When you throw together the producer of Lost and Star Trek (J.J. Abrams), the co-writer/producer of The Dark Knight (Jonathan Nolan), and Jesus himself (Jim Caviezel), the end product is either going to be fairly impressive or seriously disappointing. Happily, in the case of CBS's new prime time drama Person of Interest, it leans heavily to the former.
I was...mildly surprised that I enjoyed the pilot as much as I did. I'm not sure if I was expecting another godawful crime procedural (why hello, Unforgettable) or had simply lost all faith in the network that continues to bring us CSI: Miami and Two and a Half Men. But Person is, for now, better than it sounds on paper: mysterious billionaire hires ex-spook to follow people who are about to be involved in something bad, and stop said bad thing from going down.
It's sort of a reverse A-Team.
The pilot opens with a flashback to Caviezel enjoying some sexy time with a redhead we know must be dead. How do we know this? Because now it's ten years later and the guy looks like a booze-sodden version of Jesus from The Passion of the Christ. Still, after he krav magas the shit out of some rich kid assholes in the subway, I'm rooting for this guy already.
Officer Carter (Taraji P. Henson) questions Hobo Jesus, suspecting he's a returning vet with issues. His fingerprints light up the system, but before Carter can grill him further, he's spirited away (like Jesus!...okay, I'll stop) by a cryptic rich dude (Michael Emerson) who knows his name (Reese) and the "work he used to do with the government," as well as the issues he had with that work. They never spell it out, but I'm guessing Reese wasn't Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
"Mr. Finch," as he likes to be called, has a proposition. He has a list of people about to be involved in "very bad situations." They might be victims or evildoers, but they're involved somehow, and Finch wants Reese to prevent whatever is about to happen. Reece is resistant, at first, but Finch invokes the specter of the departed "Jessie" (the aforementioned sexy redhead) and Reese relents. Finch will provide cover identities and unlimited funds, but not the source of the info. This reticence lasts about 30 minutes.
Person #1 on the list is assistant DA Diane Hansen. Reese puts her under surveillance (though why he balks at placing a camera inside her apartment, I dunno). He narrows the potential troublemakers down to an ex-boyfriend (another assistant DA named Wheeler) and the defendant in her current case, drug dealer Lawrence Pope. Pope alludes to "people" higher up who will kill him (and his brother, who may be a witness) if she keeps digging.
Another flashback: Reese was an Army Ranger who left the army shortly before 9-11 (we see him and Jessie watching the news from their hotel in Mexico). I'm guessing that didn't last long.
To make a short recap longer, Reese discovers Wheeler might be in cahoots with the bad guys Pope mentioned, who turn out to be NYPD. Reese takes the info to Finch, and learns his benefactor designed the software algorithms used by the government to sift through their massive amounts of surveillance and eavesdropping data. Designed to prevent the next 9-11, anything not related to massive loss of life was deemed "irrelevant." Finch accesses this data, one SSN at a time, so as not to attract attention.
And as it turns out, Hansen was the ringleader all alone. Well, Finch warned us that might happen.
Person of Interest is off to a strong start. I'm less enthusiastic about the show's Enemy of the State-style amateur-hour paranoia and more about how refreshingly adult it is (well, for a major network effort). CBS is definitely taking a different tack by ramping up the "adult themes" and violence (becoming more "Nolan-esque," in other words). I can't remember the last time I saw five guys kneecapped on a prime time show, for example.
Reese possesses a sense of qualified morality, as well. When he discovers Lyle (the cop tasked with disposing of him in Oyster Bay) isn't really a bad person, he decides to let him live. He needs an inside man with the NYPD if he's going to keep doing what he's doing.
If anything disappointed me, it was the ease with which Reese decided to come on board. I mean, I realize the guy wasn't doing much with his life aside from playing Drunken Bernie Goetz, but I assume future episodes will provide more detail about his lost love -- which is probably what turned him into such a killing machine -- and what finally sent him Over The Edge.
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And if you didn't notice, that was William "Col. Stewart" Sadler playing the illegal gun dealer when Reese shot the kids. Obviously he's going to be the Microchip to Reese's Punisher (Officer Carter, to completely mix metaphors, will be the Mr. McGee to his Incredible Hulk).
Next week: Reese drives offensively.