Person of Interest
TV Series Review
There's something suspicious about Santa Claus.
Oh, sure, he seems nice and all—a right jolly old elf, really. But I'm not sure if I like the idea of him watching me while I sleep, or knowing when I'm awake, or somehow knowing if I've been bad or good. It makes me wonder … is my dog a North Pole informant? Are my houseplants keeping notes on my movements? If St. Nick wasn't such a saint, and if he didn't live on a sheet of lawless international ice up north, I'm sure his habits would stir a great deal of discussion about civil liberties.
Which brings us, oddly, to Person of Interest. Because you can really think about this sci-fi drama's massive, information-gathering machine as a computerized Kris Kringle, or perhaps a binary Big Brother. It sees all, knows all and watches our every move—ostensibly for our own good.
Makes you feel safe, doesn't it?
Eyes in the Sky
In its final season, Person of Interest has ironically come down to a match between two mostly all-knowing computers: Samaritan and the Machine, the latter developed by brilliant billionaire Harold Finch. Finch's Machine has always stood at the center of the show, tasked with sifting through humongous piles of bits and bytes that make up modern-day society: our texts, our posts, our smiling visages when we take money out of the ATM. It was designed to look for terrorists, mostly. But to find them, it's been told to sift through everyone else's stuff too, like a shopper burrowing through a tub of DVDs to find the last copy of Big Fish.
So why let all that good, juicy info just go to waste? Why not secretly design the computer to search for non-terrorist but still criminal activity along the way? In fact, why not go after people who look like they might be involved in a crime? Hey! What if you could use the computer to stop murders before they're actually committed?
Finch thought through all those things before he designed a back door into the computer's software, telling it to spit out a Social Security number every time it detects a murder about to take place. The number might belong to the victim. It might belong to the killer. Finch doesn't know. All he knows is that the person is involved somehow.
But Finch isn't exactly a man of action. So he partners with a spook named John Reese, a former special ops military man and (perhaps) one-time assassin. "I don't like to kill," Reese tells a potential informant, "but I'm very, very good at it."
Shall We Play the End Game?
As the series has progressed and gotten more serial, the show's cast of characters has waxed and waned, with many dying to serve Finch's cause and protect his artificial sidekick. Assassins, hackers, even mob bosses have all chipped in at one time or another. But now, as the story nears its conclusion, Finch's friends are fading fast. And he must consider whether to unleash his biggest, strangest and most incisive friend—the computer he created. If Finch allows the Machine to run free and battle the other computer, Samaritan, it may save the world ... but might it also end it?
Finch's team historically has been out to prevent murders, not commit them. Not that that stops the dead bodies from piling up around him like dirty clothes around a hamper. Rarely does an episode of Person of Interest go fatality free.
That makes violence one of the bigger content concerns on this show. Passing references to and hints at sexuality (heterosexual and homosexual) pop up as well, and language can be harsh.
And then there's that Santa-evoking premise itself, of course. But maybe it's not so much the Santa-impersonating computer that's really at issue. After all, the Machine's just doing what it's told. Rather, it's the questionable decisions made by the human beings privy to its digital output.
Finch, you see, is using his creation illegally to thwart crimes before they happen. There are and have been serious questions about Reese's criminal past. And every mission involves breaking a slew of civil laws (through eavesdropping and wiretapping) and moral ones (through cheating, lying, stealing and potentially killing).
So families will have to think a little bit about whether this is really the kind of thing that'll get you on any kind of Christmastime "nice" list.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jim Caviezel as John Reese; Michael Emerson as Harold Finch; Kevin Chapman as Detective Lionel Fusco; Amy Acker as Root; Sarah Shahi as Samantha Shaw; Enrico Colantoni as Carl Elias; Taraji P. Henson as Detective Carter; John Nolan as John Greer