Summary: June proposes to Alma a plan to smuggle kids out of Gilead but she refuses the offer. June works to get Lawrence's help for her plan. Fred convinces Winslow to go to Lawrence's household and bear witness to the ceremony since Lawrence has had very unsuccessful records with handmaids. Lawrence begrudgingly does the ceremony to ensure that all of his household isn't killed. Horrified by his experience, Lawrence agrees to get Eleanor out of Gilead and to help June smuggle kids out of Gilead. Serena gets Fred to speak with her contact in Canada.
The Good: The central focus on Lawrence and his household in this episode felt refreshing. He has languished in the background for so long after a hot introduction this season, so it is nice to put him back as the main focus. And unsurprisingly, this led into the strongest episode in a while with a fantastic focus on interesting side characters.
The ceremony scene was phenomenal. This scene allowed Lawrence to finally face the consequences of creating Gilead. He expressed clear fear as he desperately tried to find a way out of doing something he doesn't want to do. His entire world effectively falls apart here when he realizes what he has to do and it has lasting effects on his character, which I really like.
Eleanor had a stand-out episode as well. Julie Dretzin did a stellar job portraying her heartbreak when she realizes what was going to happen. Couple her fears with the lack of meds and she was utterly destroyed by everything that happened. Her visceral reaction evidently affected Lawrence more than anything else and it added more to the complexity and power of the ceremony scene.
The effects of this scene are pretty big. Lawrence comes to a conclusion that he needs to get his wife out of Gilead in a terrific scene with June which allows him to seem more vulnerable and human than before. I particularly loved the line "I'll be a hero" which was delivered perfectly by Bradley Whitford. Lawrence says the line with such disgust that it becomes clear that he is feeling guilty for everything he has done and doesn't feel at all that he has earned the opportunity to be a hero. A fantastic moment.
I thought the writing was really strong too. I understood that Fred only chose to go after Lawrence because of June mocking him and he wanted to establish that he still had power over her in a very petty way. While I have my problems with this development (see: The Bad), it makes logical sense and is an easier story to follow than most stories we get in this show.
I really liked June telling Janine that her son was still alive in Califronia. It was a nice way for June to spare Janine of some unnecessary misery and also lets us know that Janine's observation that June is selfish is incorrect. Here we see June doing something solely for the sake of a friend.
The Bad: I wish the Lawrences had been given a more focused storyline that built up to this episode. A climax can only be outstanding if the rising action before it allows the moment to carry all of the weight it possibly can. Unfortunately, the messy nature of this season detracted from the impact of this episode and made it less evocative than it could have been. The poor set up of this story let down this terrifically executed episode.
June still gets too much leniency. After she was caught talking to other handmaids in the store, why is nobody watching her actions more closely? The fact that she can just go back to the store and speak with others in literally the exact same manner is frustrating. June gets far too much plot armour.
I was confused by Winslow demanding that all handmaids be given a mouth-ring and veil. Does he really have power to just make this happen? Why hasn't he acted on this earlier then, because there are clearly handmaids in the world that aren't affected by these laws. Is he really so isolated in DC that he is oblivious to the world he is in charge of? Additionally, how does somebody so brutal ascend to a position of power? It's clear to me that most people resent the treatment of handmaids in DC, so how did they let somebody like Winslow gain power when they resent all that he does? I'm very confused by the government system in this show, as per usual.
The Fred and June drama has grown bland. There was nothing new explored about them here. Fred is still an obsessive and creepy prick while June still likes to mock him when she can. If the show wants to continue exploring their relationship, we need to get some new storytelling content quick.
The Unknown: Will June lying to Janine come back to haunt her? What happens if Janine learns what really happened to Caleb?
Will Lawrence actually be able to save the kids? What will happen to him if he does? And how about his wife? It appears that Lawrence will actually get a proper redemption arc unlike Serena, and I suspect that he may be executed at the end of the season.
What is Serena's plan? What does she plan to do with her contact in Canada? Does she want Fred to turn against Gilead?
Best Moment: The Lawrences have us spoiled for choice here. My pick goes to Commander Lawrence choosing to help June and saying that he'll be a hero. Powerful stuff.
Character of the Episode: It's tough to choose between Lawrence and Eleanor. I'll narrowly give it to Lawrence.
Conclusion: This episode was really strong because of an excellent story about the Lawrences. But a lot of this season's problems still persisted and that prevents this episode from being one of the show's top-tier efforts.
Summary: Reese captures the next POI, Easton, and discovers that he is being blackmailed by The Voice. The Voice ends up trapping Reese and Fusco in the precinct and they discover that he is trying to kill somebody in the facility. They learn that this person is Amir, who knows the identity of The Voice. Finch and Elias investigate together and find The Voice's base, learning that The Voice is actually in the precinct. The Voice is actually Easton who kills Amir and escapes. But Finch and Elias find him and Elias kills him. Meanwhile, Shaw returns and encounters Root who brings her back to the crew. Reese finally tells Fusco about The Machine.
The Good: The return of The Voice is fun, and it's nice to see one of the forgotten characters from early in the show get some pay-off by the end of the series. The story surrounding The Voice is very strong and it made for some very good drama. After the lockdown happened, the tension was there throughout the episode, and before that, the episode was dominated by mystery and intrigue. It's a nice build-up to the climax with escalating stakes and there ended up being some really good moments to set up the big twist at the end.
I really enjoyed Elias' involvement in this episode. He is so much fun and I really wish he was given a central role like this in more episodes. His interactions with Finch are fun, his mob boss persona allows for him to solve some problems that are very different from the problems that our main characters solve, and his ruthless nature makes him unpredictable and fresh as part of the team.
The few scenes we got between Shaw and Root were very good. I liked the continuity from "6,741" with Shaw referencing her simulations where she couldn't bear to kill Root. I love the idea of Root choosing to kill herself in response to convince Shaw to stop, showing that Samaritan wasn't able to properly convey all of Root's emotions in the simulation. It seems that not all of humanity can be predicted by AIs.
The ending of the episode was nice and seems to set up for the show's endgame. The five main characters are finally back together again, and all of them are aware of the stakes of the war they are about to enter. The ending suggests that the real battle is going to begin now, and I can't wait.
The Bad: Unfortunately, this episode didn't work at all as a part of the overall story. The individual story with The Voice was fine and I had fun with it, but the big developments that happened here all fell flat for me.
There were many things that I was disappointed by in this episode. One was Shaw's escape from South Africa being skipped entirely. How did she get from there to Mexico? Did Samaritan not give chase? How did she evade all of the cameras? How did she survive? It would have been ideal to see more of her efforts to return to the crew. I suppose I have the cancellation of the show to blame for the rushed nature of Shaw's return.
Speaking of rushed, I was extremely disappointed by Shaw's reunion with everyone. There was hardly any reaction and I was really confused by the lack of emotion. It badly detracted from my emotional reaction to Shaw's return, and it made the moment feel almost useless. It's a far cry from the reunion scenes from "Lost" which were emotional and memorable every single time. Additionally, it's poor to have Shaw's return be the C-story in an episode instead of it being the primary focus. It downplays the importance of the moment.
Fusco learning about The Machine was similarly rushed. There is very little focus on Reese and Finch choosing to bring Fusco in, which is poor because there was so much time dedicated to explaining why they couldn't bring Fusco in. Why did they change their minds? The answer is that I don't know, and that shouldn't be how I feel after characters make a crucial decision. Additionally, Reese actually telling Fusco about The Machine is skipped entirely which is a terrible move from the writers. After building to this big moment for 5 seasons, it feels cheap to just skip it.
I also didn't like the Easton twist. It felt too convenient and easy of an twist without enough foreshadowing. Furthermore, it made The Voice into as bland and generic of a villain as possible. He monologued, conveniently escaped and failed to be particularly threatening.
I thought Root's scene when she was watching Stone was really bad. She didn't have anyone to talk to so she just randomly spilled out all of her thoughts for us to hear. The scene was rushed too and wasn't allowed the time to visually show us what had happened. Instead, Root simply tells us what happened. A more skillfully crafted scene could have gotten the same point across without any dialogue, and it also would have been a little longer to have some time to breathe.
The Unknown: Is Shaw actually normal? Will we see any side effects from her time with Samaritan?
What did Fusco think about The Machine?
Best Moment: The final few shots of the crew standing together was nice.
Character of the Episode: Elias.
Conclusion: This episode had its fun moments but I was disappointed overall by the overarching story which usually doesn't happen in this show. Most of the developments were rushed and that ruined some moments that I was really looking forward to. I hope this is just a bump in the road for the show's climax.
Summary: June is forced to wait with Ofmatthew for months until her baby is born. Ofmatthew will likely die but the doctors are doing whatever they can to save her baby. June loses her sanity over time and nearly murders Ofmatthew in several instances but she is stopped each time. After she attempts to kill Serena, the doctor speaks with her and calms her a little. June finds herself again after Ofmatthew's child is born and she is allowed to leave. June chooses to stay until Ofmatthew dies and confesses she lost her way> She decides she is going to try to save the children of Gilead by helping them escape.
The Good: I thought that this episode captured June's fraying sanity really well. Opening the episode with her callously singing "Heaven is a Place on Earth" while Ofmatthew's life ebbs away ended up being a genius move. It set the tone excellently, and the episode's focus on June really helped the exploration of her mental state. June is pretty scary and unpredictable in all of her scenes and there were numerous moments where I was horrified by the things she was saying to everyone. Evidently, the time with Ofmatthew hadn't helped her brain at all and she only seemed to get worse. And then her worsening state led to that reckless attempt on Serena's life which was a low point for her character. When Serena is lecturing her to be stronger, that's a pretty big fall for who is likely the most stubborn and resilient character in this story.
The rest of the episode had the tough task of taking June from this low point and bring her back to who she was before. I thought the show did a pretty good job too. The scene between June and the doctor was really strong and it nicely showed to us that there are good people still living in Gilead. The doctor also touched on the fact that there are people who object against the lack of human concerns that the authority in Gilead have as they seemingly disregarded his objections to keeping June locked up with Ofmatthew and isolated for months on end. It seems like Gilead simply believes that the lord will save anyone no matter what the situation.
In the end, June recovered and it led to the terrific moment of her choosing to stay by Ofmatthew's side as she died. There, she gave a powerful speech of how she lost herself after Gilead took everything from her and that she plans to correct her mistakes by saving Ofmatthew's baby. The scene was powerful and it nicely reset June to her former self.
The episode looked very pretty. The white colour scheme was perfect, giving June's hospital room an asylum-like feel. It fit nicely with her decaying state, as did everything else the episode did. Those jarring cuts from day to day were perfect at showing how the time has sort of blended together for June as she sits around doing absolutely nothing.
The Bad: I have to ask if this episode and all of the storylines within it were actually necessary for the story as a whole. The entire story of June losing her mind really didn't result in anything significant. Ofmatthew's character could have been skipped entirely without any detriment to the story. June could have easily decided to save children with a different story that doesn't waste as much time as this one did. The whole arc of June going evil unfortunately feels pointless and I don't think that the show needed to go in this direction at all. Sure the story was fine, but watching this show stall its characters and plot for something like the 7th time was ridiculous and it really tried my patience. I'm certain that this story of June going evil was just a delaying tactic from the showrunners instead of the logical next step in the story and that makes me feel really unsatisfied coming out of this episode.
Furthermore, the sloppy writing that accompanied Ofmatthew's character made it hard to care at all about her fate or how June feels about her as a person. The show relied too hard on its great acting prowess to give depth to what was a shallow, simplistic and unnecessary story and unfortunately acting isn't good enough to accomplish this.
Additionally, this episode is painfully slow at times. Looking at it on paper, there isn't much going on in this episode and it relies too hard on its artistic style to keep us interested. Granted, I did enjoy the style of this episode a lot, but I was definitely feeling a little bored in several scenes, especially with the repetitive nature of many scenes. It also doesn't help that I wasn't as invested as I should have been in the story which made me lose interest much quicker. The key to great bottle episodes is making the viewer care about the single story that is being told while also evolving the story and changing the situation to make the episode feel fresh despite being crammed into a single location. This episode accomplishes only a little bit of this.
There were a couple other things I disliked. Aunt Lydia's character radically changes again as she shares a sweet moment with Janine. The show needs to decide how Lydia is going to behave and stick with it. As a final gripe, I thought Serena randomly showing up while June was looking for somebody to kill was way too convenient. Why was she even visiting anyways, especially with how her last conversation with June went?
The Unknown: Will Ofmatthew's baby survive?
How does June plan to get children out of Gilead? Does she plan to use Lawrence?
Best Moment: June confessing to Ofmattehw was really good.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: Despite this episode telling a strong story, it ended up being slow, tough to invest in and ultimately quite pointless. Even though the story was told competently and the episode was masterfully crafted, the episode failed to compel me as much as it should have. It's a shame because this episode itself is very good, but it's the unsuccessful overall story of this season that causes it to fall from a great episode to an average one at best.
Summary: The next POI is James Ko who has gone to a hospital. He has the flu but then he suddenly dies, leading Reese to believe that there is a virus outbreak. Finch eventually discovers that the outbreak is caused by Samaritan in an attempt to kill a doctor and a nurse who know too much. Meanwhile, Fusco goes to Elias and tells him of Moran's death. In exchange, Elias helps Fusco and leads him to Jeff. Samaritan sends Jeff to kill the doctor and nurse and he manages to infect one of the two with the virus but Reese chases him off. Fusco arrives to help and he is also infected. Root is able to get an antidote for everyone infected, including Fusco. Fusco asks for anew partner and moves to a different position. Finch confronts Elias for his actions but Elias warns him that he needs to include everybody in the war. Shaw escapes from confinement and kills Lambert.
The Good: Shaw's escape ended up being pretty satisfying. She got to say some of her typical badass lines as she knocks out everybody in her way. I thought the hidden tunnel was a nice nod to "The Shawshank Redemption" and it was a sensible way for Shaw to be able to keep track of reality. Since her tunnel was still there, she firmly believed that she was in reality. Her murder of Lambert was really satisfying, as was her turning Lambert's words around on him by telling him to wait until he wakes up.
Fusco and Elias had a brilliant side story. Both of them had been sidelined by Finch, Reese and Root and they ended up following their own agendas as a result. The team's concern for both Elias and Finch and their insistence to keep them in the dark has resulted in some unexpected actions being taken against them. This leads up to a pair of surprisingly emotional conversations at the end of the episode as both Elias and Fusco own up to their actions and force both Finch and Reese to face with the potential consequences with keeping them in the dark. I'm interested to see if these conversations are able to sway Reese and Finch's standings on keeping Elias and Fusco in the dark.
The POI story was pretty fun and I enjoyed it overall. The Samaritan involvement was predictable but it worked and created a ton of drama during the episode's climax when things started to be revealed at a rapid pace. It was fairly exciting and it neatly paid off of the patient set-up throughout the first half of the episode.
The Bad: How did Shaw dig that hole without anybody noticing? We needed to see Shaw setting up her escape and I think that having her escape be given as a surprise really detracted from the effectiveness of her plan. Furthermore, why weren't more men hunting her down? She was only encountered by Lambert which was really poor. Surely Samaritan would send more men to ensure that its valuable subject doesn't actually break free.
This episode took a long time to get going. The virus outbreak wasn't a very exciting story and things were pretty dull as the virus was built up. Additionally, the early scenes with Jeff were a snooze since I'm not that invested in his character. Too much of this episode had a slow burn build up without very much to keep me engaged. After getting used to the break-neck pace that this show usually has, this change in pace feels pretty jarring.
I thought the hospital could have done a much better job containing the virus. Little things like not distributing masks among everyone and not isolating those who were showing symptoms of the virus really irked me. Also, it's ridiculous that Fusco and Jeff could get into the quarantined area so easily.
The Unknown: Who are Sam's friends? Is Sam going to be a threat? Or was he just a fun side character? Also, was Shaw's escape actually a simulation? The directing suggests it was actually real but could that be another red herring? After being tricked twice, I'm cautious of what I'm watching.
What does Elias mean when he says Finch is the darkest out of everyone? Is he right about this? Will we see Finch lose it in a later episode? Perhaps he will snap if Reese dies. I'm very intrigued by this idea and I really hope that the show can competently build Finch to a snapping point if this is the direction the story is heading.
Best Moment: Finch and Elias' conversation was really good. There was some nice conflict exploration as Elias attempts to convince Finch to use all of his assets as the story seems to heading towards Finch bringing Elias and Fusco into the fold while also letting The Machine run without any restrictions.
Character of the Episode: Elias.
Conclusion: This episode was a slow starter, but a lot of good conflict ended up being explored by the episode's end. In the end this is a good episode with some ups and some downs, but it's an overall good time.
Summary: Fusco recovers from his injuries but he is still kept in the dark by everyone. He decides to quit helping Finch if he isn't told what is going on. Root goes undercover as a radio host when she presses The Machine to give her a way to help Shaw. While undercover, Root discovers that the POI, Max, has discovered a secret communication system that Samaritan has been using. Max is now a target since he wants to make this information public. Root hijacks it briefly and sends a message to Shaw who is now struggling to differentiate between simulation and reality. Samaritan speaks with Root who attempts to make a deal with it but Reese cuts off the communication, not wanting Root to give herself up for Shaw. Max makes his own choice to reveal the communication system anyways and The Machine, Reese and Root let him do so despite Finch's horror. Max is killed by a Samaritan agent.
The Good: This was a really strong episode. The focus around Shaw made the story feel important and there were definite stakes involved with Root attempting to find a way to contact her. This element made the POI story much more interesting, and I thought that the Root and Reese pairing worked really well for this episode too. These background details provided the perfect canvas for a good episode.
And the actual POI story was pretty clever and refreshingly different. Having the fate of Max center around The Machine's understanding of free will was perfect and it gave us a surprisingly dark twist to end the episode when Root and Reese leave Max to get killed by Samaritan anyways since he chose to take a risk knowing that he would likely die.
Episodes centered around Root are always a lot of fun. The opening scenes of the episode with Root constantly on the run with The Machine reforging her identity over and over was very informative on how the system works, plus it gave us some fun action and comedy with all of the crazy stunts that Root pulled.
Shaw's storyline was also quite good. I think that Shaw being unable to figure out if she is in the real world or not is entirely plausible seeing how frequently she has been in a simulation. It also makes Greer's test from a few episodes back more logical, since it seems likely that he was testing to see if Shaw could determine if she was in a simulation or not. It's become clear that Shaw's time being experimented on has changed her drastically and it remains to be seen if she can even fully recover from the mental torture she has been put through.
I thought Fusco had a very nice rant with Finch once again as he got pushed past his breaking point. After nearly dying for a his friends, it's understandable that Fusco would call it quits when they still refuse to tell him the truth.
I really like that the show finally acknowledged that Samaritan can hear just about any conversation. This was a feature that was established right when Samaritan went fully online but it was hardly addressed at all until now. I do wish that it happened earlier since it is really annoying that we have been given a season and a half of Reese, Root and Finch casually talking about Samaritan loudly and in public, and this contradicts that in a big way. But, I think that the addition of Samaritan being able to hear does add to the tension by a lot and I sincerely hope that the show keeps this additional drama for its final 6 episodes.
The Bad: Fusco quitting reminds me of when Carter quit. It's inevitable that he is going to come back so I don't think that there is much drama in that regard. The show has to be careful with what is done with Fusco in the next couple of episodes.
Max was a bit dull and he felt way too one-note to be particularly interesting. I also thought that he took the huge change in his life remarkably well, and I think there should have been much more for him to do as he reacts to the reveals around him.
I was confused by the need to protect Reese's cover. I thought that his cover was blown long ago. How did it just come back? He didn't change his identity like Root did so why is keeping him consistent with detective Riley such a big deal? Surely Samaritan can openly detect him now that it has learned that John Riley is also John Reese.
The Unknown: How will Elias react to Moran's death? Will he go against Samaritan or continue to play it safe?
Will Shaw be escaping soon? How? Will she be the same as before? How long will it take her to recover? What will be her role in the story?
When is Fusco going to learn the truth? I think it's inevitable that he learns of Samaritan soon.
Best Moment: Root sending the message to Shaw and saving her from suicide was a powerful moment. I also really liked the callback to "If-Then-Else", though I did have to look up the meaning of "four alarm fire". Sometimes the hints can be so subtle that I miss them, but I definitely think it's a good thing in this case. It makes sense that Shaw would still remember some of the last words that Root said to her.
Character of the Episode: Root.
Conclusion: This episode was well thought out and it told a fresh, new story. I enjoyed this.
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.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.