Posted on Friday, July 22nd, 2011 by Devindra Hardawar
What if Batman was a former CIA operative who had the ability to predict crimes before they happened, and had no qualms about kneecapping baddies? That’s the basic premise of Person of Interest, the new Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams written/produced CBS series that will be hitting this fall.
After getting an early glimpse of the pilot last night at Comic-Con, I’m pleased to say that the show more than lives up to our lofty expectations.
Jim Caviezel stars as said former CIA operative, John Reese. At the beginning of the pilot, he’s wracked with guilt and is trying to drink himself to death after losing the woman he loves. After an encounter with thugs in the subway (while sporting what I like to call the “bum Jesus look”), Reese is eventually recruited by an eccentric billionaire, Dr. Finch (Lost’s Michael Emerson), who has developed computer software that can predict crimes before they happen. Taraji P. Henson is also in the fold as a police officer who seems keen on Reese’s background, and will likely serve as as the Commissioner Gordon role to Reese’s Batman.
The series is set in New York City and makes great use of on-location shooting (just like Alcatraz does with San Francisco). NYC is also an interesting setting because Person of Interest is heavily steeped in post-9/11 wish fulfillment. In the pilot Finch explains that before 9/11, he was just concerned with making as much money as possible. Afterwards, he wanted to dedicate his resources and technical expertise towards stopping similar attacks in the future. He developed a technology that can predict when future attacks would happen, based on a massive amount of surveillance data it has access to.
Finch uses the same technology to track smaller crimes in New York City — something he initially had the program ignore in his quest to prevent another 9/11. But eventually, he realized that he could make a difference by stopping smaller crimes as well. (Cue the Knight Rider opening, “One man can make a difference…”) Finch has access to unprecedented surveillance capabilities — in the pilot, he shows off how he can track someone using their smartphone, as well as easily listen in on calls. He also has plenty of other surveillance devices on hand, which makes the series seem like a modern spin on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.
Person of Interest’s many Batman parallels are readily apparent — not too surprising coming from Nolan – but it does offer up some notable differences. Reese, for instance, is heavily proficient with firearms and isn’t afraid to show it. The pilot features a handful of well-executed action set-pieces that instantly position Caviezel’s Reese as the spiritual successor to 24‘s Jack Bauer.
The show seems more well-suited to being a Law and Order-style episodic series, instead of something with a driving serial storyline like Lost. Even Alcatraz, the other new J.J. Abrams-produced series on the horizon (check out my pilot review here), appears to have a better balance of serial and episodic elements.
While the pilot was successful at setting up the basic premise of the series, it moved too quickly for us to get a decent sense of Finch and Reese’s ultimate goals. Reese seems to easily jump into crime fighting role, and he quickly becomes a one-man army who somehow seems to slip under most NYC cops’ radars. Finch seems a bit too similar to Lost’s Ben Linus — though I’m sure that was done on purpose.
CBS has high hopes for the series: Person of Interest will start airing on the network on Thursdays this fall at 9 — a coveted prime time spot that CSI held for 10 years.