Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “Person of Interest,” a science fiction crime drama, created by Jonathan Nolan, that aired on CBS from 2011 to 2016.
What: “Person of Interest” features 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. In the first few seasons, Taraji P. Henson plays a police detective 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 of everyone connected directly or indirectly to the Machine, as well as the Machine’s own complex programming, expose the corruption of higher powers, including federal government agencies, 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 show aired for five seasons, from 2011 to 2016, on CBS.
Where: The show is set in New York City and follows Reese, Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman), and Finch, as well as other characters that come and go throughout the series, as the Machine generates new numbers with associated lives to save or perpetrators to stop. Occasionally, the action leaves New York State if there is a larger story arc or a flashback providing character background.
Why: The Chief CP 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 and enjoyed Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I kept watching because I never could have conceived what the program would ultimately become or how the high-concept premise would offer longevity and/or wildly entertaining and intellectually stimulating story possibilities. I was pleasantly surprised by just how exciting, intelligent, and thoroughly engaging this show became. I thought I was the member of a hidden minority, but after some searching, I found other POIs within the CPU! circles willing to chat about this show – and their admiration for it, as it turns out, matches my own.
How – as in How Do We Really Feel About This Show (in the End)?!
The Chief CP previously covered Person of Interest, specifically in blog form. Read prior entries via clicking the helpful hyperlinks below:
Despite these two articles/reviews, Person of Interest coverage lapsed a bit, per usual, as the Chief CP launched the podcast portion of CPU! (but look how we’re finally catching up!). Also, Person of Interest is intense. It’s intense, I tell you! – and, therefore, sometimes hard to commit attention to watching, lest the intensity overwhelm. Plus, following the major character death previously covered in the most recent review, it was hard for me to recover to watch this show again – no joke. Boy, am I glad I persevered, though!
Also, as we often mention within the podcast episode hyperlinked below, this show was criminally – criminally – underrated. This high octane action thriller with science fiction aspects embracing super intelligent artificial intelligence just might have been too much for the average TV viewer, as we tentatively discuss in the episode. The ratings certainly seemed to reflect a wider trepidation in becoming invested in this truly well executed program; in fact, after tossing it around like a rag doll within its weekly schedule for the first few seasons, CBS, in the end, elected to cancel this headily premised show while ordering a shortened fifth season to tie up loose story threads. The good news: Person of Interest reached a grand total of 103 episodes, making it a candidate for syndication, should a benevolent network appreciate its quality and deft execution and elect to give it an afterlife. The bad news: not enough people saw the show when it was actually airing, rendering the show’s pickup even for syndication a tough sell in the end. At least Netflix (they really should pay us) can come to the rescue in the meantime.
Plus, though I originally posted about the show on social media as a podcast option over a year ago, no potential panelists emerged or volunteered. It was only through the steady but exciting expansion of the podcast and the casual conversations one has about TV – it’s how the podcast was inspired, don’t you know – that I was able to assemble a small but super intelligent threesome to sift through the long-term relevance of Person of Interest and its story about super-computers, moral quandaries, and diverse characters with layers like onions and slick chemistry beyond measure. Thus, herein, familiar panelists Spencer and Selene gather “around the water cooler” for a long, loving look back at POI and all that it had to offer, from Caviezel’s expert hand-to-hand combat to Emerson’s riveting, philosophically challenging portrayal of Finch; from Amy Acker’s charming psychopath Root to Sarah Shahi’s steely sociopath Shaw; from the death of Carter (as Henson jumped to Empire on Fox) to the long life of Bear the German Shepherd. The podcast panelists, your Chief CP and moderator included, spend some time wistfully pining for the days of an active Person of Interest – a special and largely overlooked five-year moment in TV history.
This podcast was recorded in April 2017 and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover plot points throughout the Person of Interest series, including the rise and fall of Finch’s beloved Machine. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our Marvel’s Defenders panel will be back around the water cooler to start controversy over the latest solo Defender series, Marvel’s Iron Fist. You won’t want to miss it. Stay tuned!
Questions, Impressions, and Considerations (from prior Person of Interest coverage)
1) Will Root (Acker) being holed up in Finch’s library last, or will the Machine bust her out of her newest prison?
ANSWER: In Season 3, the second half, Root’s ingenuity and zeal to “free” the Machine gives Root the tools needed to break out of this latest prison. This breakout leads to Root’s capture by shadow government operation Northern Lights, which spawns Samaritan. Root eventually becomes a bona fide part of the team when she surgically implants a device that allows her to hear instructions from the Machine directly after she is deafened via torture during her Northern Lights capture.
2) Will Elias (Enrico Colantoni) and the Machine ever cross paths?
ANSWER: Though Elias and the Machine never formally meet, Reese and Finch finally make Elias aware of the Machine just prior to Elias (spoiler) faking his death at the end of Season 4. Elias aids Reese and Finch in their fight against Samaritan throughout the final season – though he does not survive the war.
3) Will Shaw (Sarah Shahi) smack some sense into Reese? Will she ever get in touch with her inner human?
ANSWER: Shaw and humanity are not overlapping figures in this grand scheme; however, Shaw softens somewhat when she becomes romantically involved with Root later in the series. As for helping Reese to emerge from the funk caused by Carter’s shocking and abrupt death, Shaw proves downright giddy to fill in for Reese during Reese’s absence as the resident brute muscle marching on behalf of the Machine, though she lobs a few sassy one-liners in Reese’s generally depressed direction for good measure. As she does.
4) Will Fusco’s role in Finch’s merry band of misfits grow? Will he be able to save Reese from himself and his spiraling self-destruction as he mourns Carter?
ANSWER: It is Fusco who slaps some sense into Reese in the end. Fusco seems to make it his personal mission to help John come to grips with the reality of his situation – and then inherits that mission full time when the Machine re-purposes Reese as Carter’s NYPD replacement as a cover to shield Reese’s identity from the watchful digital eyes of Samaritan. When Reese becomes Fusco’s police partner, Fusco becomes (more) integral to Finch’s overall operation.
5) Where do they go from here? Will Reese recover? What is the Machine (and, therefore, Root’s) endgame?
ANSWER: The short answer is that with the activation of Samaritan, Finch’s team is forced to work in secret – that is, under even further cover than ever before. Though Reese recovers, Finch, Reese, and the others are frequently thwarted by Samaritan, who becomes an efficient adversary of the Machine very quickly. Samaritan’s endgame is to manipulate global circumstances such that war, violent crime, disease, hunger, and poverty are eliminated. Samaritan often orchestrates these improvements at the expense of collateral damage, in human life, while the Machine learns, via its programmer and master Finch, that human life should be valued. While the Machine’s designed endgame is not necessarily clear, at least as explained by Root and/or at the outset of its sentience, the actual fate of the Machine is tied closely to the defeat of Samaritan via what would be several sacrifices on the part of our misfit band of vigilantes.
6) What will Finch do to continue the quest when so much of his operation is in shambles following the cataclysmic confrontation with HR?
ANSWER: Finch eventually brings Root into the fold and eventually – although not until Season 5 – explains the stakes to poor hapless Fusco. Finch also abandons his library and assumes the secret identity of an assistant professor at a local university while the Machine attempts to cloak the team from Samaritan. The billionaire Finch also establishes an underground lair at an abandoned subway station, which allows Reese, Finch, and the team to continue to receive “irrelevant” numbers from the Machine while staying off Samaritan’s radar. In short, the team rebounds, just in time for the final showdown…
7) Will Finch or any of the group have to destroy the Machine in the end?
ANSWER: The short answer – yes. Finch pulls the proverbial kill switch, though his sentient Machine recognizes the need for the eventuality and cooperates with Finch’s decision because it is the only way to stop Samaritan.
8) Will the Machine continue to predict deaths, either individual or, in connection to its original purpose, larger/catastrophic disasters?
ANSWER: The Machine nearly loses its own sentience at the end of Season 4 when Samaritan is able to scale a full blown assault, causing Root and Finch to have to scramble to save the Machine’s core programming. A reboot using a score of stolen Playstation 4’s, thanks to Root, allows the Machine to revive and to continue its purpose, even throughout a shortened Season 5. Once Harold frees the Machine and allows it to expand its programming on the open net, its ability to predict everything broadens without tether, including its own demise in sacrifice to the greater good.
PARTING SHOTS & RECOMMENDATION
Person of Interest boasts riveting storytelling with threads that interweave, overlap, tie together, unravel, and come back together in the end. Each episode is jam packed with so-called “holy shit” moments, culminating in some of the biggest and most mind-blowing plot developments in television (all hyperbole and exaggeration aside) bolstered by the fully formed and engaging chemistry between this ensemble cast of actors. In fact, the podcast panelists see Person of Interest as one of the most exciting shows on TV in recent history, though not enough viewers tuned in to keep it going for the long term.
Further, the POI CPU! panelists recommend this program 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. Those who enjoy science fiction thrillers like The X-Files, Fringe, and the “Terminator” series will likely and most easily find love for POI, though fans of Caviezel, Emerson, Henson, Acker, and others in the cast will not be disappointed by the performances of these actors on this show. The panelists universally advocate that there might be something for everyone while warning that this is not “turn your brain off TV.” Person of Interest makes you think, but the mental stimulation is satisfying and is paid off handsomely by the end of the series. In fact, aside from the network’s wavering support for POI by the series finale, the podcast panelists, your moderator included, could find little bad to say about POI, nursing a high affection for the show and recommending it fervently to anyone seeking something new/old to add to their present watch lists.
The entire series of Person of Interest is available on Netflix. I’ll take my free subscription now, thank you. 😉