A mysterious millionaire, Finch, approaches John Reese, a CIA field officer who is believed dead, and offers him the chance to stop violent crimes before they happen. Finch can predict the person involved, but not how or where they are involved. In his first assignment, Reese must help a district attorney who Finch has predicted will be involved in a violent crime.
Person of Interest airs Thursdays at 9 on CBS.
In many ways the first episode of a new TV show is like the first issue of a new comic. The respective creators must fit a horde of new characters and an involved concept in an exciting vehicle within a relatively short allotment. Their task includes preparing their story in a digestible package while still managing to keep the audience entertained with a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. That is probably why within the first fifteen minutes Reese (Jim Caviezel) loses a gross beard and Finch (Michael Emerson) limps into the scene with a mission in hand. Everything you need you need know about Person of Interest is neatly unloaded by the first commercial break, and it jump right into the action promised.
Now, right here I could hit you with some stupid Jesus/Ben Linus joke, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll tell you that the two veteran actors flawlessly executed their roles and carried the full hour with their on-screen dynamic. I knew Caviezel and Emerson were both capable of both performing adequately in a prime-time, high profile show, but I wasn’t expecting both characters to command the screen as they did.
The new CBS series, produced by J.J. Abrams and created by Jonathan Nolan, centers on the surveillance and paranoia culture of a post-9/11 world. Mr. Finch, a man of great means, recruits down-and-out former government agent John Reese, a man of great ability, to stop crimes before they happen. No, this isn’t Minority Report; there are no pre-cogs. Rather there is “the Machine” – an algorithm created by Finch that uses surveillance equipment to predict upcoming crimes of fatal violence. The problem with the Machine is that it divides violent crimes into two categories – relevant and irrelevant, with the irrelevant subjects being disposed of daily. Finch is no longer part of the project, it belongs to the government now, but he has a “back door” that allows him to acquire only the SSN of these “irrelevants”. Finch recruits Reese, seemingly only with guilt, to follow, observe and investigate the subjects in order to save their lives.
The show manages to throw a couple twists in the episode without getting too wild, which helped show the capability of the writers once they managed to maneuver past the initial premise. The concept should be able to satisfy many different markets, from procedural cop drama to edgy action with a sci-fi slant, and thus should be able to bring in large audiences.
Side characters Carter (Taraji P. Henson), and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) add layers to the plot that promise to blossom in the near future. The episode is a little rough around the edges, it’s somewhat quick and there are conveniences that are a tad silly, but all pilots have their growing pains as series try to they find their groove.
What carried this debut and will carry it in the future is the fabulous duo of Caviezel and Emerson. The dark, but noble, vigilante Caviezel registers somewhere between Batman and the Punisher and a lot is yet to be revealed about how this globe-trotting enforcer before his life fell apart. The character will certainly benefit from extending his emotions past brooding and angry, but Reese could end up being a memorable character in the current television landscape.
The same needs to be said of Emerson’s Finch. As a huge Lost fan I wasn’t sure if I’d able to see him outside of his fantastically menacing character from that show. However, from moment one Emerson sells Finch as a confident, pacifistic, proactive individual who can stand toe to toe to the silently fierce Reese. To repeat for emphasis: these two are the reason this thing worked. Otherwise it would have felt like any other major network show about cops, drug dealers and non-fatal gunshots to the lower body.
The energy is alive in premise and relationship, but many shows can fizzle even after sensational starts. Does this series hold more than tracking down corrupt law enforcers and stopping mob hits? How much bigger and better can it get? It’s unknown, but for now Person of Interest holds my interest.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation.