Somehow we finally ended up watching through Person of Interest in a few days recently, and now, i’m completely hooked. I need more. It’s been on our radar for a while, for three reasons:
- Michael Emerson – in the past couple of months I finally convinced Liz to watch through Lost. Fans of the show will recognise Michael Emerson for his portrayal of Ben Linus, one of the oddest characters in the entire show. Which is fairly impressive in a show full of oddities. It’s the first thing i saw him in, but it was a memorable performance to say the least, so the chance to see him in other stuff? Definitely.
- Jonathan Nolan – Some people might recognise the Nolan name, thanks to Christopher Nolan. More specifically, what he’s done with Batman. Also, Inception. Jonathan Nolan worked on the screenplay of both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises with Christopher Nolan. So yeah, he’s certainly got some experience writing awesome stuff. More importantly though, the two Nolans both worked together on my favourite film of all time, The Prestige. So a TV series he’s worked on? Gotta be worth a watch.(Brief synopsis of The Prestige for those who haven’t seen it: BATMAN AND WOLVERINE FIGHT WITH MAGIC TRICKS PROVIDED BY DAVID BOWIE. Yeah, now you understand why it’s the greatest film ever. )
- JJ Abrams is a producer. Disregarding his film work (Except the new Star Trek films. I liked the new Star Trek. quite a bit. I’m looking forward to Into Darkness), he’s responsible for Alias, Lost, and Fringe. All three shows that we’re fond of. So anything he’s working on, probably worth at least paying attention to.
So let’s have a look at the show itself. It’s pretty much the two characters, John Reese and Harold Finch, played by Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson respectively. Reese is an ex-CIA, ex-Green Beret silent badass who’s chosen a life of solitude (electing to be homeless in order to be anonymous), and Finch is a reclusive computer genius billionaire. After 9/11, Finch built a system for the US governemt known as The Machine, which watches everything in order to try and identify terrorist threats. Except that The Machine works too well: it also identifies threats to anybody’s life. The government isn’t interested in these threats, but Finch refuses to just let these crimes happen when something can be done about them. So he built a backdoor into the system that will routinely give him social security numbers. It’s not known if the number is for a person who’s going to be the target or the assailant, so the person of interest has to be identified and investigated before they can step in and help. Throughout the course of the show, there are occasional flashbacks (it’s a JJ Abrams show! there has to at least be flashbacks is there’s no time fuckery) that show parts of the creation of the The Machine, and some of Reese’s time in the CIA and past.
Lets have a look at the characters a bit more first. Reese, the man in the suit, played by Caviezel, is very much your strong, silent type who inevitably warms up over the course of the first season with Finch’s friendship, which is great because it leads to some excellent little humorous lines. Not one-liners (this isn’t a comedy), but amusing little things that in the context of the show are great, showing that he has a sense of humour and gives Reese a bit more of a human feel. I’ll admit i’ve not seen anything Caviezel in anything before, but from the first episode, he instantly strikes me as a mixture of Christian Bale and Matthew Fox. (Seriously. go do an image search. I’ll wait. Done? see what i mean?) Which is amusing, because he’s clearly got little bruce-wayne mannerisms in there that Nolan likely wrote into the Batman scripts, and the hair of Matthew Fox in later seasons of Lost.
Finch, the reclusive genius billionaire, has a rather more mysterious past. While Reese seems to choose to be reclusive by choice due to events in his past, Finch is reclusive entirely by nature, as well as necessity. In one episode, we learn that Harold Finch isn’t his real name (he went by a different name in high school, for example) in addition to going by other names. In the past flashbacks where we meet his business partner, his partner is the one who does all the dealings with government agents – in fact, as far as the government is concerned, Finch is just a tech support guy. We’re even shown in one episode where he’s a mid-level software engineer in a company nobody knows he owns, and has been for something like 17 years. Finch is a character that is one mystery after another – a character type that’s perfectly up Emerson’s street. It doesn’t help he has excellent taste in suits either.
Side note – awesome but somewhat mysterious guys in new york with excellent taste in suits? Maybe it’s just me, but i’m seeing a trend here. Michael Emerson in this, Neil Patrick Harris in HIMYM, Matthew Bomer in White Collar… i’m sure there are plenty more examples.
The show is pretty much these two characters, in pretty much a buddy-cop routine. That puts quite a lot of pressure on the two characters, because we spend a lot of time of them. It’s somewhat expanded with other two regular characters through the first season (two NYPD detectives who learn about the man in the suit and his partner’s work and unofficially help) but it’s always very much these two main characters. The premise of the show allows for a ‘cyclical’ episode structure – for some episodes, it allows for a cycle of what they do to be completed, so you can happily just watch a single episode. It allows for the show to be picked up very quickly, while still allowing for character development over the course of the series. Of course there’s also some recurring elements that keep it a season – such as HR, the organisation of crooked cops and officials, some federal agents after the man in the suit, and Elias (who i just refer to as Keith Mars) – but largely, the episodes work well due to the dynamic between characters, and the strong premise. These are two differently skilled people who are going out of their way to help people. It’s not for their personal gain, or any monetary gain – it’s simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The end of the first series and start of the second had an inevitable several-episode spanning arc that seemed to go through a couple of clichés. (Spoilers ahead) Finch is kidnapped by someone who they thought was someone else, and it’s up to Reese to use Finch’s resources to try track Finch down, because he’s come to realise that Finch is his friend. There’s two clichés right there – a main character is kidnapped, and a main character realising he’s not as alone as he thought. They also introduced Bear. Bear is a military dog. He’s kept by some low-level scumbags, who don’t know how to control him – they just see big dog and think scary. Finch is captured, and explains how he knows it’s a military dog, and he’s trained to respond to commands in dutch. You can see exactly what’s going to play out there.
Right now, the show’s going through a mid-series mini-arc where Reese was captured (along with some other guys) and had to keep his identity as the man in the suit secret from the FBI during interrogations, and Finch has to forge details to back up Reese’s story on the fly. The problem is, the person doing the interrogating is Detective Carter (as she’s a former US Army interrogator), one of the two NYPD detectives that help Reese and Finch, so she has to try and act as if she doesn’t know him. After an entire episode of interrogations, they finally release Reese. Unfortunately, Reese and Carter make the predictable clichéd mistake of MEETING IN PERSON LATER ON IN THE SAME DAY. Can you guess what happens? Yes, they are caught and arrested. The next episode airs at the end of the month, and I want it already dammit.
Bonus round: There’s a few other people who were in Lost who’ve turned up:
Miles is in it (twice!) as an idiot. Goodwin is Finch’s partner in his flashbacks (who we learn is dead in the actual time of the series, but we haven’t learnt why yet). Jacob is in an episode. (Then again, Jacob (Lost) / Lucifer (Supernatural) also turned up in the final season of Prison Break with the man in black, further perpetuating that those two are in EVERYTHING. I should learn their names.)