[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Person of Interest. Read at your own risk.]
We're starting to notice a bloody pattern on Person of Interest.
A little more than a year after the show shocked fans by killing off original cast member Taraji P. Henson, another major character seemingly bit the dust on Tuesday's episode. Although Team Machine fought diligently to stop Samaritan's efforts to crash the stock market, Shaw (Sarah Shahi) made the ultimate sacrifice as she volunteered to override the elevator switch that would lead the rest of her team to safety. In so doing, Shaw was riddled with bullets and, just moments before the elevator doors closed, was seen staring into the barrel of Samaritan operative Martine's (Cara Buono) gun.
While debate rages about whether or not Shaw is actually dead, she certainly won't be appearing on POI in the near future. In fact, this entire storyline was crafted after Shahi informed the show'sproducers she was expecting twins.
"Our fans think we're sadists who like killing off our characters. In this case, we had no choice," executive producer Jonathan Nolan tells TVGuide.com. "Our hands were tied. The circumstances of Shaw's character and what she does — being a lethal operative who goes around the world and exterminates people and often puts her life in peril — kind of makes her irresponsible as a maternal figure on the show. Sarah was the first person to say, "There's no way we can write this into the character," and we agreed."
So, is Shaw really dead? "You have to stay tuned," executive producer Greg Plageman says. "The great part of doing a serialized show is that you have people waiting to find out what happens. We'd hate to spoil that for the audience, but there is a little bit of ambiguity about what happens after those elevator doors close." As for how long that ambiguity will last, Nolan quips, "What's the earliest you can put two twins on an airplane?"
Regardless of Shaw's fate, the producers did give fans a huge moment between Shaw and Root (Amy Acker), as the much-'shipped duo finally locked lips before Shaw's heroics kicked in. "I directed their first scene together on the show, and it was abundantly clear to me that there was a great deal of chemistry between those two characters," Nolan says. "So from the beginning, for me, that tension has always been there. We felt like the fans were invested in that relationship. You don't feel like you can walk away from something like that without giving some kind of consummation."
So how will the team — especially Root — deal with the loss of Shaw? " I think all of our characters' reaction to what happened in those final moments vary," Plageman says. "And I think that's an interesting jump-off point for the next episode. But you really don't want to piss off someone like Root. There's going to be hell to pay."
Keep reading to see what Shahi had to say about the "bittersweet" decision to step away from the show and whether or not shethinks Shaw is really dead.
Obviously being pregnant with twins factored into your decision to leave the show at this moment. But how hard was it to make that choice?
Sarah Shahi:In some ways, it's the easiest decision because you always want to put yourself and the comfort of your family first. So, in that sense it was kind of a no-brainer, but it is very bittersweet, because I loved Shaw so much and I enjoyed working with those amazing people. That's the bitter part of it all. I knew it needed to happen, because there's no way I could be a good mother to two infants and a 5-year-old and carry on the demands of the show at the same time. So, the decision was already kind of made for me, but it was a pretty big pill to swallow.
Once the decision was made, how much input did you have in how Shaw was written out?
Shahi: I wanted a badass exit for her, and I think everybody else did too. I didn't have any say in how she went down, creatively, [but] I did keep pressing to the boys that I wanted to honor her. I didn't want her to be behind a desk or carrying groceries or bouncing a basketball for six months. I wanted her to have the most epic exit ever, and I was not afraid of working the long hours — as long as I had a place to sit and ginger ale, I was OK.
Many fans are clinging to the fact that we didn't definitively see Shaw dead. Can you say one way or the other if she's still alive?
Shahi:As is the rule of TV, if you don't see a body, then you never know. And you didn't actually see Shaw get shot. So I don't know. That is the question for the rest of the season. That's the $60 million question. There is room for lots of stuff to happen.
Are you personally open to coming back?
Shahi:That's something else that I can't give you an answer on, because I just have no idea what life with twins and a 5-year-old is like. If I had been down this road before, then I think I would have a better estimate. I wish I could give you an answer, but I just have no idea.
What's going through Shaw's head in that final moment? Does she think she will somehow survive that hail of bullets?
Shahi:I don't think Shaw goes into anything going, "OK, I'm going to die." I think the stronger choice is going into something with the struggle to live, not just relenting to the death. She's an adrenaline junkie and she had a huge appetite for violence, so it's something that she doesn't second guess, but I also think the moment with Martine, when the gun is right above her head, I didn't want it to be a look of fear, a look of surrendering. If anything, I wanted her to look death squarely in the eye and kind of smile, almost like she was welcoming it. I think she went out exactly the way she should have gone out.
How do you think Shaw viewed that kiss with Root? What do you think it meant to her?
Shahi: I think it was a lot of things. First and foremost, I think it was done for the fans. I felt like it was deserved by the fans. Second of all, it was [Shaw's] way of just getting Root to just back the f--- off, let me out of here. I felt like she knew that she was either going to kiss her or punch her. She gave her what she wanted, and then she was able to leave, and that was it. But... it was demanded from Shaw in that moment to do something because they did have a flirtation going for the last two seasons. There is a part of Shaw that absolutely does have feelings for Root. So, it was a very complicated kiss because there were so many different ways to play it. Hopefully we got something that felt like a marriage of all of those.
But it wasn't just Root; Shaw went out fighting for the whole team. What does it say that this once-cold killer would then give her life to save her team?
Shahi:After working with this group for two years, I think Shaw has developed feelings for more than just Bear. She has come around to trusting everybody, as much as Shaw possibly can. I don't think she's ever going to be 100 percent trusting of anyone, but she's come to appreciate Harold and Reese. Shaw, she's a soldier. She was always a soldier, and she would do whatever it took to get the orders done. For her, her orders were to save everyone. But I don't even think she thinks of it as a sacrifice.
You mean, she doesn't even contemplate in that moment what impact her potential death would have on them?
Shahi: I don't think so because I think that would be too healthy of an observation. We did establish this character as kind of a sociopath without feelings. So, I don't think she would think about it that deeply. Everything with Shaw was always a tactic. There was no, "Well, maybe if I do this, it's going to have this effect on so-and-so." That would be too healthy of an approach. I don't think she's there yet.
Looking back on your experience, what aspect of bringing Shaw to life are you most proud of?
Shahi:I'm so grateful the fans have taken to me, because these fans are die-hard fans, and they are honest, and they will let you know if they don't like you. So, I'm very grateful to have had their support throughout all of this. And I had never done a stunt-action show before. I didn't know my way around a gun, didn't really know how to fight with weapons or do stunt-training or any of that stuff. And for the most part, with the exception of the 11 episodes this season, I've always done my own stunts. That was kind of a big deal for me. Before this, the biggest stunt I'd ever done was walking in six-inch high-heel shoes. But I was adamant — I wanted to do everything myself, and I did it. And that I can look back on and be very proud of that.
What sort of outpouring have you gotten from those fans today?
Shahi: A lot of people are angry. [I've received] a lot of feedback so far on my Twitter and Facebook, "Congratulations — and f--- off!" [Laughs] I had one person ask me to pay for their therapy, because now they don't know what to do now that Shaw's gone. These are all champagne problems. I just feel so fortunate. I feel so fortunate to have been received in such a way, to have had that kind of impact on a group of people. So, thank you to all of them for feeling that way.
Person of Interestairs Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS. What did you think of the episode?
Watch the video below for more on Shaw's exit.
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