June 22, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Person Of Interest”


PERSON OF INTEREST was CBS’s most ambitious and elegantly constructed procedural, and its ratings in other circumstances would have been decent enough to keep it on the air beyond a 4 1/2-season run.  But the TV business changed around it, and marginal ratings can no longer sustain expensive series that don’t permit their networks to share in distribution revenue.  (Person was solely owned by Warner Bros. Television.)  CBS didn’t publicly acknowledge the fact until late in the game, but it was clear that the 2016 season would be the show’s last, what with a truncated 13-episode order and a seat on the scheduling bench until late in midseason.  That permitted series creator Jonathan Nolan and showrunner Greg Plageman to give the series a fairly definitive ending–while leaving things open enough, of course, to allow for a reboot.

Fittingly, matters of death and rebooting were much on the mind of the series finale, written by Nolan and Executive Producer Denise The, and directed by Chris Fisher, who had directed more episodes of Person than anyone else.  This final season had concentrated on the battle to the death between the evil Samaritan, an artificial intelligence program ruthlessly committed to preserving the public safety (and its own) at the expense of any and all human life, and The Machine, a similar entity, but one nurtured by Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) to have a sense of humanity.  In the penultimate hour of the series, Finch had sent a fatal virus into Samaritan’s system, but it developed that Samaritan had made a copy of itself, and was attempting to regain control by a reboot that had to be stopped.

The cost would necessarily be great.  In the course of the season, Machine agent Shaw (Sarah Shahi) spent episodes being tortured physically and psychologically by agents of Samaritan before making her escape, and shortly after she did, the star-crossed love of her life, hacker, psychopath and ardent Machine disciple Root (Amy Acker) was killed, although in one of Nolan and Plageman’s most inspired twists, The Machine adopted her voice after her death as its own.  The finale gave another of The Machine’s soldiers, once-corrupt NYPD detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), some serious stab wounds, and much of the episode strongly suggested that Finch himself would die, blown up by a Samaritan-sent cruise missile as he uploaded The Machine to face off one last time with Samaritan.  But that turned out to be a fake-out, and instead it was John Reese (Jim Caviezel), former government assassin and Finch’s closest partner, who sacrificed himself to save the world and Finch as well, although not before he got to mow down a hail of bad guys in a final shootout.

The ending was elegiac and about as close to happy as Person of Interest was likely to get.  Samaritan was vanquished, Fusco went back to his cop life a better man, and there was an implication that Shaw not only inherited the group’s dog, but also the mantle of receiving numbers from The Machine that would, if tracked down, save lives.  And Finch, in a scene that was faintly similar to the epilogue that Jonathan Nolan’s brother Christopher had given to The Dark Knight Rises, was reunited overseas with the fiance (guest star Carrie Preston) he’d once turned away in order to protect her.

It was a swift, well-executed hour, with some particularly strong music choices, and a satisfying end to the series and its characters.  Person Of Interest was too bound to its procedural genre to be taken seriously in the way that Mr. Robot, a show with similar themes, can be.  On an episode-by-episode basis, the plots were often simplistic, and the villains had little shading.  However, the main ensemble (which once included Taraji P. Henson, before her character was killed off and she went on to much bigger things) was strong, able to provide room for eccentric performers like Emerson and Acker, and giving Shahi a role with more substance that much of what she’d done before.  The dialogue, too, was often sharper than one would expect from a procedural, with a willingness to engage on real issues about surveillance and privacy vs. protection.  The exit of Person of Interest, along with The Good Wife‘s end, and in a way even the migration of Supergirl, leaves CBS as a network that seems downright robotic in its dramas.  Artificial intelligence indeed.

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."