Cyberheroes in Disguise, Toiling at Dull Day Jobs
In ‘Person of Interest,’ Scattered Protagonists Return
By MIKE HALESEPT. 22, 2014
Nothing says CBS like the ratings for “Person of Interest.” Last season, this surveillance-age thriller was the fourth-most-watched network drama in prime time, behind two “NCIS” shows and “The Blacklist.” But among younger viewers — the 18-to-49 demographic — it fell all the way to 16th, behind shows like “Sleepy Hollow” and “Chicago Fire.”
If watching a television show makes you part of a club, watching “Person of Interest” should come with a membership in AARP.
Still, 14 million people don’t watch every week just because they can’t figure out how to stream Netflix. The Season 4 premiere on Tuesday night is a decent demonstration of the show’s charms: some action, some humor, some dystopian high-tech intrigue and an ensemble of actors who seem to be having fun and whose characters actually seem to care for one another.
The series returns after a more implausible than usual season-ending crisis, at the conclusion of which the writers employed the scatter strategy: Things were so bad that the show’s team of covert do-gooders had to break up, assume new identities and go into hiding. The all-seeing, self-governing computer surveillance system that helped them prevent crimes had been defeated, for the moment, by an even more powerful artificial intelligence that was in evil corporate hands.
There was some danger here of an extended period of anxiousness — of sliding into cable drama solemnity — when the key to “Person of Interest” has always been combining timely and serious themes with the formulas of the lighthearted crime procedural. But Tuesday’s episode gets things right back on track.
The team’s members have been forced to take actual jobs as well as new names, and we’re quickly and humorously shown the results, which include the ultraviolent Shaw (Sarah Shahi) wearing a little black dress and wielding a perfume spritzer. She and her fellow enforcer, Reese (Jim Caviezel), are ready to get back to work saving lives. But in a reversal of roles, the coding genius Finch (Michael Emerson), who for three seasons cajoled them to serve the dictates of the system he devised, is now too paranoid to take action.
Finch will come around, of course, and quickly. Things will happen that we know are going to happen, but they’ll be no less satisfying for that: Reese will take out a nest of drug dealers; a pay phone will ring at an opportune moment and deliver instructions. And prime time’s best animal character, Bear the dog, will figure prominently.
“The thing we’re up against has virtually unlimited resources, governments unwittingly at its behest, operatives around the globe protecting it,” the assassin-hacker Root (Amy Acker) tells Finch, exhorting him to action by spelling out the odds they face. “You know how many we have? Five. Six, if you count the dog.”http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/arts/television/in-person-of-interest-scattered-protagonists-return.html