Post 9/11, the US government funded research into creating an omniscient surveillance system to prevent terrorist attacks. Created by Harold Finch – a definitively mysterious, introverted genius – the machine notices more than just terrorism; it leads him to people involved in violent crimes. And so he recruits ex-CIA agent John Reese to help him solve them. The machine gives them the social security number of a victim or perpetrator and, while avoiding the law, they break the rules to save some lives.
Person of Interest is, in short, painfully American.
The first season consists of 23 self-contained episodes with a few arching storylines tying them together. The most interesting of these is the back-story of Finch and Reese.
Michael Emerson plays Finch with equal amounts of class and awkwardness, embodying the mystery of the show; having created an illegal surveillance technology, he has the foresight to ensure that no one, not even himself, can access it further than is necessary.
Reese is a different matter. Jim Caviezel’s military juggernaut is the root of the all the fun in the series. A humble, quiet man, he is also an explosive mix of awfully smooth one-liners and an arsenal of weapons, bombs and gadgets. Each episode, the pair team up to save a guest character who is rarely what they seem, employing help from Taraji P. Henson (a by-the-book cop intrigued by Finch’s efforts) and Detective Fusco (an imperfect, but moral, officer, perfectly brought to life by Kevin Chapman).
The programme was originally a screenplay by Jonathon Nolan. Bought by CBS and helmed by J.J. Abrams, it can come across a little cheap. But with a solid stream of cameos, unforeseen twists and masterful lead actors, it reveals a surprising depth below the surface. Hinting at the real moral questions of right and wrong, Finch and Reese’s adventures access a real humanity absent from all the other TV series it could be compared to. With the fascinating multi-episode plots and endlessly watchable performances, Person of Interest continues to mine away at its own premise without becoming unbelievable.
It’s painfully American, but it’s never boring.