Amy Acker, Michael Emerson (CBS)
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With the help of some trusty callbacks, “Asylum” ties (some of) the disparate threads of Season Four together in preparation for the conclusion. Join me on a trip back in time as we first revisit “Control-Alt-Delete,” which focused on the guilt that plagues Control because of the harm she has done to others despite her best intentions to protect the country. Control is a complicated woman, and her adventure this week involves kidnapping a handler of moles within the ISA working for Samaritan. One of the best scenes in the episode involves Control simply holding up a series of photographs for Shelly’s perusal, where excuse after excuse is given for her whereabouts before evidence of a damning appearance at the White House clinches her fate. This sequence is quite a showcase for both the writers and actresses, as the building tension and Shelly’s sudden transformation from innocent victim to secret agent are masterful. Shelly gives up the goods about Samaritan’s plan to attack the city, but not without reminding Control of her past sins against fellow citizens. Enraged by Samaritan’s plan and Shelly’s duplicity, Control ignores her guilt and gives into violence once again, killing her and adding another body to the pile.

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A callback to “The Devil You Know” takes place when Dominic gains the upper hand over Elias, Reese, and Fusco. After some monotonous confrontation and torture scenes, Elias once again tricks Dominic because that’s what happens when these two tussle. This particular plan also involves a mole, but this time it’s Link and he’s innocent. Elias hits Dominic where it hurts, getting revenge for the death of his own lieutenant, Anthony, by manipulating Dominic into killing his. Elias values his henchmen (henchpeople?) while Dominic considers them expendable tools only useful to the extent that they can further his own interests. Elias uses this observation against Dominic, and eliminates a trusty soldier, whose absence will probably only be appreciated after his death.

In “The Cold War,” The Machine debated Samaritan, arguing on behalf of the value of humans and their independence, and she proved that loyalty tonight. Root tracks down Shaw after receiving a phone call from her and accidentally stumbles on Samaritan’s headquarters. There’s no conclusion to The Mystery of the Missing Compact Persian Sociopath, but if there was any question as to how much The Machine cares about her team, that question is answered in “Asylum.” In “The Cold War,” it was revealed that Samaritan thinks that humans are so chaotic and destructive that they need to be controlled by artificial intelligence, but The Machine believes that they deserve their free will. Her soft spot for humans leads to her own downfall, as the Machine first gives away Shaw’s whereabouts—which ends up being Samaritan’s lair—then her own location, in order to save Root and Finch. Root surely regrets testing the Machine’s loyalty when a seemingly controlled situation spirals out of said control. Root, the unpredictable hacker/killer is willing to give her life readily for Shaw or the Machine, but in the end, a goddess wins most fights—including a selfless-off—and the savior becomes the one in need of saving.

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It’s fairly telling that this episode is dominated by three major subplots, each involving a final life or death decision. In the cases involving humans, a murder is committed while the case involving a non-living entity concludes with self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Dominic’s decides to kill Link without a second thought because according to his leadership philosophy, his priority is to show strength, so it’s instinctive to kill a right-hand man guilty of betrayal in order to set an example. Thanks to Elias’ cunning, this action may do the opposite, causing his soldiers to turn on a leader who considers them expendable. If you follow the history of Scientology, you know that its current leader, David Miscavige, thrives on violence and intimidation tactics in order to keep his minions in line. His highest-ranking former executive, Mike Rinder, had to literally escape Miscavige’s literal clutches, and is now one of the most effective whistleblowers responsible for slowly but surely bringing Scientology to its knees. The aforementioned men may all be in charge of evil organizations, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to enact villainy; a man (or woman) got to have a code. Root would have followed the Machine no matter what because she’s a true believer, but this act of self-sacrifice has surely won Finch’s loyalty for life. Samaritan didn’t do anything to prevent the deaths of its soldiers, Martine and Shelly; will that lack of concern for its soldiers have any impact on its war with the Machine?

A fair amount of this season has been concerned with two wars: the war between Dominic and Elias and the war between the Machine and Samaritan. Considering how interesting they are from what we’ve seen of them, I wish that we had gotten more insight into what makes both Dominic and Elias tick, and what all is responsible for their worldviews. I can’t come to a final conclusion regarding this matter until the season, or series, is over, but in this case, more is more. The story of the Machine versus Samaritan is also far from over, but I’m even more frustrated on that front. I’m getting ahead of myself because it’s difficult to evaluate this episode, let alone the conclusion, without having actually seen the finale, but it sounds like Samaritan’s big plan might amount to a straightforward attack on the city. This wouldn’t be completely surprising because I’m familiar with fiction as an art form, but it would be a letdown after a season packed with references to the development of war strategies involving technological and psychological manipulation. If Samaritan has spent the entire season studying the human race and plotting only to come up with a plan worthy of Michael Bay, I will be disappointed, to say the least, no matter how much it might act as a meaningful metaphor for terrorism. Terrorists can be creative, you know; that’s why they’re so scary. A straightforward attack is what other shows would do. This isn’t other shows, dammit; this is Person Of Interest.

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Stray observations:

· I’m not a student of Theology, so I’ll leave the subject of whether or not there the Machine’s sacrifice is reminiscent of Jesus’. Either way, the lack of over the top Biblical symbolism is appreciated. I’m more of a Scientology girl, and wish that I could have worked a reference to it into all of my reviews. You have been spared, my children. Hail Xenu.

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· “You can’t conquer when you don’t understand.”

· “You look more hipster than homeless.” “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.” I’m still not sick of the riffs on the show’s premise; when that dark day comes, I’ll let you know.

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· “Lay a hand on him, and I’ll kill you.” This is going in my platonic Foot gifset. Pairing abbrevs are really fun on this show.

· “You have no idea what’s coming for you, bitch.” “Lying bitch.” RIP Martine. This episode is not exactly a celebration of sisterhood, despite all of the Shoot love.

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