“Person of Interest,” which had it’s season two debut way way back in September, and is coming close to its season finale, has featured many of the same growing pains as that other great J.J. Abrams sci-fi show “Fringe.” The concept is intriguing, and the production values are through the roof, but the show still hasn’t figured out the perfect balance between episodic and serialized episodes, and the writing hasn’t caught up the acting (or at least most of it).
A couple decades ago Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) a neebish but brilliant scientist, made The Machine for the government, one that could predict crimes. “Person of Interest” plays coy about what The Machine actually is, whether it’s a sentient AI, or if it’s God (which sounds very “Lost” to me), and it’s all the better for it. Every week The Machine gives Finch a name, the titular Person of Interest, and he has his soldier/Terminator/lackey Reese (Jim Caviezel) figure out what’s going on.
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I say that Reese is a Terminator because all he does is very efficiently kick a whole lot of ass. These scenes are the main draw of the show, and they showcase the action movie staging and effective camera work. The average number of scenes per episode where Reese walks into some place and leaves three bodies either dead or unconscious hovers around four or five, which is impressive given the time restraints. I also say Reese is a Terminator because Jim Caviezel can’t really act. His voice never rises above a growling whisper, and his affect is so flat that it’s mockable. He’s going for intensity but it just comes off as bored. I will say that I’ve grown to like him the more I watch, and the show is pretty good at mocking itself about his performance, but I would still like a legitimately good performance from Caviezel. He played Jesus, he must be able to act at least a little bit!
As I said earlier, the other main problem is the writing. Early in its run “Person of Interest” clarified everything again and again, and gave Emerson and Caviezel some truly terrible lines. Everyone on the show has grown more comfortable with their roles, and these sorts of lines are rolled out less and less, but the show still has Reese constantly explaining what he’s thinking when he’s by himself, which is one of my pet peeves about thriller and action shows. There are smarter ways to do it, you don’t have to spell everything out!
“You gotta love a girl with good security habits.”
I don’t want to seem too harsh on “Person of Interest” though, since it’s improvements have been great, and it is finally capitalizing on it’s potential. The serialized elements are becoming more prominent, and once those become the focus of the show, then I feel it will really take off, just like “Fringe” did. Amy Acker, playing a malicious hacker, did great work at the beginning of the season, and the threat of her coming back has given the show a jolt. There’s also a myriad number of conspiracies running in the background, which brings the idea of paranoia to the forefront of the show, where it belongs.
Aside from Emerson and Caviezel, the rest of the cast is also quite good. Tarija P. Henson and Kevin Chapman have the unenviable task of playing cops who help Caviezel, and have to function as the audience surrogate, but they make their often perfunctory scenes quite fun and full of meta one liners and asides. There’s also a large revolving door of secondary characters who fit into all of the various conspiracies, and they all manage to make their vague cryptic threats and secret conversations sound terribly interesting, even when the result isn’t as spectacular as one would hope.
Coming from the mind of Jonathan Nolan, and boosted by J.J. Abrams and his sharp sense of character, I had hoped that “Person of Interest” would become must see TV. It’s first season spun its wheels a lot, content to just be a procedural, but thankfully season two has picked up the pace a fair bit, and while there are still dud episodes, and Caviezel’s performance as Reese leaves much to be desired, everyone else has matured into their respective roles and the potential of being must see TV is not as far away as before.
My Rating: 7.5/10