"Person of Interest" Series Premiere: Updating An Old Concept
I know what you're thinking. Yet another CBS procedural. Between two NCIS's, eleven Criminal Minds', thirty-three version of CSI -- not to mention all the cop and lawyer shows that the other networks try to shove down our throats -- it's understandable to be a little resistant when they introduce yet another one.
But from the first time we heard anything about it, "Person of Interest" felt different. Maybe it was the great two lead actors. Maybe it was the different spin on that procedural action/drama that it was plugging, or J.J. Abrams' involvement. Or maybe, it was the fact that it was the first project from the mind of Jonathan Nolan.
Nolan has long been in the shadow of his very famous directing brother, Christopher. You obviously know him from Memento, The Prestige, and of course the latest Batman films, but you may not have known that Christopher often works with his brother on his films' scripts. Memento is even based on a Jonathan Nolan short story. But up to now, all of Nolan's credits have been as "co-writer" along with his brother. It seems to be obvious, however, that the dude has some good ideas.
With his first foray into American television, Nolan is finally getting his chance to shine, and by the looks of it, he's definitely taking advantage of his first big shot.
In "Person of Interest", Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ, The Thin Red Line) plays John Reese, a former CIA operative presumed to be dead, likely hiding from his many enemies and drinking away his bad memories by living on the streets of New York. After a run-in with a bunch of rich punks -- who quickly find themselves on the receiving end of a CIA-trained beating -- Reese encounters Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson, Lost), a mysterious billionaire who commissions him to help solve crimes before they happen, using a computer program he designed for the government following 9/11.
The program was created in order to siphon out and investigate potential terrorist threats, using a vast network of surveillance technology across the United States. But Mr. Finch didn't anticipate that the "machine" would be able to catch other crimes as well. Murders, kidnappings, etc. Finch taught the machine to classify those threats as "not worth investigating" and discard the information daily. But the fact that he could be saving lives began eating away at him, so he designed a backdoor. It wouldn't tell him what the threat was or when it would happen, but it would give him a social insurance number of one of the parties involved. As an aging billionaire -- who also turns out to be presumed dead -- Finch can't stop the crimes himself, so he tracks down Reese to work with him.
Reese is of course skeptical at first, but after some convincing, he quickly goes on the trail of a local assistant district attorney who's "number was up". Reese learns as much as he can about her and a case she was working, but quickly finds out that she wasn't going to be the victim, but was instead the culprit or ringleader of a group of corrupt cops dealing drugs and framing people for murders. As you can imagine, Reese solves the mystery, saves the group's target and rides off into the sunset, living to solve another crime before it happens next week.
If you strip away the political type of intrigue of having machines survey our every move, you'd likely have a pretty standard action-procedural on our hands from a network that has way too many of those shows to begin with. But mix in a little Minority Report, a little 1984, a little Die Hard and even a little Batman and you have yourself one hell of a show.
After watching the trailer, I tried to think of some shows that were similar to Person of Interest, especially on network TV. Lord knows we mentioned enough procedural action dramas at the top of the recap, but in reality, there really isn't anything that the show compares to. Sure, it takes elements from action shows and procedurals, but what we have on our hands is something that is actually pretty damn original. When you have to compare a show on network TV to movies like Batman and Minority Report, you know you have something special on your hands.
And that's exactly what Person of Interest brings to the table. A main character in John Reese who stands up next to the likes of John McClane, Jack Bauer, even Bruce Wayne, kicks ass and takes names, and shoots pretty much everyone in the legs without looking back. A plot with plenty of potential going forward, and production values through the roof. Watching Person of Interest is truly an event.
Now, the pilot of course wasn't perfect. Obviously, Nolan and company had to cram a lot into an hour, including introducing all of the new characters as well as setting up the running plot and explaining the nature of the machine, so the actual "procedural" portion may have seemed a little rushed an irrelevant, even predictable. But, hey, it's a pilot, so we usually give these things a pass when everything else is done so well.
There's definitely the possibility that the show could fall into the same sea of problems that other dramas of the same genre find themselves in, but we're confident that thanks to a great, talented, even underrated cast and crew and the weight behind it in terms of production values will see it grow into one of the better shows on TV. It's certainly the best new show we've seen so far this season. The simple fact that the concept has so much potential to grow, even turn out to be a little serialized in the future has us excited to tune in next week. We're definitely excited to see what Jonathan Nolan has up his sleeves without his brother at the helm, even if all this surveillance and post-9/11 talk may make him seem like a paranoid freak!
If you haven't seen it yet, you definitely have to catch "Person of Interest", Thursday nights on CBS, and that's why it gets a solid 8.5 out of 10