“Person of Interest” said goodbye to yet another agent of the Machine in its Season 4 episode “If-Then-Else.” But while Shaw’s fate seems pretty dire, a promo for Jan. 13’s “Control-Alt-Delete” lets audiences know that all hope is — maybe — not lost.
Considering the CBS series lost another leading lady at about this point last year (and everyone still misses Taraji P. Henson’s Carter), it would be a pretty terrible blow against the show for Sarah Shahi to exit permanently. Shaw is a huge asset to the team and also a blast to watch, particularly when she’s flirting with Amy Acker’s Root.
“If-Then-Else” is the most unique episodes “Person of Interest” has done, and also one of its best. It was an excellent execution of a difficult concept: Presenting multiple scenarios the Machine could choose to get the best outcome for humanity. In a touching life lesson given by Finch (Michael Emerson) in a flashback to 2003, he teaches the Machine that all human life is equal, which means her assets shouldn’t be prioritized.
And so the Machine chose the option that hopefully is not the darkest timeline. It finally gave shippers their Shoot kiss (yes, that really was Root kissing Shaw and yes, we also want to watch it on loop forever), and it also meant that the stakes were really, really high for Finch & co. Though various timelines showed everyone else losing their lives, it seems reality might ask for Shaw’s.
In many ways, Shaw was Carter’s replacement in the team, even if she does serve a different function. But her storylines have been neatly wrapped up for the time being, with the Root flirtation paid off and her potentially going out in the best way she could: Protecting her allies. Let’s hope that isn’t the last people see of her though, because without Shaw there will be a huge gap in the dynamic of “Person of Interest.” In addition to being an integral member of the team, she is also a female protagonist in the way Root never will be.
There is still one more episode left before this Season 4 trilogy of episodes is over, and it will likely be the one to reveal Shaw’s fate. It would be surprising and a bit disappointing for “Person of Interest” to repeat itself and off a major character in a mid-season trilogy, but at least it will have been a good death for Shahi’s character, and the type she would have wanted.
But even if Shaw does get lost, “If-Then-Else” won’t go down as being the traumatizing episode that delivered her death. Instead it will be a sign of “Person of Interest” maturing, just like the Machine did. It went the difficult path with this convoluted bit of storytelling, but did a masterful job presenting audiences with a fantastic episode while also understanding that sometimes comes with a cost.