Episode title: Return 0
Director: Chris Fisher
Writers: (created by) Jonathan Nolan, (written by) Jonathan Nolan, Denise Thé
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Kevin Chapman, Amy Acker, Michael Emerson, Sarah Shahi
Episode length: 42 min
Not too surprisingly, the series finale ended with a bang, and even though I expected there would be one, the show still managed a satisfying surprising twist at the end.
Return 0 was a microcosm of all the the qualities that made this series great, it had a lot of teases regarding team members being close to death and cliff hanger moments that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. It was everything a fan would expect in a series finale from this show. It was touching, sad, uplifting, tragic, suspenseful, amusing, and dramatic all at the same time. The episode took it down to the wire in terms of who would survive, and who would not. It was an excellent example of the top notch story telling this show has been known for since its beginning.
Do I really need to go into how great this show was? If you are a fan you already know. Nolan’s premise of taking the Batman mythos, and adding the factor of the artificial intelligence was brilliant. By adding the Machine, the story is elevated above the idea of having human factors of favoritism, and emotional connections decide the cases the team became involved with. The parade of characters, and the situations they found themselves in, this series depicted along the way, was also one of its best features and greatest strengths.
The events of this episode begin soon after the end of last week’s show, with the aftermath of Finch uploading the Ice-9 virus into the NSA’s servers, and through them into Samaritan. The virus is wreaking havoc in the digital world, with the rest of the world feeling the results, stock markets have crashed, and the usual side effects of looting and incidents of anarchy are occurring everywhere.
It opens with a short scene of Finch on the rooftop of a skyscraper, he has been wounded, and may be close to death. He is engaged in conversation with his creation which has continued to adopt the persona of Root. the Machine is dying as a result of Harold uploading the virus.
Fusco, and Reese return to their precinct headquarters. they want to find Harold, and figure this the bast place to do that. They are immediately called out by the unit’s commander because of their obvious involvement with recent events. The commander is working for Samaritan, of course, and demands their guns and badges, promising jail time for both of them.
He loses his focus for moment, and that’s all it takes for Reese to get the drop on him, but when he and Fusco leave the office, they find themselves surrounded by cops, with weapons drawn and ready. The commander was not the only one recruited in the service of the evil AI. The thing is, Samaritan doesn’t think of itself as evil, it really believes it is the salvation of mankind, but we have seen evidence its approaches to saving the world are not acceptable.
We next see the pair being escorted out of a police van at the waterfront, where they are summarily to be executed. They are saved at the last moment, by a sniper, or snipers, who takes out their captors, hired by the Machine for that purpose.
Harold is there, and he asks if they are ready to end this. They go to the ‘Batcave’ subway station, and prepare for the final assault on the last of Samaritan, and its forces. Its Fusco’s first look at the underground hideout, and it blows his mind. he expresses his opinion that this is a whole new level of crazy
Shaw is there, and she is happy and relieved to see the others, not because she missed them, but because she was getting bored, and is eager to ‘get to busting some heads open’ as she puts it. Shaw is delightful. She has a copy of the Machine’s core code as requested by the AI, and the team splits up to do what needs to be done to put an end to Samaritan once and for all.
Finch and Reese go to a bank vault, where Samaritan has managed to save a part of itself out of reach of the virus. Finch bluffs his way into the building claiming he has a nuke. They make their way to the vault to download the virus into the last of Samaritan’s core code. They are attacked by some of the enemy agents and Harold is wounded. It looks serious, but we don’t get to find out yet if it will prove fatal, or not.
Meanwhile, Fusco and Shaw are left to fight some of the bad guys at the hideout. This part of the episode is filled with lots of gunplay at both locations as the team goes about trying to complete their missions. After a brief gun battle, Shaw and Fusco blow up the subway tunnel, and actually escape in the subway car.One lone Samaritan agent manages to climb onto the train car before they escape, and wounds Shaw, but Fusco overpowers and subdues him.
Its Jeff Blackwell (Joshua Close), the down-on-his-luck working class ex-con-turned-Samaritan-assassin. I was hoping this guy would show up, he’s been a real pain in the ass since we met him a few episodes back, with each encounter marking an increase in the importance of his role in the story as it sped towards its end. I was delighted to see him because I felt certain he would finally meet his doom at the hands of team Machine.
There was a surprise in store regarding this character though. because neither Fusco or Shaw searched him, which seemed really out of character for both, especially Shaw. Blackwell stabs Fusco twice, wounding Fusco, perhaps mortally, and makes his escape. The entire show was sprinkled with this kind of stuff, craftily leaving us wondering when, and if, the team would meet its end.
Back at the bank vault Harold tricks Reese and traps him in the vault. Harold plans to sacrifice himself, in oder to save his friend. There’s one more stop to make. Samaritan managed to transfer enough of its code to another location where there is an antenna it can use to send itself to a satellite.
The plan is to send the core code of the Machine to the satellite as well, but time is short, because Samaritan has launched a cruise missile to prevent anyone else from using the same antenna so it will be safe. Harold makes his way to what he thinks is the building where he can send the Machine into space for a final confrontation with its nemesis, but at the last moment, realizes he has gone to the wrong building.
Reese and the Machine have had a long standing agreement to save Harold, should he try anything like this, and together they tricked him into going to the wrong building. Meanwhile Reese is in the right place, and sends the Machine’s code, which he relieved Harold of back in the vault, to the satellite where it will have one final chance to fight and destroy the other AI.
Reese is having a gun battle on the roof top with enemy agents. He is being guided by the machine as it dies its final death. he is shot, and then he is shot again, and just as he is about to die, the missile arrives and seals the deal. Reese literally goes out in a blaze of glory.
Reese’s death was a subtle touch of irony, he was, in a way, himself a guided missile, forever grateful to Harold, and his creation for giving him purpose, and a mission in life. This surrogate Batman was well aware of his dark, borderline sociopathic nature, and one of my favorite lines from this show was uttered by the dark brooding character when he said “Maybe the reason bad people exist in this world, is to do the things that good people can’t do”
This line of dialogue provided for me an incisive insight into the character, as much as anything he did, or how he responded to what he experienced. Fated to be what he was, and meet the end he did, he always seemed to know the sort of end life had in store for him. He was brilliantly portrayed by Caviezel.
The aftermath of this is depicted in several scenes that serve as an epilogue of sorts. Shaw tracks down Blackwell, and kills him. She meets Fusco, and takes charge of Bear, who she claims as her dog. As she leaves, a payphone she passes rings, and she answers it, and then walks away with a knowing smile on her face. This is how we know the machine survived its battle with Samaritan and is in the process of becoming its old self, watching from orbit
Anther scene shows Grace, Harold’s old girlfriend, painting along a busy avenue. Something causes her to look up from her work, and she sees Harold approaching. So, except for Root, who died earlier the season, everyone survives but Reese, who dies the hero’s death he always, more or less, craved.
This episode was also portrayed a scene of Harold talking with Grace in the past about his dad, and how his father learned all about birds so he could tell his son all about them. We finally find out why Harold always used the names of birds for his aliases.
Likewise there were repeated shots of a funeral on a rainy day, showing a young boy who is very sad about the death of his father, a soldier who apparently died a hero. That young boy was Reese of course, and we gain some insight into what made him the man he was.
An excellent episode, I would have been surprised at anything less. I will miss team Machine, seeing them go is like losing good friends I have come to care about, and whose company I enjoyed. The ending was obviously meant to leave a back door open in case someone like Hulu, Netfilx, or Amazon decides to pick the series up for more episodes in the future. as long as the writing is as good as this series has had, I am all for it.