Person of Interest: “Pilot”


My expectations for this series were – and still are – pretty high. I can’t say that I loved the pilot, but I’m not sure if that’s because there was actually anything wrong with it or if my disappointment is just a reflection of overblown expectations not being met. Or maybe a strange combination of both. (This dilemma, along with the similar difficulty I’m having pinning down my thoughts on Prime Suspect, is actually fairly amusing given the article I wrote for Personal Arrogants yesterday.)

If I’m totally honest, I think 90% of the problem is that I saw the “big plot twist” coming from five minutes into the episode. When I watch an at least half-decent detective show (let’s use Castle and NCIS as examples), I almost never know who the killer is before it is revealed in the script. I would make a pretty terrible detective. So I worry when I can do some quick math (quote from Finch “She might be the victim, she could be the perpetrator” + Natalie Zea is credited high up on the guest star pecking order + we stop focusing on her for most of the episode + red herring of the jailed guy’s little brother = OMG IT’S HER) and figure out what is supposed to be the epic turning point of the episode. Especially when I can do it before the second commercial break. On the other hand, maybe knowing what was coming helped me see more clearly the crafty writing/plotting used to set it as a surprise – which was pretty crafty – , and I should actually appreciate it more as the result of a set-up than be disappointed with it as a successful shock-me moment? (I think I may have just accidentally converted myself to agreeing with the conclusion of this UC San Diego study re: the benefit of spoilers, at least in letter. In spirit, I maintain my belief that stories are more enjoyable when you don’t know what’s coming.) I think I’m going to have to wait to pass judgment on the script/story quality of this series until after a few more episodes pass. The episode that blows my mind is coming – I’m still holding out.

As far as the broader storyline of the series goes, I was actually pretty impressed. Not so straightforward Minority Report style afterall. And not even straightforward ex-government-agent-seeks-redemption either. It’s been revealed explicitly that Reese (Jim Caviezel) is presumed dead, on the run, and seeking newer better purpose after his disenchantment with his work for the government. Here’s what we don’t know: who he was, what he did, who, specifically, he worked for. Yes, I know they said “Agency,” presumably with a capital “A”, presumably as in “CI-A”, but you never know. Given that he apparently has warrants out for him on US soil and given the ties being drawn to 9/11, I’m almost thinking DEA or NSA might be more likely. I suppose we’ll find out eventually. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the development of this story line. Also oddly intriguing is the girlfriend storyline…which is weird, because I never care about the dead-significant-other story, even (or maybe especially) when it’s the point of the whole thing. Gotta give props to Jonathan Nolan for this bit of writing. I think the main reason I’m so curious in spite of myself is that practically nothing was revealed about it.

Final note on story: I really want the investigation of Reese by Carter (Taraji P. Henson) to be an on-going thing. I mean, I’d probably have to shoot myself if I heard “Just one guy. In a suit.” as many times in every episode as I did in this one, but the fact that she can find anything is a) unusual, b) fascinating, and c) possible fodder for long-term plot development wherein the NYC investigation crosses paths with people looking for Reese everywhere from D.C. to Americanaville, USA. And (just had this full revelation thanks to a seed of thought planted in my brain last night by an excellent TVer friend), the whole investigation-of-a-vigilante-bad-guy-fighter gives a great Batman vibe to the whole show. (Yes, I’m mentioning Batman. Sorry Jonathan Nolan. I really didn’t mean for that to happen. But seriously: think about it.) Gotta love the Batman vibe.

One place where this show definitely meets-and-exceeds expectations is sheer badassery. And by “this show” I do mean Reese. The one-guy-taking-down-a-whole-room isn’t what I’m talking about. I mean, sure, it’s a passable cheap thrill. But it isn’t new or exciting anymore, and it’s actually rather unimpressive when the room is a handful of the douchiest white kid punkfaces ever. I’m gonna give props for pointing out exactly How Stupid the whole holding-a-gun-sideways-“it’ll-eject-a-shell-casing-in-your-face” thing is – I didn’t know it until that happened, but I’ve been waiting for someone to point this out for years. I don’t know about the necessity of Reese carrying The Largest Gun Ever at all times either, but I’m willing to overlook it. The moment that validated Reese/Jim Caviezel as a bona fide bad ass in my mind was the grenade in the car…the car that he was riding. The framing of that detective was also pretty good, but I’d say the grenade and the point-blank shooting that followed were the key moments. The only moment that might have been better: “You need to know what it’s like to listen to someone be murdered and not be able to do anything about it.” We didn’t get a lot of Finch in the pilot, but that moment/the following scene count for an awful lot.

There are some things that I did really, truly enjoy about this pilot. The visual style is excellent – a nifty mix of security-cam-type footage, pseudo-voyeuristic camera shots, and wacky (but not too annoyingly wacky) diagonals to make the two-people-talking scenes just a tad more interesting. I’m also impressed by the level of taste – reducing the final result of the final showdown to exterior shots of two gun blasts might have been intended as a time-saver, but it is also a relief from what might have been a totally gratuitous display of violence. And of course there are a couple things that I found highly disappointing – prime example: the recording-switch in the courtroom. Yes, it is always a little satisfying, but. Old. Tired. Cliche. Try Harder Next Time.

I guess the final conclusion is, I need to see more. I definitely need to see more Michael Emerson than we got in this episode. And I could also do with just little a bit more influence from J.J. Abrams – the most obvious thing I could pick out was that the sound editing and soundtrack seemed to share a lot of features (major instrumental bursts before commercial breaks, for example) with Abrams/Michael Giacchino series…and then it turned out that no-one in the music department has worked on previous Abrams series and I was just wrong anyway. Person of Interest could benefit from a little of the hit-maker magic, although giving it some of the Cloverfield/Super 8 Abrams flavor could be more interesting. What I want to see most is staying power, because I have every confidence this show will improve with time – it just needs the chance.

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Comments

  • Lena  On September 23, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    Re: spoiler argument. I’ve always been one to look up spoilers, but I recently was able to experience the utter delight of coming to a major moment completely unspoiled, so I’m trying to break the habit.

    I know that for me, my spoilers habit comes when I am watching a show live, as opposed to marathoning it once it is already out. When go back and watch a season or two, I never look up spoilers, because I know I will get to whatever awesome thing happens soon enough. I just hate delayed gratification. I want it NOW.

    But, like I said, I somehow managed to not know the AWESOME casting twist in the season finale of Mentalist season 3 (I know you don’t care about the Mentalist, but trust me, IT WAS EPIC. I actually shouted with surprise and recognition of utter awesome, and I have never done that before. Usually I squeal or something). And it was so worth it. I have been shivery with glee ever since.

    (p.s. I haven’t watched this pilot yet, so I basically stopped reading pretty early on. I will comment on actual show, if I have comments, once I have done that)

    • meltedbrain  On September 23, 2011 at 7:46 AM

      I am definitely going to revamp my thoughts-on-spoilers-treatise at some point. It’s a great point to debate.

  • Boycool  On September 25, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Elizabeth, huh? Guess that answers that question.

  • Boycool  On October 6, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    One area where there’s more Abrams than Nolan: the presence of a title sequence.

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