September 28, 2012




WHERE WE WERE:  Watching Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), the secretive billionaire creator of the super-surveillance system that keeps tabs on all potential criminals and victims in the country, being kidnapped by the woman calling herself Caroline Turing (Amy Acker), who manipulated Finch’s system to make it appear as though she were a potential victim.

WHERE WE ARE:  Shortly thereafter.  Finch is still being held hostage, and his team of former government assassin Reese (Jim Caviezel) and NYPD detectives Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) are on the case.  This being a CBS procedural, though, we spend much more of the episode following Reese and his case-of-the-week (the surveillance system has a contingency plan that feeds identifying information to Reese if Finch can’t be found), about a crooked accountant (Ken Leong) who’s stolen $8M from the Aryan Brotherhood.

The Person of Interest second season premiere, written by series creator Jonathan Nolan and Producer Denise The, and directed by Richard J. Lewis, made it clear that the focus of the series will continue to be action-packed, self-contained storylines rather than the serialized Finch narrative.  This is a shame, because the stock neo-Nazis of the accountant plot weren’t remotely as interesting as Acker’s character, one of those brilliant nutcases beloved of fiction.  The episode also played up what will apparently be a continuing thread this season, the fact that Finch’s system isn’t just a program that spits out social security numbers, but a sentient intelligence.  In flashbacks, we saw Finch’s life saved when the system spontaneously warned him that he was about to be hit by a drunk driver, and although Finch cautioned it never to take that kind of action on its own again, in the present-day story, Reese “persuaded” it to help him find Finch, and Finch’s captor, naturally, wants to use it for nefarious purposes.  We also had glimpses of one of those shadowy rich-people conspiracies, personified in the episode by Jay O. Sanders and Cotter Smith, who have something to do with currently mysterious big-time evil.

Person of Interest has been a solid success on Thursdays for CBS, especially as NBC’s line-up has collapsed, giving the network a reliable rating in the 3 neighborhood that puts it behind only Grey’s Anatomy for the hour.  It seems unlikely to become much more of a breakout hit, though, lacking a certain human element that might widen its audience.  The series is extremely well-produced (JJ Abrams is one of the Executive Producers), and in Emerson and Caviezel, it has two leading men with presence, although Caviezel doesn’t have enormous range.  (Henson and Chapman are more stock characters, and Chapman’s dese-and-dose beats can get tiresome).  The show isn’t compelling enough to be appointment television, but for those wanting an action fix on a night otherwise dominated by reality, sitcoms and soaps, it provides an effective hour of tough guys doing their thing.

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."