortunately, the execution isn't great and we are left with a hollow, tension-free episode which is not what I want to be watching in the final stretch of the show. With so many big threats in the show, I want the stories to be focused on them and I don't care much for bland POI cases when the story is in the endgame. I'm fine with character development and scenes to reflect on how far the characters have come, but the episode should be centered around these aspects rather than some meaningless POI case.
The Unknown: What is Fusco's fate? Will Samaritan have control of him now? Or can he find his way out?
Will Shaw actually betray Team Machine? Her resolve doesn't seem quite as strong as it was before. Still, I don't quite see her selling out just yet.
Best Moment: Fusco calling Finch after finding proof of a large powerplay being put in motion only for him to be punished for delving too deep.
Character of the Episode: Fusco again. He's been great this season.
Conclusion: This was a disappointing episode that did next to nothing for the story at all. I hope that this episode is just a single weak link and that the show can get back on track for its remaining 7 episodes.
Summary: The next POI is Ethan who works for something called ShotSeeker which detects gunshots around New York City. Ethan investigates the apartment of Krupa who mysteriously went missing. Ethan believes that there were gunshots fired there but ShotSeeker ignored them. ShotSeeker is being used by Samaritan so Ethan is being targeted by Samaritan. Fusco and Reese work to help him but Reese is kidnapped by Moran who wants to know who killed Elias. Root and Finch acquire a hard drive and use it to make Samaritan stop targeting Ethan. Reese and Finch are forced to reveal that Elias is actually still alive since Fusco pulled him out of the car and saved his life. Fusco is aware that Finch is keeping him in the dark and investigates Krupa on his own, putting him on Samaritan's radar.
The Good: I liked a lot of this episode. Ethan's story is pretty solid and it becomes interesting the moment we see the familiar face of Jeff tailing him from across the street in a van. It immediately becomes clear that Samaritan is responsible for this case, though I had guessed this beforehand anyways. Either way it works, because knowing Samaritan is involved always increases my interest in the case.
Moran's return is a welcome side plot and it gives some consequences to The Correction since there is some logical follow-up on what happened to Elias. But what is more surprising is the reveal that Elias is still alive and seemingly has a role to play in the story now. I feel like an idiot for not guessing that he was extracted by Fusco, but I really like this development and it seems that Elias will be getting a better conclusion this season. It appears that he is now aware of Samaritan and could be a valuable asset in the upcoming war.
The Finch and Root storyline was pretty fun as ever. I like the idea of Finch training The Machine by pitting it against Samaritan. It continues the story of Finch being hesitant to arm The Machine, and I think that this storyline is building up to Finch being forced to make a big decision regarding The Machine. Root seems to be all for it, but Finch is the only one who is afraid of what The Machine may do with its power. There was another great scene with these two where Root got to convince Finch to sacrifice an advantage over Samaritan to save a life. It's surprising to see Root be the one conveying this message, but it really goes to show how she has changed as a person from spending so much time with the morally correct Finch.
Fusco's story of becoming more aware continues as he investigates more into Samaritan. So far this has been one of the best storylines of the season, and I'm really excited to see what will come from Fusco being targeted by Samaritan. Furthermore, Fusco had some great scenes where he mouths off to Finch and Reese for keeping him in the dark. Fusco isn't an idiot and I like that he is confident enough to express his observations and do some investigating on his own. He has come a long way from the man he was in season 1.
The Bad: This episode had way too much going on. There were multiple side plots to accompany the main story and that meant that very little had a chance to really stand out and hit me emotionally. The main storyline in particular suffers for this as I never really cared for Ethan, or Mary, or Krupa. Furthermore, I thought the plot was way too convoluted considering the short amount of time it was given and I found myself having a fairly hard time following along with the many dumps of exposition. It felt more excessive than the amount of exposition I'm used to getting from this show, which is really saying something. Simplifying this story a little bit could have gone a long way to making it more enjoyable.
I was really disappointed with the lack of emotion during Elias' return. I was expecting to see something more from this scene: gratitude from Elias perhaps, or any other emotion. Instead it was solely played for surprise which robbed it of being as good of a moment as it could have been. Additionally, I was annoyed that Elias had apparently learned about Samaritan offscreen. This is an important development that could have a lot of emotional resonance for Elias, so I think we deserved to see him learn about Samaritan.
The Unknown: What is Jeff's role in the story? He was given some time here to be more of a character so I think it's fair to assume that he will do something in the story.
What will Fusco discover in his investigation? Will Samaritan send men after him? Could Fusco be the POI in an upcoming episode?
Why did Samaritan target and kill Krupa?
Best Moment: Fusco venting at Finch over the phone because he knows that Finch is withholding information was great. Little character moments like these were missing throughout most of the episode and that prevented it from being great.
Character of the Episode: Fusco.
Conclusion: This was a good episode and it had a lot to like, but I felt like it could have been executed better to have more emotion.
Summary: Flashbacks show Aunt Lydia's past. She had a healthy relationship with a mother, Noelle, and was encouraging her to be a better parent. But when Lydia is rejected by a man, she lashes out at Noelle by removing her son from her custody. In the present, June is frustrated with Ofmatthew and gets the handmaids to pick on her. Going crazy from constantly being assaulted and bothered by those around her, Ofmatthew snaps at the store and kills a guard, stealing his gun. Before she does anything, Ofmatthew is shot. June is pleased by the whole development.
The Good: I'm very glad that we got to see Lydia's backstory. I've been wanting to see more of her character since the start of the show, so this episode fulfilled something I've been eagerly awaiting. I thought her backstory was a nice little story showing how Lydia became so cold and ruthless, highlighting her own insecurity as her big flaw. Though it wasn't anywhere near as good as I had hoped and didn't really fit the character(see: The Bad), it's a competent story that's easy enough to watch. I thought Ann Dowd was terrific and I definitely felt something as I watched Noelle angrily lash out at Lydia who had done so much hard work turning her into a better mother only to throw it all away for nothing.
Even though Lydia gets most of the focus in this episode, I think the star was June. She has changed drastically after the events of the last episode which I really like to see. This show doesn't give us enough fallout to big events which has been crippling it for a while now. But her we get to see June very nearly lose her mind now that she has lost Hannah. Throughout the episode she seems to care about nothing and refuses to cooperate with anyone. While this does add to my constant criticism of June having too much plot armour (see: The Bad), at least now it has apurpose int he story and is adding on to a pretty satisfying story arc. I'm most surprised by how evil June comes off as in this episode as she tortures Ofmatthew, and in that horrific ending scene June appears to be completely insane as she smiles in the face of a death and proudly enjoys the fact that she has ruined the life of a pregnant lady. It's very frightening stuff and has a pprofound impact on everyone watching. Seeing the protagonist turn bad is always a shock and I'm pleased to say that they did a good job of it here. I just hope that June faces some comeuppance for her horrid actions in this episode so that there is a point to this development.
It's impossible not to feel bad for Ofmatthew during this episode as she is completely torn apart by how she is being continuously harassed by June. She feels more alone than ever and is afraid of the world, and even more afraid of June's wrath. The moment when she snaps is built up to well (take notes "Game of Thrones", this is how you show a character snap), and the scene itself is one of the best moments the show has ever done. It's a perfect mix of sad, horrific and shocking, leaving a huge impact as the final scene of the episode.
The Bad: For as much as this episode does right, it also gets a lot wrong and unfortunately the details completely shatter the story that was being told in this episode. I'll start with Ofmatthew. She is pregnant and that is not treated as a big deal by anybody. The fact that Lydia simply allows her to be harassed and that Ofmatthew isn't given the luxurious treatment that June was makes no sense at all to me. June was treated like a treasure when she was pregnant, but Ofmatthew is just another handmaid in this time. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that nobody tried to talk to her and save her. Instead she is just killed. It's shocking to see her killed so thoughtlessly, especially when you look at how much effort was made to save Janine back in season 1. Babies and handmaids have always been protected at all costs, yet that wasn't the case here. Once again, the writers presume that they can just change the rules of Gilead to suit their story and it just isn't working. And this isn't the only time that this is an issue.
June's lack of punishment is baffling to me, especially with all of the things that she does in this episode. She is a literal loose cannon and she makes it well known to everyone. She mouths off to Lydia, she gets in Lawrence's face and she refuses to cooperate in almost every situation. Yet she doesn't face any punishment. Why? They say it's because they need her to shoot commercials for the Waterfords, but that's a very bad excuse. Sure that can explain why they can't do anything drastic like cut her fingers off or burn her, but it doesn't prevent them from doing more subtle punishments. It's almost like the show forgot that over-the-top violent punishments aren't the only way to punish the characters. Just give June a slap on the wrists with some lashings maybe (the cameras won't see those), or maybe something else. Torture her without doing any lasting damage, isolate her and chain her up for a while, send her back to the Red Center, all of these can be done without any issues. Yet June is spared because the writers don't want to punish her, and it's really hurting my investment in the show and the world of Gilead.
Lydia's backstory is unfortunately a total disappointment. Lydia has been so strange as a character this season since the writers have tried to change her to make her more sympathetic. It's like they are ignoring all of the horrors that Lydia has done in seasons 1 and 2, almost as if they believe that she was some other character back then. That's why the backstory we get for Lydia isn't at all consistent with the character. We learn why Lydia is so devout and why she believes in the Gilead system of finding ideal mothers. But we get no insight on Lydia's violent tendencies and the cruel punishments she gave to the handmaids. This darker aspect of Lydia is an important aspect of her character and it can't be ignored. Yet the writers are refusing to address this aspect of her character in any way this season.
Furthermore, Lydia's motives in the flashbacks are so basic that it's almost laughable. In short, the reason that she is such a horrible person is because she was stood up by a guy she wanted to have sex with. Really? That's such a basic and poor reason for Lydia to become a terrible person and it seems more ridiculous the more I think about it. Surely there would have been more to make Lydia into such a deranged person.
The Unknown: Is Lawrence thinking of sending his wife away? I can't think of any other reason that he allows June to mouth off like she did in this episode.
Was it a guardian who killed Ofmatthew or somebody else? What will become of Ofmatthew's death? Will June be punished for it?
Best Moment: The final scene where Ofmatthew finally loses it and ends up getting killed. The icing on the cake was the dark turn for June who smiled menacingly in the face of certain death, a smile cold and scary enough that it frightened Ofmatthew out of trying to kill her.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This episode had a lot of really good elements. In fact, I think that on paper this could be one of the show's best episodes. But execution is everything, and unfortunately this amazing story was told very incompetently and that led to this episode being much worse than it should have been. Another big disappointment in what has been another disappointing season.
Summary: Greer places a chip inside of Shaw's head. Shaw eventually stages an escape and successfully gets out but she is fragmented mentally from the chip. She orchestrates a trap to get the attention of Finch, and reunites with the crew. They remove the chip from her head and Root and Shaw have sex. However, the crew doesn't trust Shaw, frustrating her, plus her mind is still fragmented despite the chip being removed. Shaw calls Samaritan and they hastily form a plan. The team captures Greer and get the Samaritan kill switch from him. But it's a trap and Samaritan locates Finch's base and The Machine. Shaw kills Greer when he reveals that the whole thing was a set-up and Shaw is theirs. Shaw and Reese go to save Finch. Shaw's mind fragments again and she kills Reese. Shaw meets up with Root and can't bring herself to kill her. Shaw kills herself. However, this is all revealed to have occurred in a simulation as Samaritan attempts to break Shaw and get her to give away the location of The Machine.
The Good: It shouldn't come as a surprise that an episode that dedicates its entire runtime to Shaw is excellent. Like most shows, "Person of Interest" has been at its best when focusing on a single story ("Terra Incognita", "Relevance", and to an extent "Prisoner's Dilemma").
Shaw's story here is terrific and Sarah Shahi did a wonderful job with the role. We get to catch up with a beaten up and mentally unstable Shaw who has escaped Samaritan. The story is immediately engrossing with high stakes, high interest and the feeling that we are watching something out of the ordinary. I've consistently praised episodes of this show for these same reasons, so what is it that makes this episode so exceptional? I think the answer lies in Shaw herself. Along with an interesting plot, this episode shows us something unique from Shaw as she battles herself throughout the episode. Her random seizures were pretty terrifying, and her confusion and fear when she acts abnormally are quite scary. These moments build tension wonderfully and they give us a nice look at Shaw's character when she is faced with doing things that she wouldn't want to do like killing Greer, Reese and then Root. We learn more about her devotion and dedication from this episode, and it's genuinely heartening to see her fighting so hard to not give in to Samaritan even after going through this simulation almost 7,000 times. When given this exposition, it's very easy to understand why Shaw seems so tired and mentally drained throughout the episode. I imagine that after every simulation Shaw loses more and more of her fighting spirit. It's damn impressive that she has lasted this long and it says a lot about her character and the bond she has formed with the team.
The exploration of Shaw's paranoia in the episode is pretty interesting, and it leads to some very good moments. I really liked the scenes of her trying to avoid Samaritan, such as the bits inside the taxi. I also thought her plans were very good. I particularly liked how she was able to draw Root and Reese to her as it was both clever and fitting with her badass personality. Better yet are the subtle parts of the episode where we see Shaw losing her mind, trapped and helpless while still trying to maintain her tough exterior. Her actions are strange, and even unhinged at times and that not only makes the episode more exciting and dramatic, but it also raises concerns about Shaw's character and how Samaritan may have changed her.
Then we get to the wonderful ending twist. It may not have been the most surprising twist (I predicted it when Shaw killed Reese), but it was still very effective as a storytelling tool. A TV show doesn't need high stakes and constant plot movement to be effective. It just needs to tell a story. Even though the twist results in every scene of this episode accomplishing practically nothing for the plot, there is a concise story being told here, one that is powerful and affecting and I think that's what really matters. The twist doesn't kill the episode, rather it corrects some of the plot-related issues I had with the episode by making it clear that this is an episode that cares more about character instead of plot.
Reflecting on the episode is so rewarding since many of the problems I had end up being hints/foreshadowing for the twist reveal. For example, at I thought this episode had weird dialogue for some characters, a very rushed plot and a lack of detail about what was happening. These actually ended up being very deliberate hints. The weird dialogue seems to stem from the fact that this is Samaritan and Shaw's interpretations of the characters rather than the actual people. The rushed plot comes from the fact that all of this is happening in Shaw's head. Of course every plan she comes up with will work smoothly, regardless of its flaws, because the execution of the plan is taking place in her head. I also loved the subtle hint of this since the trick Shaw uses to bring Root and Reese to her is actually the exact same thing she did to capture Greer. Shaw has never been particularly clever so it makes sense that she has to resort to the same trick twice.
Root and Shaw's big scene also fits as subtle foreshadowing. Their scene is so awkward and overly-dramatic, coming off as more of a fantasy than an actual moment. Yet that is the point since we eventually realize this is all in Shaw's head. It's not a case of Shaw doing something out of character so that the show can force a sex scene, it's instead Shaw indulging the feelings that she holds in the back of her head. Plus it allows the writers to go with the hilariously dramatic plate-breaking throughout that scene which was pretty funny. As a side note, it's funny to think that the Samaritan agents have seen Root and Shaw have sex thousands of times by now.
The best parts of the episode were Shaw's triad of kills. The first, the killing of Greer, was a pretty spectacular moment. The two of them had a wonderful conversation that escalated the drama hugely when it was revealed that Greer had orchestrated everything. It was a perfect Greer moment, the likes of which we haven't seen in a very long time. Furthermore, it gave us the surprising twist where Shaw has an outburst and murders Greer. This moment works so well because it is unexpected and it nicely sets up the idea of Shaw being used, but more fascinatingly, it plants that very idea into Shaw's head. Next up was Shaw suddenly killing Reese, which pays off of the idea of being a double agent being placed in Shaw's head. You can evidently see Shaw's fear throughout the entire sequence between her and Reese, and the cold-blooded killing is shockingly effective, even considering the fact that this moment was where I realized that everything was likely a simulation. Somehow the episode still got better though as Shaw's next test was killing Root. This scene between Root and Shaw was extremely sad and powerful, showing Shaw's willpower while also confirming that Shaw does care about Root, and by extension the team, more than herself.
The Bad: I wish the episode had spent more time on the reunions between Shaw and the rest of the crew. I understand why they were cut short now, since they weren't actually real, but I still think that there should have been more of a reaction from Finch, Root and Reese when Shaw suddenly returned. as it stands, Shaw's return ended up being an awkward part of the episode that didn't have the same emotional resonance as the rest of the episode.
The Unknown: Will Shaw break before she is rescued and reveal The Machine's location? Also, did Shaw actually break before this, or did Greer get all of his information from this simulation?
Were all of Shaw's memories int he simulation genuine or were those planted in her mind as well? Is ther actually a chip in her brain? Did her memory of the playground actually exist? How about her memories of being tortured?
Best Moment: Shaw admitting that Root was her safe place to go to when she was being tortured is really powerful and Sarah Shahi killed it.
Character of the Episode: Shaw of course.
Conclusion: This was outstanding by every definition of the word. This was a unique experience that managed to remain very interesting, suspenseful and emotional throughout. I think this is the best episode of the show so far.
Summary: Flashbacks show Reese and Stanton being sent by Beale to kill Brent Tomlinson, a traitor to the country. Reese does so in cold manner. In the present, Brent's brother Alex is looking to find what happened to him and comes up as a POI. He is targeted by Beale and arrested but Reese springs him loose. Reese helps Alex get to his answer and eventually realizes that Brent was his brother. BEale captures both of them and Alex gets closure when Reese lies to him, saying that Brent died a hero. Beale goes with the lie. Reese breaks Alex out and gets Beale to stop chasing him. Afterwards, Reese breaks up with Iris, certain that he needs to focus on the war against Samaritan.
The Good: The return to Reese's past was a pleasant surprise and it made for a pretty interesting central story. Even if it wasn't one of the show's best, I was interested by the story that was being told and we got some really good stuff about Reese in this episode.
I enjoyed the flashback story a lot. It was wonderful to see Stanton again (presumably for a final time), and I thought that the flashbacks had a sort of retro feel to them as the story felt very similar to the kind of storylines we were frequently getting from Reese and Stanton back in seasons 1-3. It was very fun, and I appreciated seeing the colder side of Reese once again.
The flashbacks tied nicely into the main POI case too. I love the idea of Reese being forced to come face to face with one of the people he hurt from his old life, and I think the way that he handled Alex's desires demonstrated how Reese has matured over the course of the show. It's nice to see Reese considering things empathetically now, just like Finch would, as he lies straight to Alex to give him the closure he needed instead of giving him the truth, which in this case would only have made things worse. I also get the sense that Reese's kindness to Alex is one of the reasons that Beale let him go unscathed. It reminds me of the moment in "Dead Reckoning" when I thought that Snow allowed Reese to survive because he realized that Reese had become a good man.
Unfortunately, while Reese's morals changed his personality and insecurities did not. With the upcoming war against Samaritan coming up, Reese has to become a soldier once again and he ends up making the same decision he did with Jessica all those years ago. Reese breaks it off with Iris at the end of the episode in a nice scene, neatly following up on the development we saw in "Terra Incognita". Reese is still the same man and he is once again prioritizing his duty of saving the world over his own personal life.
The Bad: For once, I was left a little underwhelmed by the side story with Root and Finch. It served as an easy way to upgrade The Machine's capabilities and there were fun moments, but the story felt unusually bland without anything of interest to it. The show has done more interesting things with these two characters on countless occasions, so this felt like a disappointment.
The return to the POI format after the exciting start to the season was a little jarring as expected. The main story was very bland for roughly 75% of its runtime, and it's only when the flashbacks and present story become connected that something of interest happens. Even then, the plot was only saved by the interesting stuff surrounding Reese. And as good as Reese's character examination was, it wasn't anything new that we couldn't have already guessed about him. Because of that, this episode was a step down from the last two episodes, and it doesn't even hold a candle to the excellence of "Terra Incognita".
I thought that the episode's attempts to build tension by threatening to have the CIA come after Reese didn't really work that well. We already know that Reese is able to hide from Samaritan, which is aware of his presence, so I can't buy into the CIA as a huge threat. Furthermore, I never really bought into the idea of Beale turning on Reese, so the tension was missing throughout the episode.
The Unknown: Will Reese get back with Iris after everything is over? Will he even be alive once everything is over?
Will Root's big risk pay off? Could there be positive and negative effects from her installing Samaritan's malware into The Machine?
Best Moment: Reese choosing to lie to Alex.
Character of the Episode: Reese.
Conclusion: This was another great Reese episode, though the episode wasn't too interesting overall and it relied solely on the character examination it did. Still, I thought it was a good time.
Summary: The Machine is glitching out with several bugs and Finch is struggling to fix them all. The Machine sends out 30 numbers and Reese and Fusco investigate them. However, majority of these cases aren't even cases and The Machine is not applying context and appears to be unstuck in time. The Machine eventually labels Reese, Finch and Root as threats and refuses to cooperate with them, also refusing to allow them to reboot it. The Machine sends an assassin to kill Reese, disguised as a POI. Root's cochlear implant is used to cause her pain when The Machine is angry so Finch knocks her out so she can't be used as leverage. Finch speaks with The Machine and manages to figure out the issue, winning it over again. Reese is able to defeat the assassin. One of the 30 POIs deemed irrelevant by Finch turned out to be a genuine POI as he is recruited by Samaritan.
The Good: I really liked the concept behind this episode. There wasn't a proper POI case in this episode and instead the whole episode focused on the team trying to bring The Machine back to life. It made for a very unique story that was different from anything that the show has done before.
I liked the story of Finch attempting to fix tons of bugs. He is rebuilding The Machine so it makes perfect sense that there would be loads of complications. Additionally, it led to that hysterical scene where The Machine was imprinting the wrong faces over the dialogue it was hearing, leading to some pretty funny line deliveries from the main cast which I really enjoyed. It reminded me of the terrific simulation gag from "If-Then-Else".
The bugs had a surprisingly big effect on The Machine, as a simple bug of The Machine being unable to understand the concept of time caused it to turn on the team and determine that they were all bad people. It was surprising to see the team pitted against The Machine for an episode, and it made for a really unique story as they were essentially forced to befriend a hostile AI. Root and Finch did very well in this story as they managed a mix of disappointment, fear and desperation when they realized that The Machine was actively working against them.
The final confrontation with Finch trying to convince The Machine that they were its friends was built up really nicely and it felt like a monumental moment. The scene was played out similarly to all of those wonderful flashbacks we saw of Finch teaching The Machine about humanity, only this time it was infused with much more tension and emotion.
The last scene we spend with the team was wonderful television. We rarely get to see the four of them just relaxing due to the show's constant fast pace, so this felt different and refreshing. It felt like a classic "calm before the storm" moment, and it allowed me to reflect on the bonds between the team.
The final twist of Jeff actually being a threat and joining Samaritan's cause was interesting. It's staged as a really big deal so I imagine that Jeff will become a major character. It's interesting that Reese was the one that let him go, deeming that he was irrelevant. Perhaps he will come to regret that decision in a future episode.
The Bad: Reese and Fusco's side stories aren't very interesting. I thought that far too much time was spent on Reese vs Laurie, which consisted of some pretty bland action.
The Unknown: Why did Finch see Grace? Evidently The Machine did not do it. Was it really in Finch's head? Is he missing the times he spent with her?
What will become of Samaritan recruiting Jeff? What will Jeff's role be?
Will Finch really keep The Machine on an open system? How much more useful will it be for the team?
Best Moment: Finch speaking to The Machine and convincing it to trust him was impressively emotional.
Character of the Episode: The Machine.
Conclusion: This was a really fun episode carried by an outstanding main story that was creative and filled with more emotion than I had anticipated. The side stories weren't anything special, but it was fine because the main story had so much going for it.
Summary: Flashbacks show Finch making the fateful decision to wipe The Machine's memories every 24 hours. In the present, Reese, Root and Finch struggle to get back to the subway base as they are being hunted by Samaritan agents. Finch and Reese meet up but Root is still missing. Finch observes that the case can't take any damage or data will be lost, and he also realizes that The Machine's battery life is draining. Reese and Finch finally make it back and Finch works to restore The Machine. Root escapes countless predicaments and is eventually saved by Reese. Together, they bring 300 PS3s back to Finch so The Machine can be uploaded onto them. The operation is risky but ultimately successful. Meanwhile, Fusco is under scrutiny for murdering Dominic and Elias despite his claims that he witnessed a sniper killing both of them. Reese advises him to keep his mouth shut about the sniper and Fusco complies. Fusco is hailed as a hero but continues to investigate the sniper. Samaritan notes Fusco's actions.
The Good: I really liked this season premiere. The pacing was perfect and it set up the story really nicely for a (hopefully) explosive and exciting final season.
From the first moment, the tension and stakes were established. It almost reminded me of the first scene of season 5 of "Breaking Bad" with how we got a brief glimpse of the ending that raises more questions than it does answers (see: The Unknown). The eerie showing of a destroyed subway base while Root vaguely speaks in the background raises many questions and lets us know that something big is happening this season, increasing my investment.
Then the episode throws us into the chaos. The feeling of the characters trying to survive at all costs in Samaritan's world is exactly what I had expected to get back in season 4. There was a huge sense of urgency as the characters felt trapped with nearly no safe places to go. What's most impressive is how this urgency didn't fizzle out as the episode went on. Somehow the chaos continued throughout the entire hour, and the suspense was almost always there. Some of the scenes that did this best included Root being listed as a criminal as she hides in the subway, Finch desperately trying to prevent The Machine from decompressing and Finch losing the Samaritan agents on the bus.
I liked the ending of the episode with The Machine being uploaded to a supercomputer consisting of 300 PS3s. It's a bit funny (I'll never look at my PS3 the same way again), and it also nicely demonstrates how little the team has to work with. Samaritan in on a supercomputer and has an entire building manned with hundreds of agents while The Machine is located on a PS3 in an underground hole.
Fusco's story was really great in this episode, and I'm always pleased when Kevin Chapman gets something good to work with. I really liked that there were direct consequences to Fusco watching Dominic and Elias die. He was investigated, and now it seems that Fusco's awareness of The Correction is going to lead into him being targeted by Samaritan. It's a classic case of a character going too far to satisfy their curiosity and it looks like Fusco may be put in an incredible amount of danger because of this. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes up as a number in a later episode.
The flashback story was surprisingly powerful and it provided the main source of emotion for an episode which was mostly created with suspense in mind. The flashbacks nicely allowed us to take a breather as the quick pace was reduced and we got to see Finch grappling with the tough decision of whether to strip away The Machine's memory or not. I loved how this conflict went deeper than it initially appeared when Finch first brought up the fact that The Machine's memories reset in season 1 or 2 (I can't remember at this time). The concept of stripping away The Machine's memories reminds Finch too much of what happened to his father, so doing the same thing to his own creation was tough. I was able to really sympathize with him and Michael Emerson did an outstanding job selling Finch's unease, sadness and fear when he made up his mind.
With the season shortened, it looks like production will be better than ever. Perhaps it's only for this episode since it's a premiere, but I noticed a large uptick in budget. The world was focused on much more than usual with scenes taking place all across New York, I think there were more Samaritan POV scenes than usual, and the new transitions into the flashbacks were gorgeous. Lastly, the music choice was impeccable (as usual), and added to the tension. All of these improvements added to the cinematic feel of the episode.
As a side note, I really laughed when somebody was using the vending machine that Finch and Reese use to access their base. Reese knocking him out right when we think he may help the guy get his candy so he will leave was consistent to his character and it made for a great laugh.
The Bad: Some of Root's scenes were far too over-the-top and felt like they came right out of any other ordinary action drama. The spray of bullets all somehow missing Root while she casually walks with no cover, Root's incredible accuracy (which has consistently been a problem in the episodes where she doesn't have The Machine's help), and Root's ability to win fights she probably shouldn't have really detracted from the episode. The tension was strong at first, but it gradually got stripped away when it became clear that Root could still win any fight she needed to even without The Machine.
Speaking of a lack of tension, the one aspect of the episode that failed to acquire the tension it was looking for came when The Machine was lit on fire and it looked like it was dead. I never believed that The Machine would die, so the episode trying really hard to get me to believe it didn't really work. While it was cool to see Finch program The Machine into the PS3s, I never had any doubt that it would work so the attempts to make us think it wouldn't work fell completely flat. Also, Reese managed to get that liquid nitrogen pretty fast. Did he teleport to get to it? Also did nobody care that Reese just stole a canister of liquid nitrogen in broad daylight with hundreds of people around?
The Unknown: So what's going to happen to the team in the future? Apparently something big is happening and Root doesn't know who lived or died. With the way she was talking about herself as a voice, it seemed like she had left a recording and that could explain how she doesn't know who lived or died. Also, who ended up winning, Samaritan or The Machine? How did the subway base get destroyed?
Best Moment: Finch deleting The Machine's memories was a wonderful scene. All of The Machine's dialogue was perfect for the moment, and it was written extremely well to be able to get Finch to confront all of his doubts and emotions before going through with the act. Michael Emerson was so good in this scene, as he has been the entire show.
Character of the Episode: Finch.
Conclusion: This was a really tense premiere that kicked off the season in excellent fashion. I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.
Summary: June wants to go visit Hannah again and speaks with Frances, Hannah's martha. June takes Mrs. Lawrence with her but they ultimately fail to see Hannah. Frances is executed for her conversation with June that Ofmatthew reported to Aunt Lydia. The Waterfords begin to settle down in DC and tensions between them are resolved. In Canada, Emily has to report her crimes in Gilead. Moira and Emily head to a protest and are arrested when they accost a minister.
The Good: This episode nailed a few of its scenes and I enjoyed those moments thoroughly. Unfortunately the rest of the episode was messy and nonsensical (see: The Bad).
I really enjoyed Emily being forced to reveal all of her criminal activities in Gilead. Alexis Bledel was fantastic and I was able to sympathize with her as she's forced to face up to her actions and also reveal them to Sylvia. The ending of her story was good too as she and Moira reflect on the monstrous things they did and contemplate if they are even good people anymore.
The last scene of the episode where June assaults Ofmatthew was really well done. I could understand why June reached a boiling point with her, and the vicious attack she unleashes on Ofmatthew was outstanding. It was a fitting way to demonstrate June's sheer rage as she lashes out at the person who took Hannah away from her.
I liked the sequence where Serena walked through the abandoned house with Liv. It was very atmospheric and there was something really powerful about the way that both of them spoke so optimistically as we were given the visuals of an abandoned house filled with remnants of the likely dead family that once lived there.
The Bad: June's storyline in this episode is completely ridiculous. We hear nothing of June's plan to see Hannah before this episode, yet suddenly she decides that today is the day that she will do something drastic. It makes no sense, and worse yet is the fact that she selfishly attempts to drag somebody else with her. Her last-second planning to bring somebody else is ridiculous and paints her as more selfish and stupid than ever. Does she have no fear for the consequences of her actions? Thankfully she gets punished for her brash actions in this episode.
Unfortunately the fact that I'm praising the show for punishing June completely nullifies the tragedy at the end of the episode. It's tragic if June made some choices that I could sympathize with that led to Hannah being taken away. But if June does some out-of-character, stupid things that never had a chance to end well, my sympathy for her cause goes away and so does the tragedy of the story.
I was also annoyed with Commander Lawrence in this episode. His story with June was easily the most compelling part of the season, so I'm confused why it has been shafted so far into the background. In fact, there was a great opportunity to continue it here but the show refused to move anywhere. Lawrence just doesn't seem to care about how June stupidly took Mrs. Lawrence away which is odd considering how he snapped at her for talking about Mrs. Lawrence in a previous episode. It's inconsistent for his character and it appears to me that the writers simply didn't want June to face appropriate consequences for her actions, so they forced a way out of punishing her.
June was pretty atrocious in this episode and I found it hard to believe that she hasn't gotten more punishments. She directly disobeys Aunt Lydia TWICE in this episode, yet somehow she gets away with it scot free. Furthermore, the episode ends with June assaulting a pregnant woman, a huge no-no in Gilead and I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't be severely punished for this. But seeing how lenient the writers have been with June in this season, I doubt that anything will come of this.
Also, how repetitive was the main story in this episode? We have seen June make so many attempts to visit Hannah before, so seeing it again is hardly original content. I hardly felt anything when June was trying to get into the school to see Hannah because I had already seen these exact same emotions many times before. As a side note, did we really need to see Gilead people moving the children with rope? Gilead is a strict community that values children, not an evil and cruel organization. It seems like the writers may have forgotten about that in these past few episodes with the silenced handmaids in the last episode and now this.
The Waterfords were boring in this episode. I find it ridiculously hard to care about their story now that June is gone. Neither Serena nor Fred are strong enough as independent characters to make me care about their plight. Fred has been too shallow in previous seasons for me to believe there is any depth to him at all, while Serena has been so inconsistent as she constantly flip-flops on her morals which causes me to not really buy into anything she is doing. The dance at the end of the episode was really poor and I found it incredibly hard to believe that these two ended up back together, especially after the whole finger-cutting thing (which was never brought up again!).
The protest scene was filmed really badly. Normally the politicians wouldn't be able to respond to any comments because 1: they don't want to, and 2: because there are so many people trying to talk to them that it becomes difficult to even understand what people say. Yet somehow Moira is isolated and gets in a direct conversation with the minister, which is too on-the-nose and convenient.
Why is Ofmatthew doing the executions? She doesn't seem to be getting the same treatment that the pregnant June was getting last season.
The Unknown: Are the Waterfords staying in DC? What's next for their story if June doesn't see them anymore? I really hope that something interesting comes from this.
Is Lawrence contemplating giving Mrs. Lawrence more freedom? He seemed to dwell on the fact that she was happy when she went out with June.
Where have The McKenzies gone with Hannah? Will June find her again?
Will June face consequences for attacking a pregnant handmaid? What would those consequences be?
How will Emily and Moira get out of jail? Also, was this the first time we heard Emily's last name?
Best Moment: Probably Emily being forced to reflect on killing the guardian and attempting to kill Lydia.
Character of the Episode: Emily.
Conclusion: This episode was a mess and was filled with repetitive, nonsensical storytelling. The midseason lull is in full effect and I can't say that I'm optimistic about this season anymore.
Summary: Janine invites Joey to Dick Clark's new year show taping. Monica and Ross tag along too. Joey is hoping to kiss Janine at midnight while Monica and Ross try to get on camera. Chandler, Phoebe and Rachel try to find where Monica has hidden their Christmas presents.
The Good: I thought this was a fine episode with consistent laughs. The presents story was a lot of fun and there were some good lines and clever jokes throughout. I especially enjoyed Monica's message that she left behind for Rachel, Phoebe and Chandler. Joey was the standout of this episode. Everything he did was very funny and he came off really well as he simply tried his best to get Janine to fall in love with him. He was very human in this episode and pleasingly his stupidity was used at a controlled level, maximizing its comedic value.
The Bad: This episode wasn't that memorable or funny. The routine wasn't as funny as the show thinks it is and most of Monica and Ross' antics unfortunately fell flat due to being too unrealistic and blunt to be particularly funny.
Best Moment: Rachel, Phoebe and Chandler reading the message that Monica left under the couch was wonderful. I also loved the mentions of the mysterious thing that Chandler kept in his room.
Character of the Episode: Joey.
Conclusion: This was solid, if unspectacular, comedy.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.