Interesting people

Person of Interest got a little wobbly during its second season when it put Reese in prison and as close to being captured as ever. It took all of Finch’s technical wizardry to get him out in one of the best scenes of the series. As if that scene flipped a switch in the writers’ room, the series got its mojo back immediately.

Reese’s CIA partner, Kara Stanton, reappeared — much to his surprise. On their last mission together, their CIA controller, Agent Snow, sent them to a Chinese factory with orders to destroy a laptop and “retire” the other once the task was done. After barely surviving, Kara received a visit from a mysterious man offering to tell her who sold the laptop to the Chinese — the laptop which he now has. She agrees to work for him by implanting malware in a government computer monitoring station. Using Reese and Snow as tools to accomplish her mission, she calls the man and gets the name: Harold Finch. Before she can act on it, Snow detonates the bomb she strapped to his chest, killing them both.

Harold Finch is a dead man, wiped from existence to go underground after building the ultimate surveillance machine capable of identifying terrorists before they strike. But the machine has a back door that kicks out the Social Security numbers of “irrelevant” targets that will either murder or be murdered. Working with Reese to save lives, he keeps information about his identity extremely close to his vest. Who then is this man a world away that wants him dead. Why?

This looks to be the serialized element that will take Person of Interest to its season finale. Finch has enemies who know he is still alive and want him found. Reese escaped the threat of official apprehension but a dark intelligence element within the government wants him and everyone else who knows about the Machine dead.

Here is a look at the characters who will be major players down the stretch and a few from the past who might reappear.

“Yellow squares” – characters who know about the Machine:

Root. Root first appeared in season one as part of a plot to assassinate a Congressman and frame a former staff member. Her real goal, however, is to find the Machine. Through only computer communications, she goes so far as to reveal to Harold that he knows his name, which prompts him to vacate his library for a brief time.

Root reappeared at the end of season one – unbeknownst to anyone – as the POI in the season finale. Her true identity wasn’t revealed to viewers until the end of the episode when she murders Alicia Corwin and kidnaps Harold. The first two episodes of season two feature her trying to exact the Machine’s location from Finch and one of the seven government agents who know it. She kills the agent after he reveals to her – and Finch – that it is in Salt Lake City. Harold ultimately escapes and she disappears.

Control. Root remains missing from the story until resurfacing as the secretary for a mysterious character known as Control (or Special Counsel). He knows about the machine and controls a number of specialized killers out to protect it. One of them – Hesch – is after Reese. Others work for him indirectly through something they only know as Research.

Samantha Shaw. Samantha Shaw and Michael Cole believe they are taking out terrorists but unknowingly serve as two of Control’s hit men. Cole realizes that one of their targets was a U.S. government employee named Akino. Akino, it seems, knew too much about the Machine. Control can’t risk them digging into Akino any further so it sends a team to kill them, succeeding with Cole but Shaw escapes. Reese tries to intervene – their numbers came from the Machine – but Shaw rejects his help.

Still trying to locate the Machine, Root lures Shaw into a hotel with the hope she is the one who can direct her to it. When Control’s goon squad shows up, Root bolts. Reese saves Shaw again and she agrees to hear him out but rebuffs Finch’s offer to join the two of them. She gets revenge for Cole’s death by killing one of Counsel’s agents right in front of him. Hersh believes she is dead, but Reese and Finch saved her life for the third time. Rejecting their help again, she drives off alone. It is clear, however, that Shaw’s role in the story is not over.

Henry Peck. Henry Peck is a wildcard left over from season one. As an NSA security analyst he accidentally stumbled on the Machine after realizing single names were being added to his security briefs, all of which led to the prevention of a terrorist event. Asking questions earns him a target on his back. This is where we first see Control as he gives one of his men the order to eliminate Peck. Reese helps him avoid two hits and Finch takes the unprecedented step of telling him the Machine is real and confesses he built it. He gives Peck a clean identity, but we don’t know if he used it. He has not been since since.

White squares. Two other people emerged in season two who don’t know about the Machine but we are left with the impression that they might be able to learn who Finch is.

Caleb Phipps. With Reese still in jail Finch protects a high school student who is a coding genius. At the end of the episode, Finch all but confesses to the boy that he is the legendary hacker behind one of the most notorious hacks in history. It certainly seems possible that Caleb was introduced to the story with those specific skills to use him later.

Logan Pierce. Like Phipps, Pierce seems capable of resurfacing. Clearly modeled after Mark Zuckerberg, he’s a social media wunderkind who Reese saves multiple times. At the end of the episode he coyly reveals what he knows about the pair.

A third character in this category remains in the wind from season one: Grace Hendricks. She and Finch were a couple for four years until he faked his death to protect her from the dangers inherent with being close to the one who created the Machine. We only saw her at the end of the Henry Peck episode. Finch created an app that warns him when she is nearby, so she could show up at any time. It’s a long shot.

Before his death at the hands of Kara Stanton, Agent Donnelley tells Carter they think the man in the suit is being assisted by a private intelligence network backed by the Chinese. That line could loom large as the mysterious man who knows Finch’s existence comes back into the story. Reese and Kara were in China to destroy a laptop that Harold sold to the Chinese — could the man be a former associate of Harold’s? Or an enemy?  I expect we will know before Person of Interest signs off for the season…the malware Kara uploaded for him is set to go live in May.

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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.

Spring 2012 TV review

Using one word to sum up the shows I watched this television season.

Terra Nova: Failed.

Terra Nova could have been outstanding, instead it’s off the air. That is disappointing but not surprising. Even thought it was ridiculously expensive, FOX said it made money off the show internationally and hinted it would try to sell the show to a different network or possibly Netflix. Netflix however announced it would not buy the show. Still, FOX is reportedly keeping everyone under contract in case the show does find a second life. Should that happen, the show needs a ton of work to become anything remotely worth anyone’s time.

Alcatraz: Lame.

Jorge Garcia is, like, adorable on television, dude. But Alcatraz sucked. Bad. The main character, a female cop lured into investigating the sudden reappearance of Alcatraz prisoners, was horribly miscast. Do real cops show that much cleavage or just TV cops? She was not believable for even one second. Sam Neil’s character was kinda interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to keep the show afloat. There was some interesting stuff here, though. Sam Neil’s character being a guard at the prison when whatever happened to it happened served as a nice tie-in to the story’s two time periods. His Richard Alpert-esque kinda-sorta love interest who was brutally shot and laid in a coma also set the groundwork for something that could have been very compelling. But on an episode-by-episode basis the show seemed to forget all of that.

BUT…I like to Google shows while I’m writing about them. In so doing I read about what happened in the season finale and I have to say I’m stunned. Stunned to the point where I might have to go back and pick up where I left off to see how it all turned out.

Revenge: Unexpected.

Just as Revenge was heating up, ABC inexplicably put it on one of its moronic hiatuses, although at only six weeks this one is shorter than the break that did in Flash Forward. The storyline had finally come back to the engagement party it started with in the pilot. I felt it was a little cheap, but still pretty good. It will have to transition from the summer-in-the-Hamptons setting that it used to augment the soap opera feeling, but I’m looking forward to what it has in store for when ABC eventually lets it back on the air.

Once Upon a Time: Disappointing.

The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time were really neat. Then it kinda wandered. The premise of an evil fantasy witch trapping real-life versions of fairytale characters in an idyllic seaside town is creative and fun. But then it seemed the show wasn’t even about that anymore. The first few episodes had clear connections between what happened in fantasy land and what happened in Storybrooke. After that it flattened out. It is so uninteresting now that I wonder why I even continue to watch it. Adam Horowitz and Mankato native Edward Kitsis earned a lot of loyalty from their work on Lost, but even that is slowly running out. This show needs to pick it up, fast, or else it’s off the list.

Awake: Intriguing.

I hadn’t even heard about this NBC show (maybe because it is on NBC) until Damon Lindelof tweeted about how much he liked the pilot. So I checked it out and damn if it ain’t really well done and really intriguing. The premise is this: An LA cop is in a car crash with his wife and teenage son. He wakes up to find his wife survived but his son died. But then he goes to sleep and wakes up in a completely different timeline where his wife died but his son survived. This is intriguing enough, but the way they weave together the cases he works on in both realities adds a second layer of interest that is really cool. On top of that they add two psychiatrists – one in each reality – who each try to convince him that what he experiences is the other reality is not, in fact, reality at all.

Awake has “it.” It is the rare show that takes a good story and makes it even better through perfect storytelling. Which reality is real? Both? Neither? What’s the deal with his wife-reality boss hinting that the accident wasn’t an accident at all? If there’s a mention of that in his son-reality timeline, I missed it. Does that mean it is the fake one? This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.

American Horror Story: Compelling.

Person of Interest: Exceeding.

The River: Stupid.