One of the best series on tv of the last ten years, Person of Interest was excellent, well crafted, blend of science fiction, crime drama, and spy-fi that is still nearly unmatched for great entertainment value.
Jonathan Nolan’s memorable series is listed as a science fiction crime drama on Wikipedia, and if you are not familiar with the series the science fiction refers to the solid and unique premise the show was based on – The Machine, an artificial intelligence created by Harold Finch, that spent its time finding people in bad situations that the show’s cast did their best to help.
The series was so much more than the two phrases that describe it. It was an intelligent platform that captured the zeitgeist of the 21st century, the issues surrounding privacy or loss of it and the accompanying paranoia that exists in the digital world we now live in. Nolan couched the series in the context of a Shakespearean tragedy and the show lets you know right off the bat that things are not going to end well for some of those involved.
The idea of a team of vigilantes given their missions by an artificial intelligence is a brilliant premise, coupled with a neo-noir private eye influence as part of its crime drama DNA. I have a theory that Team Machine was a direct result of Nolan’s Batman movies that took the vigilante premise to the next logical step of development. A grand notion of a cyberpunk future in which the premise exists.
In case you didn’t know, Jonathan Nolan is an English-American screenwriter, television producer, director, and author. He is the creator of the science fiction television series Person of Interest (2011–2016) and co-creator of Westworld (2016–present).
He has collaborated on several films with his brother, writer/director Christopher Nolan, who adapted Jonathan’s short story “Memento Mori” (2001) into the film Memento (2000). Together, they co-wrote the mystery thriller The Prestige (2006), the superhero films The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and the epic science fiction film Interstellar (2014).
In any case, his pedigree is what first attracted me to the series under discussion here. Person of Interest, despite its epic genre-crossing scope somehow managed to remain one of Television’s best-kept secrets that had such a low profile that it amazingly passed under the radar of a lot of genre fans, and that’s truly a pity because it’s terrific TV. Fortunately, in today’s world, it’s an oversight that’s easy to do something about. You can watch it whenever you choose
One thing that made the show noteworthy, and grabbed nay attention was the divergence from the well-worn trope of the creation of an artificial intelligence automatically leading to it trying to kill everybody or trying to destroy humanity somehow, instead this show took a different route of mankind and technology working together for the benefit of humanity. It is the only instance I know of in science fiction lately, where our technology, instead of being the cause of our doom, might well be what saves us from ourselves.
It should be called Persons of Interest because the title should apply not only to the people the show’s characters tried to help but the show’s characters themselves. They are a fascinating collection of people who became an extended surrogate family for each other while engaged in a crusade to help others that couldn’t help themselves.
The show’s cast was excellent, it boasted a nearly unequaled quality that few shows can ever claim. It was a once-in-a-lifetime combination of skilled actors at the top of their game.
Jim Caviezel as John Reese: Reese is a badass without equal. A former Special Forces soldier and later a CIA black operations agent. Caviezel was convincing as the dark and brooding mysterious “man in the suit”, the team machine’s main muscle and operative. He had a dark nature and he knew there was no way around it, but maybe – just maybe, there was a way to ultimately use it for good, and that was as close to salvation for him he could hope for. My favorite Reese quote was the time he uttered “maybe the reason there’s bad people in the world is so they can do the things that good people can’t do” Reese was the dark knight without the cowl and cape.
Michael Emerson as Harold Finch: Finch is a reclusive, security conscious, and intensely private billionaire software engineer. Harold’s a pioneer in digital technology the world’s first and best hacker unequaled in skill in the digital domain and one of the world’s most visionary thinkers. The Machine was his greatest creation and Team Machine would not be possible without him. The character is portrayed as passionately idealistic and a bit of a sartorial metrosexual in sharp contrast to Reese’s more casual hard-boiled approach.
This along with the Machine itself, the artificial intelligence Finch creates is the original Team Machine. Their relationship, the chemistry between them, and complimentary skill sets, and how their rapport evolves is one of the highlights of season one, and there’s a lot of little amusing moments for a series that on the surface seems to want to be taken so seriously. Good fun on the down low that becomes more apparent when rewatching it again from the beginning.
The original team soon grows into a surrogate family as the show evolves. First up is Lionel Fusco a dirty cop who soon learns he’s happier as one of the good guys while retaining a skill set that includes a natural talent for bending the rules, deceit, lying, and coming out of bad situations squeaky clean. His stocky, working class unapologetic, cranky, jaded, nick-name-assigning, tough guy act became one of my favorite parts of the series, and I came to look forward to the show’s Fusco moments as much as any other part of the show.
Season one also introduced Taraji P. Henson as Detective Jocelyn “Joss” Carter, a passionate cop who takes her job very seriously along with the rules and responsibilities that go with it. She’s a single mom who’s smart and outspoken and has a bit of the ‘sassy black woman’ stereotype flavor going on.The first of the show’s three beautiful sexy female characters, she became the heart of Team Machine and even awakened the heart of John Reese, a man who was emotionally dead until she came along.
The relationship between Finch and The Machine was also central to the series narrative as it developed, it was atypical for stories involving artificial intelligence, depicting the Machine as more child-like in its attitude towards its creator and apparently viewing Finch as the father it wants to favorably impress and please, even going so far to express something akin to depression when it feels it has failed to do so. The Machine even goes so far as to hook up Finch with the love of his life, a perfect female companion for the reclusive genius.
Harold, for his part, refuses to recognize the Machine as anything beyond being simply that – a machine, until its almost too late. he finally comes to realize that what he has created has grown beyond a collection of circuits and LEDs. Harold is far too humble to ever assume anything akin to the ego tripping god-like attitude the Machine’s creator might assume if it was anyone else of lesser intelligence., and towards the end he assumes a tender affection for the entity he created like a parent who realizes his child might need more than he has been willing to give.
At this point, I have still only progressed into season one of the series. Later, at the end of season one, comes the arrival of Root, Finch’s female counterpart. Amy Acker as Root was a wonderful addition to the series, her acting skills are remarkable and memorable. Even later Sarah Shahi as Shaw was equally enjoyable and often amusing as the female counterpart of Reese with her personal approach that made the character somewhat reminiscent of a human version of a feral cat. She provided a lot of amusing moments as well as some interesting ones as her relationship with Root developed. Add to this the occasional reminders that both of these ladies were homicidal sociopaths, who were also somewhat scary, rounded the characters out. They were both worthy additions to Team Machine and made it their own in memorable fashion
Rewatching this series has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience that is like seeing the show all over again with fresh eyes. I find myself more appreciative of a lot of little things I had forgotten about the show along with some I may be seeing for the first time.