Person of Interest is an American TV show about former CIA agent John Reese who teams up with mysterious hacker Harold Finch. Together they help people involved in premeditated crimes – with the help of a secret machine which detects such crimes. The machine was originally built to protect the US from the threat of terror, but it also detects crimes that are not relevant to national security. With the help of a back door built into the code of the machine, Finch is able to determine the identities of the people in need of help and sends Reese out to help them. Over the course of the first season, Finch and Reese also establish alliances with two NYPD officers.
Initially I had a very troubled relationship with this TV show. It’s not quite my favorite genre – mostly I find American crime shows dull and repetitive. There are exceptions of course, but even those aren’t perfect (e.g. Castle – it’s immense fun, but a tad repetitive). Person of Interest has a slightly altered concept, and after three recommendations I gave it a shot and watched the pilot.
I was a bit surprised by how incredibly wooden the acting of the protagonists was. Thoughts like “go to acting school!” and “even George Lucas isn’t this wooden!” kept running through my head. Jim Caviezel, who portrays Reese, is definitely the worst of the bunch. He has one facial expression, one voice and not a whole lot of postures. His acting is as stiff as Harold’s neck – or perhaps it’s Harold’s actual stiffness which subconsciously transplants itself unto John’s emotional stiffness?! It’s perfectly possible that all this is part of the character of Reese, but if that were the case, it would be a bit exaggerated. I sort of remember watching that Jesus film with Caviezel a long time ago, but I don’t remember such extreme wooden acting in that.
Despite the woodenness, the show grows on you. It spreads like a virus inside you and completely consumes you, devouring all skepticism. It’s a strange phenomenon: by the time I was well into the season, I felt the need to continue watching – though it usually is not all that suspenseful (compared to many other shows). I developed a real fondness for these strange two protagonists. Mild curiosity caused me to care about what would happen to them next. They are a very peculiar pair indeed – both are secretive toward each other, both don’t entirely trust each other, both use tracking devices on each other, and yet they both appear to deeply care for the well-being of each other. There’s almost a slight hint of homoeroticism, albeit tending towards the platonic. In a way, they are an odd Sherlock and Watson, though it would be impossible to define who is Sherlock and who is Watson.
There’s one other entity which plays a central role in the show – the machine. The machine was built by Harold himself, who together with his former partner sold it to the government to help fight terrorism. It is the perfect Orwellian nightmare, except it spies on everyone, not just the middle class. It doesn’t require human interaction, rather it detects potential threats all by itself. Its artificial intelligence sometimes even appears to develop a sort of personality – it cares for its creator and his surroundings. Having access to the machine is equal to being god-like, as it gives you the possibility of watching every single person (in the US). For that reason, Harold created the machine so that nobody would have access. In a way, the machine itself is God – it watches, it processes, it computes, and it protects the innocent from crime. That makes it actually better than God, since God never did any such thing (how could he – he doesn’t exist). Machines are our Gods of the future. Already we worship them because we have made our lives completely dependent on them. If the machines were to fail, e.g. by prolonged power outages, is it likely that the planet would perish in a nuclear catastrophe (which, by the way, makes the TV show Revolution a bit unlikely). The machine in Person of Interest is on the one hand a dystopian nightmare, on the other hand it’s already reality. I recently saw a BBC documentation about a machine that predicts crime in Los Angeles…
Person of Interest is a strange phenomenon. I would never count it among my favorite TV shows, but I care about it and I am curious to find out what will happen to Finch, Reese and the machine in future seasons. And if there’s one thing that the show is worth watching for, it’s the gorgeous filming locations in New York which I’ve already mentioned in an earlier blog post. Unlike most shows out there, it’s actually New York and it gives the show an additional layer of depth, credibility and eyecandy.Read on