Jonathn Nolan and J.J Abrams’ Post-911, high-concept, high-tech, high violence, vigilante, conspiracy-Western, cop-show powers on thanks to the charm of its cast and the lightness of tone, which levens otherwise dark material.
The Machine now has its artificial intelligence nemesis in The Samaritan; the PoI gang of Reece, Finch, Fusco, Shaw, Root (and Bear the Alsatian) are still based in New York defending the free world from Big Brother, albeit from deeper cover, now they are on Samaritan’s watch list.
Since both The Machine and Samaritan have reached singularity levels of AI, the human crew are clinging on to anonymity in a high-tech surveillance society, whilst continuing to reach the persons of interest uncovered as victims or perpetrators by The Machine.
Ex-superspy Reece (the whispering Jim Caveziel) as Det. Reilly has joined Fusco (grouchy Kevin Chapman) in the NYPD. Finding ‘civilian’ life equally hard going, glamorous hard-as-nails hit-woman Shaw (Sarah Shahi) is now on the cosmetics floor of a department store, while Finch (the many-layered Michael Emerson) is a college professor.
With The Machine’s sociopathic disciple and religious zealot, Ms. Root (Amy Acker) as their sole, cryptic connection to their esrtwhile employer, the weekly cases are even more impenetrable, improbable, random and far-fetched than ever.
Reece and Shaw continue to punch and shoot their way through New York’s bad guys, be they gangsters, longshoremen, and all manner of ethnic mobsters. This season’s principal villains are the African-American gang The Brotherhood, led by the brooding Dominic (Winston Duke).
Person of Interest continues to work thanks to the pedigree of its’ writers and exec producer Abrams (Lost, Star Trek, Star Wars) who know how to assemble a decent action series, with enough humour to stay on the right side of cop-show entertainment.
It is stylish and dynamic, although the sci-fi surveillance and James Bond tech is heavy handed and ludicrous; the gun-play and fight scenes well-staged and effective; the hackneyed plotlines tight enough to see off any questions while watching, without descending to Lost levels of complete B-S.
What makes it work is the cast playing off each other with Swiss-watch precision. There are smart one-liners aplenty as a likeable cast go through their sci-fi-spy fantasy routine in a hidden world of dangers in the Big Apple. Caveziel is playing Dirty Harry, while Shahi and Acker make implausible action women. Well, its an American network TV show. Which means pretty actors, violence with token blood, no sex or swearing and short running time for all the ad breaks.
It is, of course, all complete nonsense, and threatens to repeat itself every season (and it seems season five will be the last) but it’s fascinating to watch a concept show tick over for an hour weekly, with the quality few movie thrillers can match in a good two-year production cycle. With its slow, twangy soundtrack and surreal urban landscapes, the show plays out like Inception – The Series.
For now, these Persons remain of Interest. RC
The CBS show Person of Interest season four is showing in the UK on terrestrial Channel 5 and on demand.