Can you finish your thoughts on Shaw/Root/TM from the tags on that gifset? Please???? :)
y’all should know better than to encourage me to ramble about things. i have zero concept of being brief or concise. so here you go.
This is an expansion of some meta i wrote in some tags about Root’s character development as pertaining to her relationship with the Machine and Shaw. So I don’t have to repeat it every other sentence, a lot of this is headcanon…as in my opinions…you’re completely allowed to disagree and have your own headcanon, that’s the beauty of fandom:
As a kid, Root was already a smug little computer whiz before Hanna got killed, if not already a hacker than definitely heading down that path. Root’s always been arrogant and I imagine she thought she was too good for the horrible little town she was stuck in. On top of that there was whatever situation was going on with her mother…that’s open to interpretation of course, but it was said that she hung out in the library to avoid going home. Hanna and computers were the best things Root had going on in her life. Computers are easier to understand and deal with than humans and let her enact a measure of control over something in a world where she felt trapped and not in control. Especially after Hanna died.
I think root already liked bending and breaking the rules, feeling superior to people who didn’t, but when all the rules of the ‘civilized’ world failed her the night Hanna was taken she realized that rules only applied to you if you let them. Rules weren’t real. They were part of humans’ bad code and a thing to be exploited. Computers, of course, do have rules and logic that they can’t disobey. If a computer isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do than somewhere along the line a human messed up…either wrote bad code or made bad hardware, etc. The universe and humans and emotions are a giant chaotic mess without rhyme or reason, but computers are perfect, logical.
The thing about Root though is she very much is human and has so many of the traits she sees as flaws…I think that’s part of the reason for her wildly shifting self value. She has an enormous emotional capacity that she’s struggled to keep in check and funneled only into anger for most of her life, so when her emotions do come out it’s like opening a floodgate. But before the Machine and Shaw she compartmentalizes all of that, locks it away, doesn’t allow herself to feel anything she considers weak. She cared about Hanna and then she lost her and that hurt horribly. Therefore, in Root logic, if she doesn’t care about people she can’t get hurt. One of the reasons her emotions and mannerisms often come off as over the top and child-like is because she never allowed herself to learn to regulate them.
Then the Machine enters the picture. One of the many things Root’s been locking away is loneliness. I think from later seasons it’s fairly apparent that she’s a deeply lonely person even if she spent most of her life writing that off as a weakness. But if humans are bad code and weak than she can never really allow herself to care about them or let them in. But the Machine isn’t human. She sees the Machine not only as an inherently more worthy form of life, but as someone she can finally allow herself to care for.
Root’s face lights up whenever the Machine talks to her and that’s definitely partly her deification of her, but it’s also because she loves her, as a god and the friend she always wanted. When she doesn’t find TM at the end of God Mode it completely breaks her and she shuts down and goes away inside her head because she’s lost something again and it hurts horribly and she doesn’t know how to deal with that. And when the Machine chooses to talk to her it’s everything she’d always hoped for.
But the Machine isn’t exactly what she’d imagined. TM won’t let her kill and sets her up to help save humanity. Root starts out being somewhat amused but indulgent of the no kill rule (’even this guy?’), and probably doesn’t mind the saving humanity bit since she sees it as the Machine helping to make humanity better and also gives her a feeling of importance…because TM values her enough to ask her to do this.
Around this time, Shaw becomes another factor in Root’s life. I don’t see Root as having had any real meaningful relationships in her life, and I don’t think she immediately falls head over heels for Shaw…instant chemistry, yes..instant love, no. I do think TM sees potential there though either before or during Mors Praematura. At that point Root cares about what the Machine thinks/wants and won’t kill people because she cares about TM’s wishes, but she still doesn’t care about people. Perhaps TM saw Shaw as a person Root could care about. Also, even though this is a meta post about Root I’d like to say that TM probably also thought Root would be good for Shaw…it was never just about one or the other of them; it was always about both of them together.
Fast forward to Aletheia. Shaw goes back to look for Root. I’ve probably mentioned this in a ton of other posts but I strongly believe that was the first time someone had done something like that for her (the end of mors praematura doesn’t exactly count). It was an indication that a human cared for her and for once she doesn’t see that as a negative or a thing to be exploited.
That brings us to the episode I wrote the original meta tags about…Root Path. The whole episode is TM smacking her in the head to try and explain that her actions have cascading consequences and end up hurting multiple people. This isn’t something Root has generally thought about or given a shit about before, but TM is telling her and she loves TM and doesn’t want to disappoint her. Her whole ‘how badly did you have to break it’ speech is about her not understanding how a being that was supposed to be above human weaknesses is telling her that humans are important. And while TM can drill this into her head over and over it doesn’t click until she realizes she’s fallen for Shaw. I think that the end of root path is when she starts accepting that.
Root needed both of TM and Shaw to get where she ended up. I don’t think she ever genuinely likes people, and she continues to treat most people in a condescending fashion, but she can’t make the sweeping generalization that humans == bad code now because Shaw isn’t bad code so that statement is no longer always true. And that opens up a lot of possibilities. TM got Root to a point where she could admit to care for another human and Shaw was the human she could care for and who cared for her. All three of them are very much tied up on each other’s character arcs which is one of the reasons I thought it was such a shame we never got to see Shaw and TM interact over the course of the story.
One last comment…I’ve seen discussions of whether Shaw or TM is more important to Root and I personally don’t find this a useful question to ask. Both of them are so damn integral to her life that she’s devastated at the idea of losing either. They are both immeasurably important to her and being forced to put a value on one over the other would be deeply upsetting for her and ultimately pointless. It is possible to have more than one thing that you care for without it lessening the importance of either.
Hope that was what you were after, anon!