Person of Interest Pilot Review
Person of Interest premiered on CBS last Thursday. Based on a screenplay developed by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher) the show centers on ex CIA Agent John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a man who has seen and done some terrible things in the line of duty. Disillusioned, grieving over a personal loss, and near suicidal, Reese has become a homeless bum, presumed dead by those who knew him and just a few bottles away from drinking himself to death.
When a scuffle with some local thugs on a train brings Reese to the attention of Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) of the the local law enforcement, his fingerprints soon implicate him in several major crime investigations spanning several years. “What have we got here? The Angel of Death?’ a cop asks Carter at one point during their investigation of Reese.
Reese is saved further exposure and interrogation when a mysterious billionaire, Mr Finch (Lost‘s Michael Emerson) bails him out of jail. Finch has saved Reese for a reason. He wants the ex CIA agent to bring his unique skills to bear on a personal project. Finch was responsible for creating a sophisticated piece of software designed to anticipate terrorist activities in the wake of September 11th. However, Finch’s program proved so successful that it began to also predict crimes of a non-terrorist nature in addition to those of interest to the government. The program began sorting threats into two groups – relevant (terrorist activities) and non relevant – everyday murders, rapes, robberies and other violent crimes associated with life in a big city.
Still possessing a ‘back door’ key to the sophisticated program he is now forbidden to use, once daily, Finch is able to retrieve the social security number of a person from the irrelevant list. This number belongs to a person of interest – someone the program has calculated will be involved in a violent crime as either perpetrator, victim or witness.
Feeling a strong desire for atonement and purpose, Reese agrees to assist Finch in stopping the would-be crimes.
Person of Interest debuted to mixed reviews, despite receiving the highest test ratings of any CBS drama pilot in 15 years and drawing in 13.2 million viewers for its pilot episode.
While the basic crime-solving premise of the show is nothing new, (and certainly not new to CBS which airs all three CSI’s, two NCIS’s, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-0) the the perpetrator/witness/victim uncertainty of the computer’s prediction serve to lift the story above a straightforward weekly whodunnit. Similarly, the relationship between Reese and Finch is one which offers much scope for exploration with both tight-lipped characters sharing similarly mysterious pasts and driven by the same desires.
There is however an unsettling suspicion that Finch is simply Lost‘s Benjamin Linus alive and well and living in a different TV show. Like Ben, Finch is a mysterious puppet-master who seems to know everything but divulges nothing. Caviezel’s performance on the other hand is so nuanced and understated that some reviews have called it sleepy. A little more humor or humanity might have gone a long way towards warming the audience to an otherwise blank slate.
Audiences are likely to investigate Person of Interest because of its intriguing Minority Report-like premise, and to check out Caviezel and Emerson’s onscreen chemistry. However they will ultimately decide to stay based on whether or not these two characters can offer up more than a sense of cool and aloof mystery.
Characters aside, the underlying story-reveal for the episode (without giving anything away for those who have not yet seen it) was a little weak and predictable and offered nothing particularly new or fresh to the crime/mystery genre. For a pilot show, one would expect to see more eggs in the basket. Reese’s penchant for shooting all of the bad guys in the leg, instead of killing them also nudged what should have been a tense adult thriller towards the family entertainment slot.
Overall, Person of Interest could comfortably have been just a little more edgy, a little more willing to take risks and a little more open to revealing some spark of humanity or humor in its leads. However, there is still much to like here and more episodes to come in which to warm to both Reese and Finch.
Person of Interest airs on CBS on Thursdays 9/8c.