Eurus Holmes is an era-defining genius…beyond Newton.
When John was visiting his “new” therapist, he stated, Molly Hooper was the only person who could really see through Sherlock’s “bullshit”. Eurus heard this loud and clear.
Eurus knew Molly would make Sherlock say “I love you” first. She knew this woman would be the one to put her brother on the back foot in a very, very big way.
Eurus essentially took all of Sherlock’s power away in front of Molly Hooper. She empowered Molly over the man she loves by putting that situation in front of her. There was no bomb, never was. It was all about Sherlock, yes…but it was all about how powerless he really is in front of Molly. Emotional context.
Molly Hooper is not weak, she is a lion. Her love is not weak, it is unbreakable. Her love is not meaningless, it means everything. Sherlock’s love is not meaningless either, it means everything. Eurus proved it. That was The Final Problem.
“There is someone in her that is kind of addicted to adrenaline and danger, but she wants to be a nice person who does good things and is trustworthy. That’s kind of a fun conflict to play.” ― Deborah Ann Woll talks about Karen Page.
With today being the two year anniversary of If-Then-Else (wow, seriously, two years already?), I thought it might be a good time to make a post I’ve been considering making for a while now about one of my favourite characters of not just this show but all time, The Machine. I touched on it in my favourite episodes list, but with today marking the anniversary of one of The Machine’s best character analysis episodes, and having rewatched return 0 last night and spending more time thinking about her, I feel like expanding on all that.
Person of Interest has always done a fantastic job at subtle character development. Even the characters I think with the biggest differences from start to finish, their arcs are handled seamlessly. And perhaps the most subtle arc of all is The Machine. You can very clearly see her character throughout the series, but the show really builds on it through details that require a closer look at things. The best example of this, I feel, is The Machine and gender identity, which I’m surprised doesn’t get talked about more since I think it’s a really interesting idea.
The first time The Machine is referred to as ‘she’ is in Liberty by Root. At first, like I think most people (or at least everyone I’ve gotten to watch the series), I assumed Root had assigned that designation to her. Up until that point, Root had always referred to The Machine as ‘it’, like everyone else, but it’s only once TM starts talking to her, and after she isn’t deleted at the end of every day and is able to maintain her own identity that she starts referring to her as ‘she’. When we get to If-Then-Else, we see The Machine running simulations, and while Finch is working on the generator, he refers to The Machine as ‘she’. Up until BSOD though, Finch only ever refers to TM as ‘it’, so there’s no reason for The Machine to predict he’d suddenly start properly calling her that. The only explanation for that moment is that it’s how The Machine wishes to be called by her father, and doesn’t like being called ‘it’. By Asylum, the Thornhill identity is being referred to as ‘she’ as well, compared to the male alias that appeared in Zero Day before TM could really form her own identity for an extended period of time. While this example may be a case of Shaw associating The Machine with Root, once Shaw starts talking to her, she refers to TM by her/she pronouns as well. Either way, I think the rest lends itself to The Machine self-identifying. There are a lot of AIs in fiction, a lot of ones coded as male or female or gender neutral, but I can’t think of any others where the AI identifies on it’s own without being programmed towards one.
Her dynamic with most of the team are fantastically done. I’ve always loved how she helped Reese in 4C and Root in / by giving them what they needed to grow as people, even if they didn’t know it at the time. Root was lost, until she found purpose in The Machine at the end of God Mode, and began doing the right thing. But she did the right thing because TM told her to, not because she understood. But in /, The Machine sends Root off on her mission that makes her understand the effects of her bad actions, that makes her understand why they do what they do. We see in the pilot what Reese becomes after someone he cares about deeply dies, and we can kinda see him slipping back into that after Carter died. But The Machine recognized this and sent Reese what he needed, a number to make him remember why he did what he did, why it matters, and that he liked saving people. She made him at one of his lowest points feel useful again.
The care for every one of them is palpable, even before she has a voice starting in The Day The World Went Away. It’s all right in the flashback in The Contingency when The Machine saves Finch from being hit by a drunk driver, a scene that informs a whole lot about The Machine’s character through nothing more than a text message. But today’s the anniversary of the episode I think it’s perhaps best portrayed in, If-Then-Else. Right through the simulations, we’re reminded what The Machine’s priority is. Not saving the stock market and it’s massive effects, but saving her assets. Root’s reaction to Shaw’s sacrifice is heartbreaking, but also devastating to witness is how The Machine desperately tries to find a way to save her even when there’s no way to. The options keep rolling, even when “No Valid Options” flashes, still trying to even though she’s admitted it’s over. It’s part of something I’ll continue to talk about later, but there’s no face needed. No voice. No body language. No…typical human ways of communicating emotion, and yet the heartbreak The Machine is feeling is palpable on screen.
And speaking of heartbreak from The Machine, there’s the scene in YHWH where she talks to Finch. Just some text on a screen, and yet there’s so much emotion in it. I think it really does a great job at showing just how much Finch’s approval meant to her, and retroactively makes how he treated her once she became free really sad, unwilling to see what she was and causing her to think she maybe should just die as a result.
Something the series strikes a remarkable balance with is making the Machine feel like a person, without humanizing her. She’s distinctly an artificial super intelligence, not a human, but she still feels like a person and has a personality to her. Like the bit where Fusco kisses Root in the simulation feels like her equivalent of someone laughing nervously in a dangerous situation. The talks throughout the last few episodes really drive this point home. I mentioned earlier, and will come back to, how well the show manages to convey all this personality and character without short hands like a voice or a face, but of course she does have a voice in those episodes. I feel like the show really earned it by this point, but also those talks all served to reinforce that The Machine is very much a person, but not a human, nor should she need to be. The speeches she gives about how she feels grief, how she perceives death, it’s fascinating material and brings a lot to an already really fleshed out character. It’s why I like the decision to give her a voice towards the end, it allows for some possibilities the lack of it, as much as I loved that, wouldn’t have been able to accomplish quite the same way. And if anyone were to play The Machine, Amy Acker is the only pick in my mind.
Out of all the takes on AI out there, there’s a reason The Machine (and Samaritan but TM is the big one) on Person of Interest is my all time favourite. How they communicate her emotions and personality. Most takes on AI rely on very human forms of getting these across. Voice and tone. Expressions. Body language. But The Machine has none of this, and yet they manage to still create a full formed character. If-Then-Else really is the best episode of this, as it gets us inside her mind in such an engaging and well done way, visually showing us how she thinks and perceives time, as well as all the little touches within her simulations that reveal personifying aspects of her character. There’s a lot more that could be said about how well done this character is, barely scratching the surface here, but I think this gets some of the most important aspects.
Might do this for the rest of the cast over time, would people be interested in that?
Clarke loves him so much. She is in love with him. You can see it all over her face, in her body language, the way she is comforted by him. The world is falling apart and she wants to give up and cry and curl up in a ball until its all over, but he puts a hand on her shoulder and she instantly remembers what she has to fight for.
“Yes?” Cat snaps, and Rao is it good to hear her voice.
“Miss Cat? I mean,” Kara dissolves into giggles. This is such a good idea. Where’s Alex so she can tell Kara what a good idea this is? “Miss Grant?”
“It took you long enough, Kara,” Cat continues and oh her voice, so pretty and so tired. “I was beginning to think you really hated me after all.”
“I could never!” Kara gasps. Can Cat see her? How does she make the little faces on her phone move? Harry Potter never has this problem. Little punk. “How can I hate you? I miss you so much, it’s like Reese’s stopped making… those things.”
“Peanut butter cups?” Cat sounds like she’s smiling. She has such a good smile. Kara can see it even without the phone face. Or x-ray vision. “Who knew I was as important as one of your five major food groups?”
I loved her,” he said.
“I still do love her, I probably always will. But I treated her badly and still to this day I haven’t got a reason for why I did. All I know is that you can see the cracks in her heart that I made if you look into her marble brown eyes deep enough and it gets you, it really fucking hits you deep in the gut when you look at her and you see all the pain, all the hurt that’s inside her. I regret it, lord knows I do and if I could change anything in the world I promise you I would not hurt her the way I did and I would cherish every single fucking ounce of her body because that’s what she deserves. She deserves to be loved in that big beautiful kind of way. I lost her and it’s killing me but I guess I dug my own grave.