A Farewell Salute to Person of Interest

One of the best sci-fi, police procedurals on television

In a love for this show, which for me, is a rare thing, I shall endeavor to share my perspective while providing as few spoilers as necessary to tell you why it is some of the most worthwhile speculative fiction on television, comparable in my eyes to the X-Files and Fringe.

  • It was brought to my attention the series engaged in tropes which were not ideally representing minorities or people of color. If this is an issue for you, then you may feel the series is not worth your time and you should not continue.
  • I recognize not everything on television will favorably represent every social group. I tried to look at the show in terms of how it approached the idea of the surveillance state and the power it might have if it could be properly leveraged.
  • I accept the failure of the show to provide perfect representation and acknowledge I continued to watch with frustration and with the awareness of this failing.
  • Perhaps future shows of this nature can and will address these failings. I will not reveal them in an effort to allow you to come to your own decisions about this show. I want you to be aware that I recognize these failings even while I laud the show overall.

Tonight is the season and series finale of CBS’s police procedural, science fiction, thriller series: Person of Interest. I never heard much about the show from the geek culture crowd so I kept quiet about my impressions of the show. I discovered it late in the second season and didn’t put in due diligence until the third season showed up on Netflix. After a weekend with my wife binge-watching the show, I knew I had missed out on something unique.

Since it is leaving the air in the fifth season and the first three seasons are still available on Netflix, I thought I would make one more entreaty to any who might have never heard of the show. Watch this show. I won’t say it’s perfect, god knows, nothing can please everyone, but if you love the police procedural, can handle a bit of the spy -covert ops genre, with a dash of artificial intelligence based science fiction, then you just found your show.

A word of warning, this show will disturb people who fear the surveillance state or think the government is capable of tapping your phone, computer camera or video feeds in public places. You must be willing to suspend your disbelief and embrace the horror of a terrifying representation and implementation of a surveillance state society. If you can do that, this show will blow your mind, wide open.

A jewel in CBS’ crown

I consider the show a success both in the boldness of the premise and the extreme nature of the ideas represented over its five seasons.

The series posits a singular programmer and creator, Harold Finch who creates a planned intelligence, AI or ASI (all terms used to describe the AI whose is commonly designated, unimaginatively as — The Machine) whose capacities are, as scientists speculate, significantly beyond our own.

When the US government hires Harold’s company to create an ASI to parse and understand all of the data being absorbed by the NSA through its Patriot Act ruling, Harold creates The Machine, with the stipulation the system remain closed and unable to be modified by any outside user.

In fact, The Machine would communicate only by giving relevant identification numbers regarding potential threats, leaving the government to decide how best to deal with this “relevant number”. The Machine is assigned its task and will only acknowledge threats to national security.

This is the setup to Person of Interest. Nothing you learn here will prejudice you unduly, nor inform you of anything you shouldn’t know by the third episode.

But where this show shines is in its complex relationships between both the protagonists and antagonists. Rich in layered nuance, the characters start off as cardboard cutouts who grow more complex, the longer we watch them.

Dare I reveal anything else about this wonderfully dark and yet terribly believable show mixing speculative fiction with police drama and covert ops skullduggery. I’ve decided not to spoil any more beyond this next sentence:

When an AI becomes God, what use does it have for mortals?

Main Characters:

John Reese: Jim Caviezel — Heavy hitter, former intelligence agent, primary operative of The Machine. Best shooter of kneecaps in the free world, bar none.

Harold Finch: Michel Emerson — Programmer Supreme, if there is something Harold can’t do with a computer, we never see it. Harold is what hackers want to be when they grow up.

Joss Carter: Taraji P. Henson — I admit this is my favorite role for the lovely Ms. Henson. One of the strongest performances in the series. Plays a police officer partner to Officer Fusco. The moral conscience of the series.

Lionel Fusco: Kevin Chapman — the underdog of the series, you come to have a grudging respect for the man, dirty cop, reprobate, damned from the start.

Sameen Shaw: Sarah Shahi — completely ruthless, emotionally remote, yet cunningly brilliant Ms. Shaw. Another intelligence operative, quite terrifying.

Root: Amy Acker — I admit this character worked my nerve in her early appearances, but as the series evolved, I came to not despise her every breath and had begun to recognize her value to The Machine. I admit, she had to grow on me.

Bear: Graubaer’s Boker — attack dog who joins the winning team, lovable, loyal, and smarter than any dog has a right to be. My personal favorite who didn’t get nearly enough air time.

Final Words

I want so badly to reveal everything this show goes into but if I do, it undermines the tension the show works so hard to (successfully) build. So I will say this: If anyone wants to talk about the series after it ends, I am always open for discussion.

I think it is one of the finest science fiction depictions of artificial intelligence, the struggles humanity would go through should such a device come into existence and just how far we have to go as a species before we should be developing anything as amazing as The Machine is revealed to be.

Person of Interest has become what Almost Human should have been, a study into the nature of how technology could transform the Human experience, almost beyond our recognition. Well worth the time for the patient and introspective viewer.

Almost Human, almost made it… It had everything it needed to be great. It just didn’t get enough time.

Get you some Person of Interest before its gone. When the box sets of CD’s come out it will absolutely make it to my personal library. If you have enjoyed the series up to now, share your perspective on characters you enjoyed and why.

The Answer-Man’s Archives are a collection of my articles discussing superheroes and their powers in relationship to their respective universes. We deconstruct characters, memes, profiles and how superheroes relate to real world culture. You can find other Archives on Quora and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange or at The World According to Superheroes.

Quick and Dirty Reviews are exactly what the name implies. I read it. I liked it. I shared my immediate opinions and kept it moving; so much to write, so little time. You can assume if I took the time to write a review, you might want to take a look at it.

Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.

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