Catching up with Person of Interest

CBS landed as many Lost graduates as any network in the post-island era. Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn stayed in Hawaii for the seemingly dull remake of Hawaii 5-0, and now Michael Emerson is limping (literally – the character has a limp) his way thru Person of Interest (Thursday, 8pm) with Jim Caviezel. Emerson’s character is a billionaire technology wizard who developed a vast electronic surveillance network designed to catch terrorists. Now living off the grid, Emerson exploits a back door to the system that alerts him to people who are in the path of a possible crime. The kicker here is that the machine isn’t too smart for the show’s own good, it can’t tell whether a name it identifies is going to be a perpetrator or a victim.

Enter Caviezel, the reclusive former Jason Bourne-type military fighter who Emerson hires to be his brawn and creeper. He is, of course, a phenomenal combat fighter and a marksman. His job is to follow the names the machine spits out and determine their role in the crime the machine sees them committing or being the victim of. And the machine is never wrong.

Person of Interest is a variation of the crime-tech shows that CBS has perfected with CSI and NCIS. Lost snobs like me scoffed at those shows over the years for being too simplistic and lacking compelling serial stories, and thus far P of I doesn’t appear too concerned with satisfying us. But that’s not a bad thing here. It uses an inquisitive New York Police Department detective trying to piece together clues about this mysterious man who appears at seemingly random crime scenes to build a story that you can see lasting for the duration of the first season. The man is, of course, Caviezel.

Addition:

Got this one kind of wrong. I think Person of Interest is very much trying to not be a week-to-week who-dunnit cop show. I think it is succeeding at being deeper. /addition

Early episodes have also left enough open storyline possibilities that you can count on future episodes being more important to the larger story than the person of the week plot. At some point the machine will get a name wrong and either Caviezel or Emerson will have their sheltered world punctured by the inquisitive detective or the uber-character that is smarter than the usual villains.

Addition:

Bingo! /addition

If strong stories aren’t enough to keep Person of Interest on the air, Caviezel’s magnetic portrayal of his character will. He portrays his reserved but quietly tortured character with ease, giving him a mix of confidence and mystery that can’t be ignored. He’s simply someone you want to see on the screen as much as possible. Emerson’s character isn’t as strong – yet, which could be the show’s effort to lure fans with the more well-known Caviezel. Lost fans watching for Emerson will give the show enough time just to see him, so they can afford to neglect his character at the outset.

Addition:

They got more into Emerson’s character as the season went on. Ending the season with his apparent kidnapping shows they are ready to have him be the show’s most powerful storytelling character. /addition

With a curious premise, strong stories and impeccable acting, Person of Interest has a chance to curate the kind of loyal following that will keep it on the air for years to come.

Addition:

Person of Interest is the best new show of the season that I watched. It is more mature than Revenge but gives something back for straight drama. Now that both main characters are established I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season move toward more explanations of the machine and how it came about. The season finale and mystery women who made herself visible to the machine in order to find and kidnap Finch would seem to indicate that. I wasn’t wild about how they handled that character in the finale, but I’ll get over it. I hope she doesn’t displace the two cops – both of which are now in on the game – because I view them as very much part of the show’s core. 

Prediction: Finch will stay off screen for a notable number of episodes to start season two. We know they aren’t going to kill him off, but I think they will leave us wondering for a good long while so Mr. Reese can take a more aggressive lead. 

Carrie Preston had a spot role in season one, amusing of course because she and Michael Emerson are married. She had one scene in Lost playing Ben’s mom before she died shortly after giving birth. Here, she played Finch’s ex-fiance who thinks he is dead.

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