May 6, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Person of Interest”


If the word “edgy” can be applied to a CBS procedural, for a while that described PERSON OF INTEREST, which added a high-tech, slightly sci-fi touch to its crime-of-the-week storylines.  The episodic plots were doled out by an ambiguous super-powerful top-secret surveillance system, a concept that could hardly be more topical, and it was left to our heroes each week to figure out whether out they were protecting or hindering their target, who could be the victim or perpetrator of the crime de jour.  The team, too, was unconventional, featuring the eternally enigmatic Michael Emerson as Finch, who had invented the system (called “The Machine”) and taken it rogue, government assassin Reese (Jim Caviezel), blackmailed crooked cop Fusco (Kevin Chapman), and eventually sociopathic Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and all-around crazy person Root (Amy Acker), a genius hacker and homicidal maniac.  The one traditionally good character was NYPD detective Joss (Taraji P. Henson), who was killed off in Season 3 (for which Henson should be supremely grateful, considering that it freed her up to become the queen of network TV as the star of this year’s Empire).

Over the past season or so, though, Person of Interest has become more conventional and less interesting.  The Machine was given a “bad” counterpart, the ironically named Samaritan, which had the effect of making The Machine unquestionably “good” by comparison.  Samaritan has a government contract, wants to take over the world and is backed by a team of blank-faced murderers headed by the genially grim Greer (John Nolan).  Root was largely defanged (she mostly shoots people in the knee now, like Schwarzennegger in Terminator 2).  Reese’s new alias, adopted to hide him from Samaritan, made him a New York homicide detective, and Finch was turned into a college professor.  Shaw was exited from the show (at Shahi’s request after she became pregnant, and after the episode “If-Then-Else,” by far the best hour of the season), although the character has been glimpsed from time to time, so she remains alive.  Reese was also given a desultory romantic interest in the person of NYPD shrink Dr. Campbell (Wrenn Schmidt).  The Machine itself was downright sentimentalized.  The season’s B storyline has been even less thrilling, setting up a New York gang war between ambitious punk Dominic (Winston Duke) and old-style Mafiosi Elias (Enrico Colantoni).  It’s been quite a while since the series offered any real surprises.

That was true of tonight’s Season 4 finale as well, written by showrunner Greg Plageman and Story Editor Dan Dietz, and directed by Chris Fisher.  The B story was resolved as Dominic, having spent two full episodes just seconds away from permanently ridding himself of Reese, Fusco and Elias, didn’t manage to kill any of them and instead got a bullet in his own head.  Meanwhile, Samaritan tried and failed yet again to eliminate its competition, as the guts of The Machine were downloaded into a briefcase computer by Finch and Root, and while the two of them and Reese were facing a troop of Samaritan hitmen as the season cut to black, outnumbered and outgunned, it seemed likely that barring contract renegotiations, they’d all be back for fall.  Even Control (Camryn Manheim), a onetime Samaritan government supporter who changed her mind and made the mistake of thinking she had the advantage on Greer, more or less survived the season, being taken away by Greer/Samaritan’s men at least temporarily alive.

Person of Interest is still well-staged and performed, but it needs some rebooting of its own.  The show could use some new blood on the hero side, and a villain less familiar than Greer.  The introduction of Samaritan as the series’ Big Bad simplified and smoothed out what had been the pleasing complexities of the show’s moral tone, and now it’s all too easy to identify who’s wearing the black and white hats.  Person is only moderately successful for CBS, usually running slightly behind Chicago Fire on NBC and benefiting from the weak competition Forever offers on ABC, but it does well enough that a cancellation at next week’s upfronts would be a surprise.  With several months ahead to plan Season 5, series creator Jonathan Nolan and Plageman will, one hopes, put their own hard drives to work to try to build the series some snazzy new apps.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."