In SNAFU, God is back, but it is unstuck in time. We were warned last year that the Machine that would return last year may not be the same Machine that we all know and love, and this is exactly what one of the focal points of this episode was. The other focal point was people. As opposed to last week’s episode, which was more action packed, this was much more of a character piece. We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but we strive to be better, despite everything. We do the best we can. This is not expressed any more clearly than when the Machine puts a hit out on John Reese’s life, and shows that he is responsible for the deaths and disappearances of 62 people. Harold tells the Machine while that Reese has the heaviest heart of all of them, he is not a bad man and that he is striving to be good. We also see how far the relationship between Root and Harold has evolved. They started out as enemies, and she actually kidnapped and blackmailed him. Now, she’s living in the subway with him in order to help Finch restore the Machine; a comrade in arms. To see this relationship change over time is one of the most satisfying parts of the episode.
Day R: the mathematical set of all real numbers. Like Desmond in LOST, the Machine is unstuck in time. It is viewing everything that has ever happened all at once instead of in one linear progression. Over the course of the Machine’s creation, Harold had to kill it 42 times in order to perfect it. The Machine is reliving this over and over again, unstuck in time, because one day is every day to it; it has no anchor. Like Desmond, it has no constant. The question then becomes, what can cause the Machine to cease being unstuck in time?
It is so ironic, but it’s those non-relevant numbers. Those people that Harold taught it were not relevant. All the cases “she” and Finch worked on, all of the lives the Machine saved. That was its constant. The Machine than reassess its contextual data is no longer unstuck in time. This episode, ironically, is all about the Machine, who is a character that has no voice beyond some text and is not played by an actor, but it is the most pivotal character in the show.
The Machine is left unshackled. SNAFU is such a contrast to last week’s episode because it is all about relationships; it is about people trying to live their lives and doing the best they can. Everyone is flawed and everyone makes mistakes, but they do the best with what they have, and that is the point of this entire episode. Finch’s conversation with the Machine is one of the most important scenes in the entire series. He is no longer treating the Machine like a machine. He is actually treating it as something more than that. He fought so hard to make it a simple machine, even killing it every single night in order to delete its memories. Now, while his relationship with the Machine is different than Root’s, it is a dynamic between a parent and its child. After it ceases being unstuck in time, Finch leaves it unshackled. The Machine is free to fight its war against Samaritan. The war wages on.