Person of Interest is an American science fiction-crime drama-action television series created by Jonathan Nolan that premiered on September 22, 2011, on CBS. It is executive produced by Nolan, alongside J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Greg Plageman. The series completed airing its fourth season on May 5, 2015, and has been renewed for a fifth season to debut mid-season during the 2015–16 television season.
It stars Jim Caviezel as John Reese, a presumed dead former CIA agent who is approached by a mysterious billionaire named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) to prevent violent crimes before they happen by using an advanced surveillance system dubbed "The Machine", which turns out to have evolved into a sentient AI. Their unique brand of vigilante justice attracts the attention of two NYPD officers, Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), whom Reese uses to his advantage as he investigates persons of interest. Reese and Finch are later aided by Samantha "Root" Groves (Amy Acker), a highly intelligent computer hacker and contract killer who the Machine later identifies as its "analog interface" and Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi), a former ISA assassin who unknowingly dealt with the "relevant" numbers found by the Machine. From season 3, the series sees the advent of a new rival AI called "Samaritan" which is brought into existence by Decima Technologies. Much of season 4 is centered around the struggle between the two competing AIs and their human agents.
The series has received generally positive reception from critics, including an increase in acclaim when the series introduced more serialized storylines and its exploration of artificial intelligence.
John Reese, a former Green Beret/Delta Force operator and CIA operative, is burnt out and living as a vagrant in New York City after the death of the woman he loved; he is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire software genius who is living under an assumed identity. Finch explains that, after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.
They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco, a corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter, who in early episodes investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be partners in the NYPD early in the series, for the entirety of season one, neither is aware that the other is also working with Finch and Reese. Periodically, the team enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan, a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers who are initially in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias and later with the Russian mafia; in earlier parts of this arc, Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important story line revolves around Root, a psychopathic hacker who is determined to gain access to The Machine. During season two, another organization of powerful business figures, Decima Technologies, is revealed to be attempting to gain access to the Machine. Carter vows vengeance against HR after they have her boyfriend, Detective Cal Beecher, murdered. Reese and Finch encounter Sameen Shaw, an ISA assassin, on the run after being betrayed by her employers. Shaw learns about The Machine in the season two finale and subsequently becomes a member of Reese and Finch's team. In Season three, Carter delves deeper into her investigation of HR, eventually uncovering its leader; but she is killed. In his grief, Reese briefly leaves the team but returns. The team also battles Vigilance, a violent anti-government organization devoted to securing people's privacy. During the second half of season 3, Decima Technologies starts to acquire hardware to bring to life a new artificial intelligence called Samaritan, using the codes from Harold's old college classmate, Arthur Claypool. In the season 3 finale, it is revealed that Vigilance was created by Decima to make them appear as domestic terrorists. This allowed Decima to obtain all the NSA feeds to make Samaritan operational. The Machine creates new identities for the Team so that they can fly beneath Samaritan's radar.
The Machine is an artificially intelligent mass surveillance system that is able to accurately predict premeditated violent crime by monitoring and analyzing all surveillance cameras and electronic communications worldwide. It divides those crimes based on whether they are relevant to national security; those relevant cases are handled by the U.S. government, while the non-relevant cases in New York City are the focus of the show. Built by Harold Finch following the events of 9/11, it was originally housed in two unoccupied floors of his and his best friend from college, Nathan Ingram’s company, IFT, before being installed in a fake nuclear reactor in Washington State. During season two, it moved itself, piece by piece, to an unknown location or locations, and by the end of season four it is shown to be distributed in control boxes on utility poles.
An intensely private person, Finch originally programmed the Machine so that it would be a complete black box, able to provide only the Social Security Number of people involved with the crime. While this meant that the government was not able to use it without regard for privacy, it means that numbers Finch and his associates received could belong to a victim or a perpetrator. Originally unknown to Finch, however, Nathan Ingram created a routine called "Contingency", on the eve of the government handover, to access the non-relevant data (shown accessed in the episode "Zero Day”). Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent directly to him and shuts down the routine, before reactivating it after Ingram's death. To minimize detectability, The Machine feeds him numbers in coded messages through public telephones.
Within the ISA, the program responsible for The Machine was known as Northern Lights before, after being leaked to the public, it was shut down. The private technology firm Decima Technologies steals Samaritan, in season three, and replaces Northern Lights in supplying information to the government. Samaritan takes a much more active role in shaping society, and The Machine and its human associates go underground, spending season four under cover.
The series is from the point of view of The Machine, with flashbacks framed as The Machine reviewing past tapes in real time. Over the course of the series, the internal workings of The Machine are shown, including the prediction models and probability trees it uses. In the Machine-generated perspective, individuals are marked by dashed boxes indicating of difference colors indicating, for example, what the person’s status is in relation to The Machine and whether they pose a threat. Season four features Samaritan’s point of view, using a different UI, and some episodes jump back and forth.
The Machine in it’s current iteration started running on January 1, 2002, following 42 failed attempts. During the episode "Prophets", a previous generation of The Machine's source code was shown on screen, which was that of the Stuxnet worm. It generated the first relevant number on February 8, 2005, with the intermediate time having been spent being trained by Harold.
Cast and charactersEdit
- John Reese (Jim Caviezel): a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and later a CIA black operations officer who is presumed dead following a mission in China. Little is known about Reese's background and his name is one of several aliases he uses. He lost his lover, Jessica Arndt, prior to meeting Finch, which appears to have marked him deeply. Reese demonstrates skill in the use of a range of weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and counter-surveillance tactics. He knows very little about Finch and often is rebuffed when he attempts to learn more about him.
- Harold Finch (Michael Emerson): a reclusive, security conscious and intensely private billionaire software engineer. His real name is unknown and he has many aliases (most commonly Harold Wren), using various species of birds as the last name. Finch has developed a machine that can isolate the Social Security numbers of people with either premeditated homicidal intent or who will be homicide victims, based on its analysis of surveillance data. Following a traumatic event in his own life that led to the death of his business partner and close friend, Nathan Ingram, he recruits Reese to help him deal with the people the Machine identifies. For the first three seasons, Finch lives and works in an abandoned library and beginning with season four, in an abandoned subway stop. Finch shows the results of severe physical injuries, including the inability to turn his head, a rigid posture, and a limp.
- Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter (Taraji P. Henson) (seasons 1–3, main; season 4, guest): an NYPD homicide detective and the mother of a teenaged son, Taylor. Carter is a former U.S. Army interrogation officer who passed the bar exam in 2004, but gave up practicing the law to return to police work. Carter first crosses paths with Reese following his encounter with a group of young men on a New York subway, but knew him principally as a mysterious man in a suit. Carter is initially determined to apprehend Reese, but eventually forms an alliance with him and Finch (during which she is unaware of the existence of the Machine).
- Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman): a corrupt cop Reese blackmails into being a source inside the police department. Finch later arranges for Fusco to be transferred to Carter's precinct so that he works with her. Over time, Fusco becomes increasingly loyal to Finch and Reese, as he stops being a corrupt cop, although he continues to keep a secret regarding the death of a cop involved with HR. Like Carter, he does not know about the Machine's existence.
- Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi) (season 2, recurring; season 3–present, main): a government assassin who worked for Special Counsel, unknowingly dealing with the "relevant" numbers from the Machine. She is now an ally of Reese and Finch. She has a self-identified personality disorder, and enjoys shooting the bad guys. She states that she is only helping Finch and Reese because of their dog, Bear.
- Root (Amy Acker) (season 1, guest; season 2, recurring; season 3–present, main): a highly intelligent computer hacker and contract killer with a keen interest in both Finch and the Machine. Her real name is Samantha "Sam" Groves. The Machine identifies Root as its "analog interface" and uses her as its agent for missions of unknown purposes, as well as an intermediary between itself and individuals with whom it wishes to communicate.
- Bear (played by Graubaer's Boker): a Belgian Malinois with military training whom Reese rescues from Aryan Nationalists, who were using him as an attack dog. Bear spends most of his time with Finch, who was reluctant to have him in the library at first, but has become attached to him over time. Bear gained his name by eating $1,000,000 in bearer bonds stolen by Leon Tao.
- Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco): a "fixer" who specializes in crisis management. Finch and Reese first met her as a person of interest. Later on in the series, she works with them on cases that require her skills. She and Reese have a casual and sporadic physical relationship.
- Jessica Arndt (Susan Misner): Reese's deceased lover. After Jessica's relationship with Reese ended, she married another man, but remained in contact with Reese. She is eventually killed by her husband during a domestic dispute.
- Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen): Finch's collaborator on the Machine who died from an attack caused by a van bomb. Ingram acted as the interface between the government and their company while the Machine was under development. Finch and Ingram became best friends while they both attended MIT.
- Grace Hendricks (Carrie Preston): Finch's fiancée who believes him to be dead following the van bomb attack that killed Ingram.
- Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni): a nascent crime boss and the illegitimate son of Mafia don Gianni Moretti. Elias is determined to revive the crime families of New York and to eliminate the Russian mob. Elias was arrested following an attempt to kill the heads of the Five Families but continued to run his organization from jail. HR and the Russian mob removed Elias from prison to execute him, but Carter saved him and helped arrange for a safe hiding place. After Simmons killed Carter, Elias has Scarface kill Simmons.
- Scarface (Anthony Marconi) (David Valcin): Elias' principal enforcer, and close friend. He is easily identifiable by a large scar on his right cheek, thus his nickname.
- Leon Tao (Ken Leung): a former financial criminal and three-time person of interest who has assisted in some cases with his forensic accounting skills. He has a penchant for get-rich-schemes which always land him in difficulties with gangsters.
- Special Agent Nicholas Donnelly (Brennan Brown): an FBI agent who becomes interested in Reese when his case crosses one of Reese's. He periodically offers Carter the opportunity to work with him as he pursues Reese.
- Dr. Iris Campbell (Wrenn Schmidt): a therapist assigned to speak with Reese, working undercover as Detective John Riley, after his involvement in shooting incidents as an officer. At the end of the episode "Skip", she develops a romantic relationship with Reese.
- Harper Rose (Annie Ilonzeh): a drifter and opportunistic con artist who first appears as a person of interest when she tries to independently double-cross both a drug cartel and The Brotherhood. At the end of the episode "Skip", it is revealed that The Machine is starting to anonymously use her as an asset.
The following characters are tied to a government project related to the development and use of the Machine.
- Control (Camryn Manheim): the woman who is the head of the ISA's operation (code-named Northern Lights) regarding the Machine.
- Hersh (Boris McGiver): Special Counsel's enforcer, a former member of the ISA.
- Special Counsel (Jay O. Sanders): a shadowy figure from the Office of Special Counsel who appears to be coordinating the activity regarding the Machine and sees Reese as a threat.
- Senator Ross Garrison (John Doman): a U.S. senator charged with overseeing Northern Lights.
- Alicia Corwin (Elizabeth Marvel): a liaison between Ingram and the government while the Machine was being developed and a former member of the National Security Council.
- Denton Weeks (Cotter Smith): the official who commissioned the development of the Machine while he was a deputy director at the NSA.
- Detective Cal Beecher (Sterling K. Brown): a narcotics detective with whom Carter had begun a relationship. Beecher is Alonzo Quinn's godson, but was unaware of Quinn's activities.
- Detective Bill Szymanski (Michael McGlone): a NYPD organized crime unit detective that Carter sometimes works with.
- Detective Kane (Anthony Mangano): an NYPD homicide detective with whom Carter and Fusco have periodically worked.
The following characters are involved in the HR storyline, in which a group of corrupt police officers work to control organized crime in New York.
- Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters): the Mayor's Chief of Staff and the head of HR.
- Officer Patrick Simmons (Robert John Burke): a uniformed officer who is a right-hand man to Quinn and HR's second-in-command. He handles HR activities on the street level.
- Captain Arthur Lynch (Michael Mulheren): a major figure in HR with whom Fusco appeared to be working in season one.
- Captain Womack (John Fiore): the captain in charge of Homicide who is Carter and Fusco's supervisor. He protects members of HR when Carter gets too close.
- Detective Raymond Terney (Al Sapienza): A detective working for HR who periodically crosses paths with Carter.
- Officer Mike Laskey (Brian Wiles): a rookie cop affiliated with HR who is installed as Carter's new partner after she is demoted to officer for getting too close to HR. She turns him by threatening to frame him for the death of another dirty cop.
The following characters are part of Reese's backstory relating to his time with the CIA.
- Mark Snow (Michael Kelly): a CIA operative who once worked with Reese.
- Tyrell Evans (Darien Sills-Evans): a CIA officer working with Snow.
- Kara Stanton (Annie Parisse): Reese's former CIA partner who was widely believed to be dead, but is later recruited by Decima Technologies.
The following characters are involved in the Decima Technologies storyline, a shadowy organization that is in possession of the Samaritan AI.
- John Greer (John Nolan): a mysterious British figure who is the Director of Operations for Decima Technologies and runs the Samaritan AI.
- Jeremy Lambert (Julian Ovenden): an operative for Decima Technologies, and Greer's right-hand man.
- Peter Collier (Leslie Odom, Jr.): The leader of Vigilance, a violent organization which professes to protect people's privacy, but is actually a Decima puppet.
- Martine Rousseau (Cara Buono): a woman who is a Samaritan operative for Decima Technologies.
The following characters are involved in the Brotherhood drug gang storyline.
- Dominic, aka "Mini" (Winston Duke): Leader of the Brotherhood gang.
- Link (Jamie Hector): a violent gang member and Dominic's right-hand-man.
- Floyd (Jessica Pimentel): another of Dominic's higher-ups, often appearing in place of Link.
- Main article: List of Person of Interest episodes
The series was officially picked up by CBS on May 13, 2011, and debuted on September 22, 2011. On October 25, 2011, the show received a full season order. It was renewed for a second season on March 14, 2012, by CBS, which premiered on September 27, 2012. CBS renewed Person of Interest for a third season on March 27, 2013, with Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker promoted to series regulars. The series was renewed for a fourth season on March 13, 2014. ADR recording for the series was done at recording studio Cherry Beach Sound.
According to CBS, Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years, what one CBS executive called "crazy broad appeal you don't usually see", prompting CBS to move CSI, which was broadcast on Thursday for over 10 years, to Wednesday, opening up a slot for Person of Interest. The pilot episode won its time slot, drawing 13.2 million viewers.
The first season of Person of Interest received generally positive reviews, with the pilot episode drawing a favorable response from critics and later episodes receiving higher praise. On Metacritic, the season scored a 65 out of 100. Of the pilot, David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said "Person of Interest separates itself from the gimmick pack, not only because of superbly nuanced characterization and writing but also because of how it engages a post-9/11 sense of paranoia in its viewers." David Hinckley of the New York Daily News gave the pilot four stars out of five, commenting on Caviezel's and Emerson's performances, saying Caviezel "brings the right stuff to this role" and Emerson "is fascinating as Mr. Finch." Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times stated that in regard to the pilot, "the notion of preventing crimes rather than solving them is an appealing twist... The surveillance graphics are very cool." The episodes "Many Happy Returns" and the finale "Firewall" were particularly acclaimed. Tim Surette of TV.com called the former one of the series' "best episodes", commending Caviezel's performance and the episode's character exploration, while the latter was called "exactly what a season finale should be", with Surette concluding his review by saying "'Firewall' was a spectacular finish to what has been an incredibly surprising first season of Person of Interest."
The second season received highly positive reviews. Surette praised the premiere episode as "vintage Person of Interest amplified, showing off its trademark combination of complex intrigue, creative action, and clever innovation in bigger ways than ever before." He praised guest star Ken Leung's character as "one of the greatest POIs the series has had" and praised the episode's overall narrative, as well as the flashbacks. "Prisoner's Dilemma" and "Relevance" were the two highest-rated episodes of the season, with Surette calling the former "as complete an episode of Person of Interest as there's ever been" and The A.V. Club's Phil Dyess-Nugent praising Jonathan Nolan's directorial work in the latter. The season finale "God Mode" also attracted positive reactions. Nugent called it an "unapologetically kick-ass episode" with some "terrific action set-pieces". The episode "2πR", meanwhile, garnered 16.23 million views, making it the most watched episode in the series to date.
The third season received critical acclaim, and is noteworthy for drawing in more critics for its exploration of artificial intelligence, as well as its timely storytelling format. In regards to the season, Slant Magazine said that the show "is at its best when sticking to cutting-edge topics" and called it a "solid action-thriller that intersperses twist-filled standalone episodes into its season-long arcs." The A.V. Club said that the show captures the "national post-post-9/11 mood" and that with the mid-season arc in season three, "turns conspiracy theory into art". The season's two story arcs both received a considerable amount of praise: the two episodes ending the HR storyline are commonly considered to be some of the best episodes of Person of Interest. Matt Fowler of IGN gave "The Crossing" a 10 out of 10, reacting extremely positively to the cliffhanger at the ending. The episode to follow, "The Devil's Share", was the most acclaimed episode of the season, being praised for its opening sequence, its writing, Chris Fisher's direction, and the acting performances, especially those by Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman. Surette called the episode a "stunner" and declared it as the series' possible best episode, praising the opening sequence as the "greatest sequence the series ever put together", feeling it succeeded in eclipsing the devastation induced by Carter's death. Surette also praised Fusco's effectiveness and character development in the episode, as well naming the cinematography and direction to be the best of the series, and identifying points of symbolism in the episode he felt were noteworthy and effective. Fowler gave the episode an "amazing" rating of a 9.3 out of 10, also praising the opening sequence, as well as the flashbacks and the ending scene. Phil Dyess-Nugent of The A.V. Club gave the episode a perfect A rating, praising the atmosphere of grief the episode built and feeling Fusco's character development served as an appropriate tribute to Carter. Sean McKenna of TV Fanatic called the opening sequence "brilliant", while Courtney Vaudreuil of TV Equals praised the ending.
The fourth season has received very positive reviews, with critics praising the thematic value of the Samaritan storyline. The episode "If-Then-Else" garnered near-unanimous universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, with many considering the episode to be the best entry in the series. Fowler gave the episode a perfect rating of 10 out 10, indicating it to a "masterpiece", and praised the simulation format, the action scenes, the emotional value, and the ending. He called the episode "next-level inventive" and a "jolting, exciting, heart-wrenching episode". Fowler said the ending scene "crushed" him, and he also offered praise to the significance of the flashbacks to the chess games. Alexa Planje of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A rating, and in her review, said that though the task of executing a story structured like "If-Then-Else" was difficult, the episode did so "elegantly" - she cited the "interesting score, vibrant color work, and humor" as the key elements. Planje said the episode "aces every scenario" during the simulation segments, and appreciated how the episode transformed itself from what appeared to be a "standard mission-focused story" into a "moving ode" to Shaw. She also praised the episode's exploration of the parallels between being a human and being a machine. Shant Istamboulian of Entertainment Weekly lauded Emerson's performance in the flashbacks and felt the season marked the series' "creative peak". He concluded by saying "Moving like a rocket, this episode is fast, funny, exciting, and, ultimately, sad, ending with what seems like the loss of another team member. We’ll have to wait until next week for the outcome, but as it stands, “If-Then-Else” is an instant classic." Surette also had high praise for the episode, calling it "playful, mind-bending, heart-breaking, and flat-out excellent." He praised the episode's incorporation of its "recurring theme of sacrifice", and called the flashbacks "as fascinating and provocative as anything the series has done." Surette cited his favorite part of the episode as the exploration of the Machine's perspective, and additionally praised the humorous segments.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave a 100% approval rating for seasons three and four with an average rating of 7.7 out of 10 for season three and 8.4 out of 10 for season four.
Person of Interest has been picked up by many networks for broadcast outside the United States. It premiered in Australia on Nine Network on September 25, 2011. The series is simulcast in Canada and premiered on City on September 22, 2011, and moved to CTV in 2013. The series premiered in New Zealand on TV One on January 16, 2012. It premiered in the UK on Channel 5 on August 14, 2012.
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