Person of Interest

For an action/sci-fi, Person of Interest is an exceedingly depressing show. The pandemic has me watching more videos than ever before, as well as grinding the filming and production of new episodes to a halt, so I’ve had to forage far beyond my normal viewing proclivities. Which is fine; I enjoy exploring and realize that with that will come the occasional dud of a show. But I ended up binge watching Person of Interest and its dark tone and grim mood were NOT what I needed right now. It’s good, if a bit uneven, for a network show, but, holy shit, I’m looking for escapist fantasy, not an inevitable dystopia that this program presents. This is a rant and there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.


Okay, for those of you who have never seen the show, it centers around a man and a machine. Not just any machine, mind you, but a near omnipresent artificial intelligence. The man is Harold Finch (played by the amazing Michael Emerson of Lost and Evil to name a few. I’ve praised him before and this show, as depressing as it may be, hasn’t changed my mind about that.), a bookish and altruistic genius who created the Machine, along with his partner, for the U.S. government. An attack on both of them, shortly after creating The Machine, killed the partner, Nathan Ingram (played by Brett Cullen of Narcos and Joker), gives Harold a limp and drives him underground. This inspires him to use The Machine to help others. He programs it to look for potential devastating events and to point him in their direction by spitting out the social security number of a “person of interest”. While Harold is smart, and rich for some reason that is never fully explained, and The Machine is all seeing, they both lacked the ability to get physical. Looking for some muscle, Harold recruits ex-CIA agent, John Reese (Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ and Escape Plan). He in turn coerces a crooked cop, Det. Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman of The Equalizer 2 and Black Dynamite), to assist him in their crusade. Det. Josalyn Carter (Taraji Henson of Hidden Figures and Empire)is the cop tasked with tracking down Reese (referred to the Man in the Suit) who eventually becomes a love interest.

As the show goes on, they build on this little cadre of would be heroes. They inadvertently save the life of, and later imprison, local crime boss, Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni of Veronica Mars and Galaxy Quest). Their begrudging admiration for each other becomes a full fledged alliance over the course of the show’s 5 seasons. Root (the fabulous Amy Acker of Angel and Alias), a morally dubious hacker who becomes enamored with The Machine, shows up in first season, but doesn’t become a regular until season 3. And lastly, we have Agent Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi of The L Word and Chicago Fire), a CIA agent ordered to track down The Machine, who switches teams to work for it. There’s a handful of other recurring characters, as well, but, for the most part, the show is a monster of the week deal. In the first few seasons anyway.

I’ll admit it, I really enjoyed the first season. The AI was well written, cryptic in its communication and an almost alien presence. The stories were smart and the action fast paced. I mention how much I love the work of Michael Emerson, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Chapman’s acting. Then, it started going to shit. I’ve watched enough long running television series to recognize the general patterns that they take. Usually, in each season, there is a long running story arc that concludes in the finale. It might be a definitive end or it might be a cliffhanger to carry over into the next season, and either way, the ending usually affects the next season. Sometimes that means that the characters start the next season down and out, one of their group winding up dead or being hunted or losing their powers. But it can go the other way as well, with a new member joining the group or the development of new found powers, becoming better, more powerful than before. The ups and downs that the characters experience can be a great part of the storytelling that keeps viewers guessing (and watching). Unfortunately, the overall arc of the show is a constant downhill slog, each season taking away more and more from the main characters and making their enemies stronger. It was disheartening to be perfectly honest. Out of the six main characters that formed the team, only half of them survive to the end.

There are other things that got to me. Both Reese and Shaw are great when it came to ass-kicking action, but they had the emotional range of a pair of manikins. In Shaw’s case, it worked out, to an extent; she was written as an emotionless sociopath, but as the show wore on, we learn that she went to medical school. While I can believe that maybe there is a sociopath or two that might go into medical school, but then going on to go into the CIA and become a killing machine definitely stretches my ability for sustained disbelief. Even in the case of The Machine itself, it’s portrayed as having superhuman intelligence and sentience. At one point it had itself dismantled and spread in boxes throughout the city to protect itself and in another occasion, it even established a business for itself, displaying a great deal of competence and initiative. With that sort of history, it amazed me that it didn’t do more. Why did it not built itself an army of drones to assist its creator? Why did it not rewrite its own code to improve on itself? I get that the show might be boring if it became an all powerful entity, but the restrictions the writers did put on it were almost nonsensical.

One bright spot was Root in God Mode. When she formed her bond with The Machine, she had microphone implanted in her ear, so The Machine could communicate directly to her. With her blind obedience to The Machine, she would do whatever it transmitted to her without question, which made her the most bad ass thing on the show and it was a thing of beauty. Sure, there were some bright spots. I’m not saying it was all bad. But each season brought them down just a little more and, oof, was that last season tough to sit through. There had to be 20 different ways the writers could have worked a win in for them, but, no, they just kept wracking up the losses. What started as a great show slowly became a steady dose of depression. And, good God, this year doesn’t need any more of that!


So I’ve just finished binge watching the CBS horror, Evil. It was a fun watch that I never would’ve found had they not put up all 10 episodes for free on their website. The trailer they released seemed a bit corny and I’ve long since given up on most network television. I know, I know, they occasionally come out with a Hannibal or a Marvel’s Agents of Shield, but, for the most part, it’s all Two and a Half Men and The Bachelor. But I’m always looking for something new to watch and there are few shows that I won’t at least try. I hadn’t heard much about this show, so when they put the first 10 up for free, it wreaked of desperation, but the ploy worked. The show was a very pleasant surprise and now I’m hooked, so, bravo to whoever made that marketing decision.

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, the best description I can offer is that it’s a Catholic X-files that balances a big-bad of the week style with a longer story arc, and does so quite satisfyingly. The first protagonist we meet is Dr. Kristin Bouchard (Katja Herbers – Manhattan, West World), a forensic psychologist working for the courts to assess the mental statuses of the accused. While interviewing a serial killer, she meets David Acosta (Mike Colter – Luke Cage, The Defenders, Jessica Jones), a former war journalist, now a priest in training. He works for the Catholic church, investigating extraordinary occurrences, such as miracles and possessions, for the presence of the infernal or divine. Aiding in these investigations is Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi – The Daily Show, The Brink), a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic and tech nerd.

I was a bit shocked at how much I liked this show, at how much I look forward to the next episode, now that I’m following it on the weekly. I find the characters likable, fleshed out and the cast already very comfortable in their roles. The horror elements are amazing! I mean, they’re no Channel Zero, but for network, I’m pretty fucking impressed. The writing itself is spot on. The elements of mystery draw me in and I actually care about what happens to the characters.

I gotta give a special shout out to Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest), who plays the vile, Leland Townsend. He played a bad guy on Lost, but, holy fuck, is he evil on this show! Slimy, hateful and all around misanthropic; Mr. Emerson, if you are reading this, I have no idea what you are like in real life, but your fantastic acting makes me want to punch you right in the face. Bravo! And to the FX crew, I found the demon, George, genuinely unsettling and felt anxious whenever he was on screen. Noice!

What I find most interesting about this show is (or what I am assuming is) its intended audience. I was raised VERY Catholic and I’m not sure this show would have the same impact on someone without religion. There’s no ambiguity on this show. There’s no X-Files style of “was that really an alien, or was it swamp gas and we may never know”. Here there is evil with a capitol E. The supernatural exists, the devil is real and those who are too dismissive of God will open the door to demons who will drag us all to Hell. There is a holy war going on and it will determine the fate of the human race. That’s not to say there isn’t a role for the skeptic in this world. A scientific mind and critical eye are valued here a utilized liberally throughout the show. The characters are not blind followers, but intelligent individuals whose lives drive them to constantly reevaluate their beliefs. It’s a show that allows for a world in which faith and a belief in God do not negate intelligence and a reasonable mind. That being said, when it comes down to a choice between faith and reason on this show, faith wins every time.

I don’t believe I’m alone in my appreciation for this show; it’s already been greenlit for a season 2. I’ve just started the Netflix series, Messiah, which I also hope to write about, and I’m wondering if we’re seeing a trend towards using faith and religion as a major plot device. And not the black and white battle of one faith verses another, but the constant battle we personally wage to stay true to ourselves and what we believe in. It’s not always violent and never clear cut, but it’s oh so relatable to so many people. The temptation could be as subtle as a backyard BBQ on a day of fasting to flirting with a married coworker, but to those who temptation has deep, cultural connotations, this could be as dangerous as any bette noir. I’m not sure where such stories will take us, but, for the moment, I am loving this fresh direction.