Person of Interest Review: “Pilot” (Episode 1.01)
When looking at CBS’ primetime schedule, it’s clearly split into two groups. The first group is made up of a handful of sitcoms; the second, and more prominent, is a pile of mystery shows. With three different CSI’s, two NCIS’s, Hawaii Five-0, The Mentalist and Criminal Minds, one might wonder if CBS really needs another show about solving crimes. Which brings us to one of CBS’ most anticipated new shows, Person of Interest. Does Person of Interest stand out in the network’s heap of mysteries? After the pilot episode, the answer seems like yes, or at least it is headed in that direction.
Person of Interest starts off with the mysterious John Reese, who we quickly find out has lost someone he loved and is now a mess. He has changed from the handsome Jim Caviezel into a homeless drunk. When Reese is attacked by a group of wannabe thugs on the subway, we quickly see that there is more behind that grizzled beard than just regret, as he single-handedly takes the entire gang out.
Reese is taken to the police and questioned by Detective Carter, played by Taraji P. Henson, about the details of the incident. When he leaves the station, some mysterious men in a limousine pick him up and take him to the equally mysterious Mr. Finch, played by Lost’s Michael Emerson. Finch explains that he has a way of knowing when a violent attack involving a certain person is coming up. The person may be the person being attacked, just a witness to the crime, or could be the attacker.
Finch also has no idea when the attack will take place or exactly what will happen, he only knows that the person will be involved. Finch states that he has been watching Reese for sometime and that he has also lost someone important to him. Finch also knows that Reese regrets being at the wrong place at the wrong time, not able to save a person he loved, and Finch offers him the opportunity to always be there at the right time. Of course, Reese agrees to help and they quickly work on following their first target.
Unfortunately, their first case is a generic mix of crooked lawyers and cops. Of course the main focus the episode shouldn’t be the seemingly irrelevant case that just showcases the basic ideas of the shows’ premise, but still the weak mystery in the middle is pretty mediocre, and probably not a great first case to start with right out the gate. The case is essentially utilized to show the presence of Reese. Reese is a powerhouse that with further character exploration and his determination to do whatever the case takes could make him the next Jack Bauer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
By the end of the pilot, we see that Reese was in Mexico in 2001 with a girl that he loved so much, he quit the CIA to hopefully not lose her. Literally moments after admitting he quit his job, the TV in their room announced the attacks on the World Trade Center. We also find out from Finch more about the system that allows him to know about future events. Finch is a very rich man who built a machine for the government to prevent future terrorist attacks and to sedate post-9/11 fears.
Due to the amount of surveillance created after the attacks, assessments made by the machine were able to predict future attacks. He quickly realized that the machine would give information about two different kinds of crimes: “irrelevant”, which were small scale such as robberies, single murders, etc., and “relevant”, such as larger scale attacks that the government were interested in.
After being forced by the government to focus on the relevant crimes, the pain of the irrelevant began to eat away at Finch. Before leaving the government, he created a back-door system to receive information about the irrelevant crimes. Every day, Finch receives a social security code of a person involved. Finch also reveals to Reese that they both are believed to be dead by the government.
Person of Interest in an interesting premise, albeit flawed, that will hopefully flesh itself out further in upcoming episodes. Being that the show is executive-produced by J.J. Abrams and is created by Jonathan Nolan, brother of director Christopher, it’s easy to assume that the show features more than meets the eye. The mystery of the two main characters is what really holds the audience’s attention.
Reese and Finch are interesting to watch together, and with their pasts both relatively hidden from the audience, it’ll be great to see where these two characters go. Nolan has always been great at writing tragic anti-heroes, as in Memento, The Prestige and even The Dark Knight, and it seems like Reese and Nolan may follow in these characters’ footsteps. In future episodes, it would be nice to keep down the amount of cringe-worthy lines that are all too typical of this type of show. The show also does look to be a little on the generic side, having a typical CBS crime show look to it, but the flashback elements of Reese’s character do feel like Memento-lite, which is a good thing to help it distinguish itself.
The pilot does leave much to be desired. The show is scant with many plot details early on, but given the show is from Abrams and Nolan, two men involved with projects notorious for being secretive, this really isn’t a surprise. Also, the show only barely features some great character actors that are given almost nothing to do and one can’t help but think they have to be fleshed out in further episodes. You can’t really have a show with notable side actors like Kevin Chapman, William Sadler and the great Henson without doing something with them.
Person of Interest starts off as a pretty unassuming show. The pilot leaves enough unanswered questions to keep interest, but the basic mystery aspect of the show could use some pepping up. Caviezel and Emerson are capable of doing a lot of heavy lifting, but some script help and further explored minor characters are much needed. While Person of Interest might sound like it could be Minority Report: The Show, I can’t help but hope that it becomes like another Abrams show that also started off seemingly straightforward: Alias. With Alias, the show took most of its first season to get going into the path that it would follow for five seasons. Hopefully Person of Interest will follow in its path and become more than just what meets the eye as well.