Person of Interest – Asylum Review
Asylum is a peculiar episode that is, for the most part, quite exceptional, but contains a few problems that I feel have permeated much of this season. Both Samaritan and the Machine play a prominent role in the episode, but, much like in The Cold War earlier in the season, these interactions feel awkward and sometimes err on the side of cartoonish. In Asylum, Reese is back on the job with Fusco just as Elias begins his all out war with the Brotherhood. However, Root and Finch are largely unavailable to provide support as they are busy tracing a call that they received from Shaw. This leads them to a confrontation with Greer and sets us on the path towards the season’s conclusion.
Reese’s recovery comes off as being shockingly rapid. He was seemingly on death’s door at the end of the previous episode, but by the time Asylum starts he’s pretty much fully recovered. Given the fact that Person of Interest has often been good at ensuring that injuries don’t simply disappear into the nether between episodes, the fact that John is up and walking feels slightly off. Link makes a reference to John’s wounds later in the episode, but its effects on his performance seem to be quite limited. He and Fusco are investigating the murder of four Brotherhood soldiers by one of Elias’ men. The shooting occurred in a government building complete with metal detectors, and Reese and Finch are left wondering how the gunman evaded the security as well as why the Machine didn’t alert them in advance. Finch quickly determines that Elias is using an old network of pneumatic tubes to send out orders as well as smuggle weapons into secure locations. From that, he is able to determine that Elias is doing this from an old bank which he recently acquired that was connected to the tube network. However, before Reese and Fusco can take Elias into custody, Dominic storms the building capturing all of them. Despite having the upper hand, Dominic’s greed and ambition continue to get the better of him, and he decides to keep Elias alive so that he can discover the source of his information. In order to ensure that he gets the truth from them, Dominic has hired Harper to serve as a consultant of sorts. Dominic’s attempts to get answers out of Elias provide for an entertaining and highly engaging back and forth, but if this storyline has one significant problem it is the fact that the episode foreshadows an aspect of Elias’ plan so heavily that, when it comes time for that aspect to be implemented, it seems illogical that Dominic wouldn’t see it as well.
I remain unsure of how I feel about Shaw’s survival. Admittedly, much of the uncertainty is due to the fact that Person of Interest hasn’t done anything with her since her apparent demise, and thus I have nothing upon which to judge this particular narrative aspect outside of the fact that it slightly undermines some of the pathos present in If-Then-Else‘s climax. Even in Asylum, she doesn’t have an actual presence, but instead serves as a device to drive Finch and Root’s plot. When Root receives a sudden but brief call from Shaw, she immediately plans a search. Finch is quick to point out that the call is most definitely a trap, and, while Root agrees with the assessment, she doesn’t care. After using a rooftop game of chicken to force information out of the Machine, Root and Finch are able to track the phone call to a psychiatric asylum within the city. By tapping into the building’s fiber optic cables, they’re able to ascertain that Samaritan is close to locating the Machine. Root is able to get Finch admitted into the facility through the rather amusing method of having him tell the truth. Once they are in, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that the facility also serves the purpose of acting as Greer’s headquarters. They succeed in locating the room where Shaw was being held, but are cornered by Greer’s agents. This leads to a rather peculiar interaction between the Machine and Samaritan in which the Machine offers to give up its location in exchange for Harold and Root’s safety. The interactions between those two has always been a bit odd in its simplicity, and that holds true here as well. The Machine gives Samaritan its location and Samaritan lets the two of them go. Somehow, when the scenario involves two nigh-omniscient systems negotiating, you’d expect there to be more backstabbing and backup plans and misdirection, but, as I said before, everything plays out in an oddly simplistic fashion. I’ll acknowledge that I am not entirely sure how this problem could be alleviated, but it makes the last quarter of this episode feel peculiar.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- While I largely enjoyed the scene in which Root finally succeeded in killing Martine, I have to admit that, much like the scenes that followed, something about it seemed odd to me. Perhaps it was the abruptness of its execution… no pun intended.
- Elias’ foreshadowing really could have been toned down a bit. From the moment he and Dominic had that conversation at the table where Dominic asked for his source of information, I knew exactly how this was going to play out.
- It isn’t particularly often that Harold gets to employ cover identities, but watching him inform the doctor as to how the government, the Brotherhood, and a hyper-intelligent AI all want him dead, and how he has “many names, all derived from species of birds” was just hilarious.
- Asylum often cuts back to scenes of Control interrogating a woman who at least at first glance seems to be a simple school teacher and mother. I can’t say there are any real surprises in this story thread, but it does confirm that Control has decided to take on Samaritan and that Samaritan is planning on executing a large-scale operation referred to as the Correction. Much like the two primary plots of this episode, this one becomes a bit weaker by the end as it goes a bit too much into neo-evangelical ramblings, sort of like the poor man’s version of Root’s unhinged speeches earlier in the series.
- My apologies to all for this review being so late. I am sure that Deadman appreciates the fact that I waited until the rush that is E3 week to submit it.
Asylum is an episode that I really want to like a lot, but I can’t ignore the fact that it falls apart a bit towards the end. Fortunately, the three quarters of an episode that preceded the last quarter were enjoyable enough to ensure that I wasn’t too frustrated. Still, it feels like some of the nuance and subtlety that I often praise Person of Interest for maintaining has failed it in this instance. Both Samaritan’s machinations and Elias’s plotting leave me feeling underwhelmed and mildly disappointed, though this largely comes down to the execution, since, with a slightly more delicate touch I think the show would have had me on board with the plot progression. Here is hoping that the finale can match my expectations.
Asylum is a rather uneven episode that suffers from a lack of subtlety. However, even if its conclusion left something to be desired, the journey there was still quite enjoyable.