'Person of Interest - Season 4' Continues to Offer Smart, Binge-worthy TV

by Jessy Krupa

21 August 2015

This show's war of heroes, villains, and recurring characters of unknown loyalty interact and battle against each other in a way that demands the viewer's complete attention.
 
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Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season

(CBS)
US DVD: 11 Aug 2015
UK DVD: N/A

“We are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything: violent crimes involving ordinary people. The government considers these people “irrelevant”. We don’t. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up… we’ll find you.”
Person of Interest‘s opening narration for Season Four

CBS’ Person of Interest is one of the most under-rated shows on television. Buried among the networks’ stable of highly-rated, yet critically-panned, crime dramas and procedurals, it has never appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, doesn’t have a impressive line of official merchandise, and won’t inspire tabloid writers to gleefully debate how much its cast gets paid per episode. Yet, the series still manages to average an impressive 13.1 million viewers per episode simply because it is one of the smartest shows on television.

More so than any other CBS drama, Person of Interest is “bingeable.” Its war of heroes, villains, and recurring characters of unknown loyalty interacting and battling against each other, its fast pace, and its complex, ever-expanding universe demands viewers’ complete attention.  Its producers describe Person of Interest as “speculative fiction,” but its characters continual queries about the ethical obligations of what technology (and the government) should and shouldn’t be allowed to do, allows its narrative to tap into current events.

It isn’t surprising that on the show’s official YouTube page, its creators joke that “the NSA already knows that you watch it anyways.” It balances the sometimes-demanding main storyline with the weekly drama of an innocent bystander in need of rescue. Occasionally, there are stand-alone episodes that don’t require a vast knowledge of prior seasons’ events, but the series still makes more sense when viewed both chronologically and quickly.

The show’s initial concept was that of a modern vigilante fantasy. Finch (Michael Emerson), a reclusive computer genius scarred by the events of 9-11, developed an all-knowing, all-seeing computer program referred to as “The Machine”, which can predict future crimes by scanning social media, live security camera feeds, and anything digital. The Machine also has the scary ability of generating the social security numbers of people who are about to be either victims or criminals. To help those in need, Finch recruited Mr. Reese (Jim Caviezel), an emotionally damaged former CIA agent, to be the anonymous man on street that could save the day.

The show continues to introduce many villainous groups bent on the protagonists’ destruction, including “HR” (corrupt policemen and civic leaders under the influence of a mafia kingpin), the “Vigilance” organization of privacy-advocating terrorists, and various members of the US government, who want The Machine for their own (mostly nefarious) purposes. Eventually, Finch and Reese sought the aid of a formerly corrupt cop, Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a former government assassin, Shaw (Sarah Shahi), and an expert hacker/former mental patient, Root (Amy Acker). All of these “formers” allow the series to frequently jump back in time to show the past lives of its current characters.

Season four opens with the “team” assuming false identities conjured up by The Machine in order to escape the grasp of Samaritan, a rival computer program devoid of any compassion for the human race. While it’s amusing to see Shaw’s utter disgust at the prospect of working in the cosmetics department of a major retail store or Finch bumbling along as an extremely nervous college professor, what really stands out here is how developed are the characters of The Machine and its evil-twin-of-sorts Samaritan. These symbols of artificial intelligence often appear as nothing more than mere words on a screen, but their dialogue (or lack thereof) is often written so well that it seems that they too are real actors; a scene in the season finale, in which The Machine is reduced to a blinking blue light, is surprisingly heartbreaking.

Some long-time fans complained that parts of season four were too silly. Indeed, creative risks were taken, including the ghost/spirit of Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson), murdered ally and potential romantic interest for Reese, talking to Reese during his bout of hypothermia-induced hallucinations, or a Groundhog Day-esque episode, in which The Machine tries to formulate what escape route the team should take in a stand-off against Samaritan’s goons, leading to multiple false death scenes. Still, when my biggest complaint is the lack of Bear, one of the most lovable and realistic dogs on television, it’s clear the season offered something for everybody, with remarkably few duds in the 22-episode collection. 

The Blu-Ray format offers greater depth of color to Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season than did the television broadcast. The city’s grays and blues are cooler, the lights of the underground subway bunker are warmer, and it is easier to see what is going on more dimly lit scenes. The sound is also better, with clearer dialogue (especially from Mr. Reese’s raspy whisper of a voice) and louder gunfire/explosions. It’s arguably worth half the price of the set just to be able to watch it all at once, without commercials or those annoying pop-up banner ads for other CBS shows.

Featurettes include a 2014 Comic-Con interview with the main cast and producers Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman, a short tour of the subway headquarters set with Emerson and Acker, a look at the process of composing the show’s incidental music, and the usual gag reel. Despite being listed on every disc on the set, all of the special features are included on Disc Four. (The other discs state this fact whenever “special features” are selected on the main menu.)  The featurettes are mildly interesting, but somewhat lacking, considering the complexity of the series.

Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season

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