The series finale of Person of Interest was fantastic. The show overall dealt with many prescient issues: the role of technology in our lives, the dangers of the surveillance state, the delicate balance between privacy rights and security, but the finale focused on the contentious relationship between man and machine. Competing artificial intelligences battle for the soul and free will of the global populace, and the winner, simply called The Machine, gains its victory by its thorough, complex, and unique comprehension of humanity at its rawest and purest. The Machine sought to understand mankind, even through its wars, its pain, its suffering, and its fear–and understood why it needed saving, why it needed hope. We are flawed, broken, and weak, but that is exactly why we should constantly strive to find the best in all of us. If there’s any single message to take from “The End of the Galaxy,” it’s the importance of hope, friendship, and understanding, something that Wander knew all too well.
It’s probably crazy to compare Person of Interest to Wander Over Yonder, but in an era of Peak TV filled with anti-heroes, sad comedies, and nonsensical cartoons, it’s shocking how rare a simple message like “believe in people” is on television. As the show began winding towards its endgame, Wander’s pacifism had become more and more notable, particularly in relation to earlier when he was somewhat muted on Sylvia’s more aggressive tactics. In retrospect, it’s a lot clearer that the second season of Wander has been building up its characters in small, notable ways, not only in deepening their backstories, but in deepening their perspectives on themselves and each other. As Dominator grew more evil, and as the results of her actions forced Wander, Sylvia, Hater, and Peepers out of their comfort zones, each one had to come to new terms with themselves and the status quo, whether it was to dig deeper into their principles, or whether to establish new ones.
Peepers received perhaps the smallest revelation. Which makes sense. Peepers has been the most straight-forward, grounded of the entire foursome, whose primary drive was to keep Hater focused on evil. You could say Peepers growing exasperations were changing into a melancholic acceptance– the truth that he failed to properly motivate Hater and conquer the universe. So his love for Hater’s new-found drive to stop Dominator is in its own way his reward. That drive isn’t a result of anything Peepers does, but it is a reward in and of itself thanks to his unwavering loyalty. It’s a simple win, and even though by the end, he’s watching Hater once again fall back to his old desire to hunt Wander, at the very least Peepers knows that the “real” Hater still exists.
Speaking of which: Hater. Now, there’s nothing specific in this episode that occurs that adequately explains what jolted Hater from his whiny, bratty self into a competent, super-determined villain–at least at first. In a remarkable bit of subtlety, the real fact that Dominator straight-up destroyed the galaxy is a very brutal reality that Hater probably didn’t think could ever happen. Ever since the start, there was always a hint that Hater is actually stronger than Dominator, but he’s always been so tied up in his own nonsense (Wander, wanting to be loved, bouts of jealousy, his pining for Dominator) that it never could manifest. Now, with the universe destroyed, Hater sheds ninety-five percent of that nonsense to take Dominator down. I do love how that five percent remains: he still is who he is, what with his delusions of a breakup with Dominator and, more significantly, his diminishing strength as holographic-Dominator rips into his self-esteem. But man, who would have ever expected that the “Hate’s great, best villain!” chant would turn from a running gag into a motivational impetus? It’s says so much about who he and how he’s function. Hero or villain, just being admired is everything he really wanted.
The various insights we’ve received on Sylvia throughout the season helps provide a solid look into the zbornak as well. Her sheer determination to make a last stand is pretty inspiring, shades of that determination stemming from when she went back to her home planet. Yet the fact that she’s resorting to her past in (and love of) violence to destroy Dominator is meant to be disappointing reveal, particularly to Wander. Sylvia has always struggled, in her own way, to embrace the tenets of love and friendship as a way to solve problems–and let’s be clear, the show never DIRECTLY says that violence can never be used (Sylvia has had no qualms about beating up Watchdogs, or anyone that directly threatens Wander). Still, there’s a difference between trusting in those tenets and trusting in Wander, which she fails to do and almost loses him in the process. Lessons like this are not something that you can simple learn from, and then instantly change. It’s a process that she’ll always have to work through. At the very least, she knows how to whip a crowd up into a frenzy, whether it’s to get them to make a final stand, destroy Dominator, or motivate Hater to his ultimate power.
And then there’s Wander. The ultimate star figure of this show, Wander has always stood by his principles, even doubling down on them. He’s kind of a rarity in television, really (although Steven Universe and Harvey Beaks are admirable follow-ups), but his commitment to goodness and seeing the best in people is refreshing, even going as far as to confront Dominator by himself to find out what, deep down, makes her evil. There’s been a bit of speculation over the past few weeks that she was a purely-evil force with a personality, who couldn’t even comprehend what a “friend” really meant. In that way, loneliness as the core reason Dominator is evil feels like a cop-out, but that’s only because we no longer have another season to explain what, exactly, are the roots of that loneliness. Wander’s steadfast commitment to his desire to help Dominator is wonderful (even as he exposes the hidden planet, which has always been the flaw in his approach), and watching him connect to, save, and communicate with Dominator–even briefly–is what Wander Over Yonder has always been about. This is show about hope: not just in the broader sense of believing in survival against all odds, but also in the sense that enemies are truly just friends you haven’t made yet.
- I admire this episode for how hard it hits some of its emotional beats. From Sylvia denying Wander’s proposal to find a more peaceful way to stop Dominator, to how gleefully sadistic Dominator finds killing Sylvia in front of Wander, to the fairly blunt, cold words that she says to Hater when he’s blocking her drill. Wander has always been a silly show, but it rarely pulled its punches.
- Watching Dominator at the end, and her inability to show any kind of emotional vulnerability/honesty in the midst of her destroyed spaceship, is disturbing and harrowing. She’d rather kill Wander and the entire universe than just admit she wants a friend. We’ll never get more about that though. (Even if by some miracle the show was renewed, we wouldn’t cover the show here anymore.)
- There’s a message here about toxic self-loathing manifesting in awful behavior.
- The animatic end tag shows Dominator floating away past a plant with a spacecraft rocking an American flag. I won’t read it too much into it (what’s the point?). I’ll just say that bringing actual humans into this universe would require some real creative finesse to make work.
- Thank you all for reading these reviews, I tried my best to give this show its due, and it was a fun challenge to look deeply inside what pretty much amounts to a silly cartoon. I’ll miss it and all your comments!