First Watch: Person of Interest – “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

“You couldn’t have saved this woman or your friend, but you could have if you had known in time. And that’s the other thing I’m offering you; a chance to be there in time.”

Have you ever wanted to watch Jesus play Batman in New York — chasing down baddies and protecting innocents under the guidance of his all-knowing sidekick, Benjamin Linus? Neither did I really, but that was before I got hooked on Jonathan Nolan‘s Person of Interest. It is a bit strange writing about Person of Interest‘s pilot since my feelings about the series have changed drastically since my first watch, but I’ll try to keep my metagaming to a minimum and write about the pilot rather than the series as a whole. There will be time for that later.

Person of Interest is an action-based crime drama in the same vein as Burn Notice or a live-action Batman; it follows a man who serves up vigilante justice to protect innocent people and thwart criminal activity all while being hunted by various government entities. The series comes equipped with a brooding ex-military man and a rich tech-genius that might as well be Batman and Bruce Wayne split into two separate entities. The show’s premise makes it seem like Jonathan Nolan wanted to make a Dark Knight television series after he co-wrote the film with his brother, but decided to pull a E.L. James and turn his fan-fiction into a new series altogether.

Enough chatter, let’s talk pilot.

The pilot opens with a flashback (2001) introducing John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and his (now) ex-girlfriend, Jessica. The scene comes along with a voice-over by Reese that gives a bit of insight into how he got to be who he is now: “When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different, someone better. But when that person is taken from you, what do you become then?”

Apparently, the answer is homeless.

Back in the present (2011), disheveled bum Reese manages to get himself picked up by the police for questioning after he beats the daylights out of a band of hoodlums on a train. New York Police Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) has Reese’s fingerprints analyzed and finds that he is wanted in four different countries as well as in connection with a missing persons case from a few years back. Luckily for Reese, his ‘attorney’ comes and frees him from police custody before Carter can do anything with her newly found information. Reese’s attorney turns out to be in the hire of a mysterious man named ‘Mr. Finch’ (Michael Emerson) — a man who wants to give Reese purpose again. Mr. Finch informs Reese that he has a list in his possession that consists of people who are about to be involved in serious crimes (but cannot tell if they are the victim or the perpetrator) and informs him of a woman named Diane Hansen (Natalie Zea) who is on his list and happens to be standing just a few feet away. Reese doesn’t bite, however. Reese assumes that Mr. Finch is just trying to spy on her, rather than protect her, and leaves Mr. Finch and his men behind to hit up his cheap hotel room.

Reese wakes up the next day in a completely different room, zip-tied to the headboard of a bed while a woman is screaming for her life. Reese quickly breaks his way out of the zip-tie with some clever McGyvering and rushes in to save the woman, only to find Mr. Finch sitting in a room with the woman’s voice coming from a tape. Finch tells Reese about how the woman died in the house they are in three years ago: murdered by her husband for the insurance money. Finch tells Reese how he was too late for her, but he doesn’t have to be too late for Diane. And with that, Reese has been won over.

Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel) of Person of Interest.

Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel) of Person of Interest.

For the sake of not spoiling how the episode arc unfolds, I’m going to stop there. But, I still need to talk a bit about “the Machine” because it is the reason Person of Interest exists. Halfway through the episode, Reese questions Finch about how he came to have this ‘list’ he talks about throughout the pilot and Finch confesses: back in 2001, he was trying to become rich working for a tech company, but then the World Trade Center was attacked and Finch was hired to create a ‘Machine’ to predict future terrorist attacks. Due to the focus on terrorism, any other information it pulled up was deemed ‘irrelevant’ — something that Finch could not accept. So, Finch decided to create a backdoor for the Machine that would allow him to access the ‘irrelevant’ data so that he might be able to help the people who were in trouble domestically. Unfortunately, prior to finding Reese, he had no way to make use of the knowledge he was gaining from the Machine. Good thing Reese changed his mind.

Shout out to Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) — an important character in the series who is introduced in the second half of the pilot, but I was not able to talk about for fear of spoiling the rest of the episode.

Overall, the pilot episode comes off somewhat generic, especially since it seems like it has been done before with shows like Burn Notice and Homeland. I assure you, however, Person of Interest gets much better. When? Well, that’s a matter of taste, but I’ll be doing a Turning Point in the near future that talks about when I started to really enjoy this show. If the premise is at all interesting to you, give it a few episodes, you might just find that you really enjoy the series.

  • Rating: “Generic, but gets much better.”
  • Comment: Person of Interest starts off like an off-brand Batman, but gets much stronger a few episodes in. Give it a shot.
  • You might like Person of Interest if you like: action-packed crime dramas, awesome guest stars, Burn Notice, Lost-style (flashback- and foil-heavy) character development, The Dark Knight trilogy (or Batman in general), Dexter

Person of Interest airs on CBS on Tuesdays at 10 PM PST with its third season beginning September 24th, 2013.

About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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