PERSON OF INTEREST 1.01 ‘Pilot’

Former CIA operative, John Reese is recruited to solve violent crimes before they happen by a mysterious billionaire.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Pilot"

Writer: Jonathan Nolan

Director: David Semel

Premise:

There is a computer program commissioned by the U.S. government to predict future terrorist attacks. The program can also predict violent crimes which are deemed "irrelevant" to the war on terror. However, the program's creator, Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) wants to protect the "irrelevant" people from crimes before they happen and he's targeted former CIA field officer, John Reese (Jim Caviezel) to insure that the victims are protected.

Story:

In the past, John Reese lounges in bed with his lover, Jessica (Susan Misner) and enjoys his life with her. In the present, Reese appears to be homeless as he sits in a New York subway car. Some thugs come along and they were up to no good. Started making trouble in the neighborhood… so Reese beats the crap out of them when they hassle and attempt to rob him. Notably, Reese took them all down in about five seconds. Some time later, Reese is inside a police station when Detective Carter (Taraji Henson) offers him some water and assumes that Reese was in the military from the way he handled the thugs. She runs a check on Reese's fingerprints from the cup and comes back with several matches found at different crime scenes in the past few years.

But before Carter can act on this knowledge, Reese is walked out of the station by a man claiming to be his lawyer who then escorts Reese to a waiting car. Reese is taken to a spot underneath the Queensboro Bridge, where he meets Mr. Finch. To Reese's surprise, Finch seems to know all about his time in the CIA and his attempt to make the government believe that he's dead. Finch and his men bring Reese to Midtown, where he points out Diane Hanson (Natalie Zea) to him. Finch explains that he has a list of people about to be involved in a violent crime and Diane is at the top of his list. He just doesn't know if she's a victim, a witness or another person of interest.

Thinking that Finch's offer to help Reese protect her is just a ruse or a game, Reese takes his leave after knocking over two of Finch's security team. Reese checks into a hotel, shaves and drinks himself into a stupor. He dreams of his Jessica again and when he wakes up, Reese finds himself tied to a bed as a woman is seemingly being murdered in the next room. Reese frantically frees himself and finds that it was only a recording played by Finch. Reese is livid when Finch tells him that the woman's death was recorded years ago when he was out of the country, just like his Jessica's death. As Reese slams Finch against the wall, the billionaire insists that it's not too late to save Diane.

Promising never to lie to Reese, Finch sets him up with money and several fake identities as they tail Diane. Finch tells Reese that Diane is an assistant DA for New York and his initial theory is that she's being targeted because of Lawrence Pope, the man she's currently prosecuting  At trial, one of the testifying cops says something on the stand that surprises Diane, leading her to visit Pope in jail. Through her hacked phone, Reese hears Diane tell Pope that she doesn't believe that he killed his friends and she offers to help him by asking who he is protecting. Pope then attacks her and warns Diane to keep her mouth shut.

Reese spies on Diane in her office and sees her ex-lover, Wheeler sneak in and log into her computer while she's out. Reese also finds Pope's younger brother, Michael (Jermaine Crawford); but he avoids Reese by claiming that he's being kidnapped to some construction workers. However, Reese plants his phone on Michael and he soon overhears Michael being held by two other men who threaten him. Reese calmly gets in front of their car and fires a smoke bomb into it. He frees Michael, but he also learns that his targets are dirty cops. Later, Reese brings Finch evidence that it's an entire group of corrupt cops dealing in drugs who framed Pope. Finch then explains where the numbers came from and how he retained access after the government took his machine to fight terror.

Elsewhere, Detective Carter learns about Reese's exploits on his mission and she realizes that he's the same man from the subway. Believing that Diane has been summoned to a clandestine meeting that will end in her death, Reese follows her… only to learn that she's the ringleader of the scheme and she wants Wheeler taken out the way she had Pope murdered in his cell. Reese is then captured by one of the dirty cops who then knocks him out. Reese awakens in the back of Detective Fusco's (Kevin Chapman) car and he tells the detective that he's been watching him. Reese says that the cop isn't all bad, that's why he'll let him live. Then he escapes the cop car in dramatic fashion and shoots Fusco multiple times in his vest to make it look good.

Reese then catches up to the dirty cops as they wait for Wheeler to come down so they can murder him with an ex-con forced into being their fall guy. Rick shoots one of the dirty cops and lets the other one go. When the remaining dirty cop threatens his friends and family, Reese replies that he doesn't have any and he kills him. The next day in court, Diane attempts to introduce an audio clip into evidence only to find that it is the recording of her ordering the hit on Wheeler. She watches helplessly as Reese gets up and walks out of the courtroom. Reese then confronts Fusco and tells him that he planted the body of the cop he killed in his trunk as leverage against him. So now Fusco must serve as Reese's reluctant ally in the PD.

Finch warns Reese that there will always be names coming from the program and that their mission will likely get them both killed. Reese takes the job anyways and he watches Carter take away the lone remaining dirty cop while trying to grill the man on information about Reese. Unaware that her target is close by, Carter doesn't see Reese simply melt away into the crowd

Breakdown:

"Person of Interest" had some of the biggest hype coming into the fall, thanks to the involvement of Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams. And while the pilot episode isn't a home run, it's definitely got a lot of potential to be a great series.

Jim Caviezel is very good as a man haunted by the things that he's done and by his inability to save his lover. Caviezel also seems to have his action chops, judging by the fun scene in which he takes out a room full of armed thugs with another man's handgun before stealing all of with their high caliber weapons. But ultimately, we're going to need to care about Reese as a person. In this episode, Reese is just used as a way to advance the story.

Have you ever noticed that in fiction, whenever a character states that "I will never lie to you" it means that they almost certainly will? So it is with Mr. Finch, as played by former "Lost" co-star, Michael Emerson. In part because of Emerson's previous role as Benjamin Linus, it's hard to believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Emerson's physicality still has a sense of deceit about him that could take a while to clear.

Thus far, Finch is the most interesting character on the show. If we're taking Finch's word at face value, then he's somehow faked his own death to pursue his current agenda with Reese. Given the enormity of what they're trying to do, it would make more sense if Finch hired several operatives to work as a team. We've already seen that he's got lawyers and bodyguards working for him, so why is he leaving all of the heavy lifting to Reese?

The script attempted to swerve the audience by revealing that Natalie Zea's Diane was the villain not the victim. However, we didn't see enough of Diane to be really surprised by her turn and it just wasn't much of a shock. That's part of the bind that Nolan finds himself in. The audience is conditioned to find a swerve in every story, so we always expect a betrayal. And if Diane had simply been the crusading prosecutor that she seemed to be, then Nolan would have been criticized for making the plot too simple. It's kind of a no win situation, but the stories on "Person of Interest" have to be compelling to bring back an audience every week.

The idea that Reese is going to blackmail Detective Fusco into helping him is a promising touch and Kevin Chapman seems like he'll be fun as Reese's reluctant inside man. It's also refreshing that Reese isn't shy about shooting his enemies or killing them if he has to. A show like this needs an edgy hero.

If the characters and the stories can eventually live up to the strong concept, CBS could have it's next major hit. But knowing the network, that would just lead to "Person of Interest: Miami," "Person of Interest: Los Angeles" and any number of other cities for spinoffs. That's just the way that CBS rolls.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.