TV Captivity Day 3: “Person of Interest”

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On a conceptual level, Person of Interest gives you everything you expect; as narrative, it keeps you guessing to the very end.

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Elaborating on themes he introduced in The Dark Knight, creator/writer Jonathan Nolan posits a world in which surveillance is omnipresent and crime prevention has given way to crime prediction. The problem is that the inventor (Michael Emerson) of the relevant technology has limited access to it: He only knows the identities of people who are about to figure in some unspecified calamity. He needs the muscle of a former government operative (James Caviezel) to help him forestall the unknown but inevitable.

Emerson is doing a clear yet welcome riff on his Benjamin Linus from Lost, fixing his eyes on the horizon and giving voice to the ominously vague. (And as before, if your name happens to be John, he will gladly wear it out.)

Last night’s series premiere was a lively little mystery, terrifically shot and edited and exhibiting a refreshing moral ambiguity: Caviezel is that rare network hero who is ready and willing to engage in extreme gunplay and blackmail to get the job done.

At this point, the mysterious backstories of the two lead characters are the least interesting elements of the program, and Nolan and co-executive producer J.J. Abrams are doling out the details of same far more quickly than was the case on Abrams' Lost. If Person of Interest proves too smart and too fast-paced for CBS, as I sadly anticipate, there shouldn’t be too many loose ends to tie up at a moment’s notice.

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