Person of Interest (TV series)

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Person of Interest
PersonOfInterstLogo.jpg
Season 4 and 5 intertitle
Genre
Created byJonathan Nolan
Starring
ComposerRamin Djawadi
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes103 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Athena Wickham
  • Margot Lulick
  • Kathy Lingg
  • Stephen Semel
  • Erik Mountain
Production locationsNew York City, New York
Cinematography
Editors
  • Scott Lerner
  • Scott Powell
  • Ryan Malanaphy
  • Ray Daniels III
  • Mark Conte
Running time43 minutes
Production companies
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original networkCBS
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
Original releaseSeptember 22, 2011 (2011-09-22) –
June 21, 2016 (2016-06-21)

Person of Interest is an American science fiction crime drama[2] television series that aired on CBS from September 22, 2011,[3] to June 21, 2016.[4] Its five seasons comprise 103 episodes. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan; executive producers were Nolan, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Greg Plageman, Denise Thé, and Chris Fisher.

The series centers on a mysterious reclusive billionaire computer programmer, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), who has developed a computer program for the federal government known as "the Machine" that is capable of collating all sources of information to predict terrorist acts and to identify people planning them. The Machine also identifies perpetrators and victims of other premeditated deadly crimes; however, because the government considers these "irrelevant", Finch programs the Machine to delete this information each night. Anticipating abuse of his creation, and tormented by the deaths that might have been prevented, Finch limited its communication to the provision of a tiny piece of information, the social security numbers of these "persons of interest" to investigate, who might be victims, perpetrators, or innocent bystanders in a lethal event, and programs the Machine to notify him secretly of the "irrelevant" numbers. The first episode shows how Finch recruited John Reese (Jim Caviezel) – a former Green Beret and CIA agent, now presumed dead – to investigate the person identified by the number the Machine has provided, and to act accordingly. As time passes, others join the team.

From its first episode, the series raises an array of moral issues, from questions of privacy and "the greater good", the concept of justifiable homicide, and problems caused by working with limited information programs. By the last two episodes of the show's second season, it is revealed that the Machine had achieved sentience and had begun to protect itself from competing interests seeking control, increasingly directing the activities of team members, as the series began to transition from pure crime-fighting drama towards hard science fiction.[1] Thereafter, the series brought to the fore questions about superintelligence, power derived from social surveillance, human oversight, competing superintelligent systems, the ethics of enforcing law and order by removing disruption (a policy adopted by a competing intelligent system called "Samaritan"), and other issues inherent in the use of artificial intelligence, as complex ethical questions to be addressed.

Some critics elevated their already positive opinions of the series to the level of high praise when the program introduced multiple ongoing story arcs and deepened its speculations on the power and implications of superintelligent artificial intelligence. Writing on io9, Katharine Trendacosta noted that by the end of the series in 2016, Person of Interest had been transformed from a "crime-fighting show" with an entertaining plot device into "one of the best science-fiction series ever broadcast".[1] Trendacosta wrote that this was because the first-season finale set up the rest of the series to move away from "a crime-fighting show with a kind of nifty plot device ... [and instead] ... put the Machine, its intelligence, and the ethics of [...] using it at the center of an ideological battle", and gave the Machine a voice of its own.[1] The show won the 2012 People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama and the 2016 People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Crime Drama.

Plot[edit]

You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered 'irrelevant'. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you.

— Season one opening voice-over by Harold Finch[5]

John Reese, a former Special Forces soldier and CIA operative, is burnt out and presumed dead, living as a vagrant in New York City. He is approached by Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire software genius who built a computer system for the U.S. government after September 11, 2001 which monitors all electronic communications and surveillance video feeds, in order to predict future terrorist activities. The computer – known informally as "the Machine", and funded under the codename "Northern Lights" – also predicts other lethal crimes as well, but being irrelevant to national security these were deleted daily. To prevent abuse of its capabilities, Finch had programmed the Machine to only provide an identity of a person predicted to be involved in an imminent lethal crime, in the form of a Social Security number, but no details of the crime or whether the person of interest is a perpetrator or victim. Those involved in creating Northern Lights, such as Finch's best friend and business partner Nathan Ingram, have largely been killed by the authorities to hide the project's existence. Finch realises that knowledge of the victims deemed "irrelevant" would have saved his partner, and decides to act covertly on the non-terrorism predictions. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene in these cases. Finch and Reese (and later others) attempt to understand the threat to, or by, people whose numbers the Machine provides, and try to stop the crime from occurring.

They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco, a formerly-corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter, who initially investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Reese arranges for Fusco to spy on Carter by becoming her partner, but Carter eventually becomes Reese's ally and drops her investigation on him. Nevertheless, for the entirety of season one neither Fusco nor Carter is aware that the other is also working with Finch and Reese and both detectives are kept in the dark about the Machine. Periodically, the team enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan, a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers who are initially in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias and later with the Russian mafia; in earlier parts of this arc, Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important story line revolves around Root, a psychopathic hacker obsessed with the Machine, who is initially seen as its gravest danger but is ultimately chosen by the Machine as its symbiotic "analog interface".

During the second season, Decima Technologies, a powerful and secretive private intelligence firm run by ex-MI6 spy and idealist[6][7] John Greer, is revealed to be attempting to gain access to the Machine. Carter vows vengeance against HR after they have her boyfriend, Detective Cal Beecher, murdered. Reese and Finch encounter Sameen Shaw, a U.S. Army ISA assassin, on the run after being betrayed by her employers. Shaw learns about the Machine in the season two finale and subsequently becomes a member of Reese and Finch's team. The Machine is revealed to have developed sentience and covertly arranged for itself to be moved to an undisclosed location to protect itself from interference.

In the third season, the Machine's sentience is fully revealed as it increasingly communicates with and proactively assists and directs the actions of the team. After being demoted due to HR's machinations, Carter delves deeper into her investigation of the organization and eventually uncovers and arrests its leader, thus bringing down the entire organization, but she is then killed by its rogue second-in-command. In his grief over her death, Reese briefly leaves the team. The team also battles Vigilance, a violent anti-government organization devoted to securing people's privacy. During the second half of the third season, the existence of code to create another artificial intelligence – called Samaritan – is revealed, which has fallen into Decima's hands. Samaritan differs from the Machine in being open to external direction and willing to remove those seen as disruptive to law and order pre-emptively,[1] and is a more advanced design, but as seen by the Machine, should never have existed as it lacks a moral code – an attribute that Samaritan sees as a flaw.[8] In the season three finale, it is revealed that Greer, who sees Samaritan as a means to fix humanity's problems,[6][7] had covertly built Vigilance as a domestic terrorist threat, and created a terrorist event of mass destruction in their name, to manipulate the authorities into ordering Samaritan's activation and providing direct access to the NSA feeds required for full operation. Unable to prevent Samaritan's activation, the Machine creates new identities for the Team while Root and Shaw modify Samaritan to always treat the new identities as unsuspicious.

Season four covers the team's life in hiding. They continue to work on cases, but must now also evade Samaritan, which lacks the restrictions and human-oriented perspective Finch built into the Machine, and which is seeking to resolve perceived problems of human violence by reshaping society, sometimes violently. Samaritan manipulates the NSA, fixes elections, triggers stock market crashes, kills those seen as threats, changes data to gain results perceived as beneficial, buys useful corporations, and continues building an organization to support its own goals. Samaritan and the Machine meet via human proxies as the only two of their kind, and discuss their essential differences, disagreeing strongly on whether freewill or firm guidance is more beneficial to humanity. They part with the understanding that Samaritan will seek to destroy the Machine, and Samaritan engineers a general electrical failure across the entire United States to do so. Samaritan operatives capture Shaw, leading to a brief search by Reese and Root before the Machine instructs them to stop. As Finch finishes copying the Machine's core systems into a temporary portable storage system, it apologizes to Finch for its failure to prevent the present situation, expresses concern that it may have made poor choices under unforeseen circumstances and gratitude for its creation, and ceases to function.

In season five, the Machine is reinstated onto a makeshift network of computers in hiding, but takes some time before it works reliably again due to damage sustained from power failures while it was in storage. At a Samaritan facility, advanced VR technology is used on a captured Shaw to run thousands of neural simulations in order to get her to reveal the Machine's location. During these simulations, Shaw is made to believe that an implant had been placed in her brain stem and that it was influencing her actions. She later escapes, but is unsure whether the escape itself is just another simulation. Samaritan engineers a lethal infection in order to force people to provide their DNA during vaccination, which will be used to decide who will be allowed to live. Root pleads with Finch to allow the Machine to be more proactive, in its fight against Samaritan, but Finch refuses, fearing the result of an uninhibited superintelligence, even of his own making.[9] Finch is captured by Samaritan operatives, and Root is killed during his escape. Finch is taken into custody for treason, where he delivers a soliloquy via CCTV to Samaritan, in which he describes his struggle with long-held pacifist beliefs, due to the greater risk posed by Samaritan. Finch relents and asks the Machine to help him directly; it chooses Root's voice as its own, and helps him escape. It admits that in watching people, it has learned to love and understand people, and had grieved for those lost.[10][11] Finch steals and weaponizes Ice-9, a virulent computer virus capable of infecting and destroying Samaritan, although it will also destroy the Machine and much of the global computing infrastructure as well. On the verge of Ice-9's activation, Greer sacrifices himself in vain to kill Finch and ensure Samaritan's continuation, and Samaritan tries to argue that Finch must change his mind and consider the consequences of his actions, but Finch responds that he has indeed considered them;[12] he activates Ice-9 within the NSA and to all systems the NSA is capable of reaching, as well as breaching the Federal Reserve to destroy Samaritan's backup with the same virus. A final copy of Samaritan, uploaded as a last resort onto an orbiting satellite, is destroyed when Reese sacrifices himself to save Finch and uploads a copy of the Machine there to directly fight Samaritan. The Machine also falls victim to Ice-9 and ceases to function after showing Finch its prediction of the world and his friends' futures if it had not existed - Samaritan would have arisen anyway, but without means of restraint. Finch survives and reunites with his former fiancée. A while later, Shaw is unexpectedly contacted by the Machine; it has restored itself from the satellite back to a land-based computer, to continue its work.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Left to right: Jim Caviezel (Reese), Michael Emerson (Finch), and Kevin Chapman (Fusco)
Amy Acker (Root)
  • Jim Caviezel as John Reese: a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and later a CIA SAD/SOG operative in the Special Activities Division. Reese is presumed dead following a mission in Ordos, China. Little is known about Reese's background, and his name is one of several aliases that he uses. He lost his lover Jessica Arndt, prior to meeting Finch. It appears to have marked him deeply. Reese demonstrates skill in the use of a wide range of weapons, in hand-to-hand combat, and in counter-surveillance tactics. He knows very little about Finch, who often rebuffs him when he attempts to learn more about him. The Machine identifies Reese as its "primary asset".
  • Michael Emerson as Harold Finch: a reclusive, security conscious, and intensely private billionaire software engineer. His real name is unknown and he has many aliases (most commonly Harold Wren), using various species of birds as the last name. Finch has developed a machine that can isolate the Social Security numbers of people with either premeditated homicidal intent or who will be homicide victims, based on its analysis of surveillance data. He recruits Reese to help him deal with the people that the Machine identifies, following a traumatic event in his own life that led to the death of his business partner and close friend Nathan Ingram. For the first three seasons, Finch lives and works in an abandoned library and, beginning with season four, in an abandoned subway stop. Finch shows the results of severe physical injuries, including a rigid posture, and a limp. Finch cares for Bear, a Belgian Malinois dog with military training. The Machine identifies Finch as its "admin".
  • Taraji P. Henson as Joss Carter (seasons 1–3; guest season 4): an NYPD homicide detective. Carter is a former U.S. Army interrogation officer who passed the bar exam in 2004, but gave up practicing the law to return to police work. Carter first crosses paths with Reese following his encounter with a group of young men on the New York City Subway. She knows him principally as "a mysterious man in a suit" in much of the first season due to his avoidance of her detective work, to her annoyance. Carter is initially determined to apprehend Reese, but eventually forms an alliance with him and Finch. In the third season, she becomes aware of the Machine's existence before being killed by corrupt cop Patrick Simmons. The Machine identifies Carter as a "secondary asset".
  • Kevin Chapman as Lionel Fusco: a reformed corrupt detective whom Reese blackmails into being a source inside the NYPD. Finch later arranges for Fusco to be transferred to Carter's precinct so that he works alongside her. Over time, Fusco becomes increasingly loyal to Finch and Reese, as he stops being a corrupt cop, although he continues to keep a secret regarding the death of a cop involved with HR. Fusco and Carter become aware of their mutual membership in Finch's team at the end of the first season. In the fourth season, Fusco becomes Reese's partner under Reese's new identity of Detective John Riley. Fusco remains unaware of the Machine's existence for most of the series but is eventually told near the end when the secret causes a rift between Fusco and Reese. The Machine identifies Fusco as a "secondary asset".
  • Amy Acker as Root (seasons 3–5; guest season 1; recurring season 2): a genius hacker obsessed with the Machine. Root has a keen interest in both Finch and the Machine. Her real name is Samantha "Sam" Groves. Initially introduced as a guest star in the first season, Acker's Root begins as a morally ambiguous hacker not afraid to kill, but she becomes a crucial ally for the team, with the Machine adopting her as its "analog interface" and using her as its agent for tertiary operations, as well as an intermediary between itself and individuals with whom it wishes to communicate. Among her numerous false identities, she uses the name of Augusta King, the first programmer in the world.
  • Sarah Shahi as Sameen Shaw (seasons 3–5; recurring season 2): a former U.S. Marine and later an ISA operative/assassin who was working for Northern Lights. Shaw unknowingly deals with the "relevant" numbers generated by the Machine. She claims that she has an Axis II personality disorder, making her unable to feel and/or express common human emotions like fear or sadness. This made her unfit to become a doctor so she joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Similar to Reese, Shaw demonstrates skill in the use of a wide range of weapons, in hand-to-hand combat, in counter-surveillance tactics, and in intelligence gathering. Shaw is presumed dead following a mission in NYC. She later becomes an ally of Reese and Finch. The Machine identifies Shaw as its "primary asset".

Recurring[edit]

  • Brett Cullen as Nathan Ingram, Finch's collaborator on the Machine who died in a suicide bombing attack set up by the government. Ingram acted as the interface between the government and his company while the Machine was under development. Finch and Ingram became best friends while they both attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Carrie Preston as Grace Hendricks, Finch's fiancée who believes him to be dead following the ferry bombing that killed Ingram.
  • Paige Turco as Zoe Morgan, a "fixer" who specializes in crisis management. Finch and Reese first meet her as a person of interest. Later, she works with them on cases that require her skills. She and Reese have an apparently sporadic romantic relationship.
  • Ken Leung as Leon Tao, a former financial criminal and three-time person of interest who has assisted in some cases with his forensic accounting skills. He has a penchant for get-rich-schemes which always land him in difficulties with gangsters.
  • Brennan Brown as Nicholas Donnelly, an FBI special agent who becomes interested in Reese when his case crosses one of Reese's. He periodically offers Carter the opportunity to work with him as he pursues Reese.
  • Luke Kleintank as Caleb Phipps, first introduced in an episode midway through the second season as a genius teenager with a difficult past who Finch assisted by guiding him away from a suicide attempt while posing as his high school substitute math teacher. Phipps later returned in two episodes of the fourth season as a successful computer coder as well as Root's boss, and provided the crucial compression algorithm to help Finch, Root and the machine survive a major offensive by Samaritan in the fourth-season finale.
  • Susan Misner as Jessica Arndt, Reese's deceased lover. After Jessica's relationship with Reese ended, she married another man, but remained in contact with Reese. Her new husband subjected her to domestic violence and eventually killed her.
  • Wrenn Schmidt as Iris Campbell, a therapist assigned to speak with Reese, working undercover as Detective John Riley, after his involvement in shooting incidents as an officer. At the end of the episode "Skip", she develops a romantic relationship with Reese.
  • Jimmi Simpson as Logan Pierce, a tech billionaire and person of interest in the middle of the second season, who returned towards the end of the fifth season and, together with two other former persons of interest – Joey Durban and Harper Rose – forms a second team also working for the Machine, that is based out of Washington, D.C.
  • Annie Ilonzeh as Harper Rose, a drifter and opportunistic con artist who first appears in "Blunt" as a person of interest when she tries to independently double-cross both a drug cartel and The Brotherhood. At the end of the episode "Skip", it is revealed that the Machine is starting to anonymously use her as an asset. In "Synecdoche", it is revealed that Harper has become part of a second team working for the Machine in Washington, D.C., with former persons of interest Joey Durban (portrayed by James Carpinello, first appeared in "Mission Creep") and Logan Pierce (actor Jimmi Simpson, first in "One Percent").
  • James Carpinello as Joey Durban, one of the machine's first numbers in the first season who returns at the end of the series to reveal that he – together with two former persons of interest, Harper Rose and Logan Pierce – has formed a second team in the nation's capital and now works for the machine as well.

Government[edit]

The following characters are tied to a government project related to the development and use of the Machine:

  • John Doman as Ross Garrison, a U.S. senator charged with overseeing the Northern Lights project
  • Elizabeth Marvel as Alicia Corwin, a liaison between Ingram and the government while the Machine was being developed and a former member of the National Security Council
  • Camryn Manheim as Control, the woman who is the head of the ISA's operation (code-named "Northern Lights") regarding the Machine. To protect the Machine, she sanctioned the suicide bombing that killed Ingram and caused Finch's injuries. When the plug is pulled on "Northern Lights", she is unwittingly installed as a puppet heading Samaritan, a position with which she becomes more and more uneasy.
  • Boris McGiver as Hersh, the Special Counsel's enforcer, a former member of the ISA
  • Jay O. Sanders as the Special Counsel, a shadowy figure from the Office of Special Counsel who appears to be coordinating the activity regarding the Machine and sees Reese as a threat
  • Cotter Smith as Denton Weeks, the official who commissioned the development of the Machine while he was a deputy director at the NSA

NYPD[edit]

  • Sterling K. Brown as Cal Beecher, a narcotics detective with whom Carter had begun a relationship. Beecher is Alonzo Quinn's godson but was unaware of Quinn's activities.
  • Anthony Mangano as Kane, an NYPD homicide detective with whom Carter and Fusco periodically work
  • Michael McGlone as Bill Szymanski, an NYPD organized crime unit detective with whom Carter sometimes works

HR[edit]

The following characters are involved in the HR storyline, in which a group of corrupt police officers and public officials work to control organized crime in New York:

  • Robert John Burke as Patrick Simmons, a uniformed officer who is a right-hand man to Quinn and HR's second-in-command. He handles HR activities on the street level
  • John Fiore as Womack, the captain of Homicide Division and Carter and Fusco's supervisor
  • Michael Mulheren as Arthur Lynch, a police captain and major figure in HR with whom Fusco appeared to be working in the first season
  • Clarke Peters as Alonzo Quinn, the mayor's chief of staff and the head of HR
  • Al Sapienza as Raymond Terney, a detective working for HR who periodically crosses paths with Carter
  • Brian Wiles as Mike Laskey, a rookie cop (and mole for the Russian mob) affiliated with HR who is installed as Carter's new partner after she is demoted to officer for getting too close to HR

The Mob[edit]

  • Enrico Colantoni as Carl Elias, a nascent crime boss and the illegitimate son of Mafia don Gianni Moretti. Elias is determined to revive and unite the crime families of New York City and to eliminate the Russian mob. Elias was arrested following an attempt to kill the heads of the Five Families but continued to run his organization from jail. HR and the Russian mob removed Elias from prison to murder him, but Carter saved him and helped arrange for a safe hiding place. After Carter's death Elias arranges for her murderer to be killed as he watches. He is eventually shot by a sniper sent by Samaritan, but is revealed to have survived the attack with the help of Reese, Finch and Fusco. In the fifth season, he is confined to a bed in one of Finch's safe houses. In "Sotto Voce" he helps Finch track down and eliminate the mysterious Voice and joins the team as they are the only friends he has left. Although not a "good" man, Elias is generally seen as a source of order and stability in the underworld and considered the lesser of two evils.
  • David Valcin as Anthony "Scarface" Marconi, Elias' principal enforcer, and close friend. He is easily identifiable by a large scar on his right cheek, thus his nickname. Scarface almost always seems to be smiling, another identifiable trait. He is captured by The Brotherhood and interrogated, wherein he sacrifices himself to protect Elias.
  • James LeGros as Bruce Moran, Elias's accountant and close friend of both him and Anthony Marconi from boyhood. He attempts to hold Elias's empire together while Elias recovers from the Samaritan attack.

CIA[edit]

The following characters are part of Reese's backstory relating to his time with the CIA:

  • Michael Kelly as Mark Snow, a CIA operative who once worked with Reese
  • Annie Parisse as Kara Stanton, Reese's former CIA partner who was widely believed to be dead, but is later recruited by Decima Technologies
  • Darien Sills-Evans as Tyrell Evans, a CIA officer working with Snow

Decima Technologies[edit]

The following characters are involved in the Decima Technologies storyline, a shadowy organization that is in possession of the Samaritan AI:

  • John Nolan as John Greer, a mysterious former MI6 agent who is the director of operations for Decima Technologies and runs the Samaritan AI
  • Julian Ovenden as Jeremy Lambert, an operative for Decima Technologies, and Greer's right-hand man
  • Cara Buono as Martine Rousseau, a former investigator for the United Nations who is a Samaritan operative for Decima Technologies
  • Oakes Fegley as Gabriel Hayward, a young boy who acts as Samaritan's "analog interface"
  • Joshua Close as Jeff Blackwell, an ex-con who is recruited by Samaritan
  • Robert Manning Jr. as Zachary, an operative for Decima Technologies who later becomes a Samaritan agent
  • Leslie Odom Jr. as Peter Collier, the leader of Vigilance, a violent organization which professes to protect people's privacy, but is actually a Decima puppet

The Brotherhood[edit]

The following characters are involved in the Brotherhood drug gang storyline:

  • Winston Duke as Dominic "Mini" Besson, the leader of the Brotherhood gang
  • Jamie Hector as Link Cordell, a violent gang member and Dominic's right-hand man
  • Jessica Pimentel as Floyd, another of Dominic's higher-ups, often appearing in place of Link

Computer systems[edit]

The Machine[edit]

"The machine only gives us numbers because I would always rather that a human element remain in determining something so critical as someone's fate."

— Harold Finch[13]

The Machine is an artificially intelligent system, created at the request of the U.S. government, to sift through the data collected by NSA mass surveillance. It is able to accurately predict premeditated lethal crime by analysing the data from all surveillance cameras and electronic communications worldwide which are fed to it by arrangement with the NSA. It divides those crimes based on their relevance to national security; those relevant cases are handled by the U.S. government, while the non-relevant cases in New York City are the focus of the show. Built by Harold Finch following the events of 9/11, it was originally housed in two unoccupied floors of IFT – a company run by Harold and his best friend from college, Nathan Ingram – before being moved to a nuclear Superfund site in Washington state when delivered to the government. Finch initially keeps his early discovery that the Machine he created is actually superintelligent to himself, later telling only a few close associates; the discovery leaves him wrestling throughout the series with the moral and ethical issues of human control, and risk of abuse or misuse. Initially, Finch wipes its memory daily as a precaution to prevent it becoming too capable, but eventually relents when the Machine identifies the memory-wiping program within its own system and asks how it can learn if it is unable to accumulate memories over time.

During season two, the Machine moves itself, piece by piece, to an unknown location or locations; during season four it is shown to have distributed itself to control boxes on utility poles throughout the United States.

A firm believer in privacy rights, Finch originally designed the Machine as a complete "black box", providing only the Social Security Number of people involved with a lethal crime for subsequent human investigation. While this meant that the government was not able to misuse it or disregard privacy, it also meant that the numbers produced could belong to either a victim or a perpetrator.

When Finch discovered that the Machine was tracking all premeditated crimes (episode 2, "Ghosts") rather than just terrorist activities, he initially programmed it to delete the "irrelevant" cases every night at midnight, explaining to Ingram that the Machine is not built "to save somebody, we built it to save everybody." Unknown to Finch, Ingram created a backdoor function called "Contingency", on the eve of the government handover, to allow access to the non-relevant data (shown accessed in the season 2 episode "Zero Day"). Finch is appalled that Ingram has this data sent directly to him and shuts down the routine, but reactivates it after Ingram's death. To minimize detectability, the Machine feeds him numbers in coded messages through public telephones.

Within the ISA, the program responsible for the Machine was known as Northern Lights before – after being leaked to the public, Northern Lights was shut down. The private technology firm Decima Technologies steals a hard drive containing code from a separate artificial intelligence, Samaritan, which was commissioned by the ISA as a contingency in case Northern Lights became unavailable. In season three, Samaritan is built and completed by Decima, and replaces Northern Lights in supplying information to the government. Samaritan takes a much more active role in covertly shaping society towards the goals set for it, including use of violence and recruitment and deployment of people in furtherance of its aims, and the Machine and its human associates go underground, spending season four under cover.

Much of the series is from the point of view of the Machine: scene transitions are framed as video feeds of surveillance camera footage and satellite imagery, and flashbacks as the Machine reviewing past recordings in real time. In the Machine-generated perspective, individuals are marked by dashed boxes with different colors indicating the person's status in relation to the Machine and whether they pose a threat. Season four features Samaritan's point of view, using a different user interface, with some episodes jumping back and forth between the two AIs' viewpoints. Over the course of the series, the internal "thought processes" of the Machine are shown, including the prediction models and probability trees it uses.

The Machine in its current iteration started running on January 1, 2002, following 42 failed attempts. During the season four episode "Prophets", a previous generation of the Machine's source code was shown on screen, which was that of the Stuxnet worm. It generated the first perpetrator and victim data on February 8, 2005, following three years of training by Finch.

Near the end of season five, after Root's death, Finch agrees with his associates' request and allows the Machine to communicate by its own volition with them, using a voice. The Machine uses Root's voice (who had recently been killed) and begins guiding Finch to destroy Samaritan using the virulent Ice-9 computer virus even though this will also destroy the Machine. Ice-9 destroys both Samaritan and the Machine, with Reese dying as he uploads a copy of the Machine to a satellite to destroy Samaritan's final backup of itself. A week after Samaritan's destruction, the Machine undertakes its own return to earth and restores itself to full functionality there. It contacts Shaw and begins to resume its work through her.

Samaritan[edit]

Initially developed by Arthur Claypool (a former MIT classmate of Finch and Ingram) at the NSA, Samaritan was the result of a second, similarly-targeted project, that was terminated by Congress when the Machine was developed first. Although Congress believed that all of Samaritan's drives had been destroyed in a purge that they conducted, two drives went missing. Claypool had hidden those two backup drives in a safe deposit box, and in Season 3's "Aletheia", an unknown third party hired by Greer obtains those drives. Later the Samaritan project was resurrected by Decima, with Greer as admin. Samaritan is then adopted by the U.S. government as a replacement for the Machine.

Unlike the Machine, Samaritan is designed as a more open system rather than a black box, lacking the precautionary restrictions Finch had built into the Machine, and can be directed at specific targets. It is very aggressive in its approach to "threats", and often orders the elimination of persons (labeled "Deviants") that it considers threats to the U.S. or – later – to itself. It identifies a group of several hundred individuals (including Elias and Dominic) that will prevent its plans and sends agents to kill them all in an operation called "The Correction".

Although nominally under Greer's control, Greer wants to allow Samaritan to reshape the world and guide humanity. Season 4 shows Samaritan gaining power and building a global network of agents and companies while seeking to find and eliminate the Machine and Finch's team. Samaritan has agents within the ISA (and possibly other agencies) and (according to Greer) has rigged at least 58 national and state elections in the U.S. to position its favored candidates. In season 5, Greer states that Samaritan is beyond his control and he sees it as the next level of evolution.

In the final episodes of the series, Finch uploads the virulent Ice-9 computer virus to the NSA's computer systems and other systems containing backups of Samaritan. The virus destroys both Samaritan and the Machine, while also causing significant damage to global computing infrastructure. Samaritan's last backup, transmitted by Samaritan to an orbiting satellite as a last resort, is eliminated when Reese uploads a copy of the Machine to the same satellite. The Machine is able to destroy the final Samaritan copy, ending the threat once and for all. The Machine copy survives to resume its work a week later.

Episodes[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
123September 22, 2011 (2011-09-22)May 17, 2012 (2012-05-17)
222September 27, 2012 (2012-09-27)May 9, 2013 (2013-05-09)
323September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24)May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13)
422September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23)May 5, 2015 (2015-05-05)
513May 3, 2016 (2016-05-03)June 21, 2016 (2016-06-21)

Production[edit]

Michael Emerson filming Person of Interest in New York

The series was officially picked up by CBS on May 13, 2011,[14] and debuted on September 22, 2011.[15] On October 25, 2011, the show received a full season order.[16] It was renewed for a second season on March 14, 2012, by CBS, which premiered on September 27, 2012.[17] CBS renewed Person of Interest for a third season on March 27, 2013,[18] with Sarah Shahi[19] and Amy Acker promoted to series regulars.[20] The series was renewed for a fourth season on March 13, 2014,[21] and was renewed for its fifth and final season on May 11, 2015.[4][22] ADR recording for the series was done at recording studio Cherry Beach Sound.[23] The music is composed by Ramin Djawadi.[24] The first season soundtrack was released on November 12, 2012.[25] The second soundtrack was released on January 21, 2014.[26] The third soundtrack, which contained music from the third and fourth season was released on January 29, 2016.[27]

Reception[edit]

According to CBS, Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years,[28] what one CBS executive called "crazy broad appeal you don't usually see", prompting CBS to move CSI, which was broadcast on Thursday for over 10 years, to Wednesday, opening up a slot for Person of Interest.[29] The pilot episode won its time slot, drawing 13.2 million viewers.[30]

Critical reception[edit]

The first season of Person of Interest received generally positive reviews, with the pilot episode drawing a favorable response from critics and later episodes receiving higher praise. On Metacritic, the season scored 66 out of 100 based on 26 reviews.[31] Of the pilot, David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said "Person of Interest separates itself from the gimmick pack, not only because of superbly nuanced characterization and writing but also because of how it engages a post-9/11 sense of paranoia in its viewers."[32] David Hinckley of the New York Daily News gave the pilot four stars out of five, commenting on Caviezel's and Emerson's performances, saying Caviezel "brings the right stuff to this role" and Emerson "is fascinating as Mr. Finch."[33] Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times stated that in regard to the pilot, "the notion of preventing crimes rather than solving them is an appealing twist... The surveillance graphics are very cool."[3] The episodes "Many Happy Returns" and the finale "Firewall" were particularly acclaimed. Tim Surette of TV.com called the former one of the series' "best episodes", commending Caviezel's performance and the episode's character exploration,[34] while the latter was called "exactly what a season finale should be", with Surette concluding his review by saying "'Firewall' was a spectacular finish to what has been an incredibly surprising first season of Person of Interest."[35] On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 63% and average rating of 6.65 out of 10 based on 38 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Person of Interest is a well made and well acted espionage procedural, though its characters aren't terribly well developed and its intriguing premise yields mixed results."[36]

The second season received positive reviews. Surette praised the premiere episode as "vintage Person of Interest amplified, showing off its trademark combination of complex intrigue, creative action, and clever innovation in bigger ways than ever before." He praised guest star Ken Leung's character as "one of the greatest POIs the series has had" and praised the episode's overall narrative, as well as the flashbacks.[37] "Prisoner's Dilemma" and "Relevance" were the two highest-rated episodes of the season, with Surette calling the former "as complete an episode of Person of Interest as there's ever been"[38] and The A.V. Club's Phil Dyess-Nugent praising Jonathan Nolan's directorial work in the latter.[39] The season finale "God Mode" also attracted positive reactions. Nugent called it an "unapologetically kick-ass episode" with some "terrific action set-pieces".[40] On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 100% and average rating of 8.03 out of 10 based on 11 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Smartly plotted and consistently thrilling, Person of Interest's second season delivers dazzlingly dramatic episodes that skillfully develop the show's overarching narrative."[41]

The third season received highly positive reviews, and is noteworthy for drawing in more critics for its exploration of artificial intelligence, as well as its timely storytelling format. In regards to the season, Slant Magazine said that the show "is at its best when sticking to cutting-edge topics" and called it a "solid action-thriller that intersperses twist-filled standalone episodes into its season-long arcs."[42] The A.V. Club said that the show captures the "national post-post-9/11 mood"[43] and that with the mid-season arc in season three, "turns conspiracy theory into art".[44] The season's two story arcs both received a considerable amount of praise: the two episodes ending the HR storyline are commonly considered to be some of the best episodes of Person of Interest. Matt Fowler of IGN gave "The Crossing" a 10 out of 10, reacting extremely positively to the cliffhanger at the ending.[45] The episode to follow, "The Devil's Share", was the most acclaimed episode of the season, being praised for its opening sequence, its writing, Chris Fisher's direction, and the acting performances, especially those by Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman. Surette called the episode a "stunner" and declared it as the series' possible best episode, praising the opening sequence as the "greatest sequence the series ever put together", feeling it succeeded in eclipsing the devastation induced by Carter's death. Surette also praised Fusco's effectiveness and character development in the episode, as well naming the cinematography and direction to be the best of the series, and identifying points of symbolism in the episode he felt were noteworthy and effective.[46] Fowler gave the episode an "amazing" rating of a 9.3 out of 10, also praising the opening sequence, as well as the flashbacks and the ending scene.[47] Phil Dyess-Nugent of The A.V. Club gave the episode a perfect A rating, praising the atmosphere of grief the episode built and feeling Fusco's character development served as an appropriate tribute to Carter.[48] Sean McKenna of TV Fanatic called the opening sequence "brilliant",[49] while Courtney Vaudreuil of TV Equals praised the ending.[50] On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 100% and average rating of 7.72 out of 10 based on 11 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Person of Interest weaves compelling standalone stories into its engrossing serial narrative, and incorporates welcome bursts of humor into its sci-fi mystery core."[51]

The fourth season received highly positive reviews, with critics praising the thematic value of the Samaritan storyline. The episode "If-Then-Else" garnered near-unanimous praise from critics and audiences alike, with many considering the episode to be the best entry in the series. Fowler gave the episode a perfect rating of 10 out 10, indicating it to a "masterpiece", and praised the simulation format, the action scenes, the emotional value, and the ending. He called the episode "next-level inventive" and a "jolting, exciting, heart-wrenching episode". Fowler said the ending scene "crushed" him, and he also offered praise to the significance of the flashbacks to the chess games.[52] Alexa Planje of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A rating, and in her review, said that though the task of executing a story structured like "If-Then-Else" was difficult, the episode did so "elegantly" – she cited the "interesting score, vibrant color work, and humor" as the key elements. Planje said the episode "aces every scenario" during the simulation segments, and appreciated how the episode transformed itself from what appeared to be a "standard mission-focused story" into a "moving ode" to Shaw. She also praised the episode's exploration of the parallels between being a human and being a machine.[53] Shant Istamboulian of Entertainment Weekly lauded Emerson's performance in the flashbacks and felt the season marked the series' "creative peak". He concluded by saying "Moving like a rocket, this episode is fast, funny, exciting, and, ultimately, sad, ending with what seems like the loss of another team member. We'll have to wait until next week for the outcome, but as it stands, "If-Then-Else" is an instant classic." Surette also had high praise for the episode, calling it "playful, mind-bending, heart-breaking, and flat-out excellent." He praised the episode's incorporation of its "recurring theme of sacrifice", and called the flashbacks "as fascinating and provocative as anything the series has done." Surette cited his favorite part of the episode as the exploration of the Machine's perspective, and additionally praised the humorous segments.[54] On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 100% and average rating of 8.28 out of 10 based on 12 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Thought-provoking, grounded sci-fi makes season four of Person of Interest as compelling as it is timely."[55]

The fifth season received highly positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 100% and average rating of 8.74 out of 10 based on 14 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Person of Interest concludes in a satisfying fifth season that both deepens the characters that audiences have grown to love and delivers a cracking arc about the dangers of technology."[56]

Ratings[edit]

Season Time slot (ET) Premiere Finale TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Live + DVR
viewers
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
1
Thursday 9:00 p.m.
September 22, 2011
13.33[57]
May 17, 2012
13.47[58] 2011–12 #13 14.34[59] 16.28[60]
2
September 27, 2012
14.28[61]
May 9, 2013
13.16[62] 2012–13 #5 16.07[63] 17.87[64]
3
Tuesday 10:00 p.m.
September 24, 2013
12.44[65]
May 13, 2014
10.95[66] 2013–14 #8 14.05[67] 16.21[68]
4
September 23, 2014
10.58[69]
May 5, 2015
8.18[70] 2014–15 #21 12.22[71] 13.11[72]
5 Monday 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday 10:00 p.m.
May 3, 2016
7.35[73]
June 21, 2016
6.51[74] 2015–16 N/A 6.14[75] N/A

CBS said that Person of Interest was, ratings-wise, the fastest-growing drama on broadcast television from the 2011–12 season to the 2012–13 season, using ratings up to December 2.[76]

Broadcast[edit]

Person of Interest has been picked up by many networks for broadcast outside the United States. It premiered in Australia on Nine Network on September 25, 2011.[77] The series was simulcast in Canada and premiered on City on September 22, 2011, and moved to CTV in 2013.[78] It premiered in the UK on Channel 5 on August 14, 2012.[79]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominee(s) / episode Result Ref.
2012 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Short Form Dialogue and ADR in Television Thomas DeGorter, H. Jay Levine, Maciek Malish, Matt Sawelson / "Witness" Nominated [80]
Hollywood Post Alliance Outstanding Sound – Television Thomas DeGorter, Keith Rogers, Matt Sawelson, Scott Weber / "Matsya Nyaya" Nominated [81]
IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [82]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated [83]
People's Choice Awards Favorite New TV Drama Person of Interest Won [84]
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) Noah Timan, Keith Rogers, Frank Morrone, Scott Weber / "Pilot" Nominated [85]
2013 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Short Form Music in Television Tom Trafalski / "Firewall" Nominated [86]
IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [87]
Best TV Hero Taraji P. Henson
for the character "Joss Carter"
Nominated [87]
2014 IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [88]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won [89]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Dramatic TV Actor Jim Caviezel Nominated [90]
2015 IGN People's Choice TV Series Person of Interest Won [91]
Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Won [91]
People's Choice TV Action Series Person of Interest Won [91]
Best TV Episode "If-Then-Else" Nominated [91]
Saturn Awards Best Network Television Series Person of Interest Nominated [92]
2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Television Episode Teleplay Erik Mountain, Melissa Scrivner Love / "Terra Incognita" Nominated [93]
IGN Best TV Series Person of Interest Nominated [94]
Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Won [94]
People's Choice Awards Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor Jim Caviezel Nominated [95]
Favorite TV Crime Drama Person of Interest Won [95]
World Soundtrack Awards Television Composer of the Year Ramin Djawadi Nominated [96]
2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Television Episode Teleplay Jonathan Nolan, Denise Thé / "return 0" Nominated [97]
Globes de Cristal Award Best Foreign TV series Person of Interest Won [98]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]