May 14, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Person of Interest”


The headlines have all been in PERSON OF INTEREST‘s favor this past season.  As stories of massive worldwide surveillance by the NSA and other agencies have continued to surface, what not so long ago looked like a CBS entry into sci-fi has taken on the feel of just slightly exaggerated reality.  The series itself has evolved into a sturdy mix of procedural and paranoid conspiracy thriller, and last night’s Season 3 finale set the stage for something of a reboot next fall.

The new reboot follows a smaller one that took effect this season, as Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Root (Amy Acker), previously recurring foes or at best frenemies of our heroes Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel) more or less joined the team–officially so, in Shaw’s case, and on more of an independent consulting basis for Root.  As it turned out, this injection of estrogen was part of the set-up for the show’s big midseason shocker, as NYPD detective Joss Carter (Tarji P. Henson, now on her way to FOX’s Empire) was gunned down.  Shahi and Acker are both strong additions to the cast, even if Root has become the strangest aspect of Person by far as her character has entered into an almost mystical connection with The Machine, literally having conversations with its voice in her head; her presence brings a quasi-spiritual element to what’s otherwise a fairly grounded high-tech thriller.  Both women bring a helpful deadpan humor to the show, and are convincingly as deadly as Reese, which is saying something.  (Eventually the series might get down to Reese and Shaw having more than a bantering relationship as they shoot people, but this is CBS, and that day hasn’t yet come.)

Although the series continues to have its share of pure procedural episodes, where The Machine spits out a social security number and the team rescues someone or stops something bad from happening, the latter part of the season has been mostly concerned with overall mythology.  The season finale, written by Executive Producer Greg Plageman and Co-Executive Producer David Slack, and directed by Chris Fisher, brought together–much more literally than might have been expected–both ends of the enemy forces that have plagued our heroes over the past seasons, as it turned out that the anti-surveillance revolutionaries of Vigilance were actually a patsy created by the evil corporation Decima, in order to convince the government to provide Decima the access to put its own version of The Machine, called Samaritan, fully on line.  (It did become a bit suspicious when we saw Vigilance recruiting members by way of mysterious computer communications, its human leadership kept secret.)  Samaritan, unlike The Machine, directly identifies people as “threats”–even if they’ve only expressed anti-government views–and the season ended with a nightmare vision of Samaritan targeting people for execution, as Decima’s mastermind Greer (John Nolan, so erudite and British he could only be a supervillain) awaited Samaritan’s future plans.  Luckily, Root had taken action before Samaritan switched on, although the reveal was that she hadn’t been able to fully sabotage it, but only to hide the identities of Finch, Reese, Shaw, herself and a few others from Samaritan’s probing eyes, so that they could go into hiding and figure out their next move.

Person of Interest has a knack for strong action scenes in just about every episode, and in Emerson, Caviezel, Shahi and Acker it has a quartet of leads who are especially good at being simultaneously charismatic and enigmatic.  (The show’s other regular, Kevin Chapman’s NYPD Lieutenant Fusco, seemed to be de-emphasized once Joss was gone and the Samaritan/Vigilance storyline took center stage.)   It’s quietly become the most ambitiously serialized of CBS’s procedurals (aside from The Good Wife, of course, which is barely a procedural at all anymore), and it’s produced with intelligence and style.  The ratings fell when CBS moved the series from its Thursday 9PM perch to 10PM on Tuesday, but they’ve been quite consistent, neck-and-neck with Chicago Fire on NBC.  Next season it may face more competition from ABC’s new fantasy procedural Forever, but the series seems firmly in place for some seasons to come.


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."