Haunted by past events, highly-skilled former special forces operative John Reese (Caviezel) now wanders the streets of New York as a given-up derelict. Presumed dead, Reese is approached by Harold Finch (Emerson), a reclusive billionaire genius who built an advanced computer system for the government which uses city-wide surveillance to predict acts of terrorism. However, as the machine also identifies people who are about to be involved in premeditated crimes as a side-effect, Finch recruits Reese to help prevent these from happening by operating outside the law…
Arriving, like many genre shows lately, with J.J. Abrams attached as producer and a former Lost cast member in a starring role, Person Of Interest had no difficulty becoming a programme of interest. But given that Abrams’ producer involvement is usually minimal (he rarely has much to do with the day-to-day running), and that said Losties’ post-island output has been pretty poor, the most exciting reason to watch was series creator Jonathan Nolan. Brother and co-writer of acclaimed filmmaker Chris, he’s co-written enough stand-out material (including the short story which eventually became Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) to be considered a person of interest.
Frustratingly though, while Nolan provides a killer premise, it’s largely squandered on unessential crime-of-the-week stories. With our hero going from boozing, beard-faced derelict to suited, clean-cut avenger in no time at all, we’re basically all set and ready to slide straight into weekly cases by the pilot’s first title sequence. While intriguing serialised threads are introduced later on (namely, the subplot involving a corrupt copper cabal known as “HR”), the vast majority of season one plays as a vigilante procedural. At first, sure, it makes for cinematic television (see John kicking ass to Massive Attack’s Angel), but with the same thing in store for 23 episodes it gets repetitive quickly. Plus, despite how futuristic the Minority Report-esque technology is, the way the high-concept premise is used for case-of-the-week adventures feels like a throwback to ’80s television.
But while you could also draw comparisons with the paranoia-fuelled thrillers of the ’70s, Person Of Interest also boasts similarities to both Jason Bourne and Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The former because we’ve got an unstoppable, mentally-scarred ex operative kicking ass, the latter as said operative is acting as a brooding vigilante with wealthy resources and technology behind him. As Reese, Jim Caviezel looks the part and is certainly no stranger to playing the haunted man who’s had his life ripped from him (see also The Count Of Monte Cristo and The Prisoner remake), although he’s undeniably a little one-note here. As for Michael Emerson, there are notable similarities between Finch and Lost‘s Ben Linus (they’re both informed string-pullers), but given that he’s on the side of good here there’s none of the same interesting ambiguity. Additionally, Kevin Chapman fills in as a corrupt cop-turned-ally, and Taraji P. Henson is the investigating cop-turned-ally.
Despite boasting a great premise which blends Minority Report, Jason Bourne and Batman with those paranoia thrillers of the ’70s, Person Of Interest is far too procedural to keep your interest. But with a more serialised finish, let’s hope that season two is better…