Person of Interest aired on CBS from 2011 to 2016, for a total of 103 episodes. Written by Jonathan Nolan (writer of The Dark Knight, amongst other things) it stars Michael Emerson as Harold Finch, a mysterious billionaire who hires Jesus himself (Jim Caviezel) to save ordinary citizens in New York City. I’m going to be purposefully light on details here so as to avoid spoilers, but what starts off looking like a paint-by-numbers police procedural, ends up being so much more, and truly one of the best shows of the century so far.
Finch and Caviezel’s character John Reese are delivered the social security number of a person, who they than have to investigate to find out if they are soon going to commit or be victim of a crime. All they know is that the person is in danger of harm or will cause harm to others. I’m going to spoil something for you, they get it from a mysterious machine. What follows are often interesting (though not always) examinations of New Yorker’s lives, their hopes, fears and indiscretions. And usually with Reese shooting out a few kneecaps. This approach really helps ground the show. It’s not about saving the world (or universe), it’s usually about saving a single life.
It’s by far from a perfect show – some of the dialogue is a little on the nose, and Emerson is tasked with a lot of exposition to keep viewers up to speed with the often complex plots. Caviezel’s character could also be considered a little one-dimensional at first, and even throughout the run he gets only a handful of opportunities to show his acting chops. Emerson gets more than that, and blows each one out of the park. He demonstrates the sort of calmness that comes with superior knowledge and power, but still remains vulnerable and capable of mistakes.
There’s a stellar case of supporting actors that I don’t want to spoil too much, but the show starts off quite focused on Emerson and Caviezel’s characters, but gradually grows into very much an ensemble. Also adding so much to the show is the score. Composed by Ramin Djwadi (Game of Thrones), the show’s music is iconic without being overpowering, and shows up for the big moments.
And then of course, is the Machine itself. A character in it’s own right, the best aspect of the show (and what makes it worth sitting through the ‘villain of the week’ episodes) is how we gradually learn more about the Machine, it’s origins and how it works. The show gets into some really in-depth discussions and debates about the nature of surveillance, privacy, personal freedom, artificial intelligence and morality. All from a CBS procedural, who would have thought it?
Sounds great, I hear you say, but I don’t want to commit to 103 episodes, I’m more of a True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Walking Dead season kind of a guy. That’s understandable. For how great the show is, there’s more than a few dud episodes. This article from IGN will help you work out which episodes to watch.
Do it – you won’t regret it.