Person of Interest – Control-Alt-Delete Review
Can we just take a minute to acknowledge how good Person of Interest is at constructing loaded titles that can be interpreted in multiple ways? Control-alt-delete is, of course, one of the most well known computer keystrokes, as it is commonly implemented in most Windows systems to bring up a task manager. In doing so, it is used to examine the current state of a Windows system and to see if there are any programs that are currently active which shouldn’t be. In the context of this episode, this is a title that is loaded to the brim with subtext. The episode itself focuses on the character of Control whom we last saw in the season 3 finale, Deus Ex Machina. As such, this is our first look at her in a post-Samaritan world. She is still the overseer of the ISA’s “research” program but runs into opposition from the program’s Samaritan liaison Travers, played superbly by Michael Potts, when she insists on accessing a laptop hard drive belonging to an individual that Samaritan has flagged as a terrorist. In a sense, this is an episode about the sense of denial and underlying suspicion that has taken hold of Control. This brings me back to why Control-Alt-Delete is such an exceptional title. Not only is this an episode that provides a close look under the hood at a character and a system that have largely been hidden from view until now, but it also serves to give us glimpses of the underlying problems that have been operating under the surface. Furthermore, it can be read as a statement and not a keystroke, in which case it could be interpreted as a statement about the loss of control that the ISA director faces. Then again, they could be referring to an Ubuntu system where control-alt-delete just toggles the shutdown menu… you never know.
Our regular cast largely take a back seat position in this episode, and, for the majority of it, we only see glimpses of Root and Reese through news and surveillance footage as they carry out various attacks with the apparent intent of “finding Shaw.” I posited in my review of If-Then-Else (another wonderfully loaded title) that this particular episode may turn out to be about denial, and in a sense it was, but not in quite the way I expected. Much of the denial that we witness comes from Control, who refuses to accept that she no longer possesses… let’s go with influence. She lacks the power she once wielded and attempts, on a number of occasions throughout the episode, to turn a blind eye to the instances in which Samaritan has been working against her. When she is finally forced into a sitdown with the agents of the Machine, she refuses to accept their claims regarding the stock exchange or Samaritan’s actions. In a sense, it would appear that her own denial is mirrored in Reese and Root as each group mocks the other for refusing to accept the truth. Reese and Root refuse to accept that Shaw is dead, and Control refuses to believe that her power has been stripped of her without her even noticing.
Control-Alt-Delete works quite well as a story about denial, but it’s hard to know how to judge it in the context of the season as a whole. The conclusion of this Trinity plotline could drastically alter how the episode is perceived or interpreted. As a result, it almost feels a bit incomplete on its own. It’s quite difficult to view this in a vacuum, because it really isn’t meant to be viewed that way. Then again ambiguity appears to be a primary theme with this episode as, up to the very end, it remains unclear what Control does or doesn’t believe or even where her allegiances lie. It will be interesting to see how the next episode, M.I.A., builds off of this foundation… when Person of Interest returns in three weeks… God damn it.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- As much as the titles can really be on point, the same generally can’t be said for the promo commercials. Maybe the people in charge of advertising are aiming to misdirect, but, let’s fact it, the commercials for Control-Alt-Delete seem to be rather dissonant, both in a tonal and a narrative sense, from the episode we actually got.
- Michael Potts, who as I stated before plays Samaritan’s liaison to the government, has also played Brother Mouzone on The Wire and Detective Gilbough in True Detective’s first season.
- We also get to see Michael Gaston as US Chief of Staff Mike Richelli (When it comes to arrogant authority figures he’s kinda your go to guy.) as well as the return of John Doman’s Senator Ross Garrison. Glad to see him on the show again.
- I was a little disappointed with the ultimate use of the rocket that they acquired back in Wingman. Seriously, you used it to incapacitate an SUV? Not to be that guy, but wouldn’t tire spikes have done the job just as well?
Control-Alt-Delete is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the shows more enigmatic antagonists. However, the episode does feel like a slightly odd intermission after last weeks climactic If-Then-Else, despite a few plot developments that carry over from that episode.
While it doesn't really begin to answer the main question posited in its promos, Control-Alt-Delete ultimately serves as a fascinating character study of one of the shows more enigmatic characters.