Last night’s episode of Person of Interest felt ridiculously rushed, with 100 important developments crammed into an hour and a lot of implausible twists. But it still had some really fascinating ideas — including the question of how quick you should be to deem other people expendable. Spoilers!

Basically, “Asylum” was about people walking into traps. There were three of these storylines crammed into one episode: 1) Reese and Fusco get involved in the Elias-Dominic gang war and wind up getting trapped with Elias when Dominic’s men attack — except that it’s sort of a trap that Elias has set for Dominic. 2) Finch and Root go to rescue Shaw, except that they’re walking into Samaritan’s headquarters and it’s a trap to get the Machine to reveal its location. 3) Control captures one of Samaritan’s agents, who’s masterminded the infiltration of Control’s staff, and learns that Samaritan is planning some kind of apocalyptic event called the “Correction.”

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The episode definitely suffered from trying to move too many balls forward at once — including the reveal that Shaw is alive but has been brainwashed to become an agent of Samaritan. (This didn’t work all that well, partly because apparently Sarah Shahi isn’t actually back, so we kept “just missing” her.)

There were also a number of implausible twists — like the Samaritan agent having “the Correction” written in her day planner. REALLY? Also, how did the Machine not know that this abandoned asylum was Samaritan’s main base of operations? I get that Root blackmailed the Machine by basically threatening to commit suicide unless it helped her rescue Shaw, but the Machine could have shared what it knew. Also, Dominic, the mastermind who’s one step ahead, can’t see through one of the most obvious con games I’ve ever seen. This episode also suffered from some of the weaker melodrama I’ve seen on this show, with the normally excellent Amy Acker having a hard time making this material work.

It’s entirely possible that I’ll see next week’s season finale and the payoff will be so excellent that “Asylum” will retroactively seem great. But for now, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity — particularly since the show has spent the past six or seven episodes somewhat treading water on the Samaritan storyline.

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That said, the central motif is sort of interesting: how much you value human life, particularly that of your friends. In the “A” storyline, Elias’ goal is to trick Dominic into executing his right-hand man, in retribution for the death of Elias’ sidekick, Scarface. Elias uses a complicated scheme involving pneumatic tubes, courthouse massacres and bank vaults to make Dominic believe there’s a mole inside Dominic’s organization, and it’s his lieutenant, Link. Even though Elias is doomed, he’s managed to damage Dominic’s credibility with his own men, as well as turning the tables. (And meanwhile, Harper is working for Dominic but seems to be secretly scheming to get Fusco and Reese out of danger.)

In the “B” storyline, we get another confrontation between the Machine and Samaritan, this time with no creepy little kid involved. Samaritan doesn’t seem to care when its operative Martine is killed, and Greer says that “we’re all irrelevant.” But the Machine cares enough about Root and Finch to sacrifice itself to save them — and let’s hope the Machine has a hole card here, since otherwise next season will be just our heroes running from Samaritan endlessly with no respite. Anyway, the difference between the two A.I.s is that one of them sees its human agents as nothing but tools, while the other cares about them, and about human life generally.

And in the “C” plot, it’s fun to watch the Samaritan agent try to play the “mom” card with Control, only to find out what happens when you fuck with the spymaster. I really hope next week’s episode is just Control breaking people’s heads, right and left, for an entire hour.


Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.