By Madeline Iva
The upside to having a week long bout of stomach flu was enjoying a PERSON OF INTEREST marathon, aka watching Jim Caviezel eye candy.
I’d never been interested in watching the show until I saw a recommendation on i09 that was like: The last season is out! You have to go check out the entire show on Netflix! Well, okay then.
Now I’ve finished the last episode, and I am in the thrashing throes of a terrible TV show hangover…So thanks, i09.
Of course, seeing commercials for the show at one time, I thought: Hey! It’s that guy who was the leader of the Others on Lost. And hey! It’s that guy who was in that whack sci-fi alien/Viking film (Outlander—but not the Outlander you’re thinking) and G.I. Jane. Damn he’s hot. Even when he’s looking anxious and sad.
So why wasn’t I interested? Cause it seemed to be about these wistful attractive women in danger, and this creepy-yet-competent ex-military guy who saved them with some slightly futuristic computer device. Yawn. Happily, it’s not like that AT ALL.
WARNING: SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD!
Even in the first episode there a tart reversal and the heroine in need of saving turned out to be something else all together. That made me happy and kick-started my whiffling through all five seasons before pulling the plug on Netflix. (I have a book deadline coming up and need to buckle down.) Also, I had no idea that it was a bit futuristic. (Though since the election it leans into that zone where it’s not completely Science Fiction, it’s really more like Really Scary Science Fact.)
The show with an AI called “the Machine” spitting out numbers that saved people morphed a lot as it went on. It started out as a kind of surveillance heavy 24, with a lot of white, male characters. Instead of dumbing down like most shows do, it went the other way…We saw more POC story lines and actors join the show, more female characters & LBGT references—and more female villains. The show found a sci-fi geek audience and as a result, leaned into progressive, liberal ideas and concepts as it went along, reversing its stance on the surveillance machine from “I know it violates our rights–but look! It does good things!” to “I’ve created a monster! A MONSTER!” wails of despair and gnashing of teeth.
But when we’re talking the best parts of the show, I’m sorry, CHARACTER IS KING! Pontificate on all the weighty discussions you like including:
- AI and personhood
- Safety vs. privacy in the modern state
- Misuse of governmental power
my true obsession will still lie with Jim Caviezel and powerful story arcs about Carter, Sameed and other human characters. The AI lacked all qualities I want to spend time my with: sexiness, humor, cleverness, and personality.
Jim Caviezel, on the other hand, is this reader’s hero proto-type. The character he plays, John Reese is brooding, handsome, soft-spoken with a sense of humor, and yet, um, deadly. Because he’s in mourning for his dead one true love, every episode leaves you wondering–will he feel the pull of desire/love/passion again? Oooooh how I wanted him to! But then I’m a complete masochist for the unattainable hero.
A do-er, not a talker, Reese has done bad things to a lot of bad guys—and yet, he can no longer tolerate the grim, clandestine life where he was given orders, but no iron clad proof of guilt for those he assassinated. Unquestioningly following orders eats at his soul, until he’s at the point where despite orders, he can’t betray his partner—who at the same time betrays him. At the top of the show, he’s lost his mission in life, his identity, and even his one true love. He needs redemption and a purpose—enter Harold who has a quirky all-powerful machine and gives John Reese’s ex-CIA black ops dude a goal in life.
Tarij Henderson – so sparkly bright and fun off the TV show, plays Detective Carter–who goes looking for “the man in the suit” out shooting knee caps of bad guys and breaking a thousand laws while doing so. Now, I knew from Kiersten Hallie Krum via facebook, that Carter left the show at a certain point. For Kiersten it was hard to keep going after that. For me, knowing Carter was going to leave but not when or how ended up giving the show tremendous suspense — and like a horror movie I waited, tense and clutching my pillow to see when It Happened, getting more and more wrenched about it the more I liked her character. Henderson did a phenomenal job with developing her character and growing it. By the time she left the show, I was nodding my head thinking about what Lexi says about the infuriating state of racial diversity in entertainment today…This is another tragic example, and though the actors actually sought to correct that as much as they could in their penultimate scene together, grrrrrr. And now I’ve followed Tarij over to not just her Oscar nominated role in HIDDEN FIGURES but also over to EMPIRE where she’s did an actor 180 and portrays a completely different kind of role. (Why has no one on Lady Smut talked about Cookie yet? Why?)
Kevin Chapman plays detective Lionel Fusco, a crooked cop who finds redemption after some swift strong-arm tactics from Reese sorts him out. Lionel got some great noir-ish lines and had fabulous delivery. I wonder if they had planned on making him such a big part of the show from the beginning, or if he was a happy discovery. Reese has done much worse and seems less fundamentally tethered to the world. As Jim Caviezel said at one point (I paraphrase from an interview I found on You Tube that took place at some con) Reese is a shark. If he stops moving, he dies. Other men have described him as batman in a suit. It’s very interesting that the show portrays these two paths to redemption, each with its own singular flavor. Lionel’s character has some charming grit, and a less tragic trajectory.
Michael Emerson was born to play the role of Harold, reclusive billionaire dork. Harold builds the machine that plunges the characters into their episodic heroism. Amy Acker (you know her from Firefly) got the thankless task of spending half her time having moral dialogues with Harold, while the other half was spent voicing the words and motives of the AI. Not fun—not fun at all, and yet she carried the weight of a whole other character upon her shoulders to the point where you felt like there actually was a machine with some proto-personality hovering about inside the internet ether.
I enjoyed the inclusion of Sameed – a short, female version of John Reese’s character, showing that a woman could do whatever a man could– and playing a kind of sociopath role to boot. No guilty torment for Sameed!
Although the show starts off Reese and Harold as the stars and swiftly includes Lionel and Carter as side kicks, the show changes direction in a fundamental way. Soon, it becomes more of an ensemble cast with Harold and Amy Acker’s character, Root, in the staring roles. We often see a lot more of Sameed as well, and John Reese’s role shrinks substantially over five seasons.
I think this was a wise move on the part of the producers…nor did a greater sense of inclusivity (fall out from Carter leaving the show?) seem to bother Jim Caviezel much in interviews about the show. There was a way in which the show settled his character arc and then let it rest there.
Then they turned to other topics that more heavily involved Michael Emerson’s role as Harold, and his moral responsibilities as the one who created the surveillance AI machine. By the end, the AI character, AKA “The Machine” had as much character growth and backstory as any of the other characters—not an easy trick to pull off.
Another thing that I liked about the show was that it started off grim, and only got more grim as it went along. But I’m perverse that way…
I’ve watched all five seasons now, and I now have a horrible tv show hangover. I actually went to You Tube and started watching a lot of videos taken at various Comi-Cons to ‘learn more’ but really to ramp down my addiction until I could walk away.
Hangovers I now think, are more than any other reason why we authors have social media platforms…So people have a place to go when they can’t say goodbye.
In all these interviews, I never really wanted to hear anything about what the creators had to say about the show, even though they were articulate men of ideas. I wanted to hear from the actors instead. This is because in essence the creators HAD their say…and we saw it all play out. Choices about character deaths, romances, etc, we saw the creator’s ideas were splatted across numerous episodes and dialogue everywhere. I was more interested in the background behind the show. What kind of training the actors go through? What kind of humor did they share? How did cast members related to each other? (Jim Caviezel trained with special delta forces men in San Diego, Tarij told all kinds of Jesus jokes poking fun at Jim, and Michael Emerson is every bit as articulate and intellectual as his character.)
Now I’m going to go off and write something in Jim Caviezel’s character’s voice…buh-bye!!!
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Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.