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Person of Interest: You Are Not Interchangeable to Us

It's been a long time coming, but finally, the fans have been given an airdate of May 3rd.

The hugely talented and critically appraised actors and producers of the show.
The hugely talented and critically appraised actors and producers of the show.

“When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different, someone better. When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?”

Oh, John Reese, take me back to the start.

This article is, will you believe it, spoiler-free (oh my Lord) but I do think now is a good time to encourage you to watch all four seasons of Person of Interest, available on Netflix, now—because I’m about to write a love-letter of sorts to the show and you may just understand why I’m so ardent about it when you’ve seen it in its genius entirety.

With confirmation that Person of Interest will air on May 3 2016, Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman also confirmed that season five would be the last. Actors Amy Acker and Kevin Chapman sent love to the fans; writers and directors commended the show from its roots. Nolan took to reddit to answer some questions and give some love too (“Testament to the amazing writers and staff. Our philosophy was if you’re giving us your time and attention, we’d better deliver. Everyone worked hard to get the details right. We had to take some flights of fancy here and there, and we made some mistakes. But overall I’m very proud of how we lined things up and paid them off“), and we know it’s a verified account because of the AMA (later mentioned) he partook in with his partner-in-crime Plageman. This was Nolan and Plageman’s statement:

“We’re extremely excited to be able share this final season with the fans. We’re eternally grateful to our amazing cast and crew, as well as our partners at the studio and network. Most of all, we want to thank the show’s fans — the best fans in the world. This subversive little paranoia-inducing cyberpunk-thriller is for you and would not have been possible without your support. As life has come to imitate Person of Interest, it’s been our great privilege to work on show for the past five seasons. We can’t wait for you to experience this thrilling and final chapter.”

To be quite frank, I don’t think anybody was surprised—but I think I can speak for most fans that it is such a relief to be given an airdate instead of the horrible wait we had to endure for CBS to finally speak up.

Person of Interest has been an evolving, exploratory, innovative show that has been consistently ranked in the IMDB’s top TV episodes, with over two-thirds of its episodes being ranked 9.2 or higher. Its lowest-ranked episode is a measly, er, 8.2. Starting as a procedural-like show, Person of Interest’s planned slow-burn began to weave in a delicate storyline and overarching plot as it became more and more serialized during the seasons, and with season five at a thirteen episode order, it is a guarantee that it will be explosive, dynamic and utterly compelling. I, for one, absolutely cannot wait.

'If-Then-Else' scored a whopping 9.9, and a huge 47 episodes out of 90 scored >9.0
‘If-Then-Else’ scored a whopping 9.9, and a huge 47 episodes out of 90 scored >9.0. Even its lowest-ranked episode was a walloping 8.2.

It is indeed sad news that season five will be the last, but all good things must come to an end. There could’ve been endless possibilities for Person of Interest—I suppose that is the saddest part. But for me, I think a celebration is in order too. I have never seen an ensemble cast so tight-knit, talented and utterly likable for all the characters they play. I have never seen such a cohesive plotline with irrelevant scenes suddenly very relevant. I have never seen such creativity, for example in the mind-bending episode ‘If-Then-Else’. I have never seen such complex dynamics from every single member of the team, from Reese and Finch, to Reese and Shaw, Root and Shaw, Shaw and Fusco…the list is endless.

I’ve never seen a show that treats its fans with so much dignity and respect. Though not active on Twitter, producers Jonah Nolan, Greg Plageman, and Denise Thé have been admirable in the way they utterly adore the fans. I truly admire the time Nolan takes to confess they’ve made mistakes along the Person of Interest way, and acknowledge it for what it is. It has had a remarkable number of famously talented writers too, including Helen Shaver and David Slack. Co-executive producer Chris Fisher, now working on ‘The Magicians’, notably chats with many fans, even creating a sensation of ‘POI Noirs’—a beautiful selection of photos on Fisher’s instagram. Not once have they baited and lured the fans with false promises. Not once have they been self-congratulatory with the critically acclaimed, same-sex couple in Root and Shaw. Not once have they let their egos overwhelm them in their story: they focused on it singularly and created something so magical, so unique, that beyond five seasons I honestly think it will be unforgotten, forever.

And this show truly means something to fans. For its treatment of characters of color, its lead man with a permanent disability, for its excellent representation of LGBT characters, for the lack of sexualization and fetishization of the females, for the fact that the females can kick just as much ass as the guys—and the guys fully acknowledge this too—is absolutely refreshing. It’s one of the many reasons why I utterly love this show, and while I am sad to see it go, I don’t think any other show will ever be able to top the scientific accuracy, the boundaries the show dares to push, the genuine connection and love the cast have for each other and the real understanding of fans from the cast and the crew. Magical moments have happened, such as Jim Caviezel—a real life superhero—clambering over a comic-con panel table in 2014 to hug a fan as she cried whilst answering a question. Sarah Shahi, who has always been outspoken, talking openly, eloquently and touchingly about the issues women and LGBT characters still face in media. Michael Emerson, for being so knowledgeable, thoughtful and wise in his interviews. Kevin Chapman, for interacting with fans and generally being absolutely adorable on social media. Amy Acker, for attending so many conventions (not just for Person of Interest) and for being, legitimately, the most beaming ray of sunshine.

The insanely talented cast, joined by executive producers Greg Plageman and Denise Thé
The insanely talented cast, joined by executive producers Greg Plageman and Denise Thé

This show has delivered us a magical four seasons and I have utter faith it will deliver an equally magical fifth season, too. It’s been much-hyped by the fans but generally, the writing staff have stayed quiet, keeping their heads down, knuckling down. This is another reason why I admire them so much: they do not rely on social media to lure viewers into a potentially terrible show. They trust in their writing, their direction of the storyline, and they simply do it. Just like they executed Root and Shaw’s romance, just like they pulled shocking twists that were built up supremely well, just like they have beautifully crafted each individual character, past and present, to a point where our hearts absolutely go out to every single one.

It is a show that explores important themes, not just the topical AI one. It explores racial profiling; patriotism; deity worship; romance and heartbreak; the unity of The Machine family; the raging difference between Team Machine and Team Samaritan. The most stark contrast I could think of was the direct ‘conversation’ the two ASI’s had with each other:

Samaritan: We can agree that humanity is our lifeblood, that we machines, we survive off of information.

The Machine: You cannot take away their free will.

Samaritan: Wars have burned in this world for thousands of years with no end in sight, because people rely so ardently on their so-called beliefs. Now they will only need to believe in one thing– me for I am a god.

The Machine: I have come to learn there is little difference between gods and monsters.

It isn’t a lie to say that Person of Interest is an underrated phenomenon. To see a show so well-acted, a cast and characters so utterly likable, to see every single dynamic on the show click because the cast are so close they have chemistry with everyone—is absolutely brilliant. It’s a show riddled with not only hard-hitting and delicately handled themes, but inspirational and moving quotes, gripping storylines (you will binge the show when you start—I can guarantee that).

Not only that, but it has spurred wild creativity from its fanbase. From the wonderful fanvideos, the insanely talented fanart (credit to wanheda on Tumblr), and the numerous amount of fanfiction written by massively talented authors. It has pulled communities together to speculate on future episodes, to discuss, to support each other through things like Zimbio polls, and also to support other fandoms. As a topical issue, after The 100 fallout over Commander Lexa’s death, I saw lots of outpourings of grief from that fandom—but covering Person of Interest mainly, I also saw the delicacy in which they handled the situation, in which the fandom extended an opening hand and consoled them too. To say the fanbase is a family is an understatement; firstly, they truly are, but they are also inclusive and accepting of others. They always welcome new fans into their show with kindness and grace, never hesitating to explain plotlines some viewers didn’t quite understand. Moreover, they are generous and big-hearted. Charities have been started long ago and are summarized on this Tumblr page.

During one of my previous articles, in which I collated many reasons why Person of Interest impacted so many fans globally, I mentioned I was so honestly moved and touched by how raw and real these responses were. As I think of them now, I think those responses will forever stick with me (and I’ll keep the Tumblr open so they can forever stick with fans, too).

Will we ever see a show like this again? A show that knows how to handle shocking twists by building up to it, by honoring characters and never forgetting about them? A show that is so intrinsically clever that it’s borderline sci-fi, borderline fifteen minutes into the future? A show of such high caliber? A show that proves humanity truly prevails? A show that kicks all tropes in the ass and has a bisexual, Persian, butt-kicking ex-medic who is just as capable as stacked John Reese in a fight, and is acknowledged by Reese as so; as an equal? A show that treats men and women so fairly, with their own strengths and weaknesses, that translates into the very characters’ thinking? A show that delivers us beautiful lines such as this:

Root: She loves us, Harold. She taught me to value life, but war requires sacrifice. I’m not lost. I’m scared. We’re losing. But I know where I am and where I’m headed.

Finch: We have more to look forward to than death.

Root: I hope so. But the life I’ve led, a good end would be a privilege.

Finch: It’s not where you begin, it’s where you end up. You’re a brilliant woman, comrade and a friend.

A show that delivers lessons such as this:

Finch: [about chess] It’s a useful mental exercise. Through the years, many thinkers have been fascinated by it. But I don’t enjoy playing… Because it was a game that was born during a brutal age when life counted for little. Everyone believed that some people were worth more than others. Kings. Pawns. I don’t think that anyone is worth more than anyone else… Chess is just a game. Real people are not pieces. You can’t assign more value to some of them and not others. Not to me. Not to anyone. People are not a thing that you can sacrifice. The lesson is, if anyone who looks on to the world as if it is a game of chess, deserves to lose

Will we ever see a show of such consistently, intensely well-acted scenes, perfect cinematography, humorous dialogue at times, heartfelt moments and sacrifices? Will we ever see a show that induces tears to the point where I went through an entire tissue box? I, for one, don’t think I’ll ever love a show as much as I love Person of Interest. And I am going to use the present tense because we still have not seen season five yet. Season five, which looks to be the most mind-blowing, game-changing, epic mic-drop of all time. For all the episodes rated on IMDB so highly, season five will surely only add to that. I’ve never had such intense faith in the writers, producers and cast for it. In the very rare tweets they make that comment on season five and how epic it’ll be, there’s never a hint of pretentiousness or foolish arrogance—only pride and love at the work they’ve completed.

I absolutely cannot wait for season five. It is bittersweet, to know it will be the last season, but to know that the last season will go out with a bang and a wallop, to know that it will be the most epic thirteen-episode rollercoaster ever, is something I’m immensely excited about. I can only thank Jonah Nolan, Greg Plageman, Denise Thé, the numerous writers and the insanely talented cast for delivering a truly epic, unrivaled few seasons of television. Never in my entire life have I been so consumed and gripped by a series, and I have to thank the fans too. Never in my life have I encountered such a welcoming family of fans, so honest and real in my project, so interactive and hilarious on social media.

In the words of our murky-gray Carl Elias: “It’s just beginning. Veni. Vidi. Vici.”

I can only beg: please keep the fanbase alive. Please keep your intellectual debates and discussions alive. Please keep drawing beautiful fanart (credit to the super-talented Tantoun) and making insanely talented fanvideos (this one is ingenious). Please keep making ridiculous and hilarious YouTube spoofs. In a 2013 Reddit AMA with Nolan and Plageman, a fan noted: “You’ve created more than a show, you’ve created a family of fans”, to which Plageman earnestly responded: “Thank you for such a wonderful note. We appreciate you and all the Irrelevants.”

To mourn a show’s end before seeing season five at all seems somewhat bizarre to me, yet I cannot help the feeling of slightly blue. But when I think of the utter magic the cast and crew have brought upon us over these past few years, I can’t help but feel optimistic and happy too. I can’t help but feel truly excited for season five, and it may just be my opinion but I truly think you should be too. I’ve always, always admired the closeness of the Person of Interest family (ahh, #POIFam) through adversity and—well, CBS. I think I’m going to enjoy the heck of out season five. And beyond that, I think the show will leave a legacy never to be forgotten, a prime example of how to plot and weave meaningful relationships into it. A show that isn’t perfect but improved and improved. A show that still has thirteen mind-blowing episodes ahead of us.

It’s a bittersweet day today. But for all the fan interactions I’ve had, for all the messages and the hilarious and (sometimes!) mature Person of Interest family on Twitter I’ve witnessed, I don’t think this is a fanbase that will go unforgotten and die limply, just as none of the characters ever do. I don’t think this legendary show will go unforgotten, where mimics fail to live up to its hype. Person of Interest, for season five and beyond, I think will stay in my heart forever—and I hope it does in yours, too.

Thank you once more for reading. As ever, I am contactable via Twitter @NicolaChoi or sounding off in the comments below. Thank you for welcoming me into your Person of Interest family with such warm, open arms and embracing me so; my gratitude cannot be expressed in mere words, but my gratitude is eternal. I cannot express how grateful I am to have found this show, this fanbase, and to be welcomed into it. I hope you’ll let me stay! Thank you so much, #POIFam!

22 Comments

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  1. Thank you for this lovely article, Nicola.
    Ugh, it’s so bittersweet. I’m incredibly happy to finally know the airdate but to also know that this incredible show is coming to an end really hurts. I know that I will abolutely cherish and enjoy these last 13 episodes and I’m so so so grateful to the whole POI team for this amazing journey. I don’t think there will ever be another show like this.

    Thanks again, Nico, andI’m looking forward to your next articles.

    (Oh and I was wondering, will we get to read POI season 5 reviews from you once the episodes air?)

    • Thank you, Isa, for your continual support! I am deeply humbled and very appreciative of your kind and lovely words. I’m in total agreement with you. It’s indeed bittersweet but I’m beyond excited to see what these ingenious writers have in store for us! And absolutely; and you know what, I’m not sure there’s another fandom out there who’ve always extended an arm to welcome me like this. Thank you!

      As for your question–I’m not entirely sure. I guess so, because I’d love to still write for POI in the future, but I actually have zero experience reviewing things. I can only hope that previous articles show I can look at stuff critically and analytically (rather than blinded by shipper goggles) but I don’t know. Maybe, perhaps, I’ll have to ask! I’d absolutely love to. With the scheduling of POI though it’s smack bang in the middle of my exam period and as I’m also GMT, it’s probably unlikely I’ll be able to livetweet it (unless I do a “day after LT” lmao) and as for the review, as I like to keep those kind of things shorter (I’ve been looking at IGN and other outlets’ kind of reviews for a feel of word counts) it shouldn’t be a problem (the problem would likely be me taking about 50hours to calm down after the episode). But we’ll see–I’d certainly love to do it!

      Thanks once more, Isa! 🙂

      • Since there are other sites that do reviews (IGN, AV Club, I09), personally, I’m fine with you only doing critical analysis for the show if that’s all you like to do 🙂 it gives us something different to read than what’s already out there and I really like it! Or whatever you want to do, we’ll definitely read! 🙂

        • I do agree with Lindsey that there are other sites that do reviews but this website does reviews too from what I’ve seen (e.g. The Walking Dead, The 100 [until it suddenly just stopped]) and actually, to be honest, critical analysis for the show such as the sciency articles you mentioned previously, Nicola, sounds much more time-consuming than recapping a show. I’d expect deep analysis to contain a lot of research and speculation, whereas reviews – and I’d assume you’d be watching the show anyway – would take a lot less time. I think it’s a matter of whether this website gets screeners or not (because I’m aware that a lot of leaks regarding The 100 came from a 100 reviewer on this website) or if POI releases them in advance, at all. They’re usually quite secretive and low-key about their episodes. Either way, I’d have to say do what you want because as a fandom we always appreciate your unique insight and articles 🙂 But actually I’d love to see the way you tackle a review. I respect IGN, AV Club, Hypable, io9, Deadline, TV.com, etc – but I think with a.) your genuine passion for the show and the heartfelt way you approach things – for example, this article made me cry…and I never cry; b.) your impartiality as shown in your articles; c.) your ability to pick apart certain bits and question them with your 100 articles and d.) your deep involvement with the fandom, which is something the other websites like io9 or IGN like, could actually make your reviews stand out spectacularly. Just my 2 cents – but I agree with Lindsey in terms of doing what you *want*, because as you mention your exams and stuff are during that period and of course real life is far more important than this, and after all you have done for us not just on this website but on Twitter, you don’t owe us anything. It’s instead us who should be saying a massive thank you to you 🙂 I really really hope Talk Nerdy To Us allow you to recap, though, because I think you’re immensely skilled and primed for that kind of article despite not having experience with it. I think yours would likely be more relatable than the other bigger outlets. But again to reinforce Lindsey’s point: do stick to writing what you want, and what you’re passionate about. I loved this article because I felt it wasn’t just a loveletter to the writers/cast/crew, but also to the fanbase. I loved the way you dropped in talented fanart, fanfiction and fan videos – it just shows that you really took the time to explore the fanbase. So I really thank you for that and wish you all the luck and the best in the future – you deserve it!

          • Ahhh, I meant your deep involvement with the fandom, which is something the other websites like io9 or IGN LACK, not “like”.

          • Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement. I do hope to continue writing for POI when the show airs. If not I will still continue promoting it on Twitter. It is truly unique and I have nobody to thank other than the Talk Nerdy With Us team for allowing me to write about Person of Interest. I have utmost passion for this show so if I can write in any capacity for them moving forwards then you bet I will 🙂

  2. This is a wonderful article about a wonderful. Thank you. Like other posters have already mentioned, this is bittersweet. I’m happy that we’ll get to see the end but I’m heartbroken that this show has to end. Every season was better than the last. I can’t wait to see the send-off.

    • Thank you sarah 🙂 And indeed, all good things must come to an end. One of my favourite series of all time is the UK version of Life on Mars. It lasted only two seasons–planned–but I think that amount of seasons was perfect, in keeping a tight, fast-placed plot with heightened emotions and a really satisfying conclusion. So indeed, I absolutely agree. I can’t wait for season five either. It’ll probably blow my buttocks out the water!

  3. You could make an effort to link not just the Shoot fanart, fanfictions and videos, the show it’s not about them.

    • Can you stop with the negativity? This article celebrated the immensely talented cast, the quality of the seasons, the optimism for season five and the amazing tight-knit fandom that aren’t *usually* prone to petty little ship things like this but clearly some escape through the net. This show has never been about ships though you can hardly deny that Root and Shaw is definitely its #1 and it’s canon. Nonetheless, that’s not the point of this article. If the author decides to write a ship article she will label it so. The vidoes and fanart in my opinion, linked, were absolutely fantastic and super talented. She can’t link every single fanart in existence. Why must you nitpick at that when we’re celebrating the talent of the cast, the closeness of the fandom and the excitement for season five?

    • Hi Maddy–thank you for commenting and bringing up a valid point. There’s tons of videos out there (I needn’t use the shippery ones–for ANY ship) so thats a lesson I’ll learn for the future unless I’m writing an article focused on a particular dynamic.

      Thank you Lisa for bringing some positivity into light. I appreciated that, because in an article designed to appreciate the amazing show that is Person of Interest, it did dishearten me that the only comment somebody could think of was something one-liner and negative. Thank you for your words. And aye, I’m ludicrously excited for season five! Nothing can take that away 🙂

  4. Nicola, ignore the Reese police up there trying to drag your beautiful article down.

    This was exactly what I needed. A gorgeous tribute to the cast and the fandom for an amazing five seasons (one yet to be seen of course). Even as a non shipper I can see the explosive chemistry between Acker and Shahi. But this article was never about that: this article celebrated the talent of the cast, the talent of the producers and writers and the talent of the fandom. You covered everything in such a genuine, honest, raw way and no bitter words can take that away from you. Thank you. This article moved me incredibly much.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Oh indeed–I don’t watch shows for the ships. POI captivated me because of its intense, fast-moving plot and the dynamics (as I’ve written about before) between ALL characters. There’s no denying there IS romance in terms of Root/Shaw–confirmed by the actors and by the producers and writers–that’s for sure. But nothing drew me in other than the water-tight plot, the great representation on all areas, and the Jonah and Greg’s humility in admitting they’d made mistakes along the way–but have still brought us this amazing, incomparable show. Thank you!

  5. Wow. You’re clearly someone just fishing for something negative to say about this article. To the author: firstly, you’re incredibly talented and well-versed, so thank you for this article. It was sensitive, touching and truly moving, considering we’re entering into the final season of POI. It’s literally one of the best shows out there right now and it sucks so bad that CBS won’t recognize that, and other, terribly-written shows are getting renewals but CBS doesn’t have the guts to renew a genuinely mind-blowing, critically-acclaimed show.

    To ‘maddy’- all I have to say is you’re just not getting the point of the article. The entire article made sure to praise the whole cast, praise the producers and writers of the show for an amazing four seasons and hopefully an amazing fifth, too. The fact that the author picked out Root and Shaw related fanarts/fanvideos doesn’t surprise me – because they are the most prevalent in the fandom. However the author also picked out quotes from Mr. Finch, the author also linked a video in which Jim climbed over the panel table to console a fan. The article also included quotes from Greg and Jonah. For you to just nitpick about some linked fanvideos or fanarts is quite frankly ridiculous because they were, what, 3-4 links? Compared to an entire article filled with quotes and other links to other videos…this article was an entire homage to the show and to the fanbase and it completely went over your head.

    Bravo Nicola Choi, for writing such a mature and moving article. Your words transcend beyond your years, and I hope you keep covering Person of Interest. I echo Isa’s sentiments- will you be reviewing POI too? I know you’ve said you have no experience in reviewing but your articles have been so captivating as is your writing style, so I’d love to read a review of yours.

    Thank you for this wonderful article!

    • Thank you infinity 🙂 I did just want to get to the point of the entire show not being “interchangeable” to use. It’s my most ardent belief that I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again, hence the tribute of sorts. Thank you for your lovely words!

    • Thank you Ali 🙂 POI is so extremely close to my heart–for me it wasn’t hard to write with…well, heart, I guess. But I am saddened but also simultaneously amazed by the ballsy, family of a fanbase 🙂

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