Aug 23, 2012

[TV] Person of Interest: Season 1

I am forever thankful that Tobie managed to get me into the TV show LOST or I would never have experienced the artistic mastery that is Michael Emerson as Ben from that show. Seriously, why that man did not walk away with more Emmys or Golden Globes is beyond me.

So when his involvement in Person of Interest was announced, I have to admit that I was more than willing to watch the show just for him. And that seems kind of shallow - okay, it is shallow, so sue me. But you have to understand how much I came to respect his character on LOST and so I definitely wanted to see what he would do with this particular role.

And to be fair, the premise behind the show was interesting enough in its own right. I just didn't feel all that committed to finding out more about the show since Emerson alone had pretty much sold me.

Thankfully the show wasn't as bad as I had feared, although it wasn't quite as great either.

Synopsis: Person of Interest is a drama series created for CBS. The screenplay was developed by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan. The show's first season managed to win Best New Drama at the People's Choice Awards 2012.

Every episode of the series beings with this opening voiceover as narrated by Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), which sets up the basic premise of the show:
"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up...we'll find you."
To be more specific about things, Harold Finch is a bit of a reclusive genius who was once tasked by the government to create a machine that would analyze all possible forms of surveilance including security cameras, phone calls and internet activity in order to detect acts of terror. But it also picked up smaller crimes that the government found to be irrelevant, and thus Mr. Finch approaches one John Reese (Jim Caviezel), who initialy is living as a homeless man in New York.

But Mr. Reese is actually a former Green Beret and CIA field operative in hiding - something that Mr. Finch somehow determines on his own. He solicits John's help in dealing with these small crimes detected by the machine as they try to make the world a better place one crime at a time. And the only clue that they get is the social security number of the person most involved in the cominc incident - it's just never clear at first whether the number represents the potential victim or the potential criminal.

I'll admit that at first I struggled with enjoying the story on its own instead of just waiting for Emerson to act even remotely like Ben in every episode. And that's largely because the first half of the season (or thereabouts) fell overly episodic for me and somehow the basic "crime of the week" premise just didn't excite me all that much. Especially for a project that has J.J. Abrams involved, you can't help but expect there to be some larger, complex meta-plot to keep things together.

And they really took their time in terms of building up the necessary plot elements to create a larger meta-plot arch, so I will advise patience for those who are interested in getting into this show. A lot of times it'll seem like you'll just have to get through yet another "criminal of the week" type of episode with no long term value. But then over time a few of those cases will link up to others and a larger pattern will start to form. I still wish they had gotten around to it faster, but at least it all makes sense at the end.

Perahaps part of the challenge of the show is how Caviezel's character seems far too much like a near-perfect hero. As in think Batman but in an assassin-friendly suit and yet complete with the breathy way of speaking. I mean seriously, it's like he's almost unstoppable in a straight up fight and yet also somehow forgettable since the police have a hell of a time trying to track down the "man in a suit" as everyone starts to refer to him over time. It's amazing how he manages to escape most detection across the course of the entire season despite how he and Mr. Finch seem to operate solely in New York. That kind of limited scope is bound to attract attention and scrutiny!

I do love Michael Emerson as Mr. Finch. Sure, he's a rather mousy character and is worlds away from Ben, but it doens't meant that he isn't witty in his own right and has quite the mastery for pointed sarcasm. And it's both amazing and annoying how he manages to walk with a limp pretty much all the time, which I can imagine to be quite the acting challenge. However it makes one question how realistic it is that he's able to get around the city as quickly and seemingly effortlessly as he does, especialyl since a guy with glasses and a limp can also be rather distinct as a visual cue for any formal investigation into their activities.

Person of Interest is a rather slow-burn crime drama but it is one designed to be appreciated by a much larger audience. But it does start to pay off as the season wraps up and I am definitely curious to see how things will resolve themselves when the show returns to the small screen. In the meantime, we'll rate this first season as 3.5 weird disguises that Harold Finch adopts out of a possible 5.

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  1. I watched until the 3rd episode. I got tired of it easily because it wasn't that thrilling for me.

  2. Yeah I get what you mean. Where it not for my investment in Emerson, I probably would have given up sooner.