‘Person of Interest’ Pilot Recap: “I Know Exactly Everything About You”

Wait a second… CBS actually has a new show this season that I was excited to see? That’s unusual in itself. The series is a mystery thriller with a sci-fi bent that was created by Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher, and writer of ‘The Prestige‘ and ‘The Dark Knight‘) and stars Michael Emerson from ‘Lost’? Uh, yeah, you’ve caught my attention now. This thing is loaded with potential. So why doesn’t the first episode seem to live up to any of it?

The premise behind ‘Person of Interest’ is that Jesus and Benjamin Linus team up together to fight crime. You know, in a nutshell.

OK, really, Jim Caviezel plays a former Special Forces vet named Reese who has seemingly fallen on hard times and has been living like a crazy homeless person. (High-definition broadcast is really unforgiving to the obvious seams in the actor’s fake beard.) When he’s attacked by some rich punks on the subway and makes quick work of them, the police (primarily a detective played by Taraji P. Henson) question him, which puts him back on the grid, so to speak.

In no time at all, Reese is bailed out by a mystery man named Mr. Finch (Emerson), who says that he wants to hire him. Emerson essentially plays Finch as Ben Linus from ‘Lost’ and makes absolutely no bones about this at all. It’s fun to think that he could easily be the same character.

Finch is wealthy and brilliant, and designed a super-secret ECHELON-like surveillance network for the government that sees all, hears all and knows all. It monitors every phone call, text message, email and piece of security camera footage. The purpose of this system was to predict terrorist actions and prevent another 9/11. As a side effect, it also unfailingly predicts even small, individual crimes that the big-wigs in Washington weren’t so interested in. When he left the government, Finch built a secret back door into the network that feeds him a daily stream of data. To avoid detection, all Finch receives are Social Security Numbers. The number could be either the victim or the criminal. Finch doesn’t know which, nor does he know what the crime will be. All he knows is that the person is involved in something bad. However, the numbers are never wrong and they never stop coming.

Finch has this information, but he can’t do anything with it. That’s why he needs Reese to be his enforcer. Reese’s job is to stalk the person whose number comes up, find out what he or she is involved in, and prevent the crime. For his first assignment, he spies on an Assistant District Attorney (Natalie Zea from ‘Justified’) who may be getting too close to a ring of dirty cops. As he attempts to protect her, a pretty obvious plot twist reveals that the lawyer isn’t really being threatened by the bad cops; she’s their ringleader. Nonetheless, Reese manages to turn the tables on the situation. He tricks her into playing a recording of herself in court in which she admits to plotting the murder of a coworker.

So, basically, the show is ‘The Equalizer’ with a sci-fi twist. It’s going to be a case-of-the-week procedural in which Finch and Reese get a new number and investigate a new crime each episode. That’s a lot less interesting than I was hoping. The sci-fi aspect of the magic computer that knows everything that will happen down to the minutest detail but only spits out a few numbers is also, to be perfectly frank, kind of stupid. Even though I know that it’s only supposed to be a MacGuffin, I have a hard time buying into the premise.

While I like Emerson and Taraji Henson a lot, Jim Caviezel is pretty much a terrible actor. His badass routine is fairly silly, especially when he goes around shooting everybody in the legs rather than killing them. (Hey, if it worked for the Terminator…)

I want this show to be good, but the ‘Pilot’ episode didn’t do much for me. Maybe it will get better? I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and stick around for a few more episodes, anyway.


  1. I liked the pilot, but this show needs a lot more mystery with its backstory to keep it interesting…Emmerson was great, but Caviezel seemed a little flat/bland. There was a HINT that Caviezel’s character may have been able to stop 9/11, but was off with his “woman” at the time…I hope they run with that. We’ve seen a character feel guilty about a woman’s death in plenty of other shows, but if his guilt is really about not stopping 9/11, that would really be interesting. I’m also hoping we’ll find out more about Emmerson’s character’s past as time goes on.

  2. Super-VHS

    “The premise behind ‘Person of Interest’ is that Jesus and Benjamin Linus team up together to fight crime. You know, in a nutshell.”

    Pfft… Just perfect. Perfect in every way. That this the first thing after the jump makes it even better. I actually LOL’d and almost did a real life spit take.

    As to ‘Person of Interest’ – I hold out hope that there’s a greater mythology arc (for lack of a better term) lurking behind the bland and basic set up episodes. I expect Jonah Nolan to have something more epic laying in wait, ready to be unleashed after the series has established itself to the satisfaction of CBS execs. Remember when we all thought ‘Fringe’ was gonna just be an ‘X-Files’ ripoff with cases of paranormal weirdness each week? And look how that turned out.

    • Josh Zyber

      That’s a good comparison with Fringe. I’d like to think that this show has the potential to develop an interesting mythology once it gets past the bumpy set-up. Unfortunately, I fear that being beholden to CBS executives (and CBS viewers) who expect another formulaic procedural may limit that potential.

      Fringe had some leeway to experiment on Fox. I don’t know that this show will get that opportunity. We’ll just have to see how it develops.

      I still think that the magic computer is lame, in any case.

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