On TV: 5 reasons I’m quitting ‘Person of Interest’


Person of Interest” | Season 4, Episode 3: “Wingman” | Date: Oct. 7, 2014

  1. Too much technobabble.
  2. Not enough Amy Acker.
  3. Jim Caviezel seems as boring as the character he’s playing.
  4. The writers try to create insurmountable obstacles with Big Brother in control of monitoring systems and squeezing the flow of cash and weapons, and it could have been fun to see the Bat Family play superhero on $100 a week, but, no, the writers wipe out the obstacles as quickly as they were created making the whole thing a lame jerk-around that returns us to the status quo almost as quickly as all the other police procedurals on CBS.
  5. I remember looking forward to each week of “Person of Interest,” but for the last half of the third season it has felt like a chore, something that I put off like cleaning the toilet or grocery shopping and now I’m permanently scratching it off my to-do list.

On TV: Review of ‘Person of Interest’ Season 4, Episode 2


Person of Interest” | Season 4, Episode 2: “Nautilus” | Date: Sept. 30, 2014

Near the end of the episode, a girl who was the “Person of Interest” number of the week says something like, “There was no point to this.”

She wasn’t specifically talking about this episode, but she should have been.

As he has since last season, Finch (Michael Emerson) said he didn’t want to be back on the team with Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi), fighting crime and saving lives. He said it time and time again.

But of course by the end of this episode, he revealed a new Batcave for the group. All that chatter and whimpering about staying alive, was for nothing. The status quo has been reset, just as we always knew it was.

Root (Amy Acker) was good, as usual. It’s too bad you can’t cherry pick the best characters from mediocre TV shows and make one good series. You could take Root from “Person of Interest” and pair her with Red from “The Blacklist” and May from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and you might have a cast worth watching.

But the problem with “Person of Interest” isn’t the cast. It’s the plot. It’s technobabble nonsense and increasingly unintelligible. I remember having a lot more fun with this show than I do now. These days, I wonder how long I’ll keep watching.

On TV: Review of ‘Person of Interest’ Season 4 premiere


Person of Interest” | Season 4, Episode 1: “Panopticon” | Date: Sept. 23, 2014

Here’s a quick recap of how “Person of Interest” began its fourth season:

Reese (Jim Caviezel) wants to get the band back together and fight crime. Finch (Michael Emerson) says they can’t because the bad guys control on the technology and the government and the guns. Shaw (Sarah Shahi) wants to break things and kill people. Root (Amy Acker) says cryptic things about the computer that talks to her into the head.

Repeat the previous paragraph three times.

Then the band really does get back together, blows some stuff up and saves somebody’s life.

Then they get a new, super untraceable cell phone system and a secret lair.

It’s not very good, but it’s OK for background noise while you fiddle with your smartphone and eat a pizza. I recommend taco pizza. Because it’s pizza and tacos, which are awesome.

On TV: Good riddance to the third season of ‘Person of Interest’


Season 3, Episode 23: “Deus Ex Machina” | Date: May 13, 2014

The disappointing and wildly uneven third season of “Person of Interest” came to an end in a blizzard of techno babble, a lot of shooting and martial arts and a slew of murdered New York cops.

Finch (Michael Emerson) and a slew of other lesser characters whose roles and names are largely forgettable are put on “trial” by a gang of extremists who are upset Finch and the government built a supercomputer capable of monitoring everyone.

Reese (Jim Caviezel) and some other guy from a previous conspiracy subplot whose name I’ve forgotten and am too disinterested to look up race to rescue Finch.

Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) rig the new supercomputer, called Samaritan. This involves lots of shooting and witty banter. But they don’t wreck the computer. They just rig it so it doesn’t recognize any of our heroes — Reese, Finch, Shaw, Root and the three computer nerds who helped Root rig up the gizmo.

Reese rescues Finch. The ruthless, evil British businessman (John Nolan) blows up a building, kills a bunch of cops and other innocent people. Sure, the one time in the history of the series the cops arrive at a call in anything remotely resembling a reasonable response time, they all get killed.

Then he murders the privacy terrorist — a group, it turns out, he orchestrated from the beginning. (Craig Ferguson was right. When in doubt, blame the British.)

The building explosion convinces the government to give the British guy access to all the security feeds in the country. He ends the episode asking the computer to give him orders. Apparently SkyNet is online. Somebody wake John Conner.

Root gives a long speech about how the heroes must now go underground. There’s a lot of poetry about Pandora’s Box. But by this point I’ve checked out.

The effort to add gravitas to these final episodes was clumsy and heavy-handed. I’m afraid a show I looked forward to with great interest each week has more of a chore than an entertainment.

“Person of Interest” was renewed for a fourth season by CBS. On a good night, it gets about 12 million viewers. I don’t know if I’ll be one of them next fall.

On TV: When did ‘Person of Interest’ become a comedy?

Season 3, Episode 22: “A House Divided” | Date: May 6, 2014

The sundry collection of action heroes and computer geniuses raced to save their kidnapped colleague Finch (Michael Emerson) in the penultimate episode of the third season of “Person of Interest.”

300px-Person_of_Interest_logo.svgThis did not stop Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) from spending most of the episode cracking one-liners as if they were in some kind of violent situation comedy.

“Person of Interest” need not be all grim and gritty. But a show about umpteen terrorist groups, vast government conspiracies and artificial intelligence with the ability to predict future homicides and terrorist attacks really doesn’t seem the place for running gags.

Shaw, for example, kept asking Root (Amy Acker) for permission to kill a woman named Control. What a name. I’m guessing her parents weren’t hippies. Control can’t be killed. There’s one more episode left in the season. Nothing interesting happens in the second-to-last episode. It’s the lapdance of TV episodes: all tease.

After about 45 minutes of technobabble and the crippling of at least one Secret Service agent, the team finally locates Finch. He’s with a guy named Greer (John Nolan), who runs a technology company that wants to go into business with the government surveilling everybody everywhere all the time.

But the “privacy terrorists” known as Vigilance shows up and kidnaps Greer, Finch, Control and a couple of other characters not interesting enough to be described.

Vigilance seizes control of TV — now that’s going too far! — and promise to put on trial this group of government and corporate co-conspirators for violations of rights and having their pudding before eating their meat.

The series is tired and has lost its direction. It just isn’t a compelling watch the way it was in the first two seasons. Even Acker, whose charms as an actress have carried the uneven, meandering plots this season, seems tired and resigned.

There’s just one episode left, the teaser for next week’s finale says. I look forward to it with the same anticipation and enthusiasm I give to a hangnail that defies being cut off by the clippers.

TV Review: ‘Person of Interest: Beta’

Person-of-Interest-02Season 3, Episode 21: “Beta” | Date: April 29, 2014

The uneven third season of “Person of Interest” entered the final three episodes of the season with Finch (Michael Emerson) surrendering to the agents of Decima in order to save his former fiance, who believes him dead.

Finch was absent from most of “Beta,” sulking because his supercomputer apparently apparently ordered a hit on a U.S. Congressman who supported the creation of a second supercomputer.

This computer will be used for evil, apparently, because there’s a menacing British guy (John Nolan) behind it. He scowls a lot and likes to have conversations over tea with his prisoners. That’s how you can tell he’s evil. The tea.

“Person of Interest” has an “Iron Man” problem. The Marvel Comics superhero starred in three successful movies. The title character was played by the wildly charismatic Robert Downey Jr. But in all three movies, writers could not invent an opponent who was nearly as interesting as Iron Man. So they just created another person in a suit of armor to fight him.

“Person of Interest” is a series about outlaws who prevent death on the streets of New York City using a supercomputer to predict potential threats. The first “big bad” was a corrupt circle of cops that ultimately killed Det. Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), a fan-favorite and original cast member.

Since then, though, writers have thrown a stream of evil doppelgangers at the series heroes. There’s one group of terrorists, called Vigilance, who want to protect privacy and destroy the machine. There’s another group, Decima Technology. They’re a big, scary military industrial complex conspiracy group who want to create their own machine for nefarious gains.

The thing they all have in common with our heroes is they’re secret fringe groups who essentially do whatever they want regardless of the law. At some point, you realize you’re looking at a room full of people who are basically the same with slightly different points of view who debate by shootouts rather than public hearings.

“Person of Interest” has managed to manufacture one absolutely fascinating character: Root, played by the magnificent Amy Acker. Root began as a nutjob who wanted to “set the machine free.” But she’s become friends with the machine and — thanks to an implant inside her ear — takes orders to help our heroes.

The series uses Root just right, seldom for the duration of the entire episode, but in enough scenes to remind you she’s the most interesting — and dangerous — person in the room. Acker, meanwhile, devours every scene she’s in with a compelling, menacing and some how sweet interpretation of a very strange character.

Her performance, in fact, is enough to make the “Person of Interest” worth watching each week.

TV Review: ‘Person of Interest: Death Benefit’


Season 3, Episode 20: “Death Benefit” | Original air date: April 15, 2014

Person of Interest” doesn’t work for me as a drama anymore.

It doesn’t work because I spend most of the hour thinking how lousy the cops must be in whatever city Reese (Jim Caviezel), Finch (Michael Emerson) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) have their massive gun battles.

This week, the cops in Washington, D.C., were made to look like chumps buy a guy with a limp and a former black ops government spook who kidnapped a U.S. Congressman to save his life.

There’s a reason they kidnapped the congressman. Conspiracy group blah blah is trying to do blah blah to get the new blah blah machine blah blah no privacy blah blah. It was probably explained better than that, but I stopped caring about the umpteen terrorist groups and extremist and corporate goons about 12 conspiracies ago.

At one point, Reese shoots at a congressman in broad daylight near the U.S. Capitol. Apparently in the post-Sept. 11 world, there are absolutely no traffic cameras or surveillance of any kind. I mean, sure, the whole plot of the show is based on a mysterious machine’s ability to access those kinds of cameras and data use them to predict who is going to be killed.

But that’s only when it serves to advance the wafer-thin plots. When people are having gun battles in the nation’s capital, nobody catches a stray glance. The cops, FBI and everybody else are a step behind — sirens in the distance just far enough away that our heroes can slip away without consequences.

This week, Reese thinks the machine is telling them to kill the congressman, who is corrupt and will support one of the blah blah conspiracy groups. They don’t do it. But they think about doing it.

Then a sappy pop song plays as the team — which, again, includes a guy with a serious limp — somehow manages to escape a manhunt by all the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Well, Shaw gets shot. But that really amplifies the absence of probability, doesn’t it? Now there are two wounded ducks outwitting an entire pack of bloodhounds.

The bad guys of one of the blah blah conspiracies get 24 hours to access all security cameras. They want to track down Finch. Because, you know, no government agency ever caught a terrorist or criminal without a massive, all-powerful surveillance machine.

Aw, forget it.

This is knitpicking. I know that. But the show has lost so much credibility that all I see now are a bunch of stupid scenarios that should be easily snuffed if the writers were even trying to make the show believable.

The challenge is to subvert reality through suspension of disbelief. But all “Person of Interest” does is manage to comically ignore reality and ends up suspending entertainment.

TV Report: ‘Person of Interest: Allegiance’


Season 3, Episode 19: “Allegiance” | Original air date: March 25, 2014

I’ll bet New York City cops, if they watch the show at all, think “Person of Interest” is a comedy. I’m starting to feel that way.

Most cops I know don’t watch cop shows because the depictions of police work is so far from reality it’s stupid to people who actually practice the trade. “Person of Interest” is starting to feel stupid.

This week, the team of vigilantes break into the United Nations building to help some Iraqi refugee. It begins with Shaw (Sarah Shahi) shooting a smoke bomb through one of the windows of the U.N. building. I’m not an expert in U.N. security, but I would think a woman standing on the street pointing a gun of any kind of the building would be caught on camera and result in fairly quick action by the U.N. security force. The fact that she was standing there for several minutes looking through a spyglass at the building would probably be another warning sing for the U.N. security.

I’m also fairly certain that the windows that the U.N. building are made with sterner stuff than what could be pierced by a smoke grenade. But even if they’re not, I’m absolutely certain Shaw would at a minimum be in custody seconds after she pulled the launcher out of her coat and at worse filled with bullets and U.N. cops neutralized the threat.

The Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) show up dressed as New York firefighters responding to the call. Fusco has fun pounding the horn on the firetruck as he fulfills a childhood dream. There’s only one problem: The United Nations has its own fire department. New York firefighters would only be called in as an assist. But they barge right into the building and immediately get into a gunfight with mercenaries in the lobby of the U.N. building.

At this point, the actual U.S. Army would probably be involved as this would be an international incident of a magnitude to equal the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If you think about it, there’s never been a successful terrorist attack on the U.N. building. There are a lot of reasons for this, but probably the biggest one is that they are really good at security. A collection of oddball vigilantes aren’t going to be getting into the building with smoke bombs and firefighter hats. If they did, they would be all dead within minutes, likely seconds.

But, hey, this is fiction. It’s OK to stretch the boundaries of believability. Most of the time, I agree with that. Yet this show, which was one of my favorites, seems lost this season. There were high points. The three-part story in which Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) was killed was well done, even if it alienated some hard core fans.

Amy Acker as Root has been a delight this year, even though she spent most of the season locked in a cage at Finch’s (Michael Emerson) house. (The cage, by the way, did not appear to have a bathroom or shower facilities, which violates some Geneva Convention rules and, on a more basic level, means Root might’ve gotten pretty stinky after several days as prisoner.)

Still, “Person of Interest” is markedly less fun and less interesting. I wouldn’t grip about all these fanciful stories and plot points if the moment of the show was working. And it’s not. “Person of Interest” has lost it’s mojo. And I don’t know if it will keep me in its audience.


TV Report: ‘Person of Interest: / (Root Path)’


Season 3, Episode 17: “/ (Root Path)” | Original air date: March 18, 2014

Increasing the screen time for Root (Amy Acker) is a good way to get me to pay closer attention to “Person of Interest,” a good drama that has felt listless and lost too often this season.

Acker plays Root with such skill that the character manages to be the most interesting person on screen. She’s almost like the Joker from Batman comics, a villain who eclipses the hero in many tales. Root is gleeful and confident, the smartest person in the room and one step ahead of everything. She’s completely crazy and totally composed. It’s a tough set of opposing forces to embody, but Acker is sublime in the role.

Root is trying to be a force for good with Finch’s (Michael Emerson) machine whispering in her ear. But she can’t forget the sins of her past or the confusion that comes from being used by the machine to do right.

Despite Root’s increased role in the episode, the show still muddled itself down with at least two conspiracy groups trying to kill a janitor who used to work as a stock broker. I can’t keep all these secret cabals straight, but one of them is trying to build another machine with upgraded hardware that will be a super powerful weapon that makes Finch’s machine look like a calculator watch.

I love serial drama and prefer it to the humdrum procedural. “Person of Interest” straddles that role nicely most of the time, but at some point, I would like to show to pick a plot and focus on it instead of stringing lines that never seem to go anywhere.

I still enjoy “Person of Interest” enough to record it weekly, but the overall entertainment the program produces has been somewhat muted this season. I blame the overabundance of secret societies and techno-babble.


TV Review: ‘Person of Interest: RAM’


Season 3, Episode 16: “RAM” | Original air date: March 4, 2014

“RAM” flashes back to 2010, a year before Finch (Michael Emerson) recruited Reese (Jim Caviezel) to be his strongman. Finch has another heavy named Dillinger. This guy isn’t as scrupulous as Reese.

Go figure. He shares a last name with one of the worst bank robbers and killers of the Great Depression. This seems like too obvious foreshadowing on the part of the writers. But I am probably giving them too much credit. I’m not sure they are very good at their job, especially this season.

This episode shows the government was always trying to steal the secrets of the machine. It also shows that Finch was long aware of the morally ambiguous Reese and had previously crossed paths with the angry murder machine Shaw (Sarah Shahi).

This feels silly and unnecessary. There is this overused convention in fiction where all the good guys and the bad guys are somehow connected. I don’t see why this is necessary. That’s now how it works in life or history.

The Germans didn’t know the Polish all that well. They were just neighbors. Then Germany showed up one day and said, “Hey, all this stuff is ours now.” And Poland was like, “The hell it is.” Thus began a long disagreement that involved several other parties, many of whom knew each other in passing or not at all.

This episode was a testament to why prequels don’t work. We know Finch isn’t going to die because he’s still in the show in 2014. We know Reese isn’t going to die. We know the rest of the characters are temporary.

It serves only to reemphasize what we already know. Reese and Finch are good guys. There’s a big, scary government conspiracy. And it’s all going to end in confrontation, likely during a sweeps week or perhaps the season finale.

My interest in the show spiked just once. That was the cameo appearance by Root (Amy Acker) at the end of the episode. That’s only because Amy Aker is very attractive. I am probably supposed to be a better person than that and not notice she’s a good looking woman. But I am not. And I was happy she was on screen.

TV Review: ‘Person of Interest: Last Call’


Season 3, Episode 15: “Last Call” | Original air date: Feb. 25, 2014

“Person of Interest” spawned a new arch villain for the team this week in an episode that was markedly improved over the previous.

Finch (Michael Emerson) goes undercover at a 911 call center to protect an unflappable dispatcher. A mysterious caller sends men to kidnap a young boy and threatens to blow him up unless the dispatcher deletes 911 phone records that could convict the corporate executive who hired “the Voice,” for lack of a better name for the character.

Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) hunt for the missing boy, who is now wired to a bomb, while Fusco (Kevin Chapman) discovers the murder case he’s working is tied to the team’s mission. That’s a little bit too convenient, but the drama was good enough I’ll forgive the magic coincidence for what was basically an entertaining episode in the midst of a season with more disappointments than successes.

I’m not certain what the show needed was another recurring villain. There are quite a few at this point. But the Voice provided a compelling character with much menace for someone that never appears on screen.

Here’s hoping this begins a quality run for “Person of Interests,” where the good episodes outpace the bad for the remainder of the third season.

5-paragraph review of ‘Person of Interest: Aletheia’


Season 3, Episode 12: “Aletheia” | Original air date: Jan. 7, 2014

1.) I’ve come to enjoy this “Super Friends” version of “Person of Interest.” I complained for months the bloated cast weighted down the show, but the writers and actors have surprised me by making the characters distinct and interesting. They’ve created a sort of “Avengers” effect, that I find fun.

2.) The plot was dense this week, maybe to the point of confusing. Finch’s (Michael Emerson) college buddy invented a machine just like the one he came up with that guesses when somebody is in danger or whatever. I’ve never been too clear what the machine does or who it works for, but there’s two of them now.

3.) The group of terrorists who are very serious about privacy hassle Finch and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) as they try to recover the discs that make up the other computer. The terrorists shoot it out with corrupt government agents who also want the computer. The get it through some sleight of hand and there’s some British guy who doesn’t like the machine our heroes use.

4.) Reese (Jim Caviezel) is off in Colorado sulking over the death of Carter (Taraji P. Henson). He got into a fistfight with Fusco (Kevin Chapman). They decide to go back to New York and show up just in time to rescue Finch and Shaw who are surrounded by terrorists and government agents. Apparently in the fictional universe of “Person of Interest,” people can fly from Colorado to New York without being delayed 14 times and routed through Houston and Baltimore. 

5.) The government agents capture Root (Amy Acker), who gets part of her inner-ear cut out and injected with a bunch of stuff. Ultimately, she turns the tables on the bad government agent and goes rogue again, deciding not to stick with the “Person of Interest: Super Friends” gang. Reese decides to split too because he’s not done sulking. Also, it sets up dramatic entrances in later episodes. Everything looks grim, but since we know this show is actually the “Super Friends,” we can remain confident that everything will be OK in the final moments of the season. Or they’re all gonna die. Either way, I’m watching.

5-paragraph review of ‘Person of Interest: Lethe’


Season 3, Episode 11: “Lethe”

Original air date: Dec. 17, 2013

  1. Person of Interest” returned after a two-week absence with our heroes brooding after the events of the three-episode story that lead to the death of Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson). The mood seemed appropriate and was well executed.
  2. Finch (Michael Emerson) ignores calls from the machine, vacillating on whether to continue his mission to save lives with the high cost to his private league of emotionally damaged do-gooders. Reese (Jim Caviezel) wanders off to his father’s hometown to wallow in booze. Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman) follows him and implores Reese to get past his grief, reminding him that Reese’s actions helped Fusco, a former dirty cop, find a second chance. This results in a fight behind the bar, which seems silly but also feels cathartic given the rage and anguish pent up by recent events.
  3. At the urging of Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi), Finch takes a set of numbers, which lead the anemic team into a battle against government spooks who want to control the machine.
  4. I credit the writers for making the audience feel the loss of Carter in both an emotional and functional way. While I complained often of what appeared to be an overcrowded cast, the absence of Carter fundamentally changes how the team must approach cases from a pure numbers standpoint.
  5. I’m happy to be thinking about plot points in “Person of Interest” again. The season is at its halfway point and it took longer than necessary to reveal its direction. But it feels good and strong, once again a worthy hour of action drama.

5-paragraph review of ‘Person of Interest: The Devil’s Share’


Season 3, Episode 10: “The Devil’s Share”

Original air date: Nov. 26, 2013

  1. “The Devil’s Share” brought to a conclusion the three-part “Person of Interest” story that raised the show to new heights and rescued its third season from stumbling mediocrity of the first seven episodes.
  2. Enraged by the murder of Carter (Taraji P. Henson), a badly wounded Reese (Jim Caviezel) hunts her murderer, Officer Simmons (Robert John Burke). Shaw (Sharah Shahi) is also on the chase, leading fist first as always. Finch (Michael Emerson) tries to corral his team with the help of Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman).
  3. Despite his wounds, Reese finally returns to the single-minded, Batman-like justice-dealing machine that made his character so appealing. No wisecracks, just butt-kicking intensity. Caviezel sells it well. When he walked away from a flaming car full of Russian mobsters, I thought, “Man, I wish this guy was playing Batman instead of Ben Affleck.”
  4. Finch finally releases Root (Amy Acker) so she can use her mojo with the machine to find Caviezel before he murders the captured Quinn (Clarke Peters) and hunts down Simmons. There’s another great Bat-Reese moment, when Quinn realizes its Reese coming for him at the U.S. Marshall‘s safe house. “The man whose coming for me,” he tells a Marshall, “you won’t be able to save him.” He’s right, but Finch and friends do convince Reese not to pull the trigger in Carter’s memory. It’s Fusco, acting alone, who finally brings Simmons in, legally.
  5. This was a wonderful episode and a terrific series of episodes. It shows how good action television can be and capitalizes on the power of serial drama. Bringing Acker into the central cast fold should strengthen the team. Her character hints at dark days ahead. Boy, I hope so. This grim three-parter was just what this show needed to return to top-notch entertainment.