Character Evolution at its Best

We’ve all known for some time now that Orwell’s fabled Big Brother is among us and that most everything we do is observed in some fashion. Since its premiere in 2011 “Person of Interest” has used that as its central premise and shown us how a machine that scrutinizes that surveillance could interpolate that data to help a group of heroes save the common man. Last season a similar, yet more advanced, machine was brought online with much more utilitarian intentions and we’ve begun to see how that same data can be used in a much more malicious manner.

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Much like the never-seen Machine at the core of the plot, the show itself has evolved over the last few years. Initially, “Person of Interest” was about the Machine supplying a social security number to our unlikely team of heroes (an ex black ops officer, an isolated computer nerd, a dedicated cop and a dirty detective) and they would race to save that person from a horrible fate or from inflicting violence on others. The core of the group has remained Harold Finch (Michael Emmerson), the Machine’s creator, and John Reese (Jim Caviezel), with new faces added along the way and one cut down too soon. And, as the world in which they inhabit has opened and expanded, their original mandate has become much more complicated to adhere to.

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What has been most interesting to watch over the last three seasons is how the characters have developed and grown. The dirty detective, Fusco (Kevin Chapman), was originally just a pawn who was blackmailed into helping our scofflaw dynamic duo. He is now a valued member of the team and a trusted ally. Similarly, former assassin Shaw (Sarah Shahi) originally worked at cross-purposes to what Finch and Reese were trying to accomplish before joining their crusade. Lacking empathy, she has slowly been learning to be human again.

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Then there is Root (Amy Acker), a former contract killer who is the human interface with the Machine, thanks to an ear implant. She was clearly a murderous psychopath early on, but, like Shaw, has been learning to regain her humanity and is a friend to the rest of the team. Everyone in the group is now what would be considered a “good guy,” but for some the change hasn’t been instant. They have all had to learn to be better people through both interactions with the Machine and with each other.

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Now that Samaritan, the second, more malevolent machine has gone online, Finch, Reese, Shaw and Root have been painted as threats and are forced to take on false identities in order to hide in plain sight and continue their mission. Fusco has always been kept in the dark about the Machine and thus has been spared being targeted. Those in the shadows can’t take any actions that would alert Samaritan to their real identities. With each new number, the team is not only trying to help the helpless, but also survive themselves.

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“Person of Interest” is consistently superbly written and acted and has been constantly shaking up the central premise in intriguing and refreshing ways. Now in its fourth year it almost feels like a brand new show, but in a way that has been a natural progression of the ongoing story. It will be a long while before this show feels stale and loses any of its edge. I see no reason for it not to be around for several more seasons. Hopefully the characters can stay alive to see a well-deserved happy ending.

joseph Dilworth Jr.

Joseph Dilworth Jr. has been writing ever since he could hold a pencil. Back then it was one of those big, red pencils, the Faber-Castell Goliath.  Remember those? Now, that was a pencil! He has been writing for the Internet for nearly ten years and for six years he served as founder, editor and lead writer for Pop Culture Zoo. He is currently co-host of the weekly The Flickcast podcast, is contributing two essays to the upcoming book The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes and is writing a reference book about the TV series Fringe for Hasslein Books.