Summary: Flashbacks show Finch discovering that Ingram was helping the irrelevant cases illegally. Finch shuts it down just as Ingram's number comes up. After 10 days without a number, Finch looks into what is happening with the Machine and notices a countdown. The Machine gives a number for Ernest Thornhill and after some investigation, Reese and Finch realize Thornhill doesn't exist but that Decima Technologies are targeting him. Finch deduces that Thornhill was created by the Machine. Reese makes contact with Shaw while Root contacts Finch and they have a meeting to trade information. Root threatens Grace so Finch has to work with her, while Reese works with Shaw. Finch reveals that the Machine will reboot at the end of the countdown and a call will come to a certain payphone. Whoever answers will become the new admin and Decima Technologies are now guarding every payphone in the city. Root gets Finch to help her and Finch is forced to give her admin access. However, he does some last minute programming and sends a call to Reese who is nearby, also giving him admin access. Meanwhile, HR try to kill Carter but they fail to so they instead frame her for killing a defenseless civilian.
The Good: This was a fast-paced and entertaining set-up episode with a lot going on. The various factors of Root, Shaw and Decima Technologies come together in a wonderful way and sets up what should be an epic finale.
The episode is interesting from its first few seconds. Like in "Relevance", the intro is completely changed and it ends up feeling both creative, and more cinematic. The concept of a Machine crash was portrayed so beautifully that I was left unsure if the show was causing the slowdown or if my TV was lagging terrible. This effect was continued throughout the episode as the usual clips taken from the perspective of a surveillance camera were choppy and slow.
The episode is nicely organized into two halves. The first is the investigation on Ernest Thornhill and the second half is the splitting of Reese and Finch's storylines along with the return of Root and Shaw. The first half provided some excellent set-up. The Thornhill mystery was really engaging, as was the way that clues were slowly revealed about the nature of his character being a ghost created by the Machine. It was a compelling mystery with some fun moments, like Reese and Finch infiltrating Thornhill's workplace.
The rest of the episode had a lot of momentum built up from the first half and was able to engage in some exhilarating set-up. Root capturing Special Counsel, Decima Technologies getting involved again and Shaw returning set the story fully into motion. Reese and Shaw's half of the story was really fun as we got a better idea of what their dynamic would be like in the future. Plus, we got a great scene with the return of John Nolan's character as he interacts with Reese, suggesting that he may be coming after Finch soon.
The other story featured Root and Finch and we got more of the fantastic conversations (see: Best Moment) that made the first two episodes of the season so engaging. I enjoyed Root blackmailing Finch by threatening Grace, and that put all the cards in Root's hand. Finch was along for the ride with her yet again, and now Reese has to find him once more. It's a nice way to bookend this season with Reese needing to save Finch from Root in both the season premiere and the season finale.
The final stretch of the episode delivered the kind of adrenaline rush you would expect from the season's climax. The countdown to the virus shutting down the Machine was a fantastic idea. It provides a great way to get everybody gathered together at the same place at the same time. Furthermore, we get a great and surprising explanation about what happens when the clock runs out. The Machine won't die like I was expecting, but rather it will give its power to the first person who answers a specific payphone. This is a wonderful reason for everyone to gather, and it successfully makes us understand why Root and Decima Technologies cannot be allowed to win, putting us firmly on Reese and Finch's side. The conclusion to this episode is wonderful with both Reese and Root gaining access to god mode, an exciting ending which promises a dramatic, action-packed season finale.
Lastly, we got some more flashbacks in this episode. While they weren't too notable, they had some pretty good storytelling. Finch has discovered what Ingram was doing and surprisingly he is firmly against it. It appears that Finch still has to grow in the past and whatever it is that results in Ingram's death will likely lead to him changing his mind.
The Bad: Special Counsel was bested pretty easily and then totally vanished from the episode. That's a bit disappointing.
Carter's story got very little time, so it was almost impossible to care about. The main story was so much more interesting than her story. Hopefully the finale resolves this storyline in an enjoyable way. Also, did Fusco just get written out of the season's endgame? If he did, that's really poor since he deserves much more than this as a main character.
The Unknown: What was the important information that Root needed from Special Counsel? Was it about the payphones? Thornhill? Something else?
So Finch apparently hasn't told Grace his real name. Is Harold Finch his real name? I'm not so sure.
Finch was suddenly called by a payphone at one point. Was that supposed to be Carter's number?
Why didn't Finch allow the Machine to protect itself? Root suggests that Finch just didn't think about it, but I highly doubt that. Furthermore, why did he sell the laptop with a virus on it if the Machine couldn't protect itself? Did he try to destroy the Machine in the past?
Ingram is the next non-relevant case in the past. Is he going to die soon? If so, how?
Best Moment: Root and Finch once again had a great discussion about the Machine. The conversation does a fantastic job of fleshing out Root. She seems genuinely disgusted that Finch didn't allow the Machine to defend itself and survive. We also get the great reveal that Finch has forced the Machine to erase all data every night, having it constantly restart. This makes a lot of sense, and as expected, it also disgusts Root who seems more determined than ever to let the Machine be free.
Character of the Episode: Root.
Conclusion: This was a very fun episode to set up the season finale. I feel like the episode would be even better when watched together with the finale, almost like one of the multi-part finales from "Lost". The purpose for this episode was to give us some big reveals and get us excited for the season finale, and it succeeded in both.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.