Person Of Interest finished its fourth season this past Tuesday with “YHWH,” yet another brave, world-altering finale for ‘the TV show that predicted Edward Snowden.’ Here are the five key reasons I believe it to be the best show on TV:
A Great Roster of Characters
For all of its high concept ideas, Person Of Interest would not work if its amazingly crafted world wasn’t inhabited by strong characters. Luckily, it is, and very much so. The series has one of the most impressive groups of returning guest characters on any TV show, all of them played by good or fantastic character actors, returning either regularly or just every so often to make the world of the show feel that much more fully realized. The standouts: crime boss Carl Elias, played to perfection by Enrico Colantoni, who has most of us rooting for him in spite of everything; Control, a strong (and important) presence on the show who has undergone one of the biggest transitions when it comes to character development, thanks in no small part to the spot-on casting of Camryn Manheim; and Greer, head of Decima Technologies and overseer of evil AI Samaritan, portrayed with the utmost smug, love-to-hate-him creepiness by John Nolan.
However, it is the main players who count the most, and luckily, Person Of Interest is blessed in this department also. Harold Finch, the closest thing to a ‘main character’ Person Of Interest has, is full of inner turmoil, subtle eccentricities, and a tinge of mystery, portrayed by Michael Emerson in what is almost certainly the show’s best acting performance. Week after week, Emerson can reel off a page full of dialogue to great effect, or make us weep with nothing but a computer system as his scene partner.
Then there’s ex-CIA operative John Reese. With a relentless sense of duty to saving people, shooting kneecaps and whispering, the often-dubbed ‘man in a suit’ is equal parts comic-book superhero and tragic former hit man. Jim Caviezel nails the combination of tough-as-nails and guilt-ridden, exemplified by his recent performances in “YHWH” and “Terra Incognita,” respectively.
Amy Acker, who plays Samantha Groves, AKA Root, started out as a great guest before being upped to series regular in Season 3. Root has perhaps the biggest character arc out of the ‘main’ characters, having started out as a homicidal hacker with very little regard for human life, before gradually transitioning to someone who does care about said life, at least in some cases. She’s now a fully-fledged member of Team Machine, though still very much a loose canon in some instances (Martine would vouch for me on this one, if Root hadn’t snapped her neck). Acker has made Root a fun, fascinating character, relishing the opportunity for such a transformation whilst also revelling in her most appealing subtleties (she’s a tad crazy, is fairly witty, and has a penchant for shooting two guns at once, to name a few).
Detective Lionel Fusco is full of heart, comic genius, and childlike charm, not to mention he has a repertoire of nicknames for his friends (coco puffs, anyone?), thanks to a fun performance by Kevin Chapman. His partner up until her death in Season 3 was Detective Joss Carter, who was played with similar heart by Taraji P. Henson, a sad loss reflected in her recent return.
Last but not least, we have Sameen Shaw, played by Sarah Shahi, another guest star turned series regular. The character became a fan favorite due to her sociopathic yet reluctantly caring nature, deadpan humor, and Reese-matching fighting and weaponry skills. All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing dynamics between these characters, or The Machine and Samaritan, two AI machines that could be considered fully fledged characters in themselves – the former certainly is at this point – but that’s a debate for another piece.
Blending of Tones and Genre
Person Of Interest is many things. It’s a fairly dark drama, a sci-fi thriller, an action show, sometimes a procedural, often now a serialized drama, and on some occasions, it’s even reminiscent of a comedy in the sense that it can be very, very funny. To attempt all of these and hit all of the right notes, making it work as a cohesive whole, is no easy task. The writers are to be commended for it.
It Is VERY Relevant/Prescient
From predating Snowden with a United States full of mass surveillance systems and civil liberties infringements, to its depiction of the involvement of private companies, the information war, the advancement and role of technology as a whole, and now ultimately the rise of Artificial Intelligence, Person Of Interest has been a highly relevant show from the start and remains so to this day. What began as prescience has now evolved into a show looking a little further into the future, by addressing another highly relevant topic in the development of AI.
It Takes Risks
It cannot be said enough how daring Person Of Interest is, given the circumstances. The show is on CBS, a network that largely plays it safe with straight-up procedural fare, attracting a core audience of TV watchers who don’t mind sticking to the same formula week-by-week. Person Of Interest started out in this same format, for the most part, although the high-concept of ‘The Machine’ still set it apart from the crowd. However, as time went on, Person Of Interest became more and more serialized, expertly weaving countless ongoing narrative threads through the majority of episodes. At this point (and since somewhere in Season 2 or 3, really) the number of completely standalone episodes is down to virtually none. Seasons 3 and 4 managed to link its ‘numbers of the week’ to one of the bigger plots on almost every occasion, be it in a small or more significant way. On top of this, the all-out mythology building episodes are more frequent than ever. Is this the reason for a gradual decline in ratings? Maybe. Should we care? Not really. Person Of Interest is only getting better as time goes on, and the show fully embraces the complex nature of its story, which leads me to my final, and most important, point…
It Is Constantly Evolving
I touched on this briefly in the previous paragraph, though here I am not merely talking about the format changing, but also the story itself. Somehow, the show manages to up the stakes every year, and significantly change the game without ever feeling disloyal to its original concept. If one were to watch the pilot back-to-back with the recent Season 4 finale, it would be striking just how much has changed in four seasons, yet it does not feel disjointed or wrong. It feels natural, yet significant.
This is especially apparent in the finale episodes of Seasons 2, 3, and 4 (“God Mode,” “Deus Ex Machina,” and “YHWH”). In “God Mode,” The Machine is freed and moves itself – it has “free will,” so to speak. It makes its own decisions. How does the show top that? Well, by the time “Deus Ex Machina” arrives, we get another AI in Samaritan, a completely open, abusive system that (together with those who run it) is altogether more antagonistic, villainous, and single-minded than The Machine. As the government adopts the system and it comes online, seemingly giving the orders rather than taking them, all hope is lost. How could things get worse? Well, last Tuesday’s outstanding finale, “YHWH,” was yet another game changer, as The Machine has been all but killed by Samaritan, with only a “strand of its DNA” surviving within a briefcase. Harold and Root have a major rebuild on their hands, all under the watchful eye of Samaritan and – for the first time – without The Machine to protect them. Phew. All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the death and disappearance of major characters like Carter and Shaw, or the recent loss of longtime recurring (potential) allies in Elias and Control.
Overall, everything stated above gives Person Of Interest a continuous feeling of forward movement and momentum. It never stops and it constantly evolves and that, to me, is the most rewarding thing about the series – and the main reason (though one of many) I believe it to be the best show currently on TV.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Why do you think Person Of Interest is the best show on TV? And if not, why do you think it isn’t, and what is? Lastly, what do you want from Person Of Interest Season 5? Let us know in the comments below.
[Photos via CBS]