Person of Interest: Search and Destroy

“It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you.”

It’s hard to find a bad episode of Person of Interest. However, it’s becoming depressingly easy to find a mediocre episode of Person of Interest. In the past few months, PoI has seemingly transformed itself from a science fictiony thriller with the occasional procedural filler episode to a science fictiony procedural with only the dimmest of memories of back when it used to be awesome. Like in January.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a PoI obituary. I fully expect the show to bounce back. Possibly even by tonight. What this is is a statement of disappointment and profound annoyance. Watching Person of Interest has become a chore. It’s become regular CBS fare and is now reminding me on a weekly basis why I don’t watch that much of CBS.

The downswing PoI is hopefully nearing the end of started when Sarah Shahi left and it seems like an easy correlation to make. But that’s not quite it. Person of Interest was good before Shaw and it could be good without her. To my thinking, PoI’s great fault is a lack of direction. I feel like either they don’t know where they want to take the story or that they’re waiting to take the story anywhere for whatever reason. Timing is a part of this. It seems like every season Person of Interest has had a spring slump. I’ve suggested before that perhaps the writers don’t want to overload their viewers with arc-heavy episodes too close to the season finale. If that’s the case here, they’ve really overdone it. We haven’t had an arc episode since February. Early February.

A huge part of Person of Interest’s appeal is that it combines serialized television with the more traditional procedural format. Those of us who binge watch Netflix series over the course of a single weekend can enjoy the consistent mythology and building drama of the Machine and its battle with Samaritan while those who prefer the idea of following a single case from beginning to end in an hour won’t be completely left out. Lately, however, the show is pandering much more to the latter group than the former. Why? Normally I might be inclined to blame network meddling, but Person of Interest’s ratings are solid and CBS has no reason to mess with what is obviously working. So what is going on?

Probably enough complaining, don’t you think? This week the team helps The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi after Samaritan has hacked him and ruined his entire life. I will give Person of Interest credit for doing, not an arc episode, but at least an arc adjacent episode. It didn’t engage with any of the current questions I have about the Machine and Samaritan but it did tie Khan’s predicament into the larger mythology leaving plenty of room for plot developments in the future. Although not for Khan. I was surprised that Greer disposed of him so early. Aasif Mandvi seems like the kind of guy you’d want to be able to bring back. But what was going on at the end with his eye? It was probably a reflection, right? Still, it was a weird shot. Could it have been some kind of machinery? As much as I want Khan to be brought back as a Samaritan controlled cyborg I’m not at all convinced that’s likely. Although that would be really awesome and would totally make up for this string of two star episodes.

What was really interesting about this episode was how much of an effect a simple but thorough hack had on one man’s life. Yes, a lot of the damage done was a frame by Samaritan. But what was more fascinating to me was how almost everyone in his life abandoned Khan based on revelations of things he’d done. He’d bad mouthed a friend in an email, he was bipolar, he kept some risqué photos of his wife and lied about it. Think about how much of our private information is online and how much damage some of that information could do if it got out. Personal photos, angry emails, medical and financial records. What might have started out as a ripped from the headlines take on what happened to Sony over The Interview has some interesting implications.

Zoe was back and I should have been excited about it. But her jealousy was on full display again and it was just gross. She denied it, of course, saying that her concern was for Iris, but her motives were pretty damn clear. To be fair to the writers, they’ve been consistent about this aspect of her personality, but I really don’t find it enjoyable or likable at all.

Bits and Pieces

I did not recognize brunette Martine even a little.

Finch called Reese “Reilly” which was necessary but felt oh so wrong.


Khan: “Okay, I know it’s bad. But it’s not Zoe Morgan bad.”

Finch: “There’s no way to keep the victim safe if the perpetrator is Samaritan.”

Root: “I liked you better as a blonde!”

Root: “You should’ve let me kill her.”
Reese: “Won’t bring Shaw back…You’re right, I should’ve let you kill her.”

two out of four potential but unlikely Aasif Mandvi cyborgs

sunbunny, person of interest and Bear the Dog fangirl


Michael said...

I find it odd that you criticize the show for too many procedural episodes. From my view (and I tend to prefer procedural episodes with occasional arc connections to full blown arc episodes) I think PoI has almost completely abandoned procedural episodes for arc episodes. Even in somewhat more procedural episodes, the writers don't take any time or care to develop the procedure, to develop the number-character or how the team will infiltrate his/her world, bring to bear their expertise and save the day.

Rather, we get a slap dash procedural where all the characters do is stand around mumbling not their ear pieces. Reese, who used to be a badass super spy, is repeatedly bested by second tier twenty something conmen, and when the writers can't figure out how to bail themselves out, Root appears out of nowhere with double guns a-blazing.

And now literally every number is connected to the machine-samaritan war. Unless it's a Dominic episode, which is really just a rehashed Elias episode with black actors.

As the show has evolved, Reese and Finch could be killed off tomorrow and wouldn't make a difference. Actually, every character could be killed and it wouldn't make a difference, though I must confess I will stand and applaud if and when Root is is killed. (Of course they won't get rid of her absolutely tedious character for reasons I can only guess at.)

migmit said...

It's getting a little repetitive. I mean, guys, come on, let them win a little. Yes, they are fighting a god, but remember, they have a god of their own.

Freeman said...

Sometimes it's nice to get ready to type a long comment and then look at someone else comment pretty much exactly what you were intending to say. Thanks for covering all the bases for me, Michael.

Headscratcher of the day: Khan was able to slip away 5 seconds flat in the middle of a sparse, wide open forest.