Person of Interest "Relevance" Review: Lady Killer

By Tim Surette

Feb 22, 2013

Person of Interest S02E16: "Relevance"

For your listening pleasure, The Kills' "Future Starts Slow" (Click the black bar to play.)

Holy. Crap. You. Guys. Person of Interest shattered the Jell-O mold last night with an episode that was nothing like Person of Interest yet so goshdarned Person of Interest that I'm still jumping up and down. "Relevance" might have left fans of the show's leading men a bit uneasy, but for fans of the POI universe it was superdopeawesome, even if it wasn't perfect.

We've always seen The Machine engaging in its hobby of saving innocent lives with its daddy and his strange friend in the nice suit, but we've never actually visited The Machine at its office job where the government uses it to catch terrorists before they terrorize. "Relevance" switched things up on us big time by showing us The Machine's 9-to-5 from the perspective of one of who-knows-how-many Bizarro Reese-and-Finch teams out there doing the government's dirty work. For the first time in the series neither Reese nor Finch nor Fusco nor Carter was the focus; that honor went to Samantha Shaw, played by Sarah Shahi (Life, Fairly Legal, and my heart, if these doodles of the words "Mr. Tim Shahi" are any indication).

It was admittedly a bit jarring at first (even the credit sequence was interrupted), seeing this former beauty queen and Dallas Cowboy cheerleader where Jim Caviezel should be, doing Reese-like things and being a total badass. And was a daring choice, especially for this typically meat-and-potatoes show, which has only recently started giving the CBS brass heart attacks by messing with its regular comfort-food format (one episode earlier this season didn't even feature a number!). But this new experience wasn't like watching our dear series from one couch cushion over, this was like watching Person of Interest while standing on our heads and juggling. And reading some early user reviews on our site, it seems some of you were a little more than upset that your routine got hijacked while some hottie took up all the screen time.

Hey, that's your druthers, but from my perspective, "Relevance" was indeed very relevant. Count me in the camp that watched this episode with absolute awe. Seeing how the other side worked was nothing short of amazing if you're into the show as a whole, and nothing about it felt like it was added late in the game. Don't forget, this episode was written and directed by series creator Jonathan Nolan. This is the direction Nolan always wanted Person of Interest to go in.

Unlike Reese and Finch, Cole and Shaw were merely triggermen taking orders from some jerks in the U.S. Government. They don't do their homework on subjects, they just show up and make sure the targets die because there's no question of "Victim or perpetrator?"—all of them are bad dudes (or so they're told). Shaw ended up being Reese's number-of-the-week after her partner Cole futzed around with the idea that the numbers they received from an unknown entity known as "Research" might not all be correct. Though homework isn't typically required, Cole did some extra-credit work and dug up some factoids about a past mark named Aquino that Shaw took down; Aquino was actually working for the U.S. This kind of "Hey wait a second!" thinking didn't fly with Cole and Shaw's employers (known as Control), and the two were led into a death trap while chasing a supposed terrorist.

But they got some help from Reese, who was sneaking around the scenes just far enough out of sight, like a gun-toting Peeping Tom, that it was slightly easier for Shaw to make her escape. I loved that scene when Shaw was escaping the building and walked past a few bad guys clutching their legs, Reese's version of "Kilroy was here." Funny AND badass! Cole wasn't as lucky as Shaw, and died saving Shaw's life. As far as my mind will allow, I think this was the first time Reese and Finch failed to save a number they were supposed to protect. Perfect record, tarnished! From '72 Dolphins to '07 Patriots in the blink of an eye.

From there, it was Shaw on the run as she tried to figure out what the flying eff was going on. It was Person of Interest from the viewpoint of a number of the week, and it just so happened that this number was a sexy assassin who is more than capable of holding the attention of a camera on her own. The whole vibe of "Relevance" felt like that of a backdoor pilot, as though CBS was prepping a Person of Interest spinoff, when in reality it's just the series' most elaborate character introduction EVER. The episode also played out like a self-contained mini action-movie-of-the-week, with some of the best sequences the series has produced. Sarah Shahi crashing out of a window onto the street below? Sweaty Sarah Shahi in a tanktop shooting thugs? Sarah Shahi being a badass in a gas mask? Sarah Shahi ducking a flashbang grenade and killing a bunch of dudes while deafened by shooting through a door? Sarah Shahi taped to a chair while Amy Acker is about to torture her with an iron? It's like this episode distilled all my wet dreams into one concentrated hour. What!? No, YOUR dreams are weird!

In addition to catering to my kinky female-spy fantasies, "Relevance" also dropped a few teraflops of information on us, the details of which helped flesh out some of the stories Season 2 has been teasing for so long. We now have confirmation that the man behind the desk in the spinning chair—who I formerly referred to as Pennsylvania 2 and who sent Terminator Hersh after Reese—works for the clandestine Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), was Control (or at least "as close to Control as [we're] going to get"), and was using The Machine for its other intended purpose. We know Aquino was building a home for The Machine, and Root thinks she can find it through this lead. But most importantly, we know that The Machine is being used by both the good and bad guys and the bad guys aren't keen on sharing. I don't know if it can be said enough, this was a fantastic way to relay this information.

In the end, Shaw "died" after being stuck with death juice by Hersh, but then she was brought back to life with the help of Leon, Fusco, and Carter. Reese and Finch (and Bear) planned a proper meet-and-greet with her in a cemetery, where Shaw, stubborn rogue agent that she is, decided to refuse their help and abandon them. It was a rapid three-minute segment all set to the tune of The Kills' "Future Starts Slow," but it was a brilliant example of how well this operation that Finch has created works, and it showed that the business is still growing. As we zoomed out and took everything in in those final moments, we realized that this series is expanding at an incredible rate and with every interesting character it adds, every daring creative decision it implements, Person of Interest is getting better and better. "Relevance" was right up there with the show's best episodes and I can't wait to watch it again.


– I really like Shaw as an action heroine; she did some great stuff (listed below). But she was awfully serious for a TV show that's no stranger to being campy. Maybe it's best that she isn't cracking jokes, maybe she'll lighten up in subsequent episodes. Maybe it isn't appropriate to crack jokes when people are trying to kill you. Anyway, I think the character will grow into herself the more we see her, but for now, Nolan wanted to make one thing clear: She's a no-nonsense killer. Message heard, loud and clear!

– Shaw got her bullets back BY CUTTING A DUDE OPEN after shooting him, in order to cover her tracks. Be still my beating heart!

– Shaw shoved a flashbang grenade INSIDE OF A BAD GUY'S GASMASK. Hoo man, I need a cold shower.

– What does Shaw do after pulling bullets out of her own gut and killing a bunch of thugs immediately after waking up from unconsciousness? She CRACKS OPEN A BEER! I am yours, Shaw. I AM YOURS.

– Shaw, about to get tortured by Root: "One of the things they left out of my file... I kind of enjoy this sort of thing." Root: "I am so glad you said that. I do too!" Annnnnnnnnd I need a cigarette and a nap.

– First Bear gets to hang out with Reese and Finch and eat noodles with Leon and NOW he gets to lick Shaw? I'm so jealous of this dog.

– Reese: "Can you do me a favor and not shoot me this time?"

– The computer now has blue squares, to indicate "relevant" numbers.

– Anyone else get a "redverse" (ala Fringe) vibe from this episode? Super cool. Also a dash of Lost's "Ab Aeterno."

– Couldn't Control have used The Machine to help locate Shaw when she was on the run? Or does it have a crush on her too? It'll be interesting to see how much access Control really has to the computer.

– I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that some longtime Person of Interest fans didn't like the episode, since it shoved you out of your comfort zone by focusing so little on Reese and Finch. But c'mon guys! Embrace something different for a change! Have ice cream for breakfast!

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom

  • Comments (292)
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  • FelixCheam Mar 18, 2013

    I wouldn't be surprised if "Relevance" results in a spin-off series. In fact, I'm hoping it does.

  • PK_Tech_Girl May 29, 2013

    Me too! There's some speculation out there, based on recent developments and comments made by Nolan, that Root and Shaw will be spun-off to create their own brand of mayhem. Can you imagine those two psychos working together? Holy crap, talk about must see TV!

  • eduardovilleg Mar 10, 2013

    "berlin, germany" is actually Roosevelt Island... I know because I got to school late because they were filming it on the only street of the island haha

  • Addic7ed Mar 07, 2013

    We want Shaw back! She's just the boost this show needs (not that it's not great already). But if she partners up with Reese......oh my! I'll just stop watching tv at all to only focus on POI.

  • FoxZerro Mar 02, 2013

    I loved the pace, tone, world building, and general overall fact that this episode exists. Unfortunately Shaw just did not work for me as a character, it felt so much that she was trying to be another John Reese that it ended up as a distraction. Also all of the stuff about Axis 2 personality disorders and masochism was super cliche...

    Sorry I'm late to the party but I only just now saw it

  • AustinMak Mar 02, 2013

    Because Reese has cornered the badass market?

    If anything, Shaw is a middle ground between Reese and Stanton, willing to kill with impunity but only because it needs to be done, not because she enjoys it (like Stanton). She's like a field operator version of Special Counsel, in that she is ready and willing to do distasteful things to protect her country.

    Mind you, anything said in the process of bluffing the enemy probably should be taken with a grain of salt. "Axis II Personality Disorder" encompasses a wide variety of disorders from OCD to mental retardation. Likewise with the masochism: we actually see Shaw's face flinch when Root brings out the iron, and then she collects herself.

  • FoxZerro Mar 03, 2013

    I like that as an explanation of her character. Still everything she did as a character felt very very forced. It was painful watching it.

    While I will easily agree that Reese has cornered the bad ass market, the reason for it is how organically bad ass he is. He doesn't use fancy sounding words or cool gadgets to do his dirty work. He just goes in, does what he needs to do, and moves on... In my mind that is what is truly bad ass

  • 377221 Mar 02, 2013

    I'd be interested to hear the justification for taking a break when there are only three episodes left in the season.

  • AustinMak Mar 02, 2013

    No? It's a full season.

  • El-Isa Mar 01, 2013

    There's also this interesting theory that these blue screens could have something to do with Stanton's software upload at the DOD and this whole thing maybe ties into the countdown, which was discovered by Finch.

  • ummhaniyyah Mar 02, 2013

    I'm eager to know more about how Finch was involved in sending Stanton and Reese to the industrial city in China and on their instructions to kill one another and to have the city razed.

    We can guess that Finch was involved, because Kara died after receiving his name from her cyberboss as the person who had been responsible for it all.

    I suspect that ep wasn't the last time that we'll see that creepy English dude. My guess is that Finch may have been protecting the Machine in sending Kara and John to China and treating them as loose ends. That whole story is probably one of the reasons that Harold chose John as his helper (and helped rehabilitate him) - hence Harold's decision to stay with John and dialogue when he is trying to defuse John's bomb vest (he says soemthing like, "This was all my fault").

  • El-Isa Mar 01, 2013

    I discovered a cool new layer to Person of Interest. Since the episode "One Percent" I noticed these short flashes of a blue screen whenever the "machine view" was shown.

    First I thought it was just a visual thing but I noticed it in the following episodes too so I went online and googled "person of interest bluescreens" and was surprised when I discovered that there are actually different ones in every episode and they really mean something!

    First Fringe and now POI...what is it with J.J. s shows and hidden messages ^^

    On this website some geeky dudes already deciphered the ASCII code and there are some interesting messages hidden in those bluescreens:

    Hope to hear what Tim thinks of those in his next review

  • xubxerox Mar 03, 2013

    I noticed the screens but I didn't bother to look at them in any detail. Wich wouldn't have mattered anyway. I would have never figured out all the ASCII-stuff.

    Some people really do have to much time on their hands :) I just love how some people really get into stuff and figure these things out. Just like on Fringe :)

    So - thanks for the info!!

  • ummhaniyyah Apr 07, 2013

    The thing that gets me is that it's someone in the production crew's job to create this ASCII stuff for fans to find. So, time spent on both ends.

  • ummhaniyyah Mar 02, 2013

    Yes, this was really cool.

  • pratoscope Mar 01, 2013

    No one has control over machine...Control just takes output from machine(the number) and acts on it...Why will machine give Shaw's number in relevant list? POI 101 needs to be read Timothy

  • ummhaniyyah Mar 02, 2013

    The big boss told Shaw that he wasn't Control, but that he was as close to Control as she was going to get. He said that because Control is actually the Machine. It is the one who gives them their numbers/marching orders. Research, such as it exists, would just do what Finch does -- match the ID number to information on a person(s).

  • pratoscope Mar 09, 2013

    True...Tim here says that Shaw should have figured in Relevant list...but she is not a terrorist...Why will relevant list give her out...

  • abdulay31 Mar 01, 2013

    POI keeps topping itself week after week with fantastic episode this season. For a long time we kept wondering how the Relevant list is been pursued and its a treat to finally watch it unfold. Samantha Shaw was amazing throughout the episode and a replica of Reese without the sense of humor. The only hiccup was Reese and Finch's minimal involvement in the episode which was new and unwelcome to most fans.

  • TVDi Feb 28, 2013

    Tim, your comment about their untarnished record got me thinking and I finally found some time comment. The Finch/Reese save record was not untarnished. They lost 2 of 4 in Number Crunch, a bunch of the Dons in Flesh and Blood, the armored car guard (both victim and perp) in Matsya Nyaya, and the Triggerman in Triggerman (both victim and perp), Agent Donnelly in Prisoner's Dilemma and Kara Stanton in Dead Reckoning (mostly perp). In witness, they saved Charlie Burton but failed to stop Elias. I think there might be others, but that's all I could come up with from just looking at the episode titles. Now I'm going to have to go back and watch all the episodes again just to confirm. Oh, darn! :-0

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