Are You All Watching Person of Interest Yet?


Warning: for people who haven’t seen seasons three and four, spoilers are ahead! For new viewers, here’s my Person of Interest, spoiler-free “crash course”.

Ever since Person of Interest first aired in 2011, it was easy to mistake it for your typical crime procedural: Jim Caviezel starring as the mysterious ex-military forces agent with a tragic past, and the magnetic Michael Emerson co-starring as a reclusive billionaire. By chance (or, as later revealed, maybe not so!) they work together to form the basic premise of the show. Emerson’s character, Harold Finch, has built a super-computer—an Artificial Intelligence—called “The Machine”. It can predict acts of terror, but also predict acts of human violence such as potential murders. The government have utilized the Machine for detecting future terrorist attacks, but Finch cannot ignore the innocent lives that could be saved, using the Machine’s technology.

From the beginning, it started off as a very case-by-case structure—kind of like your typical CSI season. But as the season progressed, and culminated with the introduction of a terrifying character called Root (scene-stealer Amy Acker) it became clear that this show would evolve into something of a bigger picture.

And boy, it did.

Most of the episodes have consistently ranked in the upper end of IMDB’s TV ranking list. The show’s ever-expanding threat and cleverly interwoven devices that were visited later on were ingenious; the entire cast is made up of kickass characters such as Joss Carter (a gun-toting detective Taraji P. Henson, before her Empire days), Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) and self-professed ex-doctor, Shaw, who was simply better at taking lives than saving them (a blunt and hilariously deadpan Sarah Shahi).

So back to the big question: what indeed makes Person of Interest so special?



As I have stated before it is easy to mistake Person of Interest as a crime procedural, but as the seasons go on, it is quite clear that the executive producers (Jonah Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise The) have literally left no stone unturned. The plot is well-executed and thrilling at all times; if you miss a few episodes, don’t worry! It’s ideal for binge-watching—just be sure to make a box of tissues at the ready. That doesn’t mean to say there are a few plot holes (or strands left dangling to explore later on?) such as the mysterious caller in “Last Call”—whose identity has never revealed.


It is hard to put Person of Interest in a box, because is it truly sci-fi—or is it simply a cautionary tale that is merely ten minutes ahead into the future? Of course there are certain elements to it that contain truly sci-fi moments, but as Plageman said: the topics of Person of Interest are very relevant. This doesn’t just include the Edward Snowden whistleblowing saga, CIA blacksites, and the eruption of the NSA surveillance scandal, but Person of Interest also covers themes such as racism and propaganda (most notably when Control, played excellently by Camryn Manheim) executes a potential terrorist without knowing the full picture. Moments before his death, he questions whether she truly believes that he is a terrorist at all; yet she remains patriotic and loyal to her country and kills him anyway, leaving us to ponder if he was innocent after all, and if patriotism in the current world means a very different thing to what it might’ve meant years and years ago.


Here are the women on the show: Root, a borderline psychopath who initially refers to human as “bad code”; her first real introduction involves shooting an innocent woman through the head accompanied by a casual, throwaway line of “I thought she’d never shut up”. Has that endeared you to her character yet? Next up we have Joss Carter, who is the epitome of moral good and justice in the Person of Interest world—but their world doesn’t account for heroes like Joss, it doesn’t care. The world is unjust because it is shaped by human nature, and that is why Carter’s storyline is so tragic. Lastly, we have Sameen Shaw, who can single-handedly make her way out of a locked-up multi-storey building facing tens of vigilante, armed people and escape. Her response, upon making it to safety? Taking a swig of Finch’s finest whiskey, telling him he missed all the fun and pouring said whiskey on her open wounds with barely as much as a hiss. Her introduction episode remains one of the most fun and engaging episodes in all of the series. As well as the core three, there are excellent supporting roles for Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco), Kara Stanton (Annie Parisse) and the deliciously evil Martine Rousseau (played gleefully by Cara Buono). From a show that started its premise as two white “dudebros” saving a grim city from crime, it has truly developed into one of the most dynamic, diverse shows I have ever seen, whilst keeping the plot tight and exciting all the time.

What’s refreshing here too is that the main male characters of the show, Reese and Finch, are totally unblinking towards Root, Shaw and Carter, whom they work closely with. They never oversexualise them (apart from that one awkward episode where it was a necessity—and Shaw responded with an exasperated “yoga instructor? Really?”) but Shaw eats her steak from a knife and chomps on her sandwich like she hasn’t seen food in days. She can’t “shoot on an empty stomach” and as tiny a point it is, it’s glorious to watch Shaw devour her food in an almost animalistic manner, instead of slimly, politely picking at it.


I think these two deserve their own subtitle, don’t they? On paper, it seems frankly ridiculous. Their first meetings goes a little like this: Shaw meets up with Root, who is playing under an alias (of course) and ends up with Root tasering Shaw, tying her up to a chair and about to torture her with a sizzling hot iron. It spurs two excellent lines—one from Shaw (“I enjoy this sort of thing”) and Root nonchalantly exclaiming “Just while we were about to connect!” when government officials find their meeting spot. And yet it evolves and evolves. Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker’s chemistry sizzles. It’s a pairing with a chasm between them. It shouldn’t work, but oh boy, it so does. Every time they are on-screen together it is a joy to watch their flirtatious banter, and the way Acker’s Root knows how to press Shaw’s buttons every single time. Yet it is so much more than just flirting. Root really begins to acknowledge her feelings for Shaw in early season four, and the fear is palpable in Root’s eyes when Shaw nearly dies after the psychotic God-Mode Martine nearly kills her in a department store. In the midseason finale, when Shaw sacrifices herself for the team, it is perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of television I have ever seen: from Shaw, who lived in isolation and didn’t care of anyone else, developing into a hero of sorts because she cared about her team. And Root, raw and screaming and desperate in her despair as she watches Shaw go down, as the elevators tragically slam shut. Root spends the back half of season four on an unhinged search for Shaw, not once believing she’s dead despite Reese and Finch’s suspicions. It will be intriguing to see how this develops in season five. Will Shaw come back working for Samaritan? Will she have broken under their torture? Is there any salvation for her? And will Root always stand by her side, no matter what?


This brings us nicely onto the Machine. For Root, who has steadfastly believed in the Machine so much that she saw it almost as a god, and her as her god’s prophet—she is the analogue interface. But this is where it really starts to fracture. All of our characters have had doubts about the Machine; after Carter’s death, Reese wanted nothing to do with it anymore—understandable, because should it not have predicted Carter’s death? Finch is key here—he ‘damages’ the Machine in order for it to respect human morality, but truly, how much can you teach a sentient being the meaning of being human when the Machine is absolutely not? Shaw also her doubts in the episode “The Cold War” in which she praises Samaritan’s efficiency in getting its work done, which sparks an interesting topic of conversation. If you know someone is about to do something bad, is it better as per Harold’s argument to let them have a full jury to decide that or is it better to nip it in the bud before it can come into fruition into something worse? And lastly, there is Root. Root is undoubtedly the character who puts the most trust in the Machine, and yet finds her heart broken—not just by Shaw’s loss, but by the Machine’s refusal to divulge her location. There are so many questions surrounding this complex AI—now trapped in a briefcase!—but one important theme is that humanity never loses its importance, even in a world dominated by two battling Artificial Intelligences. It is humanity who expresses love, kindness, humility, envy, hatred and pain—not an AI—and that is the fundamental difference, because this world cannot exist without humanity—in all its ugly forms—itself.


Goodness, I never thought I’d see the day—but season five is reported to be condensed to thirteen episodes, with an unclear air-date from CBS. My greatest hopes are that once CBS drops it, it will be picked up by a platform like Netflix that will allow the executive producers to tell the story they truly want, and “mic drop” the way they truly want. It is truly beyond me, how Person of Interest can be shunted aside when it is one of the most original, compelling and diverse shows out there—and I can only keep my fingers crossed for more Person of Interest, post season five. There’s so much set-up (the neural implants, the scale of Samaritan, the rebuild of the Machine—all of those points I hope to touch on in future articles when it comes to season five speculation) that the thought of thirteen episodes potentially closing a truly fascinating and often mind-blowing series seems awfully unjust. Here’s to a TV channel who will treat a piece of art with true respect.

Ultimately, in a series that is invaded by this brutal war between two raging Artificial Intelligences, it is the sheer humanity in the show that is so compelling for us viewers. Who didn’t shed a tear (or a bucketload of them) during “If-Then-Else”? Who didn’t feel a sense of satisfaction when Root snapped Martine’s neck and casually lay back as if nothing had happened? Who didn’t feel for Reese, when he finally gets his chance at normal humanity in the form of Iris, his counselor, for the briefest of moments? Supported by consistently talented guest stars (such as the impressive Enrico Colantoni as Elias) the show takes us through a jagged exploration of murky morality, questionable ethics, and the inevitable tragedy that awaits the characters—yet they fight, and they do their work—because it is human nature to protect others, and that is what makes Person of Interest so special. That amidst a compelling AI vs. AI #2 plot, it is not sucked in by the sci-fi elements, but rather focuses on the painful humanity and individual loss of each character—and that’s what makes this show, amongst its radical time-warping episodes and kickass character introductions—so compelling and so satisfying to watch. If you want something to binge-watch, with kickass female leads, honestly likable male leads, compelling guest stars, a bamboozling yet “ahh, it makes sense” storyline and some really, really good acting—I implore you to watch all four seasons on Netflix (if you haven’t already done so) and wait for CBS’s spring season for season five.


  1. YES! I did! I just binged it all four seasons on Netflix and loved it, as you say it grows from procedural to something truely epic. Can’t wait for season five, and thank you for this amazingly in depth article!!

    1. How heavily did you cry?! I think I went through a box of tissues in season three…

      Glad you enjoyed it, and here’s hoping to an epic season five!

  2. I completely agree with the above. I was only half paying attention to the show in season 1 ( was forced to sit through more than 20 episodes of boring procedural), until Root happened.
    And back in her evil days, she’s deviously charming and I found myself looking forward to her scenes. Not that I did not find other characters interesting, they have a lot of heart for sure but they can never be interesting enough to grip my full focus on the show. Root is a character I have never seen on television (May be some male anti heroes but never female).

    Now I miss the show so damn much and found myself searching for all the behind the scenes photo (for other shows I like, I did’t even remember the casts’ names)

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words,Summer! I agree–I actually liked season one (I like the Finch/Reese banter, Carter was a GEM and Taraji P. Henson is phenomenal) but if it didn’t have such a talented cast I could’ve written it off as yet another procedural. Then BOOM. It absolutely showed that it wasn’t.
      And indeed: Root is so often the MVP of the episodes. Amy plays her with such delicious villainy when she’s the “baddie”–she’s almost charmingly evil–and it’s so nice to see her character arc too, and one that isn’t rushed or OOC. And as you say: the entire cast are fantastic. Jim is amazing at the deadpan humour of Reese; Michael Emerson=no words needed; Kevin and Taraji were brilliant and so multi layered; Sarah’s nuances as Shaw is what MAKES Shaw in my opinion. She’s not a robot, as Gen cheekily pointed out. She is *human* and Sarah does it so, so well. I love all the dynamics too on the show. Not romantically, but if you paired anybody up with anybody on a mission (Reese/Shaw; Reese/Root; Reese/Finch; Shaw/Root; Shaw/Fusco; Root/Fusco; Finch/Fusco) everyone’s just got excellent chemistry with each other. I love it so much. I have never, ever seen such a cohesive show in my life.

      I love your love for Root! What an addition to the show! Thank you for commenting, Summer, I really appreciate it ! 🙂

      1. You’re welcome Nicola.
        Back when the show was airing season 1 and 2, I like it but didn’t love it. For me it is a bit similar to the CSI and Criminal Minds show that I have watched which much less assemble casts.

        After awhile when season 4 finished it run, I continued to watch 03 and 04 and my god colour me obsessed. POI continued to surprise me the way no other show could. First with Root’s amazing and believable transformation (I knew she was never that bad), then the “I can’t believe this is happening” Root and Shaw interraction (finishing s04 I was like god I knew it the moment Root threaten Shaw with an iron that there’s some tension between them haha but I brushed it off and thought that it was Finch Root was obssessed about), and I was absolutely devastated when Carter died (I knew she would tho, since I knew about Empire), and the follow up episodes are so gripping that I have realized POI is not just another show, its something else with enough cult power to nerd about (like Buffy/Angel…)

  3. Great article, looking forward to season five. My favorite season four episode was “Terra Incognita”, I adored Taraji’s brief return and reunion with Jim Caviezel. I loved their chemistry as Joss Carter/John Reese! I think they made a great team as well. I like serialized Person of Interest, Root, Shaw however I LOVED seasons one and two and hope they are able to keep at least a little of the procedural flavor in season five and future seasons. Amy is a great addition, but she does not overshadow the contributions of Jim, Michael, Taraji and Kevin to the show IMO. Thanks again for a great article.

    1. Hi! Thank you for your kind words! 🙂 Terra Incognita was lovely, it was really nice to see Taraji come back because she’s honestly one of my favourite characters on the show–in fact, they all are, in their own individual way. I love all the main characters for many, many different reasons. I ponder about the procedural stuff because it’s such a condensed season of thirteen episodes that they may not be able to fit many in. But we’ll see! Season five looks to be a promising one, with all the positivity on Twitter and such. I really do miss Detective Joss Carter on this show, but as the cast are right now, I’m really appreciative of the quality of acting we have, too 🙂

      (Out of interest: my faves were “Prophets” and “If-Then-Else! 😛 ) Super looking forward to season five–can’t wait!!

  4. My perceptions about this show and it’s characters have constantly evolved. When Root kidnapped Finch and was hypocritically referring to people as bad code, all the while proving by her actions that she was tne worst code of all, I hated her.
    I really wanted them to kill her off.
    My opinion of her changed completely in season three, the result of Amy Acker’s brilliance in the scenes with that psychiatrist, and Finch locking her in a cage and refusing against all logic to let her and the machine help the team.
    Could Carter have been saved? Would Greer have still gotten the Samaritan drives?
    Well before the end of season three Root became my favourite character. She’s actually my favourite character on television.
    Someone described her as a puppy. A murderous puppy. And she puts the cute in execute.

    1. Oh absolutely. She was a total villain early on, but I don’t think she particularly thought of herself as good code either–imo I thought her opinion was that all humans were bad code, including her, whereas the Machine is perfect by design. And absolutely! Root’s arc has been a joy to watch and you pose some interesting scenarios there too. I think the pivotal moment came when she chose between saving Cyrus’ life or saving the chip from Decima’s hand–and she picked Cyrus. The writers were genius in creating that arc for her! And LOL! I like to think of her as a cordial assassin with a sweet voice XD then she’ll taser you XD

      Thank you, Lee, for your comment!

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