'Person of Interest' Knows How to Make an Entrance

With his piercing blue eyes and penetrating stare, Michael Emerson always seems like he knows more than he lets on.

Person of Interest

Airtime: Thursdays, 8pm ET
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: CBS
Creator: J.J. Abrams
Air date: 2011-09-22

Person of Interest knows how to make an entrance.

A crew of pampered rich kids mess with a sleepy bum on the subway and receive a hell of an ass-kicking. The man who delivers said kicking is Reese (Jim Caviezel), a down-on-his-luck ex-CIA agent. Taken to a police station, he tells the enthusiastic Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) exactly nothing. Then he's bailed out and taken to see a mysterious man who identifies himself as Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson). Finch explains that he has the means to find out when major crimes are going to be committed days before they happen. What's more, he wants Reese to help him get to the bottom of these crimes and stop them from happening. When Reese demurs, Finch persuades him: he reveals that he knows Reese's history and makes a promise: "You left the government because they lied to you. I never will!"

And with that, Person of Interest jumps right into pilot episode territory. Finch sends Reese to investigate an assistant district attorney (Natalie Zea) with a near-spotless conviction record and apparently, about to get into trouble. "When is this going to happen?" asks Reese. "Could be a week, could be five minutes from now," Finch replies. So Reese gets down to trying to figure out what's up with the woman and how he can save her. With an assistant district attorney as the target, there are a lot of potential places for the episode to go, and the plot is sufficiently twisty to be entertaining. The show even has a nice callback to the teens from the subway, who come back into play when Reese needs to acquire firearms quickly.

All this plot doesn’t give Caviezel a chance to display much personality. Reese has a dead girlfriend and a soul-crushing sense of guilt that he wasn't able to protect her. He speaks in a voice just above a whisper, when he speaks at all. Mostly, Person of Interest's first episode shows off his various abilities. He's an expert marksman, he knows how to infiltrate a residence and track a person, and he's willing to use deadly force to achieve his goals.

This action is very good, but the show only feels truly energized when Emerson is on the screen. He brings the same intensity to this role that he did to his career-making turn as Ben Linus on Lost. Finch tells Reese that he's super-wealthy and that he designed a complex machine for the government in the wake of 9/11. He intended this machine to acquire and collate data to find terrorist activity, but found its matrix can track potential crimes on a smaller scale. And so Finch, in a bout of altruism after dealing with a loss of his own, has decided to use the machine to help people.

It's a lot of exposition to deliver, but Emerson is effectively low-key doing it. With his piercing blue eyes and penetrating stare, always seems like he knows more than he lets on. It looks as though Finch is dedicated to righteous use of the machine, but one assumes his complicated past will come back to haunt him as the show progresses.

Person of Interest has some backstory of its own, with J.J. Abrams executive producing the first episode and Jonathan Nolan its creator. Nolan has never worked in television before, but his screenplays for his brother Christopher's films, like Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight, suggest he knows how complicate characters. Abrams is mostly known for his successful genre shows, but he has an equal number of television flops to his name at this point.

Network TV is always a negotiation. Since it's airing on CBS, Person of Interest's procedural aspect is going to have to take center stage at least for a while, in an effort to attract the CSI viewers. From a storytelling standpoint, though, the real juice of the show is going to lie in its long-form arcs. It's a delicate balance to maintain, and it will be interesting to see if Person of Interest is up to the challenge.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.