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Person of Interest Review -- Or how I say goodbye to my favorite television show.

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This month saw the series finale of Person of Interest, the criminally underappreciated television series which combined a science-fiction spin with a typical police procedural, but remained rooted enough in reality to keep itself believable. Person of Interest ran for one-hundred-three episodes over five seasons, and was cerebral and intelligent, but also knew how to tell a personal story which often elicited powerful emotions. Seeing as the show recently concluded with one of the most perfect series finales I have ever watched, I figured this would be a good opportunity to not only honor an exceptional piece of television, but also introduce it to people who may have never watched or heard of it (let's face it, most of you have never seen it and should be ashamed..).

Person of Interest began with a premise that was fictional, but at the same time, strangely believable given the world we live in -- Following the attacks on September 11, the government commissioned the creation of a system that could dig through all the information it had given itself the power to collect. Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) created a machine which watches everyone to identify the terrorists in the general population before they can act. The Machine could see everything, so he taught it to divide threats between those that were relevant to national security and those that were irrelevant (for instance, a wife plotting to kill her cheating husband). However, the knowledge that he could have prevented numerous murders and deaths ate away at Finch, and he hires John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former CIA operative, to help him prevent these irrelevant violent crimes. One restriction Finch placed on the machine was that it only provides a social security number of individuals who are going to be involved in dangerous situations. They initially do not know if the number is a victim or perpetrator, or what the crime might be, so much of each episode is spent trying to get a better idea of the number-of-the-week, their circumstances, and the potential threats or potential targets around them. Of course, a simple weekly police procedural is nothing special and certainly not worthy of this deviation from my usual gaming-focused blog theme or recognition as my favorite television show. As the show continued, it began to truly shine as it delved into deeper overarching topics, such as the permeation of government surveillance and the development and proliferation of artificial intelligence.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I watched the pilot episode of Person of Interest almost entirely because of Michael Emerson’s spectacular performance as Ben Linus on Lost. Emerson does not disappoint. While he does an exceptional job portraying Finch, and he and Caviezel mesh together perfectly, some of his best performances come through his conversations with the Machine. The Machine doesn’t actually have its own voice, so many of their interactions involve Finch essentially talking to a computer which responds with emotionless text. I have a lot of respect for any actor who can portray powerful emotions paired against words on a computer screen. That said, Emerson and Caviezel are not alone and are surrounded by a phenomenal cast. Initial series regulars include Detective Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), a detective initially out to catch Reese for being a vigilante, and Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a corrupt detective who Reese coerces into assisting him, but eventually becomes a close ally and friend. In later seasons, they are joined by Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi), a former ISA operative who initially works the relevant numbers, Root (Amy Acker), a mysterious hacker who grows to idolize the machine, and Bear, a Belgian Malinois who has convinced me that dogs have a range of acting talents as well and every show would be better served with a dog. While the actors certainly deserve their share of the praise, I also have to credit the writers for doing an outstanding job developing so many of them throughout the series. While Finch and Reese are mostly stable figures, around them and through their interactions, characters like Fusco, Shaw, and Root undergo significant changes and seeing how these characters influence each other is a gratifying journey from start to finish.

Unlike many shows which introduce an overarching plot only to connect to it during the mid-season or season finale, Person of Interest always did an exceptional job balancing the number-of-the-week dimension with multiple overarching plots. Most times, a seeming unrelated number would connect to one of the major storylines, but as the cast expanded, the show was able to split up the team, sending members to deal with different problems. However, even during the first season, the show managed to integrate at least five different storylines (Elias and his war, HR, Root, Reese’s past and CIA missions, and Finch’s past and the development of the Machine) throughout the season, and did not just briefly touch on these storylines at the end of an episode. For instance, one of the best episodes in the first season uses flashbacks to parallel the circumstances surrounding the number-of-the-week with Reese's past to add a heightened sense of weight and urgency to the episode to dramatic effect.

Part of the appeal of Person of Interest is that, although there are science-fiction elements to the show, it was still rooted enough in reality that it was believable. Yes, a machine exists which can watch everyone, but it still relies on cameras, cellphones, and existing surveillance mechanisms. The show commonly used bluejacking (and discussed methods to prevent such incursions), often referenced the Darknet, had an episode around the Fast and Furious scandal, created analogous entities to Silk Road, Facebook, and ShotSpotter, and one of the later episodes even used the fact that PlayStation 3s could be connected together to build a supercomputer. However, one of the best examples of the show's realism was thanks to Edward Snowden. When the show aired its first episode in 2011, the idea of mass surveillance was an abstract phenomenon which many gave no thought. In 2013, Snowden released documents which revealed the existence of the government data-collection program known as PRISM (which Person of Interest took advantage of during Comic-Con that year). During the course of Person of Interest's tenure, the idea of mass government surveillance, one of the central fictional elements the show had built itself around, became a reality which still exists today.

There’s so much more I could talk about (for instance, the amazing score composed by Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim, and various others), the exceptionally selected soundtrack during especially poignant moments (the way the show used Johnny Cash’s Hurt during an especially powerful scene in the middle of Season 3 is one of the most perfect unions of music and television I have ever seen), the amazing, if not sometimes unbelievable, action scenes, or the intellectual, ethical, and political discourses the show raised over its five-year run), but I want to keep this fairly brief. I’ve recommended Person of Interest on countless occasions. While many have ignored my recommendation, every person who has listened and watched the show, has become addicted and quickly binged through the available episodes (one went through four seasons in around two weeks). If any part of Person of Interest sounds interesting, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Honestly, even if you do not think it is your type of show, go watch it anyway because it is just that good.

The machine is everywhere. Watching us with ten-thousand eyes. Listening with a million ears.


  1. Hushigoshi -
    Hushigoshi's Avatar
    Perfect, succinct review, for the a near perfect television show. I'm still waiting for the "Leon and Bear Misadventures" spinoff.