Who: “Person of Interest” currently airs on network TV, specifically on CBS, Tuesdays at 10:00 PM.
What: “Person of Interest,” an action/crime drama featuring Michael Emerson (Lost) as Harold Finch, a technology and computer genius who, in the wake of 9/11, invents a Machine, which he sells to the government. The Machine is designed to predict disasters and events with a high probability of catastrophic fatalities, except that Finch becomes aware that the Machine also predicts singular deaths, termed “acceptable losses,” that it discards or that are ignored by those associated with the Machine. Consumed by several personal crises, including knowledge of the Machine’s capabilities, Finch hires former CIA-operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel, Passion of the Christ) as a vigilante responsible for saving the endangered lives predicted by the Machine. Taraji P. Henson plays a police detective, recently demoted to officer, who first suspects and follows the mysterious operatives and then becomes an integral part of their operation. In addition, as the program progresses, the complicated lives and backgrounds of not only Finch and Reese but everyone connected directly or indirectly to the Machine, in addition to the Machine’s own complex programming, expose the corruption of higher powers, including government agencies and the New York Police Department, and the seedy underbelly and crime syndicates of greater New York City, (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/person_of_interest/summary.html).
When: The Season 3 premiere aired on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, on CBS at 10:00 PM.
Where: The show is set in New York City and follows Reese, now Officer Joss Carter, Detective Fusco, and sometimes Finch throughout the Burroughs as the Machine generates new numbers with associated lives to save. Occasionally, the action leaves New York State if there is a larger story arc or a flashback providing character background.
Why: I initially watched the show for three solid reasons: J.J. Abrams is an executive producer, Jonathan Nolan (i.e. Christopher Nolan’s writer brother) created the concept, and the show features Michael Emerson, best known as morally ambiguous Benjamin Linus on Lost, one of the truly great actors on that show. I was also intrigued by seeing Jim Caviezel in a non-Jesus role. I wasn’t sure what the program would ultimately become or how the high-concept premise would offer longevity and/or story possibilities. I have been pleasantly surprised by just how exciting, intelligent, and thoroughly engaging this show has become, and if this season’s premiere is any indication, the ride is about to become even more of a roller coaster of action, emotion, and intrigue as the episodes progress.
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
The Season 2 finale of Person of Interest offered a wallop of a cliffhanger: the Machine and its intricate programming seems to have attained self-awareness, even the hints of consciousness. In fact, it appears that the personal quest of sociopath and hacker Root (Amy Acker), to prove the Machine’s existence as well as its self-awareness, has been fulfilled to a point. The show is developing the Machine as artificial intelligence, and one that responds to Finch as its father, even though Finch is afraid of its evolution, while Root reveres it. In the meantime, Carter was framed for the death of a fellow officer that was taken out by “HR,” the corrupt arm of the NYPD, and she was issued a demotion, all while keeping crime boss Elias (Enrico Colantoni), also a target of HR and his rival mafia dons, hidden from view of his myriad of enemies. In the Season 2 finale, both Reese and Root spoke to the Machine, which aided them in uncovering plots to assassinate some major players, while another rogue agent, Shaw (Sarah Shahi), who used to take orders from the Machine and subservient government agencies without realizing it, has become part of billionaire Finch’s vigilante operation.
The Season 3 premiere deals with the aftermath of the events of the Season 2 finale. Root, who was captured by Reese, has been admitted to an asylum but claims to be in a philosophical debate with the artificial intelligence she reveres so devoutly. At the same, the newly aware Machine is still offering isolated numbers of endangered parties, though at a sporadic and unpredictable rate, leaving Finch and Reese to react as they can (in this episode, to save a Naval officer who becomes inadvertently involved in unregistered diamond smuggling manipulated by a Russian crime gang). Carter is playing a delicate game: helping her under-the-fold friends (still not knowing why or how they get their information); playing the dutiful officer, though Reese attempts to convince her to join their outfit; and secretly conducting her own investigation into the death of her former love interest, for which she was framed in terms of suggesting that she accidentally shot him. Fusco (Kevin Chapman) has more or less become Reese and Finch’s man-at-arms and jack-of-all-trades assistance as needed while he maintains his detective status.
The challenge before the producers of this program is how to transition the show from the life-of-the-week format, which has allowed the viewer to explore the unusual odd couple chemistry between social outcasts Reese and Finch as well as aided the viewer in connecting the various strings of the complex web forming the central story, the hub of which is the Machine. There is a greater story arc that has manifested; like with Fringe and the X-Files, the importance of the larger mystery behind all of these cogs in the Machine’s grand design is going to become more important than the individual lives being saved by Reese and his cohorts, probably despite Finch’s moral crisis. It will not likely happen all at once, but given the revelation from the end of season 2, the writers cannot risk backtracking completely to first season explorations of the Machine’s capabilities. The Machine’s awakening has made it a fully realized character, and its impact on the rest of the characters of the story is going to be the most interesting, most resounding question of the season.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) Now that the Machine is talking and having existential conversations with Root, what is going to happen to the occasional numbers it generates? Is the Machine’s morality going to become a factor as it becomes more self-aware?
2) How long is Root going to remain in the asylum? And can Amy Acker be promoted to a series regular already because she is too good an actress, and her character too charismatic and potentially evil, to be used irregularly and/or infrequently.
3) The same goes for Elias (Enrico Colantoni) – what will his part in the larger web ultimately be? He always seems to be ten steps ahead of everyone else, but he doesn’t know about the Machine, which the viewer knows is smarter than him.
4) Shaw has added additional levity and snark to the proceedings, particularly vis-a-vis her chemistry with Reese – yet, this also has the potential of becoming tired quickly. Writers: please use her sparingly. Her shortest one-liners are the funniest. For example, “I’m hungry. Buy me a steak.”
5) Finch’s personal crises are going to be driven into a tailspin when he finds out how much self-knowledge the Machine has attained. He already knows that the Machine has evolved beyond its original programming that he developed for it, but if the Machine starts thinking for itself, Finch’s guilt related to the “acceptable loss” factor of the individual numbers might grow exponentially and overtake him. Reese, despite their individual reservations and lack of shared information between each other, has become his tether, but Reese might not be able to account for the psychological ramifications of the Machine’s growing consciousness on Finch’s zealous quest to right what he perceives to be the singularly most devastating wrong of his life (other than letting Grace, played by Emerson’s real life wife Carrie Preston, go).
6) Reese, on the other hand, has found purpose after his break from the CIA, which attempted to assassinate him as a compromised asset, sent him into a nosedive and made him a ghost and ripe for the picking by Finch. Reese follows Finch’s orders and uses his considerable fighting prowess to fulfill the mission of saving the “acceptable losses,” but his fight might grow if the Machine, Elias’ gang, HR, and other corrupt elements of the city begin to collide more often.
7) In the meantime, there is Carter, who is now fighting demons of her own, some of which Reese and Finch are aware, others which they know nothing about. She is already a woman in a man’s world (and a Black woman at that), but the outfit known as HR has its arms and fingers into many parts of the pot. The question of her mere survival and the preservation of her sanity may be more important than her overall role in the big picture.
8) And then there’s Fusco – the resident comic relief, though he sure figured out how to diffuse the igniter of a homemade bomb pretty quickly. He has been walking the line, pretending to be a dutiful member and stooge for HR while spying for Finch and Reese, but HR is already suspicious of him. His survival and identity as an accessory to the vigilantes is also at risk, particularly now that he is not able to be assisted by former partner Carter.
In short, Person of Interest is rife with meaty story possibilities that are so carefully interwoven, each episode is jam packed with so-called “holy shit” moments. In addition, the fully formed chemistry between this ensemble cast of actors is truly engaging. This is one of the most exciting shows on TV right now. This viewer highly recommends it to anyone who likes fast-paced, serial television with easy questions, no easy answers, and witty and intelligent writing, not to mention solid performances from a stellar cast. The conversations between Reese and Finch may be worth it alone. Adding Shaw and Root to the mix has only improved an already near flawless mixture of truly entertaining television.
Person of Interest was ordered for a full season by CBS, as it is a show with steady to high ratings, particularly among male audiences (I defy stereotypes of course). Unless something drastic occurs, this show probably has a few seasons to go and will become a mainstay for the network.