Person of Interest "Relevance" Review: Lady Killer

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

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