Some thoughts on the “Person of Interest” pilot episode

Through the eyes of a security camera

Finch, Reese, and the first "person of interest" seen through the eye of a security camera

Though I was able, with an effort, to suspend disbelief during the early scene on the subway, it had an oddly retro 1970s feel. I’m living in NYC now, after a long time away, and the subways these days feel very safe. I doubt there are many – or any — armed gangs prowling the subway cars now. The biggest danger on the train is getting an earache from the loud panhandling musicians who use the subway cars for their stage, whether anyone particularly wants to listen to them or not. [Editing to add 10/6/11 — Oops, I spoke too soon. Just heard on the news there’s a gang robbing the subways now.]

One reason the subways are safe is that the city as a whole is much safer than it used to be in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But the subways in particular have gotten safer since 9/11 because of the huge number of cops who are now hanging around, mostly in the stations, but also sometimes walking through the trains, because the subways are an obvious target of terrorists.

Which brings me to what I found most intriguing about the Person of Interest pilot – the way that it used 9/11 as a plot point. It’s the first television show – the first piece of any kind of pop culture that I’m aware of – that wove 9/11 into a fictional story, not as the main focus, but as part of the backstory.

I like that. Especially coming so soon after the 9/11 tenth anniversary, which itself brought a feeling of partial closure, and the construction (finally) of the new WTC buildings and the completion of the Memorial — I think it’s a sign that we are getting back to normalcy, that 9/11 is not so raw any more, not too raw to be used in such an offhand way.

As for the rest of the show, I would watch Michael Emerson do anything – I could listen to him recite nursery rhymes all day — but Mr. Finch does not come close to having Benjamin Linus’s charisma, evil or otherwise. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison – Ben was probably a once-in-a-lifetime role that nothing will ever match. But I would at least like to see more chemistry between Emerson and Caviezel. It feels like a buddy movie where the relationship between the buddies hasn’t yet coalesced.

I’m most curious about the backstory. Mr. Finch has hinted at a loss in his past, and I assume that has something to do with his limp. I hope there is an overarching storyline that the show will explore, and that it doesn’t become just about a new crime with a twist ending every week.

The way they photographed New York is interesting. So many movies and TV shows have been shot here that it’s hard to make it look different – but Person of Interest manages to pull it off, looking at the city as if through a paranoid eye, with all the jittery cuts and lengthy shots of the omnipresent security cameras.

It reminded me of “1984,” where the population was always being watched. But I can’t quite get a handle, yet, on the show’s point of view. The constant monitoring is certainly being presented as sinister – yet it’s that same monitoring that enables Finch and Reese to save lives. Perhaps the tension between the creepy and life-saving uses of the all-watching “machine” will be what lies at the heart of the show?

Oh, and something funny. The names of the threads on the Television Without Pity forums are often very clever, but this time they outdid themselves, calling the Person of Interest thread “Ben Linus Finally Finds Jesus.”

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3 responses to “Some thoughts on the “Person of Interest” pilot episode

  1. It sounds quite interesting too bad Hulu + so far doesn’t seem to have it. 🙁 TWOP is so good with being clever. 🙂

  2. Hi, Laura. They have the pilot up now on the CBS site. Enjoy!

  3. Cool! I’ll have to watch it tonight. 🙂

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