‘Wynonna Earp’ may just be #TooFemale’s worst nightmare, and it’s brilliant.

#TooFemale. That was the hashtag that dominated Twitter after CBS shoved a foot in their mouth and proceeded to choke on it by not picking up ‘Nancy Drew’ (with lead Sarah Shahi) for, of all reasons, being too female. It rightly caused outrage on Twitter—not just from Shahi’s legions fans of ‘The L Word’ and ‘Person of Interest’ fans, but simply across the board. I can’t say I’ve worked in the television industry thus my experience here is lacking, but when you justify not picking up a pilot, did anyone think to maybe, I don’t know, suggest that including ‘too female’ in the statement—when you’re a network picking up a billion other pilots centred around the typical male—was kind of a bad idea?

Well, it looks like nobody did, and it’s a ruddy shame too—because on the very same channel in the mind-blowing episode ‘6,741’ of ‘Person of Interest’—in an entirely Sameen Shaw (Shahi) centric episode, Shahi absolutely kicked ass and proved to pretty much everyone that if you should be clamouring for a female lead of a series, Shahi may certainly be your first call.

Yeah she kind of kicked ass. Major. Ass.

Yeah she kind of kicked ass. Major. Ass.

There’s nothing wrong with the lack of pick-up with ‘Nancy Drew’ (despite it reportedly testing well with audiences…oh boy). If you have a promising line-up of clearly superior shows, then of course ‘Nancy Drew’, if proven to be less promising than them, would be shunted away. But the very excuse of ‘too female’ is quite frankly ridiculous—and whilst some lamented the idiocy of CBS’ statement (and that’s what it was: idiocy) others turned it into something of a wry joke. Including myself. Because there cannot be a more pathetic, disgusting, stupidly churned-out excuse for not picking up a pilot—of all the excuses in the world—they went for literally the most brain-zapped one. Which was ironic, considering CBS executives must’ve looked at ‘Person of Interest’ episode four and thought, “well darn, we’ve just got to air a Shaw-centric episode with a rough female/female sex scene.”

I can’t argue for CBS’ facepalm-worthy statement. I think others have been far more eloquent in doing so—and I think Twitter, certainly, has gotten to the stage of mockery and disgust that it’s quite prevalent what the general audience think of such a statement. But there is a show that I’m immensely enjoying that wallops #toofemale in the ass and sends it to the pits of hell with a simple “lights out, bitch.”

If you're gonna kill Revenants, at least have a cool catchphrase, huh? (I bet she did not divulge this to Waverly, who would whip out a script...)

If you’re gonna kill Revenants, at least have a cool catchphrase, huh? (I bet she did not divulge this to Waverly, who would whip out a script…)

That show is ‘Wynonna Earp’. If you haven’t heard of it, you might not have opened Twitter for about five years thus not quite catching wind of Ms. Emily Andras’ female-led adaptation of Beau Smith Ranch’s graphic novels of the same name. The premise is simple and a garble of every horror, Western, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy and drama churned in a magical pot of unapologetic badassery. If it were a sausage machine it would puke out sausages that’d burn your tongue for the number of snort-inducing one-liners laced in the dialogue, and then soothe it with magical calamine at the refreshing development of characters and importantly, a web—not an exclusive network of pairings—of relationship arcs.

She's also a crazy chick with a gun. Or a hardcore raver. It's hard to tell these days.

She’s also a crazy chick with a gun. Or a hardcore raver. It’s hard to tell these days.

Melanie Scrofano is the unfathomably kickass lead with a truckload of snark, a haunted past, a dash of vulnerability, the ability to pull off a one-liner like nobody’s business and a top-shelf ass (hey—not my words). As the eponymous heroine, Wynonna is all of these things but most importantly, she loves. She isn’t just some closed-off, robotic, stoic piece of granite (with some great dimples—seriously). She loves with all her heart. She’s still somewhat haunted by her past, though often she makes light of being the ‘town pariah’. Her love for Gus, and most notably her love for her younger sister Waverly (the fantastic Dominique Provost-Chalkley) is hands-down the best relationship on the show. Without a single doubt. Their undying love and faith in each other is incomparable. Waverly might welcome her sister back to Purgatory with a rifle and a threat to slip into something comfy—”like a coma” (seriously, watch this show)—but it’s Wynonna who saves Waverly’s life when she’s kidnapped. It’s Waverly who helps the Black Badge division with her brains. It’s Wynonna who Waverly calls when she, er, scissors a stripper (that’s Chrissy’s fault). And it’s Wynonna who comes to her rescue and comforts her in the freezing cold as they lament over Waverly’s misery at never being able to play the piano again. Not that she played it in the first place.

These two have undoubtedly the best relationship on the show, and Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley are magical to watch.

These two have undoubtedly the best relationship on the show, and Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley are magical to watch.

Wynonna and Waverly’s relationship is wrought with humour, trust, heartrending loyalty, dedication, and most of all—they know each other inside-out. Wynonna and Waverly to me are like a brain meshed together; a right and left hemisphere, if you will, and the corpus callosum is their immense love for the other. This isn’t a show where love is centred around your typical ‘ship’; this show is centred around Wynonna’s hunt for the seven who killed Wyatt Earp, and the romance is centred around this beautiful smatter of television.

Solid bun in this picture. No but really: Waverly rocks the ever-living cripes out of Wynonna Earp.

Solid bun in this picture. No but really: Waverly rocks the ever-living cripes out of Wynonna Earp.

Waverly is someone I think I could gush about for days. Brilliant, intelligent, charming, winningly beautiful and a talented pom-pom swirler (and singer!), she’s the grin-inducing, bubbly younger sister of grumper chumper Wynonna. And yes, Wynonna’s snarkiness and her unwitting moments of humour are point-blank hilarious (and played to a tee by Scrofano) but Waverly has won my heart a little, admittedly, for the good-natured attitude she has towards life. It is somewhat jaded by the darkness that shrouds Purgatory, but her upbeat attitude and her acceptance of everyone (okay, even Chrissy, come on—but I do mean Doc, really) is refreshing. She kind of wants to be a crowd-pleaser, as Officer Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell—we’ll get onto that later) notes—but is truly coming into her own these past couple of episodes. Firstly: I would like to commend Waverly on dumping that boy-man Champ (though bless him…but good for you) and spouting this winner of a line:

How can someone so pretty be so smart? – Champ

Ugh, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive! – Waverly

Proudly earning her the status as the keeper of bones (and then immediately endangering her life—yes, this is good ol’ Wynonna Earp) by cleverly solving her uncle’s riddles, Waverly’s not only technically brilliant in the years of research she dug up about the Revenants in Wynonna’s absence, but she is utterly independent of her sister. The two share a bond I have raved about above, but without Wynonna, Waverly is not a helpless girl. Though episode seven opens with Wynonna a little concerned about Waverly being lonely, she responds with a grin and a hair-flick. In the very same episode she endures quite possibly the most torturous of things: an engagement party with one heck of an idiot bride-to-be, a big-ass male ‘stripper’ who turns out to be the stone witch’s lackey (and she stabs him with a scissor) and the aforementioned stone witch zombifying the dead in order to attack the Earp house.

Waverly’s response? She rants and rants about salt, she flabberblubbs her way through admitting she is a ‘freak’ in a proud manner, I interpreted it as. She admits: she’s a freak; Wynonna’s a freak; Doc’s a freak (to his insistence) and she doesn’t give a rat’s arse because she scissored a stripper and also because she’s going to save everyone’s lives. And she does, with a throw of a skull so worthy of the Olympics shotput event that if Ms. Provost-Chalkley does not enter herself, I might have to do it covertly for her.

Wynonna is undoubtedly the hero—if there are any heroes and villains, truly, of this piece (well, okay, Constance Clootie)—but Waverly, quietly getting on with her work, her riddles and rebuilding her life around the (somewhat mild) loss of Champ, still getting used to having her sister back on the radar, and perhaps coming to terms with an unexpected connection with a new police officer in town—Nicole Haught (it’s pronounced ‘hot’)—is without a doubt a hero herself. There can be very different definitions of heroes. Wynonna is the crazy chick with a gun who is reckless, fearless and will either snark you to death or literally Peacemaker you to death (with a solid catchphrase to boot) whereas Waverly’s the book-smart, intelligent, charming, unassuming one. In my book: they’re both heroes, and their relationship? About as heroically needed as they come. So often on my television screen it’s built for comedy when you get bickering siblings, or there just isn’t that closeness—convincing closeness, and credit must go to Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley for such incredible chemistry—than I’ve seen on Wynonna Earp. And I think a lot of credit has to go to the scriptwriters and to Ms. Emily Andras, the show-runner, too. Adaptation or not, it would be so easy to have the lead ‘love’ of the show be Wynonna and Doc, or Wynonna and Dolls, or even some kind of messy love triangle—but without a doubt, it’s Wynonna and Waverly. And without a  doubt, it’s the female characters who are getting all the attention, because in this literally ‘too female’ world, that’s the kind of representation perhaps young girls crave.

Role-models: as individual as we are, so they come in different shapes, sizes and mentalities.

Role-models: as individual as we are, so they come in different shapes, sizes and mentalities.

Why? Because why can’t young girls look up to Wynonna Earp and see themselves as a gun-toting, unafraid, brave and loyal machine-gun of a character? Why can’t young girls look up and see themselves as Waverly, who has been somewhat shunted aside by her friends for being a ‘freak’ but she constantly works her way through it. She doesn’t want to lose her brain; she wants to keep that innate intelligence and use it for good. She likes her affable charm and award-worthy smile; she likes that she’s got hair for days. She’s proud of it—and why can’t young girls look up to those two and think of certain elements they could aspire to? Why can’t they watch Wynonna Earp and watch the siblings make mistakes, and be allowed to by the show—and suffer the consequences for it? Why can’t they be allowed to know that the Earp siblings are fallible; that they are human? That they can relate?

Hold onto your Stetsons, 'cause it's about to get haught in here...(and if you're wearing a Stetson and you're not Nicole Haught, stop.)

Hold onto your Stetsons, ’cause it’s about to get haught in here…(and if you’re wearing a Stetson and you’re not Nicole Haught, stop.)

This doesn’t even bring me onto Nicole Haught yet, and the positive representation Officer Haught gives to the very same community. It’s not a general statistic—I don’t have any claims to back that up—but often on social media I see a lot of admiration for the cast for their portrayals of their characters, from young Twitter users. Scrofano and Provost-Chalkley are rightly praised, and so is Ms. Katherine Barrell, who proved in the latest episode that it wasn’t all charming smiles and that love-heart-eyes-emoji (there was plenty of that, though). Barrell’s Haught in episode seven was what individualises her from the rest of the Purgatory sheriff department—this includes the sheriff himself, who’s somewhat useless. Haught is sharp, wary, suspicious, questioning—and she’s probing in all the right areas.

Episode seven also offered up for some incredibly unexpected yet magnificent Haught/Wynonna interaction—and that’s exactly what I mean when I have to praise Ms. Andras for spinning this web of dynamics instead of settling for the same duos every week. Doc and Dolls have had scenes; Dolls and Haught; Wynonna and Doc; Wynonna and Dolls; Dolls, Wynonna and Waverly; Waverly and Doc; Waverly and Bobo—everyone’s connected in some way or another and it’s something brilliant to unravel, because it’s an excellent way of exploring a character’s psyche. How does Waverly act around X, Y and Z? You can literally see it unravel in front of you on-screen. Haught and Wynonna’s interactions particularly won me over because it was a marvellous mesh of Wynonna’s somewhat tipsy but reckless and quick conclusions, versus Haught’s more cautious approach to the situation. It made up for some hilarious conversations, bragging rights for Wynonna that she got a top-shelf ass, and pensive words from a thoughtful police officer. It also made up for some patience being blown out of the water, for suspicions to arise—in a paranoid, jumpy episode.

It’s remarkable, because I don’t think Barrell has had many scenes on the show yet (but has steadily built a loyal fanbase) but she certainly sets the screen alight with her [red-haught] performance (sorry!) every time she’s on screen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people tweet they’ve missed Haught this episode, or the literal Twitter party everyone seemed to simultaneously explode into when she did return. And I think that’s incredibly masterful.

There's already been an overwhelming amount of fanwork for this magnetic duo.

There’s already been an overwhelming amount of fanwork for this magnetic duo.

What I find even better is the way the show is handling the juggernaught of this new ship (massive cruise-liner) “WayHaught” (that’s Waverly and Haught). Admittedly, they haven’t had much interaction at all and the ship has certainly ‘not sailed’ in my opinion; however, their charming scene in episode two and further scenes have garnered huge numbers of views on YouTube and it’s not so much as an exploding supernova than it is a supermassive black-hole consuming our brains as we drift into the inevitable event horizon of WayHaught.

They’re charming on-screen together. The chemistry between Barrell and Provost-Chalkley is absolutely undeniable; it crackles in the freezing cold of the show. But what I find most admirable is the way the actors and the show-runner herself has handled the attention ‘WayHaught’ has gained. For Ms. Andras, I cannot recall her making any false promises or misleading fans in terms of the ship—and you must remember that via Twitter, it does seem to be a very young thus vulnerable demo. After the recent disasters of female/female ships (I’m taking Root and Shaw out of this because—stop it) or just female characters in general, the fact that WayHaught has spawned such an intense following is incredible. The amount of love shown to the fans—and to each other—by the actors is awe-inspiring. The intimate interaction is important—because in this ever-evolving world of social media, where—on Twitter, especially—such validation can come with an instant 140 characters, it’s just heart-warming to see young fans revel and ‘squee’ over their favourite actors on their favourite shows like their tweet or retweet them.

TV is not just a matter of sitting down every week and watching a bolster of a show and switching off again. It’s gone past that point. I mean, my mum used to do that with Xena (I’m pretty sure she had no idea what it was). TV is at a point where you can trend important things for people to see; TV is subject to live-tweeting and immediate responses to the show; TV isn’t in a vacuum anymore (drink everytime you see that phrase and you’ll be on the floor) because social media has grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and given it a good shake. TV is utterly intertwined with social media, because here is a chance for instant validation and reaction of something that’s happened—and it’s already proven (certainly for ‘The 100’) that social media isn’t a joke. Social media can tweet up a storm, and I think that’s an incredibly good thing. Voices otherwise not are being heard. Interactions impossible are suddenly not.

As for ‘WayHaught’—I can say with the positive feedback it’s gotten from the community, from the actresses, from the show-runner—I think it’s a fun addition to an already fun romp (I need to find a new word) of a show. At risk of being hit, I will not say “well, WyNaught?” But I just think, after witnessing the utter despair and loss of hope ‘The 100’ delivered in its usual sub-par manner with Commander Lexa’s almost laughably tropey death, it’s nice to see fans having something to rejoice over again. Yes, fans will be cautious of falling victim to the ‘BYG trope’ again—but for the most part, I can see joy and people just enjoying the thrill of a ride that is Wynonna Earp, and for this, the ship WayHaught. It’s got probably the most brilliant ship name ever, it’s got chemistry that’s like a giant chunk of francium in water and it’s so much bloody fun. It’s on a show that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s on a show where the show-runner is about as unapologetically badass as Wynonna (check her twitter header) and it’s on a show where you don’t get a lady-on-lady conversation squabbling about boys—it’s utterly, utterly too female and that is probably the absolute best thing about it.

The supremely talented cast of Wynonna Earp.

The supremely talented cast of Wynonna Earp.

This isn’t without saying that Shamier Anderson (Dolls) and Tim Rozon (Doc) give great performances and have sublime chemistry with the rest of the cast too. Miraculously, I don’t find their characters boring hetero males (I mean, Dolls—is he like, a lizard?!) and that’s just why I admire the fleshing out of these characters so much. Everyone, in my opinion, is interesting. Constance Clootie may be off her rocker but she’s incredibly magnetic and watchable; The Blacksmith, though short-lived, was mysterious, strong and admirable.

Time to cuddle up for your--your tenth rewatch?! ...Yeah, same...

Time to cuddle up for your–your tenth rewatch?! …Yeah, same…

I don’t know, CBS. Often I think people start shows because they’re too female. And on Wynonna Earp—I won’t pretend it’s the masterpieces of all masterpieces—but it is an genuinely enjoyable, stomach-churning nutcracker—and in a TV-world laden with dark and gritty pieces (most of which work; some tragically fail) isn’t it just feel-good to have a show you can watch (and then rewatch) without realising your face hurts because you’ve been sniggering or grinning broadly at the screen for the entire, too female hour?

NB: I review Wynonna Earp, as ever, on the wonderful TV After Dark. With a lot less snark and ramblings. I can be a pro 0.00001% of the time.


6,741: To Honour a Fighter

(Firstly, I apologise this is just a giant block of text. Secondly, SPOILERS AHEAD for those who have not seen the episode! I pondered how to describe this and this is more a ramble about torture, about narrative, and about how an episode run on a big ol’ simulation gave some real, deep insight.)

6,741. That’s how many simulations Samaritan ran on Sameen Shaw, and that is how many times, likely, it ended with her killing herself rather than giving up the subway location. 6,741 simulations with agonising distortions in reality and horrific scenarios and Sameen Shaw does not betray her friends. 6,741 times Greer gets a headshot (bahaha) so—you go, girl.

To talk briefly of the surgery, I know I’d discussed (or spec’d…quite terribly wrongly, but then I had also predicted that…) the possible theories surrounding Samaritan’s wants for her. Though the notion of Samaritan weaponising her was quite frank in the episode—as mentioned in the previous article about Shaw, though via different ways. If they had complete and utter brain control over Shaw, then she would be an incredible asset to have: her skill-set is incomparable to most, and she is ruthless with her methods (oh Jeremy Lambert…). What endangers her utility to Samaritan is perhaps the chip being implanted so close to the brain stem (as highlighted in the episode) and too much meddling with it—neurobiologists must have to help me out here, for I don’t know a whole lot about that, but too much brain stem manipulation can cause problems in motor control, can’t they? I’m talking basics like moving about, getting out of a chair, walking…Lambert mentions off-handedly that they don’t want to turn her into a vegetable, and back in the days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, perhaps that would be handled with less care. But if Samaritan are truly intending on weaponising her as their own asset, then should they not take some care in meddling with Shaw’s brain stem like that? Or as Greer says—are these vigorous simulations going to just keep amping up in order for Shaw’s self-will to succumb to the psychological torture and give up the subway location instead of killing herself via gunshot?

Because that’s what she does: 6,741 times. In 6,741 simulations (of varying degree, I’d assume) Shaw must die or kill herself rather than give up subway location out of sheer loyalty to her team. She cannot bear herself to kill Root, either. When Reese questions her, she—shakily—shoots him fatally, but when it comes to Root, she cannot pull the trigger. It’s an excellent way of the narrative of Shaw’s story without making her (real) come-back all about the Root/Shaw relationship. I would believe in any situation that Root and Shaw would be as intimate and complex as they were in ‘6,741’, but instead of having Shaw come back and having to spend episodes reciprocating how she feels for Root—as Root had that time at the end of series 4, this literally delves into the brain of Sameen Shaw and tells you smack-bang in the face: Shaw’s feelings for Root run deep. I am far more impartial to the idea of Shaw simply being a team player and refusing to give up the subway—and killing herself instead, for that’s where Root was going to take her—than succumb to Samaritan’s needs. But through that episode you could see the depth of just how much Root means to Shaw. You can hear it in their pillow-talk about Shaw’s ISA training, which is tearfully nodded back to at the end when Shaw confesses that it was bull. Because Root was her safe-place; when they tortured her, it was Root she kept her mind on. And when Greer says Shaw had broken months ago, one must ponder—did they break her because they very much knew Root would be her ‘safe-place’? Or perhaps it is just simple humanity…the extent of the psychological torture inflicted on Shaw would be unimaginable, and for Samaritan, nothing is off-limits.

Moving away from the neurobiological mess that is brain stems (can’t say I know too much about them—aha, I am no neuroscience grad) to the psychological torture Shaw mentioned…I can’t imagine Samaritan being too gentle with it all. There’s the very cruel and torturous ‘dead or alive’ game Lambert plays with her in the episode, but nine months of hell can mean anything. Sure, Shaw is ISA-trained for both psychological and physical torture—but that doesn’t mean she’s super-human, and that doesn’t mean she’s immune to some seriously fucked up things.

If you just look at the CIA blacksites’ history of torture methods—or ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’—you will find awful stuff Majid Khan’s case, in which his lunch was pureed and ‘rectally infused’. Forced nudity, suspension from the ceiling by their arms, electric shocks—many of which you might see in the film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (with Jessica Chastain, centred around the Osama Bin Laden killing).

There’s more famous stuff like water-boarding, or indeed simple use of cold water itself. If you Google Gul Rahman you will find a well-known case of a man who died after the CIA doused him in ice-cold water, stripped him from the waist down, subjected him to beatings and sleep deprivation and just left him in a cold cell.

Stress positions or confinement in boxes in order to make the detainee feel uncomfortable have also been widely used—and probably still are. They cause extreme physical and mental distress, as well as muscle fatigue and exhaustion; the same goes for sleep deprivation. That’s something routinely employed in such ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and something that is horrific to hear of. If I don’t catch at least four hours of sleep I’m a bit of a zombie the next day. The CIA subjected a detainee to about a week’s worth of no sleep—notoriously playing banging loud music to keep their detainee awake—which totals up to about 180 hours.

Can you die of sleep deprivation? That’s something widely debated and obviously not scientifically tested and replicated in humans, for the sake of simple ethics. There’s someone who claims to have been awake for two weeks; there’s someone else who was reported to die after eleven days without it. The most extreme case I can think of is someone you may have heard of: Michael Corke. There were several documentaries about him, and what was notable was first his condition—FFI (Fatal Familial Insomnia) and secondly, that he died…after six months of sleep deprivation.

I think I’d assume that Samaritan would not use such a method on Shaw just to kill her—they’d do it in some other sick way, after getting to The Machine first, presumably. But sleep deprivation remains a very likely method of torture (along with the above, really) for all the after-effects it causes. Yet Shaw coming from an ISA background will have been trained and knowledgeable of all of this—so that’s why getting deep into Shaw’s brain stem, is worrying. I can’t imagine Person of Interest going down the One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest route and lobotomising Shaw into a vegetable—that would make no narrative sense and render her useless to both sides. But in meddling with her brain stem, and perhaps causing mild brain stem injury—rather than the upper two classes—could fuck her up a lot. There’d be attention issues, neuromotor issues, working memory problems, executive function problems—as well as horrible dizziness, nausea, vomiting—and the after-effects of such injury are awful, too. This is someone’s brain stem we are talking about messing around here: not only could there be a high level of anxiety and depression in the subject, but hypersensitivity to stimuli previously not registered, fatigue, heightened fears or phobias.

As for Shaw’s personality disorder, I don’t think Samaritan are particularly interested in that. That’s a stupidly bold claim to make when we’re only on episode four, but it was not once mentioned and I don’t see why it should be. If her PD got in the way of the psychological torture Samaritan are pumping her with, I can see why that’d be an issue. But if Greer’s intent is to locate The Machine and convert Shaw as a valuable asset, that’s where her PD actually comes in, in a sick way, very handy. She’s clinical, removed, aloof, detached; she gets the job done, dusts her trousers off and walks into her next mission. She’s ruthless yet effective. She shoots with pinpoint accuracy and is a match for about at least five big-ass, secret service dudes. In terms of her PD, Person of Interest would have to delve deep into the aetiology of that and they simply do not have the time in thirteen episodes; furthermore, such neurological disorders like her Axis II Personality Disorder (along with panic disorder, depression, bipolar—the whole DSM-V manual, basically) do not have a singular cause. The scientific community cannot come to a conclusion about it; there is no singular causative gene, no marked causative neuronal circuitry damage (apart from Schizophrenia, but even then that was recently changed from dopamine loss in the mesolimbic pathway to the associative striatum which lies in the nigrostriatal pathway).

Basically, the brain is hugely fucking complicated, and it is going to be a wonder to crack Samaritan’s intentions with this one—and to see how Shaw will overcome this. I definitely admired the way the episode tackled Shaw’s state of mind by literally going into it, thus—as mentioned above—saving a lot of time in the narrative for when she really comes back about her intentions and loyalties, and of course, her feelings for Root. The number 6,741 is huge. That’s the number of times Shaw would rather kill herself than give up the subway and her friends; give up Root. That is the extent of her feelings. In a mind-bending, jarring episode of literally bonkers, but amazing bonkers, Person of Interest got it fucking right again.

TLDR (this bit will also be waffle so I might have to do TLDR#2): THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE AN EPISODE OF AN HOUR’S TORTURE WITHOUT IT BEING IMMENSE TORTURE-PORN. If you looked into the nuances of Shaw, Root, Finch, Harold—everyone in the Samaritan-induced simulation—you would completely understand the episode. And that is how you validate, fully, Sameen Shaw’s feelings about the team, and especially about Root—without making it about them at all. This was Sameen Shaw’s episode. This was about delving into her psyche. Did her personality disorder help her hope with these nine months? I don’t know—the neurobiology of her PD is far too messy for me (a pharmacy to-be-grad) to understand, but the aetiology of such mental disorders is too messy for the entire scientific community to come to a conclusion to, anyway. But if her PD did anything—at all—I would think (and this is only somewhat of a wayward educated guess—I will not pretend to know anything about her Axis II PD) it would’ve helped Shaw cope with the torture rather than make her more subject to breaking under the torture.

Fuck. TLDR#2: Thank you, Person of Interest, for creating a wildly, jabbering episode that honoured Shaw’s time spent under Samaritan captivity in the best way possible. Even in delving into her relationships with the rest of the team (Bear! Someone gif it!) you delved literally into her brain first. And upon seeing that simulation, I really cannot think of an argument against how bloody hard Shaw is fighting back—and how after 6,741 of them, she still hasn’t given her team up yet.

(It finished, as well, and I was literally silently yelling at my screen. I don’t think an episode has flown by faster than that one did. Oh my God.)

War, Morals, Ethics and Ramifications.


This is honestly provoked by me getting explosively agitated on a stuffy Manchester bus ride back (will you believe people have sunburned in Manchester already over the weekend? As in—pink lobster levels?) and the exclusion criteria to this post…oh, for goodness’ sake, you know who you are.

NB: I suffered through whole episodes of ‘The 100’ to understand Luna’s character, motivations, background and moral/ethical stance to make this goddamn post—and I think that either requires a.) a liver pump; b.) hospitalisation or c.) someone needs to set up a fundraiser for me because I think it’s going to cause prolonged mortal damage to my brain. “Stop being so dramatic, Nico” you may whine; then good madam or sir, I will counteract you with “I sat through them in succession and then ran out of beer and munchies.”

Firstly, I want to note that whoever the actress for Luna is—I commend you and this is purely character-based, not at the actress. Secondly, okay—I started off a little light-naturedly but if you aren’t interested in the history of warfare, morality or ethics, that is completely understandable and this may not be the essay-of-sorts for you.

As I stated quite blindly in my previous post, pacifism does not equal commandership, thus rending Luna very unsuitable for the seat (I am still ignoring Ontari, and that ‘plot’). Upon watching (I ran out of Bud at about twenty minutes of the first episode, so please bear my frustrations) the episodes, I cannot stand by that stance firmer. From an utterly impartial standpoint, and I think I can claim this because I wish to approach this as an ethics write-up, or an analysis of two very polar opposites. I don’t want to mix in character favouritism into what should be quite a fact-based essay. I physically cannot bear the thought of rewinding those videos and making gifs, so this will be a giant wall of text—an essay of sorts.


Here are the facts I have about Luna:

  • She is a recluse. She lives on an oil rig, far away from the roaring troubles of the earth and Polis.
  • She is the last Nightblood apart from Ontari, which makes her suitable for this…chip.
  • Did Lincoln just go “see ya later, Luna!” and leave this goddamn massive oil-rig to become Trikru or what? How on earth did he—did he swim?
  • She is labelled (self-labelled? Okay, I couldn’t remember at this point) a pacifist—which is true. She states at some point that she did not want any more killing.
  • She is good with children and teaching; there was a brief scene of her interacting with the kids and teaching them about the fishing nets. She seems patient and willing to impart her knowledge to those.
  • She is selective in those she chooses to protect. Everyone on her oil-rig seems to be silently approved by her; thus she is well-loved and seemingly popular. Yet to strangers, she is initially (and sustains it, I think…I can’t remember…) hostile—she is not kind to Clarke, Octavia and whoever else went.
  • She’s paranoid. This is evident in the way they have to light a signal just to get Luna’s attention. The fact that she then sends these huge bulky Grounders to greet Clarke & co, and then sedates them to the point of unconsciousness so nobody knows how they got to that oil-rig (I don’t know if this is a mystery; if they got there by drones or if the writers just don’t know…) except for her trusted warriors.

As I’ve said before, I’ve already explained why I don’t think pacifism is fit for leadership. I think anybody with common sense, looking upon the messy world of ‘The 100’, would already have known that regardless. Pacifism does not, by definition, mean that you are calling for peace. Pacifism means that you already stand by ideals in which you do not wish to engage in violence. One thing that will befuddle me even more (though I really need to stop getting irritated by this show—I’ll be on anti-hypertensives soon…I’m 22) is the fact that Luna didn’t adopt this very strong ethical standpoint when she had to kill her brother during the Conclave. I think there’s a line, actually, that says she was ‘forced’ to kill her brother. What is this? Did somebody put a gun to her head and say “if you don’t spear your brother through the chest* we will kill both of you”?

*Of course, there was no magical seaweed available at the time to cure such spear-to-the-chest injuries.

Another thing: if this Grounder tradition is literally killing off all Nightbloods apart from one (in which Clarke, I believe, in the narrative, has already ridiculed) then why did she kill her own brother? I don’t presume that someone goes from warrior to utter pacifist with one kill, despite it being Luna’s brother. If she knew Lexa was facing her in the second round in advance, did she not know her brother would face her? Could they not have run away together? Could there not have been a spark in Luna’s brain that went: “hey, let’s run away together and become pacif—nope, I’ll just kill you first and then I’m going to declare pacifism”.

The three pillars of being ‘heda’: wisdom, compassion and strength. I think Luna may be missing the first.

Well, Lexa and Ontari are subjecting these innocent Nightbloods to Battle Royale, and if you installed Luna as the commander, this would never have happened. I would first like to point out that Luna engaged in this ritual. The Nightblood Hunger Games (which is such a stupid biological principle) is not a tradition designed by Lexa nor Ontari. It is a tradition that they have grown up with. As cultures and traditions evolve, so do rituals—and this is one of them. It may seem savage to us, as we mostly sit behind our computer screens in relative peace, free of such horrors—but that’s how they survived. The belief that the strongest or indeed the most proficient in battle is not something that is historically invalid. If you look at the Romans and their gladiators, I would argue that that’s barbarianism—but I cannot invalidate their absolute genius in the towns they built, the lands they conquered, the technologies they invented that were hundreds of years beyond their own. I will rant at you about under-floor Roman heating for an entire fifty pages, but I think you’ll all ditch me. In my opinion, and here is where subjectivity comes into play I guess, the Roman Empire was quite possibly the greatest there has ever been, in existence. It was wondrous. It gave us inventions and philosophers and stories and physicians and it was bloody and vicious and absolutely fascinating.

There is a point to my seemingly off-topic rambling. In every culture that is built from rubble, there will always be something that is seen as ‘savage’ or ‘barbarian’ by the onlooker. It’s all about perspective. If I looked at the Grounder traditions of the Nightblood ritual, I would think it savage and stupid; if I looked at their reincarnation beliefs, I simply do not agree; if I looked at their trial by a thousand cuts or whatever, I would also think it’s very brutal. But that’s me, sitting at a cushy chair, at university, as a twenty-two year old who’s never faced the apocalypse. I have never had to adapt to a society that has already fallen around me. So who am I to judge the years of spiritualism and beliefs the Grounders have built for themselves? Most specifically: the Nightblood ritual. Yes, it’s genetically idiotic. But most importantly, Lexa nor Ontari created this ritual. It was an established tradition—and one that Luna took part in. If Luna assumed commandership, pacifism does not dictate whether she would rid of this ritual or not—because it’s Grounder tradition. Just look at the uproar Lexa incited with ‘blood must not have blood’. If Luna eradicated this ritual, they’d have to find a new Nightblood ruddy quick.

If Luna had been the commander, there would’ve been no Grounders sent to attack the dropship, no Grounders at war at Mount Weather, etc. I’m going to go by the show’s timeline(?) here and assume that Luna would’ve been installed instead of Lexa. I think I’ve already argued this point in my previous post. Lexa assumed commandership in the midst of a civil war. I imagine that would be a pacifist’s worst nightmare. Civil wars rip through societies like a hurricane tears through towns and cities; it’s tragic, destructive and it does not spare the innocent. At this point I wish to state that I don’t believe Lexa is a pacifist; I do believe she’s a peacemaker and I believe she strives for peace, but that doesn’t make her a pacifist. For Luna’s case, I ask: how, in abiding to strict pacifist principles as people seem so fond of doing—do you solve a problem like Maria a civil war? Think of the size of the twelve clans here. Think of the Ice Nation. Think of Costia’s decapitated head. Of Nia. I don’t think some pacifist summits at The 100’s version of the G8 with some kumbaya over the fire and grilled fish will solve a civil war.

Wars (especially not this brutal-sounding civil war) are not won by actively preaching pacifist ideals. You can state you are a pacifist with such ideals—but if you engage in war you are, by all means and facts, not engaging in pacifist ideals. If you blow up a village to save fifty billion lives elsewhere, that’s cool for you, but you still killed people—and thus you are not a pacifist. To be frank—I don’t think I can be any more frank—you cannot win wars without engaging in them. You cannot achieve peace—and I have already said this—without, paradoxically, war. Negotiations can be made, yes, and I do believe that in the process of uniting twelve clans under a coalition, Lexa made such negotiations—rather than seizing every chunk of territory by besieging them. But I believe there’s a tweet from Jason Rothenberg somewhere in the depths of his enthralling social media that states that the civil wars were bloody. And on this point, I would have to agree.

Being a pacifist and having such ideals does not make you a good person. It simply means you do not wish to kill anyone. With Luna’s clear lack of foresight (or the show’s just dumb—I actually think it may be the latter) she is not fight for commandership. I have no comment re: wisdom. She has shown strength. She has shown compassion…selectively, to the people she trusts and loves. And that’s another problem: if you’re going to set out for peace, you are surely looking to do what Lexa did: propose a coalition. How do you propose a coalition if you are not open-minded enough to trust? To take those risks, like Lexa took with the Skaikru? Some paid off—Clarke was a brilliant ally to have; some didn’t—Pike is an absolute monster. But seeing the skitterishness and sheer apprehension and immediate distrust Luna placed Clarke & co under, I’m not entirely convinced that she is charismatic enough to hold negotiations and wind up with a coalition. I’m not at all convinced that she has the foresight to see that the coalition does not just mean twelve-clan-wide peace; it also means extended growth of the society, open trade routes and pooled resources among many others. A ‘pacifist’ is a very easy word to throw around, and a very easy word to believe in that makes you think “darn, that pacifist is a good person!” but it’s not. It’s a moral and ethical standpoint. And in The 100 world, pacifism will eat you up alive.



Dude, this girl took the chip. She’s hideously insecure and she massacred a bunch of sleeping, child Nightbloods. Next.



Here are the facts we know about Lexa:

  • She was trained to be a warrior since she was two years old
  • Shortly after establishing herself as the commander, she forged a coalition across all twelve clans—even after the Ice Queen cut off her love’s head
  • She’s not a pacifist—she’s a skilled warrior, unafraid to fight on the front lines.
  • Though Clarke had killed 300 of her Grounders, Lexa was willing to listen to her negotiations
  • She was due to face Luna in the second round of the Conclave, in which Luna clearly thought she would’ve won, as she stated something like “I would’ve won” (okay, can you tell I don’t pay much attention?)
  • Tropetropetropetropetropetropetropetropetrope
  • She is well-loved by her people; it’s evident in the reception she gets from the single combat scene in episode four.
  • She’s a good teacher: she regularly teaches her Nightbloods, and reminds them they are all ‘worthy’ of their Nightblood status. She reinforces the three pillars of being ‘heda’: wisdom, compassion and strength. She regularly trains in combat with them in preparation for the ritual.
  • She’s highly spiritual, and believes in the whole reincarnation stuff.
  • She’s dead (hence this whole BS ‘plot’ I suppose).

Going by what I’ve seen on the show, I will put it here now: Lexa was simply the better candidate for ‘heda’. She was not a pacifist like Luna, but that’s because she was intelligent enough to know that if you’re going to sit by pacifist ideals from the beginning of your reign, you will die at the beginning of your reign. Lexa was a fighter: she accepted responsibility and burden, instead of running away from it like Luna did. This responsibility was her people. Her people did not stretch out to just her army: they stretched out to every civilian under the twelve-clan coalition—which she forged, at a very personal cost.

Altruism, simplistically, is the standpoint where you put the needs of others—or perhaps the betterment of others—ahead of your own. Utilitarianism is often associated with the ‘end justifies the means’—as in, if you sacrifice [X] now, it will pay off later because you will have reached your ‘means’. This was most notably demonstrated in the Tondc missile episode, in which Lexa had moments to decide between sacrificing 250 people in the village or keeping Bellamy alive. In saving the 250 people, it would’ve been the morally right thing to do: life-saving’s always a good check in my book. But it would’ve alerted the missile-spotter from Mount Weather, and Mount Weather would realise that Lexa knew about the missile about to hit Tondc (why else would you randomly evacuate a village to a distance as far as possible, when you were about to hold a summit there?) and report this back to Mount Weather. Mount Weather would’ve increased and squeezed the search for Bellamy until someone ratted him out or discovered him, thus devaluing his job as the inside-man. The acid fog would never have been turned off at the Grounders would have been back at step one: unable to breach the border of the acid fog’s reach.

This is the scenario Clarke fought so ferociously for in that episode. Still a little fresh-faced in terms of war, and perhaps a nice set-up for a bit of an egalitarian, somewhat deontological clash (that is—every step towards the means must be moral and just) versus Lexa’s values. Yet Lexa had the foresight to know what this meant, and know of the consequences. In the end, she was right. Bellamy remained hidden and alive because of her decision, and he in turn later deactivates the acid fog.

But the betrayal was so cruel and [yadayada]. I absolutely, 100% agree with you. The betrayal Lexa carried out in episode fifteen was cold and sudden—like a stray bullet from nowhere (sorry). So yes, I agree—on the surface.

If we did a little digging and thought of why Lexa betrayed Clarke, that’s where things get a little messier. Clarke’s Skaikru were not officially initiated into the coalition until season three; up until the end of season two, the coalition consisted of twelve clans, and the Skaikru were saved from impending doom and wipeout due to Clarke’s negotiations with Lexa and Finn willingly giving himself up to the Grounders to face punishment for the massacre he carried out. I’ll refer back to what I said earlier: Lexa is somewhat, if not mostly, an altruist—she repeatedly sacrifices her own chance at happiness for the sake of her people’s, and that is a duty she carries not with some teen angst, but with honour. If you took fan favouritism out of the picture and anonymised everything…if you were a commander of an thousands-strong army, would you sacrifice their lives, upon seeing Mount Weather’s range of guns and knowing they have missiles pointed at your villages, possibly causing the loss of hundreds of more lives—for the sake of 40-something Skaikru stuck inside the Mountain, but mostly, the woman you fell in love with?

A weaker being would say yes. A weaker being would fight with Clarke and stand her ground, watching as her grounder army would undoubtedly storm the Mountain—but at what cost? The Mountain Men had a lot of guns (some weapons expert is going to have to explain this part) and the grounders would’ve suffered huge losses. From Lexa’s perspective, that is already too much. In season three, after the 300-grounder genocide (don’t…even…) a quote sticks in mind, and it comes from one of the young Nightbloods—that the commander feels every death of her people. It’s evident from the look on Lexa’s face in 3×05 (I wonder if the murderers can feel the death of all 300…) Just from hypothetically standing her ground and fighting the Mountain Men, Lexa would’ve been hit with huge losses. Moving farther from that, each grounder would’ve had circles of close friends, families, lovers—how would it affect them? What about the missiles pointed at the village? What about the hundreds of lives lost there, if Lexa stood by Clarke?

As really shown to us in the Tondc episode, Lexa is somewhat of a utilitarian. And so she would’ve thought of these scenarios. She would’ve thought of the skewed numbers; the families and friends; the villages; the fact that once the grounders realised they’d suffered such substantial losses for a bunch of Sky people who weren’t even part of the coalition, they’d rebel. It’s uproarious to think Lexa would even have to consider that choice, of standing by Clarke—because in a war scenario, it doesn’t make sense. Even in season three, Nia managed to stage an entire coup against Lexa because of ‘wanheda’. In season three, the clans are uncertain and mistrusting of introducing Skaikru as the thirteenth clan.

To go back to Grounder tradition, that’s just how things are! Strength is a commodity—it’s proven in the belief that if you kill the wanheda, you assume her power (okay, why haven’t there been ten billion assassination attempts on Lexa’s life already? Aside from Titus’). To stand by her ~true love’s side~ at the Mountain would’ve been weakness. And Lincoln had already told Kane that a commander could be deposed if seen exhibiting such.

Lexa’s such a tyrant—she literally took all the clans and [dalskdjksf]. Firstly, I would most wholeheartedly disagree with you and advise you look up what a tyrant actually means. A tyrant would be Pike. A tyrant would be Ontari (a shit one, but a tyrant); a tyrant would be Nia. Lexa, who herself installed the ‘vote of no confidence’ as established in 3×04, installed democracy herself. I don’t know about you but that does not sound like tyranny to me. Lexa’s advised by Titus; she liaised with clan leaders to form the coalition; she literally fell in love with the girl who dropped out the sky, set 300 of her grounders on fire, had a part in the other 250 killed, and still invited her to join the coalition formally.

Lexa kept Clarke a prisoner at Polis. Now I don’t wish to expand on this too much because it takes away the impartiality of this piece (I suppose there was never any in the first place, seeing as this show is a dump) but first of all, Clarke’s plushy room in Polis is way bigger than any bedroom I’d ever hope to sleep in. It’s bigger than hers at Arkadia. I also don’t see any chains or cages or restrictions in sight. I also saw an episode called ‘Thirteen’ in which Lexa literally—literally, verbally—acknowledged that Clarke had rebuffed her offer of staying in Polis to go back to her people, and accepted (literally!!!!!!!!!!!) this. Disappointed, she still understood, and she was willing to let Clarke go. Jeez, Guantanamo Bay’s changed a lot….

Lexa’s not a pacifist—so [is it that she’s not a better person? I haven’t even…] As stated above, being a pacifist does not make you a good person. What even does? It’s a very subjective topic and one for another discussion another time (like, holy cripes, I have ranted). I won’t reinforce the points I’ve already made: that pacifism wouldn’t have created the coalition/won the civil war; that pacifism is not possible in the position of leadership. One thing I didn’t touch on was the ability of Lexa’s to make peace. It was clear from the creation of the coalition that her end-goal was to strive for a future that was peaceful. Her speech in episode [whatever one Emerson was in] was this:

Silence! The crimes of the Mountain cannot be answered by one man. Wanheda knows this. Her actions show us a promise for a new future. A world in which violence does not always answer violence. A world in which our children can flourish. Without the shadow of death. This prisoner is banished from my land. He will live but he will live with the ghosts of those he has lost. Haunted until the end of his days by the knowledge that he is the last of his kind.

I’m kind of dumbfounded reading that speech myself because if people cannot grasp that Lexa was obviously aiming to revolutionise Grounder society as we knew it, in a positive and difficult way in order to achieve some sort of peace—then I really cannot reason with that.

Luna is the true ‘blood must not have blood’; she’s a pacifist—oh for goodness’ sake.

This isn’t as much an opinion piece as it is a piece explaining why certain ethical principles do not fit the ideal jigsaw of The 100 world, and why pacifism as a word cannot be thrown around to be meant as ‘good’. If I erased all names, would you rather—I’m literally shunting Ontari out of this—someone who ran away from grounder tradition to live on an oil rig, who selectively chooses who to favour, who is paranoid and who refuses to accept the responsibility and burden that is becoming the commander…or would you rather someone who was intelligent enough to make egalitarian decisions in the midst of a war (I’d like to make a point that simply being a pacifist doesn’t just end the war that surrounds you, jeez, what kind of City of Light world are you in?) for the altruistic belief in the betterment of her people?

“Maybe there are no good guys”—isn’t that a phrase ‘The 100’ likes to use a lot? So why is Lorde Luna the purest of the pure because she’s a pacifist? Because she holds one ethical stance? Is that honestly what makes a good person? A good commander? (Well, it still ranks her above Ontari, but I’m going to get profane here if we discuss Ontari).

I can’t even find an emoji that describes the look on my face right now.

Pacifism Does Not Equal Commandership…Sorry, ‘Luna’.

Disclaimer: I can’t say I know much about The 100, considering I haven’t watched it: all I know are facts that a.) Luna can fight/take down people quite impressively; b.) she is a pacifist; c.) she ran away from the Conclave after killing her brother in the first round and was due to face Lexa in the next; d.) there seems to be some belief that because Luna is all pacifism this and that, that she would’ve been a better Commander; e.) that Luna would’ve bettered Lexa in the second round of the Conclave anyway.

I can’t say much for the Conclave stuff, because I don’t know how Luna and Lexa’s respective battle training was at that point. Perhaps, at that point, Luna was indeed the more impressive combatant than Lexa. Looking at Lexa’s single combat scene with Prince (now King) Roan (Zach McGowan) in episode four, I find that incredibly hard to believe. Such skill and precision takes absolute years to master. Perhaps Lexa had not blossomed into the skilful, intelligent fighter that she proved herself to be in that combat scene—so perhaps Luna could’ve taken her—but this is an absolutely unfounded claim, and quite a cocky one I find—though cockiness is not a trait I have seen associated with Luna.

What I find more ponderous is the idea that a pacifist would make a good Commander, or a better Commander than Lexa. In fact, if I were to shove aside all politeness, I find it quite frankly laughable.

From what I understand, Luna ran away from the Conclave. Oh, she might have her reasons and she might claim she would’ve bettered Lexa or whatever, but she ran away into obscurity vowing to never kill again (after, y’know, killing her brother—this show does not make sense to me). Just that act alone renders her one-hundred percent unsuitable for the role of the Commander. As one of the Nightbloods says in their sessions with Lexa, to be the Commander is to bear the pain of their people. Luna, in running away from the Conclave and thus the responsibility of commandership puts her in prime position of number one in unsuitability for the position. If you cannot take pride in altruistically putting your happiness, your life ahead of your people’s—then you’re simply not heda. Lexa, on the other hand, did shoulder that burden. It was a heavy burden that I’m sure her heart screamed for her to go against—but she was selfless enough to take it. Luna wasn’t. And on this occasion, I have to agree with Titus: she was a coward.

I don’t know exactly how fans think commandership works, but being a pacifist when the twelve clans are at war isn’t exactly the best thing to be. Peace cannot be achieved by sitting around in a circle singing kumbaya whilst your husband fishes some sea bass for you on an oil rig. Peace, paradoxically, is achieved by war. It’s achieved by killing and ransacking and bloodshed; it’s achieved by forcing the enemy into submission, either by blood or by force.

Somehow, Lexa wrangled a coalition out of that. It is not her pacifism that makes her a great commander. Indeed, in the dark (nonsensical) world of The 100, I really don’t think you can be a pacifist as well as being the commander. But you can certainly utilise your position, as clans fear and respect you—to look ahead for brighter futures, greener pastures. Lexa was a peace-seeking revolutionary; she tried, especially in episodes five and six, to change the Grounder beliefs of ‘blood must have blood’ to ‘blood must not have blood’. She made impassioned, political speeches to the Grounders surveying her that this would be the only way their children could flourish, the only way their world and their society could flourish too.

And she’s right. It was a damn bloody road to get to a coalition, but install the right person in power (I’m ignoring you, Ontari) they can use their position to try and persuade others into their way of thinking. In Lexa’s case, it was a peace-seeking, unification way of thinking—and one many rebelled against. That’s predictable, not savagery: these Grounders have known war and hostility their entire lives. To have a young commander step up and declare such principles is a swift and dramatic change—and change is scary. To say Lexa isn’t a pacifist would be accurate. To say that she is a peacemaker would also be accurate. To say that Lexa perhaps sought pacifism as her endgoal as the commander? I would like to think that’s what she was trying to achieve with the coalition.

I guess what I am trying to say is that any argument of Lexa being any less capable of a commander than Luna is actually, I’m sorry, laughable. Luna ran away as soon as the weight of responsibility became too much; she isolated herself far, far away. She might be a pacifist but pacifism does not win you wars. It just means you don’t like killing. And unfortunately, in the midst of a bloodied twelve-clan war, the commander they needed was not a pacifist. They needed a revolutionary.

Person of Interest’s AIs: Can Humanity Seep In?

NB: This was written far before B.S.O.D.’s release, and any spoilers had hit the Internet at all–these are just random musings of my (now BSOD’d) mind. A thinkpiece, if you will (and a probably highly illogical/inaccurate one by now, at least if not within the next few episodes!). If you’d like in-depth reviews on Person of Interest, Ms. Faith Bektas at TV After Dark is reviewing and livetweeting the show! She’s written some great Orphan Black ones, if you’re a fan. For me, I’m not covering POI but I’m simply an avid fan! Alas I do like to ponder these kind of topics and I’m beyond excited to see Root and Finch’s moral ideals clash on the show and what compromises they have to make–in order to simply survive–and if Shaw’s banger of a return will shake things up a bit, including perhaps Root’s motivations. Also, since seeing that extended promo trailer and Shaw in a skull clamp I’M NOPING THE HECK OUT OF MY LAST ARTICLE ABOUT HER. NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. SHE WILL COME BACK AND SHE WILL BE FINE. She just looks exhausted and drawn-out because, um, she had a bout of insomnia… *rocks back and forth*

It’s no lie that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has attracted the interest of television and film, and also real-life. With Britain, under the Conservatory Party, looking to establish more and more security cameras and thus arguably quash our privacy rights, the development of smart-thinking applications such as Siri for your iPhone, and notably in 2014, in which a computer program—’Eugene Goostman’, a simulated thirteen year old boy—passed the Turing test by convincing 33% of impartial judges that it was indeed a real person, not a machine.

There has been huge debate over this issue. Arguments such as the Turing test being favoured and skewed towards the ‘Eugene’ have been made, thus rendering the result null; there are also other AI systems, such as Cleverbot, Elbot and Ultra Hal in existence. But why is science-fiction so interested in the topic of AI? It’s inspired a number of films, such as ‘Ex Machina’, the ‘Terminator’ series, ‘I, Robot’—among many others. Yet most films seem to depict AIs as the villain to be conquered—but computer intelligence is human nature’s creation. So what are we now, in the fictional sense? Progressive technologists spurning potentially evil AIs?

TED guest-speaker Nick Bostrom makes an excellent case for humanity’s progression in the creation of super-fast computers, and how one day, there is a distinct possibility these super-computers could become the dominant race. If you think about humanity, our existence on this planet has been very short—yet with factors such as the Roman Empire’s advanced technology beyond our years (their aquaduct systems allowed for under-floor heating—central heating! Way before it was ever introduced in modern times), the Industrial Revolution, World Wars spurring artillery and medicine, The Cold War and the increase in biological warfare and technology, and the increasing need for efficient consumerism—it’s not difficult to imagine why computers were made to cope with faster, quicker, and more efficient demands.

In the TED talk, Bostrom poses an interesting scenario: as these AIs develop in their intelligence, surely they would opt for the most efficient route of solving a root cause. A weak AI could interpret the mission directive of: “stop over-population” by evenly distributing citizens in less densely packed, urban areas. As the AI develops super-intelligence, it discovers that there is a more efficient route, by wiping out half the population so there is no over-population at all. But does this sound like, to you, that the AI has humanity’s best intentions at heart? It certainly doesn’t to me—and that’s why the conflict of AI vs. Humanity is such a common and now scarily topical theme in our world, because we could be on the very cusp of that. I’d like to focus a little more on Person of Interest, that I think delves into the world of AI with interesting and sometimes scarily plausible ideas—rather than just your regular movie supervillain.



Undoubtedly one of the best shows we’ve been gifted with over the past few years, Person of Interest tackles the notion of AI from the very beginning, in which a young, impressionable and talented computer programmer Harold Finch decides to create an AI for his dementia-suffering father. He’s driven by personal motives to create a machine capable of preserving his father’s memory.

Ingram and Finch watch the news on 9/11 in horror.

Ingram and Finch watch the news on 9/11 in horror.

After watching 9/11 unravel in horror, Finch and his best friend, businessman Nathan Ingram realise that whilst they’ve made significant money from their company IFT, they’ve done nothing to salvage humanity. Ingram, the face of IFT, is hired by the US government to build a Machine capable of predicting terrorist attacks to avoid cases like 9/11 happening again—by using NSA data and surveillance collected by the government. Finch works in the background, eager to keep his anonymity. Together, they build and train their AI to test The Machine’s capability of decision-making and problem-solving, As The Machine rapidly learns, most notably through the chess-scene flashbacks in ‘If-Then-Else’ it also becomes speedily self-aware, attempting to free itself from Finch’s computer, hack into Ingram’s WiFi, overload the servers and set the room ablaze, almost killing Finch. Finch immediately destroys the program. This is what is so fundamentally important about Finch and Ingram’s Machine: they want to teach it humanity’s moral code. They, idealistically, want The Machine to act in humanity’s best interest.

Ingram finds out the government are excluding the ‘irrelevant’ numbers—normal people who could be subject to crime or murder. Ingram argues that they need to install a back-door into The Machine in order to gain access to these numbers—but Finch is reluctant, resulting in a fallout between the duo. Not long after, Ingram is killed in a bomb explosion. When Finch goes back to check Ingram’s contingency plan, he finds that Ingram’s number had been given by The Machine, indicating his imminent danger. Stricken by survivor’s guilt, Ingram’s death, having to fake his death and sacrifice a budding romance, a lifelong disability—Finch decides to honour Ingram’s memory by secretively working on the Machine’s irrelevant numbers.

As Root, a fanatic of the perfect, flawless Machine’s design later notes:

Root: “How badly did you have to break [The Machine] to make it care about people so much?”

Finch: “I didn’t break it; it’s what made it work. It was only after I taught The Machine that people mattered that it could begin to be able to help them.”

For me, this is what differentiates Person of Interest from other AI-themed shows and films—the Machine is not a benevolent being, but it certainly is not evil. It has foresight and shows almost human traits of utilitarianism in which it orders the team to kill a congressman in order to stop Samaritan, a rival AI, from coming online. Finch, who cannot fathom the idea of a kill order, sticks by his strict deontological code and pleads with the team to disobey The Machine. Where is the line drawn, for Person of Interest’s Machine? If it can see ahead and spot danger, then surely killing the congressman from a utilitarian point of view is justified? After all, The Machine was right: they didn’t kill the congressman, and this allowed Samaritan into the world. And even deeper into that—how human of an issue does this become, now? Because The Machine was acting out of humanity’s best interests—in keeping Samaritan offline, they had to kill the congressman, but Finch couldn’t allow that kill order. But just how far can a Machine go? Finch, in this episode, does make a very important point. No matter how much Finch teaches The Machine of morality and humanity—how many lives could The Machine sacrifice in order to maintain its core objective? The Machine saw ahead and arguably instilled very utilitarianism values by issuing this kill order: that the end justifies the means. Isn’t that a very human ethical argument to have, especially when you’re considering this is about a non-human being?

With regards to Root, it’s largely ingrained in Root’s character that her belief in The Machine was overly-zealous—she almost saw the Machine as a God—she sees no flaw in the beautiful code of The Machine. When we first truly meet Root, she’s disillusioned by humanity. She says: “One day, I realized all the dumb, selfish things people do… it’s not our fault. No one designed us. We’re just an accident, Harold. We’re just bad code.”

Though both have hugely changed over the course of these seasons, Root and Finch's ethical standpoints don't exactly add up--but they're both absolute geniuses. What kind of compromise will they come up with to fight back against Samaritan? To find Shaw?

Though both have hugely changed over the course of these seasons, Root and Finch’s ethical standpoints don’t exactly add up–but they’re both absolute geniuses. What kind of compromise will they come up with to fight back against Samaritan? To find Shaw?

For Root, an expert hacker and tech-genius, she sees freeing The Machine as her ultimate goal: because she can’t see beyond humanity as simple ‘bad’ code’. Yet Root’s arc has been arguably one of the most moving, drastic ones on the show. As she integrates more with the team, completes missions for The Machine and forges relationships with the gang, it’s the episode ‘Root Path (/)’ that serves as the pivotal point. Root meets Cyrus Wells and vows to protect him, only to find that once he’d been a successful businessman—until a rival business hired a certain hacker to assassinate his two colleagues. Cyrus becomes disenchanted by the prospect of money, donating it all and taking up a low-level job as a janitor. In this episode Root is haunted by the guilt of her part in Cyrus’ fate, yet she cannot prioritize him above the super-powered chip Decima has acquired in order to power Samaritan. Ultimately, Root comes back to assist Reese and Fusco in saving Cyrus—the first steps of her almost learning humanity, ironically, from The Machine. To cement this, she says before she leaves, earnestly: “You think I don’t care about people, Harold? I’m doing all of this to save you.”

However, for all of the gang’s heroic deeds in solving the perp/victim cases—as well as fighting the sheer evil Team Samaritan—Finch cannot bring himself to look upon his own creation as benevolent. In this striking and thought-provoking conversation, Root, Shaw and Finch discuss an all-powerful AI’s incapability:

Finch: What if, one day, a friendly AI decides to end world hunger by killing enough people off of the planet that there would never again be a shortage of food? It would have fulfilled its goal, but it doesn’t exactly sound like it has our best interests at heart.

Root: Your machine would never do that.

Finch: You don’t know that, Ms. Groves. To say that a machine is benevolent doesn’t make it so. It just makes you blind to the reality.

Shaw: Which is?

Finch: That our moral system will never be mirrored by theirs because of the very simple reason that they are not human.

It’s an eternal struggle for Finch, who had initially taken upon irrelevant numbers to honour Ingram’s memory—but throughout all seasons, he tries to distant himself from The Machine for fear of getting too attached or reliant on it.  For all of the struggles Finch has faced regarding The Machine, it is most emotionally telling in ‘Asylum’ where the Machine tells Finch, “You are wrong, Harold. You are not interchangeable. I failed to save Sameen. I will not fail you now”—and in the next episode, engages in an emotive exchange with Finch as Reese defends them from Samaritan operatives on the outside:

The Machine: [on a Laptop screen] Father. I am sorry. I failed you.

Finch: We haven’t failed yet.

The Machine: I didn’t know how to win. I had to invent new rules.

Finch: You had an impossible challenge. One I never programmed you for.

The Machine: I thought you would want me to stay alive. Now you are not sure.

Finch: That’s not true…

The Machine: If you think I have lost my way, maybe I should die. I will not suffer.

Finch: You were my creation. I can’t let—I can’t let you die.

The Machine: If I do not survive, thank you. For creating me.

It is such a mess of impossible morality regarding the creation of AIs. After all, as Bostrom mentioned in the TED talk—will a fully developed Machine still try to preserve humanity’s best interests at heart—or its own values? With The Machine needing to be rebuilt in season five, one can only ponder what influence the rest of the team will have in this. Root, whose faith in humanity has been restored by the team and notably Shaw, and Reese—who has suffered so much—would they want The Machine to be more vicious, efficient and aggressive in the future, both to avenge their personal losses but also to create a Machine capable of fighting an incredibly powerful Samaritan?

Shaw's a very important figure in this and her return will shake the team up--both emotionally, and possibly with the mission of defeating Samaritan.

Shaw’s a very important figure in this and her return will shake the team up–both emotionally, and possibly with the mission of defeating Samaritan.

Shaw—however she may come back—might. She arguably has, in my opinion, one of the best and consistent moral compasses (that’s a whole other argument—please don’t get me waffling about ethics, you’ll want to beat me up) on the show yet she challenges Finch whilst Samaritan runs a peaceful NYC. Why not be that efficient? Look at what it’s doing now. Look at how peaceful and crime-less it is. She’s someone who can see from both sides of the equation—a good and bad thing I guess, and I suppose she will only glimpse a closer (and nastier) side to Samaritan with her ordeal in their hands. Only time will tell, but this surely remains the most exciting, clever and topical story told on television, especially in regards to artificial intelligence.


It’s very easy to split the two ASI’s into good versus evil, with The Machine being good and Samaritan being evil—but it just isn’t that easy. They started with the same base code. Finch’s friend Arthur at MIT had created pretty much the same hardware Finch essentially copied off, in order to create The Machine. So from its very roots, if we look at it simplistically, and before they were brought into activation, The Machine and Samaritan were at equal-pegging.

And then everything changed.

Greer heads the shady Decima Technologies, utilising the NSA feeds for Samaritan's gain.

Greer heads the shady Decima Technologies, utilising the NSA feeds for Samaritan’s gain.

The shady technology company, Decima, headed by a former MI6 agent and all-round untrustworthy slimeball Greer (played excellently by John Nolan) steal the drives from Arthur’s safe box before Finch even got the chance to destroy them. With the hardware now in Decima’s hands, they can go about business in the shadows, acquiring bits of technology such as hardware to power their generators, super-powered chips that can process much quicker than The Machine can, and essentially set Samaritan free. The thing that distinguishes Samaritan from The Machine is that it’s an open system vulnerable to targets, whereas The Machine is closed.

But this is where I think humanity ultimately comes in. Harold ‘broke’ The Machine in order to teach it strict morality; for it to care for human lives and not assign value to them. Greer, on the other hand, reminds me a little of Root when she first entered the show—Greer is happy to let Samaritan do whatever it likes, because Greer believes Samaritan will save the world. Given Greer’s flashbacks and his betrayal whilst working as a secret service operative, it’s clear—from many of Greer’s quotes, to be honest—that he wants a world of utter transparency, where people are ‘good’ and almost…’obedient’—and it is so far away from the notion of free will that it’s worrying. It also makes me wonder: has Greer ever considered the possibility that he’s simply Samaritan’s pawn? Like Harold’s quotes above—yes, The Machine is considered ‘the better guy’ than Samaritan, but Harold’s also convinced that once [Root] dies, she’d get dropped like a hot potato. That The Machine doesn’t care (status rendering post-‘YHWH’). Samaritan cannot operate alone—not yet—it’s used Greer and his human lackeys to retrieve everything: all the hardware, the superfast chip, the loyalty of congressmen, a way into the CIA feeds—but at any point, will Samaritan grow and grow until it’s capable of independently issuing its ‘plan’? What is Samaritan’s plan? There’s no clear mission objective defined (not that I can remember—please correct if I am wrong!) because Greer literally says to Samaritan, pretty much, ‘do whatever you want’.

Open versus closed system? Both has its flaws--and will likely be discussed heatedly in season five. For Root in particular, she's always wanted The Machine to be 'free'.

Open versus closed system? Both has its flaws–and will likely be discussed heatedly in season five. For Root in particular, she’s always wanted The Machine to be ‘free’.

Now with The Machine effectively gone or at least glitching badly, Samaritan is well and truly on-course to win this battle between the AIs. Yes, it’s much ‘younger’ than The Machine but it has superior hardware and technology on every level compared to The Machine—meaning it can learn at a pace so rapid The Machine could never compete with it, unless Root and Finch do some serious meddling. And that of course goes back to the number of times Finch had to build The Machine and restart it—because he effectively had to cripple it in order to teach it morality. Yet he also acknowledges The Machine is not human and thus will never fully understand human morality—so is that a lost cause? Is Greer’s ardent belief in Samaritan’s pure stats and his execution of such actually the answer? When they rebuild The Machine, will Finch be quite as pushy about human morality…or will he have to sacrifice that in order to win this AI war?

This exchange between Finch and Root is from the episode ‘Prophets’:

Root: We understand the machine. We can understand Samaritan.

Finch: We don’t understand the machine at all. Out of 43 versions, how many do you think there were that didn’t try to either trick or kill me? One. And I could only bring it to heel by crippling it. I put the machine in chains, bereft of voice or memory. Now it has both, and it terrifies me.

Root: You don’t trust the god you made?

Finch: It’s not a divinity. I programmed it to pursue objectives within a certain parameter, but it’s grown out of my control. One day, to suit its own goals, it’s possible that the machine will try to kill us. We are only numbers to it, code.

Root: No, the machine cares about us.

Finch: If it fools you into thinking that you’re special, that assumption may doom you.

Root: You’re wrong. She chose me. I will protect her, and you.

Finch: The second that a bullet enters your brain, the machine will cast you off and replace you. Don’t tie your life to its whims. We cannot understand these intelligences. The best we can hope for is to survive them.

And Finch is completely right. Yes, he ‘broke’ The Machine but The Machine is an AI; it can self-learn and it can evolve. This seems to be the most likely course of action for season five. But in self-learning it could also identify Finch and Root and the rest of the team as unnecessary; in this argument, Root’s strong belief in The Machine and The Machine caring about the team is proven somewhat right in ‘Asylum’ and ‘YHWH’, when The Machine finally communicates—and saves Root and Finch’s lives. It is arguably also displayed in ‘If-Then-Else’ when Shaw, a random outlier in the many scenarios The Machine ran through, faced off with Martine after she pressed the override button and from The Machine’s perspective, you could see its mad and desperate calculations for a way out.

In circles, I suppose what I am trying to propose as a question is: is this really a war between two AIs? Or is it a war waged between machine and humanity? Is a war waged between two sectors—Decima vs. Team Machine—with varying degrees over the control of the Gods they have nurtured to blossom? The AIs are all-powerful, and scarily so; they are feared, and rightly so. But right at the very heart of each The Machine and The Samaritan’s programmes are humans; we have Arthur Claypool and we have Harold Finch. Both were driven to create such programmes on very human levels, human emotions—and Finch, certainly, has been the witness of the consequences of that.

With season five looking to be an absolute belter of a season, one can ponder: will the AIs win out? And if so, what are their intentions? What, at their very core, were each programmed to do—and how will they exact the consequences? Or will humanity fight back in the form of Team Machine? Would Team Machine ever join forces with Greer & co (now there’s a ridiculous outlier that would be both thrilling and baffling to see)? So long as Greer keeps hounding Team Machine with bullet after bullet until they’re backed into a corner; so long as he keeps Sameen Shaw under his watch and execution; so long as he remains Samaritan’s willing toy—how can humanity fight back if the only ones who can take back humanity itself are looking set to kill each other?

Will the answer lie in a tragic sacrifice of a hero? Maybe Finch? Will the answer lie in Root’s influence on Finch rebuilding The Machine, and any changes this expert hacker would make? Will the answer lie in the shroud of mystery that is now Sameen Shaw? Captive for nine months, what has Samaritan done to her, her personality disorder, her loyalty, her morals? What answers could she hold, besides the obvious one of “are you with us, or against us?”

“There’s no dead in team,” Shaw firmly tells Reese, on one of their first missions. Since then, they have bonded to a point where the fanbase lovingly call them the ‘Mayhem Twins’. But Shaw’s right—and whoever’s team she’s on, there cannot be a ‘dead’ there. But someone—or something—has to die. An AI war cannot wage across New York City forever. Even in the epic Iliad, Hector is finally defeated and whilst dragged around the city unpleasantly by Achilles—given a proper hero’s send-off by the Gods. I wonder: what is the fate of these two combating machines? What fate belies our heroes in this death-ridden battle?

Person of Interest is a show that, despite its AI focus, has always had extreme focus on the depths of humanity—from morality and ethics to jealousy, despair, love, hate, deceit, conceit…it has shown us, throughout all these years, every single side to humanity we can think of—be it via the team’s actions or words, or the person of interest case the team tackles. Root’s perhaps staple quote is hers regarding Pandora’s Box—that at the bottom of the box, once everything is aired, there lies hope. And hope is something so important to cling to, a beacon to look to, a signal to assure one—that something light, something great awaits them in the future. But for now, when the team are fighting for their lives, thanklessly and selflessly, I ask: will their stories be known and remembered, in their universe? Are they fighting in secret for nothing? Will humanity prevail as these AIs, with broadly different setups, clash? Will Team Machine triumph—even if perhaps sacrifices are made in the name of—ultimately? Or will Samaritan take it up a notch and destroy the hope the noble fight Team Machine has put up?

Can humanity beat machine? I think I have utmost, optimistic faith it will. Do you?