Sunday, 2 March 2014

Person of Interest by Jonathan Nolan

I was going cold turkey having finished watching Season One of the magnificent Veronica Mars (is this the finest TV series of all time?) when a friend came to my rescue by recommending Person of Interest.

What a first-rate, beautifully crafted show this is. It's created by Jonathan Nolan, screenwriter for his brother Christopher's Batman films. And, indeed, if you look closely it is a cheeky little rewrite of the Batman myth.

Batman is a high-tech billionaire and a vigilante combat master. If you split that into two characters you get Finch, played by Michael Emerson and Reese played by Jim Caviezel, both of whom are splendid in Person of Interest.

The concept of the show is simple, strong and endlessly fertile. It's essentially a reworking of (and a considerable improvement on) the movies Eagle Eye and Minority Report: Reese has created a super computer, called 'The Machine', which uses surveillance data to spot patterns of behaviour. When it senses a lethal crime is imminent, it spits out a social security number.

This person of interest may be the victim — or possibly the perpetrator. This is one of the brilliant little strokes which make this such a clever and endlessly entertaining show.

Finch built the computer for the government to catch terrorists. But it also spots deadly crime of the vanilla, domestic variety and the government just isn't interested in those. So Finch decides to deal with them himself, enlisting the assistance of troubled former black-ops warrior Reese. 

What ensues is some of the finest television drama available, splendidly crafted, smart and funny. A couple of the episodes in the first season are no more than expert entertainment. But most of them have something extra.

Like Number Crunch by Patrick Harbinson which adroitly takes Reese's nemesis, the police detective Carter, and turns her into his ally, Super by David Slack which cheekily borrows the notion of Rear Window and energetically subverts it, and Wolf and Cub by Nic Van Zeebroeck & Michael Sopczynski which deliberately evokes the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series but develops the idea very movingly as Reese partners with a young ghetto kid out to avenge his brother's death.

This is great televsion. It's in its third season. I hope it runs for decades.

(Image credits: The DVD cover is from Amazon.  Reese with the handgun is from TV Dot Com. The surveillance image of Finch is from Sci Fi Empire. The other images are from the official CBS website for the show, which is cumbersome to navigate — just try clicking all the way back to the Episode 1,  Season 1 Gallery — and has a remarkably dull selection of photos. Sigh.)

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