Over the summer, I discovered a television series that blew my mind and changed my perception on modern television. Said series is Person of Interest.
Until I had subscribed to Netflix back in June, I hadn’t heard much about the series. I knew of the two main female characters, Root and Shaw (their portmanteau pairing name being the apposite “Shoot”) and that was as far as my knowledge on POI stretched. Sadly, the series receives next to no promotion in the UK so it is largely unknown to the majority of British audiences.
I had been fresh off an Angel binge at the time and I was dying for some more Amy Acker in my life. So when I saw an advertisement for POI on Netflix—its title card blown up in all of its deceptively subtle glory— I bit the bullet and loaded it up.
The first thing that I vividly recall being enamoured with was the usage of immersive camera angles and the special effects used for The Machine’s sequences. But above all else, I was smitten by the portrayal of AI. Finally, I thought, a show that doesn’t depict artificial intelligence in an over-blown, cliché, apocalyptic manner. Already, we were off to a excellent start.
And then I met Root.
To cut to the chase, Root has easily become my favourite fictional character of all time, a statement that I do not write lightly. There are many characters who I hold dearly in my heart, but Root absolutely overshadows every single one of them.
Initially introduced as a faceless, enigmatic hacker in the episode “Root Cause“, we saw her properly for the first time in the season one finale, “Firewall“; only after she posed as a meek psychologist and deceived Finch and Reese, though. Her reveal at the end of the episode still remains as one of my favourite moments from the entire series.
Over the next couple of episodes, Root near disassembled Finch’s mind. As Finch later put it, “she hacks human beings as easily as she hacks computers“, a statement which certainly sums up Root’s character to perfection. After rendering him traumatised, she vanished for a while before showing up for the last few seconds of “Booked Solid“, which was a pleasant surprise as Amy had been uncredited as a guest star. For the duration of the season, she beautifully deceived Special Counsel and caused trouble for yet another person, Shaw (more on her later). Though it seems for a moment in the finale, “God Mode” that her time might be up when she is confined to a psychiatric facility, the season ends on Root answering a phone call from The Machine, who asks if Root can hear it. With the biggest smirk on her face, Root answers with one word: “absolutely“. Ultimately, she had won, for she had acquired access to The Machine.
By this point, Root was already my favourite character, but now, I was obsessed. All I wanted to know was what Root was going to get up to next, now that The Machine had identified her as its “Analog Interface”, which essentially means that Root is the face of The Machine and that she has constant access to it. My hopes for season three were high, now that I knew that Root was being promoted to a main character. I was not disappointed, as Root had a terrific character arc in season three, where we were treated to a Root-centric episode, “Root Path” (also known as “/“).
Naturally, I cannot write about Root without writing about her relationship with Sameen Shaw, the other female on Team Machine. Their development, both as individual characters, and as a romantic couple has been entirely organic. Without Shaw’s character, Root’s character would not have developed the way she did in certain aspects, and vice versa. Whilst it was The Machine that initially planted a seed of humanity into Root, it was Shaw who watered the seed and helped it blossom. If anybody doubted their sincerity and deep feelings for each other beforehand, surely their doubts were promptly quashed when the two engaged in a passionate kiss before Shaw tragically put her life on the line to save everybody.
Their romance is intense and keeps the audience on their toes. What you won’t get from them is romantic strolls in Central Park with birds chirping a pretty song in the background; what you will get from them is allusions to sexual intercourse in a CIA safe-house with ten hours to kill, accompanied by a hood and zip-ties. My kind of women.
Once Shaw is out of the picture from the middle of season four onwards, her absence is sorely felt. Root is distraught and devotes all of her time to ascertaining where Shaw is and how she can rescue her. It is evident that Reese and Finch are certain that Shaw is dead, but Root is titanium strong in her perseverance. At one point, Root comments, “I’m not the monster I used to be. I’ve changed. Well, mostly changed“. Which is a fair statement because at this point in the series, she serves as more of an anti-hero. Her methods are what I like to think of as organised chaos. At her core, she is a schemer, but she is using her skills for benevolent purposes at this point. Even so, she is still happy to use violence and she still goes off on her own quests, away from the others. One of the most interesting things I found in season four was how Root was even willing to defy The Machine in order to pursue Shaw. That, to me, was the biggest testament as to how far her character has evolved. She picked the woman she loves over what essentially serves as her God.
Despite CBS’ shambolic incompetence, I am still ecstatic for season five and what I am most looking forward to is seeing Root and Shaw’s reunion and finding out exactly what has happened to Shaw over the months. I won’t hold my breath for it, but I would love to see flashbacks of the two in their younger years because there is still much to be expanded on in their pasts. In the episode “Bad Code“, Root’s mother had been described as “not well” which can have a few meanings. I personally suspect that she may have been mentally unwell, thus resulting in Root having a less than pleasant childhood, a contributing factor in who she grew up to be. I also noticed how her father wasn’t mentioned at all. Root is certainly more comfortable around females, to the point where she insists on using feminine pronouns for The Machine so I suspect that she has had unpleasant encounters with males in the past, possibly even with her father. Of course, this is just my personal speculation, and hopefully, we will get to learn a smidgen more about Root. As for Shaw, I would love to see a flashback of her in the Marines. Observant viewers may have noticed that in the season four intro on Shaw’s service record, there is some interesting information including: her rank in the Marines was Captain (it is listed as RANK – DOR: CPT 20080616) and I believe that the numbers are when she was promoted to that rank which would have been June 16th 2008. There is also MIL SPOUSE SSN/MPS listed as redacted, which I believe stands for military spouse. This could mean that Shaw was actually married at one point. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case, after all, Sameen Shaw isn’t renowned for discussing her past in-depth. In any case, I am eager for more Shoot; their histories, their present romance, whatever! I’ll take anything.
Root hasn’t identified as such, but I am sure that she is somewhat of a transhumanist. It is her line “humanity‘s come as far as we’re gonna go. I want to see what’s next” which makes me suspect that. Given how the show centres around technology, I don’t think that it’s a ridiculous suggestion. Assuming that I’m correct, it only makes me love POI even more. Seeing a superbly complex, queer, transhumanist—or at the very least, tech-obsessed—female hacker on television isn’t an every day occurrence. Of course, only Amy Acker could portray such a character. This is the woman who portrayed a primordial, blue-tinged God-King, lest we forget.
Once season five finally airs, I will be updating this article with relevant information regarding Root’s character development, how I feel about season five, and Shoot. I hope that will be sooner rather than later because as I wrote at the beginning of the article, Person of Interest has blown my mind, and Root is a huge part of that.