Person of Interest: Season 4
There’s an old adage, "you’re not paranoid if they really are after you." This is become an informal mantra for the myriad assortment of conspiracy theorists that have proliferated exponentially thanks to the Internet. I can only imagine what they have to say about the CBS television series, ‘Person of Interest’. The show based on the premise that there is a machine that routinely monitors every source of communication, closed-circuit television and for all practical purposes every aspect of life for the population of the country. According to the opening voice over, ‘The Machine’ was created to search for possible acts of terrorism would find other crimes that the authorities redeem inconsequential. It’s only conjecture but I am reasonably certain that there is a branch of conspiracy theory that deals with the real-world application of this machine. Perhaps even think that the government is behind the series in order to trivialize it is just a plot device thereby covering its true existence.
One thing that is certain is that this series is consistently one of the best things on television. It just completed its fourth season is gearing up number five so naturally it’s time for the Blu-ray/DVD release. It is rare that the television show could be based on relatively simple premise that is expanded to an intricate web of self-contained and consistent mythos. One of the primary factors that have made this possible is the resiliency the show consistently demonstrates. Just when you think you have the series nicely pigeonholed changes are introduced is such a natural fashion as to seamlessly redefined the essence of the story. In the beginning it was a reclusive billionaire who created the machine and his special operations partner trying to prevent a crime whose only clue is a single Social Security number produced daily by the machines unofficial backdoor. Under less adept writing this could’ve easily degenerated into a case of the reek scenario and the characters relegated to yet another odd partnership dynamic. The show’s creator, Jonathan Nolan, has distinguished himself by producing the screenplays for ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘the Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Interstellar’. All resumes have been directed by Christopher Nolan who happens to be the big brother of Jonathan. As is obvious by the quality of his work, this series included, his reputation is well earned and has nothing to do with nepotism. It also doesn’t hurt that J. J. Abrams is a co-executive producer.
One of the major changes to the format of the series is allowing it to become increasingly serialized. They have always been a plot thread woven throughout the entire season, but this is now become a major component of the overall story that transcends even a single season. They have always been a number of organizations working diligently to control or destroy the Machine. This also started slowly enough with the government shadow organization that created the machine in the CIA both hunting down the machine through which human representatives, creator, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and former CIA black ops personnel, John Reese (Jim Caviezel). By this season the team is an expanded to include two representatives of the NYPD, Detective Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), reduced to guest appearances in season four, and Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a formal corrupt cop in the new mandatory archetype, the hacker supreme, Root (Amy Acker), consider the analog interface by the machine. Aside from the usual organizations, rouge cops, organized crime syndicates and alphabet soup of government organizations, one of the most dominant is a group called Vigilance. They are a radical group devoted to maintaining electronic privacy of the individual. The methodology is far from benign and includes kidnapping cyber terrorism and assassination. As everyone knows a superhero demands an adversary of comparable ability. For the Machine there is, Samaritan, a supercomputer network created by a student/colleague of Finch’s, Arthur Claypool. While the Machine starts the data according to the relevance, Samaritan, is not is all concerned about the humans involved in what its stated accumulation uncovers.
The writers of the series to not just drop an adversary like Samaritan into the story. If you look back to previous seasons you will see how it was inevitable that someone else would have come up with a similar idea to Finch’s design. This does allow level of realism not often found in a science fiction based television series. In some ways the technology serves more as a McGuffin, finally important to the characters within the context of the story but more incidental to the audience. The machine provides direction for these stories and serves as a primary motivational factor for the characters but the true strength of the series lies in the fact that it is character driven. This is really amazing cast comes in, imbuing their characters with a warts and all humanity. The protagonist can and do make mistakes, the bad guys occasionally do when and many of the situations look in that gray area of morality.
The effect of Samaritan has a ready-made major impact is the fourth season opens. The other supercomputer actively search for them, the team members have to assume fake identities go undercover just stay alive. Of course, the use of noms de guerre for this group is pretty much business as usual. Finch assumed the identity of a visiting professor at University while Reese inserts himself into New York Police Department is detective narcotics unit. Sarah Shahi), a former ISA assassin has at one time convincingly been used to deal with relevant numbers issued by the Machine. This trained killer assumes the identity of someone so different no one would expect; the clerk at a department store working the cosmetic counter. The Machine had been silent for a while but unexpectedly provides social security number for Ali Hasan (Navid Negahban), who has developed a method of communication using the old VHF antennas that remain scattered across the five boroughs of New York City. The antennas are so outdated that they use is not detectable by Samaritan.
While the team are still saving people one at a time the reason for them becoming persons of interest has changed drastically. Rather being the victim or perpetrator of some violent crime they are now mostly involved some fashion with Samaritan. For example young woman who was a brilliant mathematician who is obsessed with solving of certain type of cryptographic puzzle. As it turns out that puzzle is Samaritan trolling for potential recruits. The context of his dropping narcotics, Reese courses path with old nemesis, the Brotherhood, a pal organized crime syndicate. This season almost everybody is torched outside of their comfort zone. Finch goes undercover as a purveyor of illegal items with Root as his assistant. Their goal is to prevent the sale of antitank weapon to terrorists. By this point the numbers are once again being delivered on a regular basis. The difference is that rather than being used in episodic fashion they all seem to tie one way or another to the overall serialized theme. By the climactic episode of the season Samaritan uses its control over the infrastructure of the region in a systematic search for the Machine with only one goal; trap and destroy it.
I can’t remember the last time to show this well produced was allowed to be so robust this format and allowed to reinvent itself on a regular basis. Normally, the fairly major changes seen in this show only implemented by a network to show video has potential is on the bubble cancellation. In that case it is a Hail Mary pass to keep the show alive. The changes here seem drastic in retrospect but as they developed over the seasons they were infused into the story in such a way that the audience could accept it as an organic development in an ongoing story.