I have to spend some time to talk about probably my personal favorite TV show at the moment. That is a lot to say considering TV has been on a role. With shows like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Homeland and Broadwalk Empire just racking up awards. Person of Interest is one of those shows you could easily sweep under your rug.
Person of Interest is sort of a crime drama show. Like most network TV shows, it kind of deals with the “flavor of the week” formula. The show is about a nation-wide computer surveillance system, known as “The Machine”. This machine was created after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. The machine is designed to output people soon to be involved in violent terrorist acts, the person of interest. They don’t know if the person will be a victim or a perpetrator. While dealing with this, the show has a bigger plot of the dealing with the ramifications of the Machine existing in the first place. Are the American people ready for an all-knowing machine watching their every move?
The creator of the machine is a genius programmer named Harold Finch portrayed by awesome Michael Emerson. Finch was very aware of the implications of creating the machine and put in place safety measures. The machine works autonomously, never receiving input from a human source. The Machine monitors video feeds, emails, phone conversations, pretty much any and all things digital. It analyzes this data and provides the government with a the social security number/s. The government then investigates this person to learn of their terrorist activities and acts accordingly. The goal of the machine is to allow the government to stop attacks before they even happen. Harold however, did his job too well. The Machine also produces numbers for any person relevant to a violent crime, usually murder. This splits up the output into two categories. Relevant, numbers who will be involved in a massive attack against american citizens, usually resulting in a large number of casualties. Irrelevant, numbers who usually only affect one person. The government has no interest in numbers deemed to be irrelevant. So Harold builds a backdoor into the system, the purpose of this backdoor is to allow Harold to receive the irrelevant numbers in secret. He builds a small team of people to aid in his endeavor of types you might expect: Ex-military, police officers, detectives, etc.
So what makes this show so much fun to watch. Mostly by the question presented in its premise, does the end justify the means? Privacy is the conversation today, especially among tech enthusiast like myself. How much information do companies know about you, and are you comfortable with that fact. This show suggests, what if the government knew everything. In one hand, they are using it to directly combat violent terrorist attacks. At least on surface value, just not wanting to have another 9/11. However “With great power comes great responsibility”, haha shout out to spider-man.
Obviously, that much information could be abused. The creator Harold knows this. He only agrees to make the machine if they allow him to make it a closed system. The only means for him to avoid the machines abuse was to not give a single soul, even himself, access to it. The shows typically starts with the group receiving a new number, and then beginning the investigation process. Which always deals with in some way shape or form of invading their P.O.I’s privacy. You’ll see Harold pull up phone records, family histories, bank transactions in seconds. His team will tap their phones and listen in on any calls that sound interesting. Then they’ll usually insert themselves into their life as a new co-worker, bodyguard, neighbor, something to keep a closer eye on the P.O.I.
The show has a lot going for it, it has a pretty good cast. Jim Caviezel is the other main character, he is a ex-military (black ops) with a checkered and dark past. Strong and silent type is right up Caviezel alley. Backing them up are great performances by Taraji Henson as detective Jocylin and her partner Lutz portrayed by Kevin Champman. Later in the series Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi become regulars as well. This show should actually receive a great deal of credit for its portrayal of woman in rolls hollywood hasn’t quite made them shine in yet. Jocelyn is a single mother and NYPD detective who is shown to be extremely capable and cunning. Amy Acker is a computer specialist / hacker / con artist / hitman. Normally you put that many hats on a character and they become a parody, but she comes off as incredible deep and believable. Sarah Shahi also plays an ex-militant with her own dark and gloomy past. The woman of the show aren’t there just for eye candy, they all regularly contribute to the progression of the show.
Even though the cast is amazing, to be honest the biggest star on this show is the machine itself. It’s brilliantly developed in it’s under development. Lemme take a minute to explain that. Think about movies or TV shows with futuristic all-knowing computers. The first that pops in my mind is Skynet from Terminator. You may also think about the Matrix, you may think about Night Rider or HAL 9000 from a space odyssey. A great deal of effort goes into making these characters come to life. They are given skin, voices, emotions, etc. The machine in person of interest does very little reacting with the human characters or the audience. It’s not given a voice, it simply does what it does and spits out numbers. The only real info the machine conveys to the audience are thru video cameras. Normally the machine will highlight alleys in Yellow , Threats in Red, etc. It’s a very quiet presence. This quiet presence evolves with the show, and it isn’t so much of the machine doing more and more each season. It’s really because the audience becomes invested in trying to understand the small amount of signals it presents. I’ve watched all 3 seasons of the show so far, and happened to watch season 3 with someone who didn’t watch season 1 or 2. They told me the machine is being so subtle, why doesn’t it just give them the info they need? Those were the thoughts I had in season 1, but I felt in season 3 the machine was screaming detail at the characters. I had just gotten use to reading those small things. To make the audience care about a character that we never see, hear or feel is pretty damn amazing.
So final thought. You should find a way to watch this show. Unfortunately, it isn’t on any streaming service at the moment :(. Season 4 is about to start soon and I’m giddy as all hell. Person of Interest is feels a lot like a modern sci-fi show, and its doing it the best right now.