May 11, 2013



The all-knowing Machine at the heart of PERSON OF INTEREST turned positively chatty in last night’s Season 2 finale, providing real-time advice and assistance via phone and text services to just about anyone who asked it nicely.  (If you didn’t care for numbers, it would help you out via musical tones.)   The Machine, the series would have us know, has been set “free” by its enigmatic inventor Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), to the point where it was capable of having itself physically relocated from the Portland nuclear plant that had previously been its home.  That news came as an unwelcome surprise both to the homicidally batty Root (Amy Acker), who was forcing Finch at gunpoint to help her locate it so she could liberate it herself, and to the forces of evil sometimes known as Northern Lights, who had once employed the swaggering Shaw (Sarah Shahi), now temporarily teamed up with her opposite number, Finch’s man of action Reese (Jim Caviezel), to find Finch and Root.

The second season of Person of Interest was considerably more serialized than the first, with enough complicated backstory to make it clear that while this is a CBS procedural, it’s one that comes from J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, co-writer with his brother Christopher of the Dark Knight trilogy.  Nolan co-wrote the season finale script with Co-Executive Producer Patrick Harbinson, and the episode, directed by Richard J. Lewis, efficiently kept some mysteries under wraps while revealing new facts about the beginnings of Northern Lights’ brutal search for the Machine, the fate of Finch’s partner Nathan (Brett Cullen) and his near-fiancee Grace (Carrie Preston), and Finch’s plot to keep The Machine safe via a computer virus within a computer virus.  Oh, and Finch’s limp, too.  A subplot involving NYPD Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson), though, while tangentially related to the main story, felt shoehorned into the episode.

Person is so loaded with plot and enigmas that it doesn’t have much room for character, which is a shame when the show has such strong performers as Emerson, Acker, Shahi and Preston on hand.  (Happily, the guest stars survived the finale’s gunplay, so they’ll be available to juice up the show again next season.)  Just about everyone speaks in the same clipped, barely emotive way, as though they’re responding to questions at a hostile press conference, and that limits one’s emotional involvement with the series.   Also, although the increased emphasis on mythology has made the show more compelling, it’s also amped up the sci-fi aspect of the story, not necessarily its strong point.

The show is moderately entertaining, with effective action sequences in just about every episode, but it’s not one you feel the need to keep up with on a weekly basis; like most of CBS’s dramas, it’s there when you need it.  The ratings are similarly solid but not remarkable.  In the current ratings landscape, holding even is itself something of a triumph, and Person‘s season finale had a 2.4 rating, down just a tick from last year’s.  It’s usually a strong second place to Grey’s Anatomy in its Thursday 9PM timeslot, and the only thing that might be mildly worrisome to CBS is that it’s fallen more steeply as the season has gone on–while Grey’s was just 0.2 off its season average last night, Person was down half a point.  If CBS expands, as rumored, to a 4-sitcom Thursday and moves Person, it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up.  Still, it’s a reliable show that should be around for seasons to come, and even “free,” no doubt its Machine (meaning its writer/producers as well as the technology itself) will continue to churn out numbers as grist for future episodes.

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."