18th Mar2013

‘Person of Interest: The Complete First Season’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jim Cavaziel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman | Created by Jonathan Nolan

Person of Interest

John Reese (Cavaziel) a former elite CIA officer is homeless and presumed dead following the death of the woman he loves. When he is approached by a reclusive billionaire computer genius Harold Finch (Emerson) who lives under an assumed identity, they form a partnership to prevent and predict violent crimes using high-tech surveillance and their own brand of vigilante justice. Utilising “The Machine”, a computer system commissioned by the US government, and built by Finch himself after the attacks of 9/11, Reese and Finch are able to receive details of imminent crimes, but never know what the crime will be, or whether the person that they have been notified of is a perpetrator or victim.

Created by Jonathan Nolan, brother of director Christopher Nolan and co-writer of The Dark Knight, and produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company,Person of Interest is one of those shows that has a timely appeal. In this case the series, whose pilot episode apparently scored the highest test scores in 15 years for US network CBS, taps into audiences fear and paranoia about government conspiracies, terrorism and personal privacy versus public safety.

US television is filled with police procedural shows and on the surface, Person of Interest is yet another in a long line of variations on the same cop theme. However as the first season progresses you’ll come to realise that this is actually nothing like any traditional procedural show. Whereas most US cop shows follow a familiar week-by-week format, Jonathan Nolan and co. have crafted a series that plays the long game – planting plot threads, slowly building character arcs and showing flashbacks to the creation of “the machine,” all of which hint a much bigger things to come. Here’s hoping the networks have faith in the show to let it play out it’s full story.

What really surprises about Person of Interest is it’s lead actor, Jim Cavaziel. Never one to enjoy his film roles, I’ve found myself drawn to Cavaziel’s understated performance, which for once really pays off and in my opinion he’s never been more believeable, or enjoyable, as the quiet former CIA agent turned vigilante hero. He also has the perfect co-star in Lost‘s Michael Emerson, whose nerdy and mysterious computer genius Harold Finch is a superb foil for Cavaziel’s hard-man with a heart. And that fact that Finch gets his own arch-nemesis mid-way through the first season, a nemesis that is not (unlike many US shows) unveiled till much later – another sign that the team behind the series really are in it for the long haul. But Person of Interest is not just about it’s two leads. The show also features a superb supporting cast, from regular cast members Taraji P. Henson as Detective Carter and Kevin Chapman as Detective Fusco, both of whom having tremendous slow-burning character arcs (Chapman’s dirty cop turning good guy is a particular highlight); to recurring characters such as  Paige Turco’s shady “crisis handler” Zoe Morgan.

One of the most sophisticated network series currently airing on US television, Person of Interest is the kind of TV show that rewards loyal viewing and those that pay attention to the details. It’s also compelling viewing – we plowed through our review discs as quickly as we could, always clamouring for the next “fix” of POI; and I can’t say that happen with many TV shows these days…

Person of Interest: The Complete First Season is released on DVD today by Warner Home Video. The concluding episode of the series airs on 5 on Sunday April 15th at 10pm.

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