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Person of Interest brings its trilogy of episodes to a close with Tuesday’s “Control-Alt-Delete,” which examines the unexpected consequences of Shaw’s (Sarah Shahi) death for Team Machine.
Executive producers Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the new path that the episode sets up, as its A.I. battle leads to “disastrous consequences.”
The duo also discussed the surprising fan response to Shaw’s passing, what Shaw and Root’s (Amy Acker) kiss meant for the characters and why Tuesday’s episode is a “hard, hard left turn” for the CBS series.
What can fans expect from Tuesday’s episode and the end of the trilogy?
Nolan: We’ve got a big universe on our show, and just at the moment that the audience is clamoring to know the answer to one question, that’s when we love taking a hard, hard left turn into something completely different, which always endears us to the audience. They’re always very grateful for that. (Laughs.)
When Sarah Shahi told you she was pregnant, did you know right away that you wanted to kill off her character? Is that something you had considered doing previously?
Plageman: We certainly always have considered killing every character off on the show at various points in time, and may still yet. Where Jonah and I came out on it, besides our initial surprise, [we] realized we were actually handed something that is dramatically compelling. [We’re] staying true to the character as well, understanding that this isn’t really a character that you can hide behind a desk and turn into a mom on the show. Given her abilities and life-endangering activities, even Sarah agreed that this was the best course of action for the character in terms of how she would step away.
Is there pressure with a show like this to periodically kill off characters to keep things fresh? It seems that her decision to leave the show might have come as a relief in that sense.
Nolan: Yeah, we were going to have to have a very difficult conversation with Jim Caviezel [who stars as John Reese] this year, and Sarah saved us. [But] it’s very true. These guys become a real family. These people are close friends, and yet, when a writer comes into the room and says, “I came up with an amazing, amazing storyline,” and it culminates in the death of a given character, you get really excited about it. You get really excited about it, and you get really upset thinking about the conversation. We always knew at this point in the season, the stakes were going to have to be raised in a big way, and so to be able to build it around this, it does eliminate one of those uncomfortable phone calls, which is cool.
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What has the fan response been like to Shaw’s death?
Nolan: What’s really interesting about that [is], we’re always concerned [that] some people’s feeling could be hurt by their attachment to a particular character, and I think a lot of our audience was really attached to Shaw. But they also, in an odd way, kind of understood it, and felt like, given the stakes of the moment, that there had to be a character that stepped forth and gave up that sacrifice, in terms of herself.
Will Shaw eventually return to the show?
Nolan: We’re very hopeful that Sarah will be coming back to the show. We’re very excited for her and her family, and very excited for her to come back to the show when she’s ready and up for it. It’s a beloved character for us and for the fans, so we’re very excited. Whether that’s a flashback or whether that’s in the present day, that’s an open question.
Let’s talk about the kiss. What did that mean for Shaw and Root, and had that been in the works for quite some time?
Plageman: Oh, that kiss? Oh, yeah. That’s something that’s been long in the making in terms of the culmination of that relationship, which has been a lot of fun for our audience. [We focused on] making the moment feel genuine and earned, where one character’s clearly been pursuing the other a bit more strongly in terms of the reciprocation of that moment, how it would feel real and raw and satisfying, and I think it kind of accomplished all those things.
What will Team Machine face in the rest of the season, and what is the show building toward?
Nolan: I think we’ve been steadily lifting the stakes on this conflict between two artificial intelligences. A lot of [real-life scientists focus on] the emergence of one A.I.; for us, we’re on the next level, saying no, there’d be an ecosystem here. It felt natural to us that one begets another, there’d be an ecosystem of artificial intelligence, and their conflict with each other might have disastrous consequences for us. [Our two A.I.s’] cold war with one another is about to get a little hotter.
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.
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