Summary: Danny and Karl are best friends that play a video game Striking Vipers together. Seven years later, Danny is married to Theo whiel Karl is still dating. Karl gets Danny a VR version of Strikign Vipers and they play it together but they end up having sex with the characters. Weirded out, they try to stop it but they keep coming back. Theo notices something is off with Danny and wants answers. Danny decides to cut Karl off and he resumes his life with Theo. The next year, Danny and Karl meet again and Karl says he can't replace Danny with anyone else. They eventually do it again and Danny realizes he likes it too. Danny and Theo make a deal to remain married but both of them now indulge in other activities to stay fresh. Danny continues his fantasies with Karl while Theo now gets it on with strangers in the bar.
The Good: This was an interesting episode. The story is quite simple and easy to relate to. The three lead characters had all grown up and were living their lives, yet none of them were truly happy. There was that spark that they were all missing, and they desired to bring it back. By the end of the episode, all three characters were able to work things out and get the happiness they were craving. It's a simple story, much simpler than most "Black Mirror" stories, but it works and is easy enough to enjoy. As usual, the writing and acting is rock solid, which adds on to the experience.
This episode also does the little things really well. I appreciated the subtle moments early in the episode that showed the unhappiness that the main characters were all experiencing. Additionally, I liked the amount of red herrings that were included while the story built up. I was never too sure what the episode was going to be about in the first 15 minutes. At first I thought it may involve some kind of love triangle, or maybe an affair, then I thought maybe it would be heavily about the VR concept, but in the end it was a simple, heart-warming story about a very unorthodox gay couple. The episode certainly knew how to be unpredictable with its concept.
The technology aspect of the episode was quite strong too. I liked the Mortal Kombat parody, Striking Vipers and I like that the show explored what a fully VR game would be like and how it could be used for purposes other than what was intended.
The Bad: This episode is very slow and I don't think it needed to be an hour long. The first 15 minutes were a chore to get through and the subtle build up for the episode wasn't enough to keep me fully invested. It took far too long for the story to go from the introduction to the hook, and by the time we got there, 1/4 of the episode was done. An accelerated pacing early in the episode would have really helped.
Furthermore, the extra time really doesn't add any extra value to the episode. The episode barely explores its story. For one, the characters were surprisingly simple. "San Junipero" had detailed characters who had many complex layers. Compared to that, the characters in this episode are quite embarrassing because of how 2-dimensional they are. All three are remarkably forgettable, and I bet that within a week I won't even remember their names, nor will I care. Since the characters are so bland, I didn't really get emotionally invested in this episode. It was well written and I enjoyed it, but it really didn't do anything special for me.
I also wish that the VR concept could have been explored more. It ended up being hardly touched upon, and it really didn't impact the story very much. You could easily tell the same story without the VR and it becomes a normal story of an affair. All the VR does is add the "ick" factor to the episode, and that isn't anywhere near enough of a contribution. I was left wanting more from a "Black Mirror" episode that tackles the evolution of video games, particularly a closer look at how people would balance their real life vs their life in a video game. In the end, "Playtest" remains the superior video game episode of "Black Mirror".
I was disappointed that the conclusion of the Theo/Danny conflict was glossed over. It would have been nice to see Danny and Theo working out their problems together, and I think that a scene about this would have added some much-needed emotion to an episode I struggled to get fully invested in.
The Unknown: Was Danny lying when he said he felt nothing when he kissed Karl? I'm not sure I buy his response.
Best Moment: The ending with everyone getting a happy ending was nice, and the most emotional moment of the episode. I also really like that both Danny and Theo seemed pleased with the one day every year deal. It's a nice way too look into morality as you get to decide for yourself whether this one "cheat day" is good for a relationship or not.
Character of the Episode: Nobody really stood out at all. But I'l go with Karl since he made me laugh a couple times.
Conclusion: This episode told a nice story, but it was overly long and lacked the heart of most "Black Mirror" episodes. There could have, and should have, been more depth to this episode.
Summary: June returns to Lawrence who reluctantly agrees to take her to the McKenzie residence. June sees Hannah again but she is caught. June is returned to the Waterfords. Serena is angry that June left Nicole with Emily but eventually relents. In an act of defiance towards Fred, Serena burns down the house. June is punished for her escape with lashings to her feet and she is assigned to a new household: Commander Lawrence's. Emily makes it to Canada and meets Luke and Moira.
The Good: It felt surprisingly good to be back in Gilead. While season 2's average score was pretty solid, I finished the season feeling disappointed and uninterested in seeing more. My feelings towards the season were much more negative than the score suggested. So colour me surprised to say that it was an absolute delight to be back in Gilead for this episode. There's something about the unique style, impressive imagery and darker colour tone of the show that makes it stand out among other TV shows. And then of course there are the performances from the actors which never cease to amaze (except Max Minghella, he sticks out like a sore thumb). I really stand by the fact that this show would stink if the performances weren't so good. I think every scene I enjoyed in this episode was carried by a strong performance by one or more actors.
Some of those aforementioned scenes were pretty spectacular to watch. The Waterfords interacting with June is always a blast, and I thought that Serena and June's interactions in this episode were mostly strong. Fred remained relevant too and his despicable character shined through in his scenes with Serena as he tries to damage control her newfound rebellious attitude. Lastly, the scenes between June and Mrs. McKenzie were quite great. Elisabeth Moss is so damn good it's almost unbelievable. She poured her heart out portraying June as she and Mrs. McKenzie discussed how Hannah has been living in Gilead.
The burning of the Waterford house feels like a significant moment. At least the show didn't pull the reset to June returning to the Waterfords like it did so many times last season. I thought they captured something really good with the Waterford house being burned down. It was a wonderful moment for Serena, who after seasons of being static is finally undergoing the major character shift I was hoping for. A few scenes prior, Fred had mentioned how he just wants to protect his house and family. Serena, bitter and angry after losing her finger, spites Fred by burning his house to the ground, proving that she is finally going to start fighting back.
I liked that we got such a nice look at Little America. I think it was the most we have seen of the place, which is welcome since the show has been so poor at its world building. Emily's arrival and her surprise at being applauded was a genuine moment that allowed Alexis Bledel to shine once again.
The ending of the episode was very interesting. I wasn't very interested in Lawrence last season since he seemed like a convenient side character to get Emily and June out of Gilead. But his presence in this first episode seems to suggest that there is a lot more to him than I initially expected. More than anything, he feels like a gust of fresh air on a show which desperately needed it. I'm unsure what his role in the show will be or how he is going to interact with June. I think that watching June live in his house could lead to some really good stories if executed properly, and I'm excited to see more.
The Bad: I'm still in total confusion as to why June chose to return to Gilead. She didn't even come up with a good plan to save Hannah and simply got captured again. The stink from last season's ending did pass on to this episode unfortunately. Furthermore, how exactly did June get found out so quick. I was left confused by how the Guardians knew exactly where to go to find her.
Serena and June's relationship appears to have greatly improved, which I'm all for. Yet they remain as inconsistent as ever. This episode featured a completely out-of-nowhere moment of hostility from June who continues to spite Serena despite their growing bond. The moment felt awkward and I was surprised by how quickly Serena and Fred forgave her words.
June's lack of consequences is getting absurd. Can she seriously kidnap a baby and send it to Canada without any major consequences? Serena got maimed for something much tamer than this. Even Emily suffered worse back in season 1. Yet June only gets a few lashes on her feet, something very tame compared to what we have seen before on this show. The plot armour that has been growing on June in the last season hit new levels in this episode.
The stupid musical choices on this show continue to ruin so many shows. The random 80s song during the burning of the Waterford house completely ruined the moment for me. It just feels so odd when a show so atmospheric and miserable has a cheesy empowering moment. It completely breaks my immersion every time but the show still persists with it.
Did this episode really need to be called "Night"? The season 1 finale was called "Night" too! How uncreative.
The Unknown: Is Lawrence an ally or an enemy? He helped Emily and June escape, yet I feel like he isn't as good as he appears to be. Is it possible that Lawrence notified the Guardians about June being at the McKenzie house?
Where will the Waterfords go now? How will the destruction of thier house affect their relationship? Will Fred suspect Serena of intentionally burning down the house?
Best Moment: I was going to say the burning of the house, but the music ruined it. So it has to be Emily getting applauded after arriving in Little Canada. It's a great moment of relief for a character that has suffered so much.
Character of the Episode: June. Elisabeth Moss is too damn good.
Conclusion: This was a solid season premiere that promises us that the story will head in a new direction this season as opposed to the repetitive season 2. There were still problems for sure, but my overall outlook after this episode is cautiously optimistic.
Summary: Control is still working with Samaritan, doing her job. Samaritan tells her to dispatch of four terrorists, and she sends Grice and Brooks. Three are killed, but one of them, Yasin, escapes. Control wants to track him from his laptop but Samaritan refuses access to it. Controls ends Grice and Brooks on a secret mission to access the laptop but it fails, the laptop is destroyed and Yasin escapes. Samaritan instructs Control to stop. Control continues attempting to kill Yasin but she is captured by Reese and Root who are hunting for Shaw. Finch informs Control about what happened at the stock exchange but Control doesn't believe him. Finch gets a hint at Shaw's potential location and the group go to investigate. Grice and the others rescue Control. Control tracks down Yasin who reveals he won the nautilus game and did work for an unknown corporation. His friends died mere hours after their work was complete. Control doesn't believe his story and kills him anyways. Control investigates the stock exchange and notices wet paint on the walls.
The Good: Control's return is really fun and immediately adds momentum to the story. We haven't checked in with her for a long while, so it was a pleasant surprise to start the episode with her. The focus on Control throughout the episode was excellent and made this episode stand out amongst the others. The central focus on a character outside of the main cast reminded me a lot of "Relevance", which is a very good thing.
Control's motives in this episode were explored nicely. She has always been a character who fully believed in the job she was doing, akin to Finch, and it's easy to see that in this episode. She is stiffly sticking with her belief that Samaritan is doing its job locating terrorists, and that her job is of utmost importance. While we don't learn anything new in this episode, we do get to see how committed Control is to her duty, made all the more tragic by the fact that the four people she killed in this episode were all total innocents. In the end, her trust is misplaced and it's entirely possible that he blind faith in her job could spell doom for her. This is a compelling story to explore, and I'm looking forwards to see more. And judging by that final scene, Control may have a few doubts about her employers. I think that Control grappling between her faith in her job and the words that Finch said to her has potential to be riveting to watch.
The drama in the episode is a bit slow at first, but it really takes off when Control starts working on her own to discover what is inside of that hard drive. I was invested by the mystery of what Samaritan is really up to and what significance the laptop held. I was just as curious as Control was, and that surprisingly helped me connect a little more with Control and relate with her, a character who I wasn't particularly interested in before this episode.
I really like the scene between Yasin and Control. There was something powerful about Control coldly killing him in spite of the possibility that she may be wrong about him. The dialogue beforehand was quite strong too, proving that Control does have some doubts about her job. After all she could have just killed Yasin, but she instead decided to listen to what he had to say.
The injection of Root, Reese and Finch was excellent. It seamlessly fit into the story of this episode, and the interrogation scenes were really well done. All three characters were able to nicely communicate their current emotions based on their scenes with Control. Reese seems deflated, Root angry and vengeful, while Finch remains calm and realistic. I also appreciated the parallels with Root having Control captured after being captured by her last season.
There were a couple other really strong moments in the episode. Reese letting Grice live because of what he did for Shaw was a lovely moment, even if the dialogue leading up to it was bit clunky. I also really liked the callback to the nautilus game, and the reveal that Samaritan is actually offing its own men to keep secrets is really dark. Yet it's a logical move for Samaritan to make and is one of the many reasons why Samaritan won't be as ideal of a leader as Greer expects. Lastly, I loved the final scene with Root, Finch and Reese (see: Best Moment).
The Bad: This episode had some pretty big problems which prevent it from being one of my favourites. The biggest is the fact that the main crew's immediate reactions to Shaw's death are glossed over. That makes it hard to relate with what they are doing int his episode because we aren't sure where they all are mentally. While the episode eventually gets there in that scene near the end of the episode, much of the episode is hurt by the fact that I couldn't entirely understand what their thought process was. The biggest thing about this that bothers me is that we don't know why any of them believe that Shaw could be alive. The doors closed, the gun was pointed at Shaw's head and there was a gunshot. I'm not entirely sure why they all believe that she is alive after this, and I would have liked to see them process Shaw's "death" so that I could see how they came up with this idea.
I was displeased by the fact that Finch took so long to speak with Control. Where was he when Root and Reese were literally torturing the woman? Why wouldn't he intervene earlier since things like this are clearly against his moral code?
Unfortunately, it looks like the charisma vacuum kid actor playing Samaritan's avatar is here to stay. I wish that the show had gone in a different direction when personifying Samaritan, because I'm just not enjoying this kid very much. I feel like Samaritan would be more imposing as a villain if it didn't speak or have a human appearance.
The episode took a long while to really get going. Some of the early scenes weren't very interesting, and I didn't start feeling any suspense until about 10-15 minutes into the episode. Compared to "Relevance" which had me engaged from its first moment, this episode doesn't build up its drama very well.
The Unknown: Why did Samaritan deny access to the laptop? What was ont hat laptop? What is the code that Yasin said he worked on? Why did Samaritan deem the information so important that it had to cause the deaths of Yasin and his friends?
Why does Samaritan want to meet with the president? Does Samaritan have a new plan for the future? Or a deal perhaps?
Will the lead on Shaw go anywhere?
Best Moment: Reese, Root and Finch talking at the end of the episode was powerful stuff. Having matured since losing Carter, Reese no longer wants to isolate himself but he looks completely defeated after losing Shaw. Root on the other hand tries to remain herself but is bottling up loads of emotion on the inside, which is portrayed wonderfully by Amy Acker. Finch has to most normal reaction, but it's clear that he is hurting in his own way as he mourns Shaw. Seeing the three of them closer than ever in an attempt to get their fallen friend back was heartening and hit me hard emotionally. I really have come to care about this crew of characters after 4 seasons.
Character of the Episode: Control.
Conclusion: Aside from some big problems regarding the follow-up on Shaw's death, this was another awesome hour of television. Control's story is written fantastically, and what little we did see of the crew reacting to last episode's events was just as good.
Summary: Rachel is weirded out by the way Phoebe runs and tries to avoid running with her. Chandler cleans the apartment and desperately tries to put everything back to avoid Monica's wrath. Joey gets a hot new roommate Janine and finds it difficult not to flirt with her.
The Good: Joey, Ross and Chandler are all really funny here. They get a number of great lines, and their conversations with each other are a highlight. The chemistry between the main characetrs is really carrying the show now. Rachel and Monica are good for the odd joke.
The Bad: The three plot lines are very stupid. Phoebe's odd running is a stupid joke, and what's worse is the justification she gives for running like that. Anybody would tire out rapidly wasting that much energy, so it's horribly inefficient. Furthermore, Phoebe continues her streak of being unlikable by being fairly rude to Rachel. Chandler being so afraid of Monica certainly doesn't say good things about their relationship, as does the fact that he doesn't seem to know that Monica won't like it when he cleans the apartment. The episode is chock full with overacting (mostly from Joey) which takes away from the comedy.
Best Moment: I'll go with the scene when Monica arrives at the apartment and Chandler tries to keep her out. There were some brilliant lines in that scene, and Ross curiously asking about what Chandler had was awesome.
Character of the Episode: Chandler.
Conclusion: This episode had consistent jokes and was funny, but the stories were really poor once again. I've noticed that the show is relying more and more on the chemistry between all six of the actors to create comedy than it used to. Thankfully the chemistry between the actors is strong enough to prevent the show from hitting mediocrity, but the cracks are definitely showing in the writing and the show isn't anywhere near as great as it used to be.
Summary: The crew notices the financial crash and are forced to directly infiltrate the stock exchange to reverse it. Shaw is sent to get the code to open the door while Reese, Finch, Root and Fusco get into the stock exchange, however they realize it is a trap set by Samaritan. Martine and over 20 Samaritan operatives are down there with them. The four get trapped in a room and The Machine starts running simulations to come up with a strategy to get them out alive. Several simulations are scrapped due to either Root or Finch dying which is undesirable to The Machine. Eventually The Machine sends everyone together to increase odds of survival. They fix the financial crisis and fight to get to the elevator alive, but they are trapped. Shaw arrives in the nick of time to save them and they get to the elevator. They aren't able to leave and Shaw sacrifices herself to get the others to safety.
The Good: I think creativity is such an important element in TV shows. Without creativity, TV shows run the risk of feeling familiar, dull, or even boring. Some of the worst episodes of this show suffer from being unoriginal and they desperately require some inspired storytelling to become memorable. My favourite episodes from shows like "Lost", "The Leftovers" and "Friends" are ones that aren't afraid to do something different. How does this all tie in to "If-Then-Else"? Well I have to say, this must be one of the most creative pieces of television I have ever seen. The unique concept of seeing a story from The Machine's point of view was an incredible idea and the execution was nearly flawless. Add in the necessary emotional beats and character development, and we have the best episode of the series so far.
This concept was so wonderful to watch and it was executed perfectly. The soundtrack, visual effects, editing and cinematography were on a whole new level compared to what we usually get from the show. There was clearly extra effort put into making this episode and it paid off in a big way. This episode was brilliantly able to bring The Machine to life by giving us a look at how it really works. It was so unique actually getting to spend a lengthy period of time watching how The Machine functions as it attempts to get the crew out of the stock exchange alive.
The actual storyline of the episode is quite simple. The main crew has to save the world by infiltrating a location and escaping alive. That's all there is to it, and I think it's brilliant. The simple plot allows for more focus on The Machine in this episode, which I think is more than complex enough to carry this episode. The simple plot has another big strength because it allows the episode to have a very clear focus on life and death. There is no funny business in this episode; the lives of the main characters are in genuine danger and that ramps up the tension by a lot.
Then we get to the meat of this episode, the simulations. Most of this episode consists of The Machine running through various escape simulations in an attempt to get the crew out safely. It's so enjoyable to watch this and there are lots of really clever bits of storytelling that aid the story. At first, the simulation reveal is a bit of a surprise. When Finch died, I was shocked and I couldn't believe that a character would die so suddenly. Then the clock suddenly reset and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized what was going on. We were simply watching projections of what was happening, and the tension came from the fact that The Machine had to work quickly and whatever deaths occur in the final strategy would be permanent.
The focus on The Machine is seconded by the flashbacks. These flashbacks gave us a good look at what motivates The Machine in making these decisions as it learns about choosing between strategies and making some of the necessary sacrifices. Furthermore, we got some outstanding dialogue from Finch as he goes over the mechanics of chess while teaching The Machine how to function and how to have morals. I really loved the lessons he taught, especially since they were all touched upon in the present.
Speaking of the deaths, they actually added a nice amount of emotion to the episode. Character work is so important to TV shows, and it's added in this episode by showing us some theoretical deaths along with the interactions between characters. We get to see things like Reese's brave and badass response to his own death, as well as a better look at Root's character when she is faced with certain death. While it isn't particularly powerful, it's pretty strong stuff, and it is the perfect icing on the cake for the episode.
The most emotion hits us at the very end of the episode with Shaw's death. The episode had built up major consequences for a long time, and it seemed certain that somebody was doomed to die. In this case, Shaw was the unlucky one and her death is heartbreaking to watch. After a season and a half of seeing all of these characters working together and developing relationships, it's devastating to see the group torn apart, and losing Shaw has a real weight to it, equal to (if not more than) Carter's death, which was another pivotal moment of the show. Root's screams in particular were hard to watch and Amy Acker really nailed what I would expect Root's reaction would be.
The episode nailed the little details, and there was so much to love here. The brief side story with Shaw trying to convince a man to stop his attempt to detonate a bomb was awesome. I loved how Shaw started off aggressive and it led to failure, so the Machine tried various different attempts in order to create a situation where Shaw successfully understands the human heart and is able to talk the man down from suicide. It's a wonderful little detail. I also loved the recurring destruction of the painting throughout all of the simulations. It's a fine little joke for the moment, but it really pays off at the end as The Machine makes a shockingly human call by saving the painting to spare Finch some emotional pain. It was a lovely little moment showing the humanity of The Machine.
The simplified simulation was probably the funniest thing I've seen on this show. The self-aware humour was so great, and it had me laughing/smiling for a good while afterwards too. Brilliant. Another standout comedy moment was Fusco randomly kissing Root because "it's a simulation". It was a lovably random moment that injected some personality into The Machine. Apparently The Machine is a Fusco x Root shipper, and I think that's hilarious.
The Bad: Shaw suddenly showing up at the end was too convenient and sudden for my liking. I wish it was built up a little more because it was way too much of a deus ex machina.
There were a few moments that looks very poor, likely because the rest of the episode had such wonderful effects. The standout was Root and Shaw shooting together. The shot was pretty long so it was very easy to notice that the gun shooting was very fake and none of the shots had any recoil. It looked especially poor.
The Unknown: I presume Shaw is dead, but maybe she lived. After all, we didn't actually see her die since the show cut to black before the final gunshot.
Best Moment: Shaw's death was very emotional.
Character of the Episode: I have to give it to The Machine, who was as much of a character as anyone else in this episode.
Conclusion: This was an awesome episode. The budget had been kicked up to level we hadn't seen before on this show, and that helped create the ideal atmosphere for an epic episode. Thankfully the writing was impeccable too and that led to this being a resounding success. High risk yields high reward, and that's exactly what happened here. This was a creative and risky episode to make, but the production crew nailed the execution, making what I believe is the best episode of the series so far. This season has taken off in quality in a big way.
Summary: Flashbacks show Greer's past as a spy. In the present, the crew gets back to doing POI missions but notice that Samaritan is taking care of irrelevant numbers for them. Root meets with Lambert who sends a message that Samaritan wants to speak with the Machine. The Machine refuses so Samaritan continues reducing the crime rate. The next day, Samaritan causes total chaos and the crime rate skyrockets. The Machine agrees to a meeting. Root meets with Samaritan's avatar and they reach an impasse. Samaritan decides to go to war. Shaw goes out into the city to help with the increased crime rate.
The Good: This is how you do a set-up episode. For most shows, an episode which sets up a storyline fails to reach greatness, and is often overshadowed by the big climax. But "Person of Interest" has found a way to make set-up episodes hit a new high with expert use of its signature strengths like wonderful little character moments, a frenetic pace and philosophical discussions to name a few. This episode used all of the show's strongest tools to become something really special and feel like a climax of its own even though it is certainly just preparing for something bigger.
The set-up was so enthralling to watch here. I absolutely loved the whole cold war that went on throughout the episode with Samaritan literally toying with humanity by proving a point to the Machine. It was the most Samaritan has ever felt like an actual character, and it impressively made me feel the tension and danger that I was expecting from a world living at the mercy of an AI overlord. Samaritan's methods were very cool to watch. I liked seeing it save the POIs on the first day, and cooler than that was how Samaritan completely threw the world into chaos the next day with some simple information leaks and nothing more.
The not-so-subtle messages from Samaritan led into the huge climax of the episode where the two main deities of the series interacted one-on-one for the first time ever. There's no denying that this moment was huge for the show, and for the most part (see: The Bad), it delivered the goods. The scene was shot very well and I thought that it had a lovely atmosphere which unsettled me. The content of discussion was great and I loved the idea of two machines having a verbal spat about differing views that were programmed into them. I also really like the idea that both Samaritan and The Machine's motives were clearly stated for us to understand. Knowing what these two gods want to accomplish helps us understand their conflict much better and adds stakes to any Machine vs Samaritan drama that would follow.
As for the rest of the episode, it was fantastic. The opening scenes of the episode were really good. It's a very strong use of the show's characters to create a fun intro that gets me excited to see more while also making me laugh. The interactions were strong, and while some things were cheesy, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Somehow this show has found a way to make cheesiness a staple of what it is without it being a bad thing. That's a remarkable feat, and I'm honestly pretty surprised that I enjoy it as much as I do. Had I watched the cheesier parts of this episode before I watched the show, I would have scoffed and dismissed this show as stupid. But the show won me over, and now the stupidly cheesy scenes are a joy to watch, and the episode was practically filled with them (the opening scene, Reese and Fusco, the church scene, etc.).
The three-way philosophical discussion in this episode was superb. It reminded me of the ending section of "A House Divided" with the way that Finch, Root and Shaw all gave their opinions on the usefulness of an AI ruling the world. It was really nice to see the characters acknowledging this as a possibility, and all three of them were consistent with their known beliefs and morals when arguing their points. The dialogue on this show is hit or miss, but thankfully the writers always bring their A-game for big scenes like this.
The flashbacks were a ton of fun too. I enjoyed the spy-thriller story that was given for Greer and it made for a really fun background story to the episode. Greer was given a nice backstory to let us know why he believes that putting a machine in control is way better than untrustworthy humans. I thoroughly enjoyed these brief scenes and I would love to see more like this, perhaps showing how Greer became the head of Decima.
The Bad: Unfortunately the big meeting fell a bit flat because of the acting (and likely the directing too). For a scene with two AIs speaking, the interactions felt far too human for my liking. The kid actor was poor and Amy Acker is horribly out of her natural environment playing a robotic character since she has too much natural charisma for that. The two beings felt too emotional and human, and I feel like there was a much better way to have this conversation take place. Furthermore, I'm not sure that I like Samaritan's motives. Samaritan is a machine that was programmed not to have morals, so it feels very odd that it is naturally so pessimistic towards humans. I would be able to buy into this if I see Samaritan experiencing human nature, and turning against them because of it. But we don't have any scenes of Samaritan forming these beliefs, so its motives feel awkward and out of place.
Greer's decreased role this season is a bit disappointing. With Samaritan becoming a fully fleshed out character, and Martine being its prime operator, where does that leave Greer? He hasn't had anything interesting to do since the end of season 3 and I don't find myself as engaged in him as a villain as I was before. He isn't even the brains behind the operation since Samaritan is making all of the decisions now. He just doesn't have anything to do anymore. Hopefully the show can correct this like it did with Elias.
The Unknown: What are Samaritan's next plans? How does it plan to attack the Machine? What is the strength that Greer wants Samaritan to unleash? Was it the stock market crash? What will be accomplished from this, other than financial ruin?
Did Root make it out of the meeting okay? Will she be fine? How about Shaw? Where has she gone? Will she be able to stay out of sight?
Best Moment: The three-way discussion between Finch, Shaw and Root was an outstanding moment. Shaw is much more open about Samaritan ruling than Finch, which makes sense since she is an operative and hasn't really gotten a taste of leadership herself. But Finch, someone who has experienced more about leadership and philosophy than both Root and Shaw persists in his belief that Samaritan is definitely a bad thing for humanity.
Character of the Episode: Root.
Conclusion: This was an outstanding set-up episode. There was enough story to make this episode stand alone, and the fact that it seemingly sets up bigger things is the icing on the cake. Had the meeting between gods been a little better, I likely would have gone closer to (or maybe even over) an 80 for the craftsmanship and emotion that went into this episode. However, that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is still a seminal episode that does countless things right.
The first part to this season was quite strong. Like all of the other seasons, this one is a slow out of the gates and it stumbled badly at a few points. Like all previous seasons, there were quite a few classic POI episodes, and most of those are only able to be good at best. But these last two episodes repaid my continued faith in the show and they suggest some really epic storylines to carry us to the season finale, and I cannot wait to see more. While not as strong as season 3's first half, this half-season was fairly entertaining.
Summary: Chandler tries to find a way to give Joey some money to help him out now that he's alone. Monica and Rachel argue while packing Rachel's things. Ross makes a fake Ben to get out of helping Rachel pack.
The Good: Ross was really funny here and the fake Ben story is genuinely great for a C-story with perfect laughs. The two main stories have their moments. Fromt he Joey story, I liked the idea of the Cups game and how Joey blew his money playing Ross in Cups. Additionally, the overly dramatic foosball scene was probably the best self-conscious parody scene the show has ever done. Phoebe has some good lines too.
The Bad: This had all of the potential to be great but it falls well short of that. Rachel and Monica are absolutely awful to each other and they say some seriously offensive stuff to each other, stuff that shouldn't just be glossed over. Rachel's comments about Chandler are particularly insensitive and could easily be enough to ruin their friendship. The show is sacrificing any sense of reality in favour of having characters insult each other because the writers think it's funny. It's not. The emotion really wasn't capitalized as well as it should have been aside from one or two moments near the end of the episode. For such an important episode, this didn't hit me as much as it should have. It's a result of the decline in writing this season, and I pray that the writers get back on their A-game after this.
Best Moment: Monica calling Ross about Ben's head falling off was a hilarious moment.
Character of the Episode: Ross.
Conclusion: This was really disappointing since I was expecting a really big effort for the last night before such a big change. In the end, weak writing has hurt another episode this season, and it's a shame since the last few episodes were great.
Summary: Shaw escapes from Martine with Root's help but she is forced to lay low and out of sight of camera. Reese contacts Elias and saves him, accompanying him from then. Elias' men have been turned by the Brotherhood so they have to hide in a safe house. The Brotherhood arrive and capture Scarface. Reese escapes with Elias but Elias chooses to go back to trade himself for Scarface. The Brotherhood isolate Elias and want his money, locked in a safe next to Scarface. Elias eventually gives a code to Dominic but the code detonates the safe, killing Scarface and crippling Link. Elias is saved by Reese. Elias looks for vengeance for Scarface.
The Good: Elias is probably my favourite recurring character on the show, so it's no surprise that an episode focused around him would be really great. He was the absolute star of this episode, and Enrico Colantoni gave a terrific performance. What was most surprising was how well this episode humanized Elias. He has been a shady character for a while now, along with his mysterious henchman Scarface. But here he comes off as just another man. He's vulnerable, he shows emotions, mourns his friends and shows an actual respect for human life. It's a surprising turn for the show to explore these aspects of his character, and I'm pleased to say that it was a resounding success.
Elias' relationship with Scarface (he is called Anthony in this episode, but I'll stick with Scarface for old times' sake) is pretty heavily explored in this episode. Even though we don't see any flashbacks, we take a bit of a dive into Elias' past through some subtle and brief lines of dialogue, and it really helps paint a picture of what his relationship with Scarface (and even Moran) was like. Couple that with some excellent acting, and Scarface's death becomes more emotional than I expected. Elias showed so much compassion throughout the episode, so when it came time for him to make that fateful decision, I was invested in his conflict. And Enrico Colantoni was so, so good when Elias chose to give Dominic the code. It brought some real emotion into the scene.
The Brotherhood really improved as villains in this episode. Not because they became more interesting, but because they made things personal with a character we care about. Elias has a drive to get revenge on the Brotherhood, and I will absolutely be rooting him on. While the Brotherhood don't interest me as characters, the show has successfully made me despise them, which turns them into fairly good old-school villains. Furthermore, we had some really good dialogue between Dominic and Elias. I'm craving for more of it.
Elias' interactions with Reese were as fun as ever. Over time, the two of them (and Finch too) have developed a believable bond, and I bought into Reese's desperate attempts to save Elias. Finch also brings up a great point about how valuable Elias is, so there is never a point where I think that sacrificing Elias would be the smart thing to do. As a result, I was really immersed in the episode since Elias was not only somebody that Reese and Finch wanted to survive, but he was also a character that I wanted to survive.
The episode also did a lovely job of building tension. Reese and Elias were quickly stripped of all of their resources throughout the episode, until we were left with them with only each other inside of the building. It gave a sense of impending doom and made me genuinely concerned about how both of them could possibly make it out alive.
The scenes with Shaw and Root were pretty good. The opening shootout was exciting, and I thought it was shot really well (pun not intended). I also loved the clever nature of Root's escape with the moving truck. Satisfyingly, even that escape wasn't enough to fool Samaritan since the truck was tracked down in the end, and that had severe consequences for the characters when Fusco was compromised. The scenes after this were strong too. The show is spending time building up Root and Shaw's relationship, which I like.
The Bad: Root and Shaw's relationship isn't developed in the best way. While Root was very subtle in the past about her feelings for Shaw, she is much more open now and I'm not entirely sure why. I think that there needs to be much more subtlety in Root's dialogue than what we are actually getting.
The money that the Brotherhood required was a very convenient MacGuffin. It really had no value to the show whatsoever, and I didn't really care if Dominic would have obtained it or not.
The Unknown: What does Elias plan to do for revenge? Will he be able to reform alliances? What will the Brotherhood do about him?
What can Shaw do now? Will she just help Finch? If she so much as leaves, she will be tracked down, so I can't imagine this situation persisting for much longer. Perhaps her story will develop as soon as next episode, seeing how it's the mid-season finale.
Best Moment: Elias and Scarface speaking over the phone was surprisingly powerful and it humanized Elias to show a new side of him we have only gotten tiny hints as before.
Character of the Episode: Elias.
Conclusion: This was an awesome episode with a devoted focus. The story was a lot of fun and there was also a surprising amount of emotion by the episode's end.
Summary: The next POI is a girl named Silva. Reese thinks she is planning to kill someone but Finch discovers she is an undercover cop who has discovered a mole from the Brotherhood trying to work in the police. The Brotherhood try to kill her but Reese saves her. Reese and Finch realize that Mini is Dominic. Martine investigates on Shaw and tracks down Katya and Romeo. Her investigation leads to her finding Shaw and they face off. Finch gets the next POI and it's Elias.
The Good: This was a fine story and I had a good time watching it. Moments like Shaw and Fusco on the stakeout and Reese having to deal with Dr. Campbell are both examples of some fun bits of this episode. I also liked the scenes with Dominic who is showing more and more personality with each passing episode.
The strongest storyline came from Martine. It was fascinating to watch her search for Shaw and I thought that the two scenes with Katya and Romeo were very fun. Both showed different aspects of her character. The scene with Katya showed the calm, assertive and manipulative aspects of her character, whereas the scene with Romeo shows her smart, violent and cunning she is. These two scenes were perfect at building up a new villain character and I find myself really excited to see what goes down between her and Shaw in the next episode.
The ending of this episode was pretty awesome. This isn't a show which uses cliffhangers very much, but when it does, they are quite good. I can't wait to tune in for the next episode to find out what happens with Martine and Shaw, or what is going to happen to Elias now that his number has popped up.
The Bad: The story is rather generic though and it doesn't hit any memorable emotional beats. It's very by-the-numbers with some of the usual strange moments. For example, Reese blowing up a grenade int he swimming pool for a convenient escape (which we aren't even shown) was pretty stupid. I also didn't care much for Finch conveniently figuring out the connection between Mini and Dominic.
I didn't like that Reese brought up Carter and who he was before to Silva. We saw him go through something similar in the last couple of episodes, so it's redundant to see it again. Plus it makes Reese spilling his guts feel less special if he does it all the time.
The Unknown: What will Martine do with Shaw? Can Shaw get away? Will she be able to get any help?
Who is threatening Elias? Presumably the Brotherhood. What could they be planning for him?
Best Moment: The scene with Martine and Katya was great. Martine was the perfect mixture of kind and cold which made he seem like a genuinely scary and intimidating person. Cara Buono played her to perfection.
Character of the Episode: Martine.
Conclusion: This episode was your usual effort, bolstered up a bit by the great Martine storyline. I presume that next episode is going to be a big one.
Summary: Shaw quits her job as a thief. The next POI is a thief named Tomas. Shaw infiltrates the group and helps them out with a heist. They steal a virus and Tomas' crew turns on him, stealing the virus. Reese finds them later on, dead. Shaw and Tomas work to recover the virus. Finch and Root infiltrate a building and burn files that Samaritan was going to use to give personalized tablets to all children in schools. Shaw is able to escape with the virus but she is recognized by Grice, a government operative sent to destroy the virus. Grice lets her go but Samaritan notices and works to uncover Shaw's identity.
The Good: The start of the episode is decent fun with Shaw infiltrating the gang and both Root and Finch doing work investigating Wilkins. There were decent moments throughout and some fun lines of dialogue. I especially liked Root dropping in on Shaw while she was talking with Tomas and offering her comments.
The episode really took off with the dual missions going on in the second half. The main story with Shaw and Tomas was fairly enjoyable. The villain of the episode was terrible (so bad I forgot his name), but thankfully he had limited screentime and was overshadowed by a number of other factors. The arrival of Grice and Brooks added some immediate stakes to the story and made the episode more about Shaw trying to stay hidden from Samaritan, instead of focusing the conflict on the villain. The villain was just an extra obstacle to overcome, which was a good call and added to the drama.
The other mission with Root and Finch was just as great with the main threat once again being Samaritan. A pattern of this season is that it's always at its strongest when Samaritan is the primary threat, for obvious reasons. Furthermore, I thought the cinematography was outstanding for this heist and there were a number of excellent details added in. I particularly liked how we were frequently taken to the Samaritan overlay so we can actually see Samaritan's "thought process" as it watched Root infiltrating the building.
There were a few good character moments too. I liked the crew having to briefly debate going through with Shaw's operation due to the big risk it poses them. I liked that this dilemma occurred very quickly. We have seen conflicts like this very frequently in the show, and to have the characters make their decisions quickly shows that they have learned and mature from their prior experiences. Furthermore, I think it's great that their decision to push through with the mission led to some consequences with Shaw potentially having her cover blown. I also liked the scene at the end with Root and Shaw. The show is definitely leading to them hooking up, and like I said in a previous episode, I'm fine with this.
The Bad: The dialogue and comedy in the episode is a bit hit or miss. The Shaw and Tomas relationship is pretty dull and their chemistry sucks. It wasn't very interesting to watch.
I was surprised that Shaw's stint with Romeo was over so suddenly and quickly. It makes me question why that story was introduced to begin with. Furthermore, I thought it was odd that Shaw quit so suddenly. She enjoyed thieving because it was so much better than her other job. Why quit thieving so suddenly if her new cover job will inevitably be something much more dull?
The Unknown: Will Shaw's cover be blown after this? Or will Samaritan still be unable to identify her?
What will happen to Grice now? Is Samaritan aware that he didn't do his job? Will he be punished for it?
Best Moment: There wasn't any scene that stood out, so I'll give it to the final moment with Shaw being examined. It suggests that there will be a huge change in the stakes going into the midseason finale.
Character of the Episode: Shaw.
Conclusion: This was a solid episode which was fun to watch, and also set up the main story in a nice way.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.