Person of Interest is a series whose greatness sneaks up on you. The first season is basic procedural fare with occasional standout moments and episodes. It’s something that’s great to put on in the background while you fold laundry or work out. Then something funny happens. You start finding yourself paying more attention to the series than your activity. By season three you’re focusing solely on the show and by season five you’re planning a night around the premiere with your sister who’s baked Person of Interest themed cupcakes.
And they are delicious. So anyway, Person of Interest. Here’s the hook:
Harold Finch, a reclusive genius, has invented The Machine, an AI, to help the government stop terrorist threats. But since The Machine also sees threats to average people Finch has set it to send him information on those threats. Not much, just a social security number. That number relates to a person. OF INTEREST. That person might be a victim. They might be a perpetrator. Either way, Finch can’t save or stop them on his own.
I mean look at him, he’s Michael Emerson.
He recruits John Reese, an ex-super spy now roaming New York City as a homeless person to help him. Together they fight crime and save lives all while monitoring the ramifications of creating a fully functional artificial intelligence.
That’s where the greatness comes in. The Machine is very much alive, and while it follows through on its programming Finch is always aware that it could potentially do so much more. Even take over the world. As time goes on our heroes face off against simpler threats like crime lords and corrupt cops, but they also take on corporations and government organizations looking to unlock the full potential of artificial intelligence.
Suffice it to say, everything falls apart over time and the status quo is shattered. The worst thing a procedural can be is the same thing year after year. Person of Interest doesn’t have that problem. The series was created by Jonathon Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother and co-writer of The Dark Knight. He knows how to balance a procedural with a serialized story and, once they start bucking CBS procedural traditions near the end of season one, the show becomes the most compelling looks at technology on television.
Jim Caviezel aka JESUS plays Reese. A black hole of charisma who nonetheless grows on you thanks to his ability to kick so much ass.
Michael Emerson, who you may know as Ben Linus from Lost plays Finch. It’s a perfect marriage of actor and role as Finch is awkward, brilliant, and heartbreaking all at once.
Taraji P. “Cookie” Henson plays Joss Carter. She’s a deeply layered cop trying to do the right thing, even as she hunts down our heroes, the vigilantes getting involved in crimes all over the city.
Kevin Chapman, who I’ll admit I know from nothing else, plays Lionel Fusco. A corrupt cop going through a great redemptive arc.
As time goes on, three more major additions to the cast arrive. The first is Amy Acker, of Angel fame, as Root. A psychopathic killer who perceives The Machine as God.
The second is Bear. Who’s a good boy!
The third is Sameen Shaw, played by Sarah Shahi. Shaw’s a current super spy who also has a mental disorder leaving her emotionally cold and without regard for her victims.
They are worth waiting for.
Season Five, the final season, has already begun. It will be truncated at only 13 episodes airing multiple nights a week because we live in a sad world. Here’s the trailer for where we are now. You’re not meant to understand what’s happening, you’re meant to see how much better this trailer looks than the one for season one.
Without giving too much away, the team is up against the wall and the stakes have never been higher. Bake your cupcakes and strap in, because it’ll be a hell of a ride.
Person of Interest airs Mondays and Tuesdays on CBS at 10. Previous seasons can be streamed on Netflix.
PS, Do some pushup or other exercises during the first season. That’s what I did.