Person of Interest is an American crime dramatelevision series broadcasting on CBS. It is based on a screenplay developed by Jonathan Nolan. The series revolves around a former CIA officer (Jim Caviezel) recruited by a mysterious billionaire (Michael Emerson) to prevent violent crimes in New York City. CBS renewed the show for a third season on March 27, 2013, and moved the series from its season one and two time slot, Thursday at 9:00 pm, to Tuesday at 10:00 pm. Season three premiered on September 24, 2013.
"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered 'irrelevant'. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you".
In the beginning, John Reese, a former Green Beret and CIAfield officer, is living as a vagrant in New York City after the death of the woman he loves, and is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire software genius who is living under an assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills gained in the military and the CIA. Through a backdoor built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.
They are helped by NYPD detectives Lionel Fusco, a corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter, who in early episodes investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be partners in the NYPD early in the series, for the entirety of the show's first season, neither is aware that the other is also working with Finch and Reese. Periodically, the team also enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan, a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers who are initially in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias and later with the Russian mafia; in earlier parts of this arc, Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important storyline revolves around Root, a psychopathic hacker who is determined to gain access to the Machine. During season two, another organization of powerful business figures, Decima Technologies, is revealed to be attempting to gain access to the Machine. In season three, Reese and Finch come into contact with the hacking group Vigilance, as well as the addition of Agent Shaw, a former spy whose deceased partner got too close to finding out about "Control", leading him and Shaw to be eliminated by "Control" (see below). After Shaw's "death" and her subsequent learning about The Machine in the season two finale, she joins Finch and Reese.
The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system programmed to monitor and analyze data from surveillance cameras, electronic communications, and audio input throughout the world, built in two unoccupied floors at Ingram's company, IFT. From this data, the Machine accurately predicts violent acts. Under control of the U.S. government, its stated purpose is to foresee terrorist attacks, allowing the government to forestall terrorist activity. However, the Machine detects future violent acts of all kinds, not just terrorism. Originally unknown to Finch, his partner, Nathan Ingram, created a routine called "Contingency", on the eve of the government handover, to access the non-relevant data. Ingram and Finch are seen accessing this program in the episode "Zero Day". In the episode, Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent directly to him and shuts down the routine, reactivating it after Ingram's death. He presumably modified and updated the Contingency routine as well, as the Machine then begins to pass on the "irrelevant" non-terrorism data to him in the form of Social Security numbers, via coded messages over nearby public telephones.
Over the course of each episode, the viewer periodically sees events as a Machine-generated on-screen display of data about a character or characters: identification, activities, records, and more may be displayed. The viewer also sees a Machine-generated perspective as it monitors New York. Commercial flights are outlined by green triangles, red concentric circles indicate no-fly zones around tall buildings such as Congress, and dashed boxes mark individual people. The Machine classifies the people it watches by color-coding the boxes: white for no threat or an irrelevant threat, red for perceived threats to the Machine, red-and-white for individuals predicted to be or currently violent, and yellow for people who know about the Machine, including Finch, Reese, Ingram, Corwin, and Root. The white-boxed "irrelevant threat" targets include the persons of interest that Reese and Finch assist.
As the series progresses, a wider governmental conspiracy emerges. Known as "The Program", it revolves around the development and utilization of the Machine. It is apparently led by a mysterious figure known only as "Control", an unnamed official who deploys teams of Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) operatives who are identified by the Machine using a blue box; classified as "assets", they have no knowledge of the Machine, but work within its own parameters. They are used to eliminate perceived terrorist threats on the recommendation of a department known as "Research". "Control" also used the team to eliminate key personnel who are aware of the Machine's existence.
Michael Emerson in NYC shooting Person of Interest
Graubaer's Boker filming in NYC
John Reese (Jim Caviezel): a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and later a CIA field officer who is presumed dead following a mission in China. Little is known about Reese's background and his name is one of several aliases he uses. He lost his lover, Jessica Arndt, prior to meeting Finch, which appears to have marked him deeply. Reese demonstrates skill in the use of a range of weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and surveillance tactics. He knows very little about Finch and often is rebuffed when he attempts to learn more about him.
Harold Finch (Michael Emerson): a reclusive, security conscious and intensely private billionaire software engineer. His real name is unknown and he has many aliases (most commonly Harold Wren), using various species of birds as the last name. Finch has developed a machine that can isolate the Social Security numbers of people with either premeditated homicidal intent or who will be homicide victims, based on its analysis of surveillance data. Following a traumatic event in his own life that led to the death of his business partner and close friend, Nathan Ingram, he recruits Reese to help him deal with the people the Machine identifies. Finch lives and works in an abandoned library and shows the results of severe physical injuries, including the inability to turn his head, a rigid posture, and a limp.
Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter (Taraji P. Henson): an NYPD homicide detective and the mother of a teenaged son, Taylor. Carter is a former U.S. Army interrogation intelligence officer who passed the bar exam in 2004, but gave up practicing the law to return to police work. Carter first crosses paths with Reese following his encounter with a group of young men on a New York subway, but knew him principally as a mysterious man in a suit. Carter is initially determined to apprehend Reese, but eventually forms an alliance with him and Finch, during which she is unaware of the existence of the Machine.
Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman): a corrupt cop Reese blackmails into being a source inside the police department. Finch later arranges for Fusco to be transferred to Carter's precinct so that he works with her. Over time, Fusco becomes increasingly loyal to Finch and Reese, but continues to keep a secret regarding the death of a cop involved with HR. Like Carter, he does not know about the Machine's existence.
Samantha Shaw (Sarah Shahi) (season 2, recurring; season 3, main): a government assassin who worked for Special Counsel, unknowingly dealing with the "relevant" numbers from the Machine. She is now an ally of Reese and Finch. She has been hinted as sociopathic, and enjoys shooting people during the course of the episodes. She states that she is only helping Finch and Reese because of their dog, Bear.
Root (Amy Acker) (seasons 1–2, recurring; season 3, main): a highly intelligent computer hacker and contract killer with a keen interest in both Finch and the Machine. Her real name is Samantha "Sam" Groves. In Season 3, she is revealed to have altered the Machine's code to let it communicate with her.
Bear (played by Graubaer's Boker): a Belgian Malinois with military training who Reese rescues from Aryan Nationalists, who were using him as an attack dog. Bear spends most of his time with Finch, who was reluctant to have him in the library at first, but has become attached to him over time. Bear gained his name by eating $1,000,000 in bearer bonds stolen by Leon Tao.
Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco): a "fixer" who specializes in crisis management. Finch and Reese first met her as a person of interest. Later on in the series, she works with them on cases that require her skills. She has an ill-disguised interest in Reese.
Jessica Arndt (Susan Misner): Reese's deceased lover. After Jessica's relationship with Reese ended, she married another man, but remained in contact with Reese. She is eventually killed by her husband during a domestic dispute.
Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen): Finch's deceased collaborator on the Machine who died from an attack caused by a van bomb. Ingram acted as the interface between the government and their company while the Machine was under development.
Grace Hendricks (Carrie Preston): Finch's fiancée who believes him to be dead following the van bomb attack that killed Ingram.
Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni): a nascent crime boss and the illegitimate son of Mafia don Gianni Moretti. Elias is determined to revive the crime families of New York and to eliminate the Russian mob. Elias is arrested following an attempt to kill off the heads of the Five Families.
Leon Tao (Ken Leung): a former financial criminal and three-time person of interest who has assisted in some cases with his forensic accounting skills. He has a penchant for get-rich-schemes which always land him in difficulties with gangsters.
Special Agent Nicholas Donnelly (Brennan Brown): an FBI agent who becomes interested in Reese when his case crosses one of Reese's. He periodically offers Carter the opportunity to work with him as he pursues Reese.
Detective Cal Beecher (Sterling K. Brown): a narcotics detective with whom Carter had begun a relationship. Beecher is Alonzo Quinn's godson, but was unaware of Quinn's activities.
Bill Szymanski (Michael McGlone): A NYPD organised crime unit detective that Carter sometimes works with.
Kane (Anthony Mangano): A NYPD homicide detective with whom Carter and Fusco have periodically worked.
The following characters are tied to a government conspiracy related to the development and use of the Machine.
Special Counsel (Jay O. Sanders): a shadowy figure from the Office of Special Counsel who appears to be engineering the activity regarding the machine and sees Reese as a threat.
Alicia Corwin (Elizabeth Marvel): a liaison between Ingram and the government while the Machine was being developed and a former member of the National Security Council. Corwin began living in hiding in a small town after Ingram's death.
Denton Weeks (Cotter Smith): the official who commissioned the development of the Machine. He was in league with the Special Counsel.
Hersh (Boris McGiver): Special Counsel's enforcer, a former member of the ISA.
Control (Camryn Manheim): the woman who is the head of the ISA's operation regarding the Machine, also referred to as Ma'am.
The following characters are involved in the HR storyline, in which a group of corrupt police officers work to control organized crime in New York.
Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters): the Mayor's Chief of Staff and the head of HR.
Officer Patrick Simmons (Robert John Burke): a uniformed officer who is a right-hand man to Quinn and HR's second-in-command. He handles HR activities on the street level.
Officer Anthony Marconi (David Valcin): a uniformed officer who works as Elias' principal enforcer. He is easily identifiable by a large scar on his right cheek.
Captain Arthur Lynch (Michael Mulheren): a major figure in HR with whom Fusco appeared to be working in season 1.
Captain Womack (John Fiore): the captain in charge of Homicide who is Carter and Fusco's supervisor. He protects members of HR when Carter gets too close.
Detective Raymond Terney (Al Sapienza): A police detective with whom Carter regularly works regularly. He is a member of HR.
Officer Mike Laskey (Brian Wiles): A rookie cop affiliated with HR who is installed as Carter's new partner after she was demoted to officer for getting too close to HR. She turns him by threatening to frame him for the death of another dirty cop.
The following characters are part of Reese's backstory relating to his time with the CIA.
Mark Snow (Michael Kelly): a CIA operative who once worked with Reese.
Kara Stanton (Annie Parisse): Reese's former CIA partner who was widely believed to be dead, but is later recruited by Decima Technologies.
The following character is involved in the Decima Technologies storyline, in which a shadowy organization attempts to gain control of the Machine.
Greer (John Nolan): A mysterious British figure connected with Decima Technologies.
The following character is involved in the Vigilance storyline, in which a violent organization professes to protect people's privacy.
Peter Collier (Leslie Odom, Jr.): a field agent whose job is to protect the organization.
Michael Emerson filming Person of Interest in NYC
The series was officially picked up by CBS on May 13, 2011, and debuted on September 22, 2011. It was renewed for a second season on March 14, 2012 by CBS, which premiered on September 27, 2012. CBS renewed Person of Interest for a third season., with Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker joining the cast full-time.
According to CBS, Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years, what one CBS executive called "crazy broad appeal you don't usually see", prompting CBS to move CSI, which was broadcast on Thursday for over 10 years, to Wednesday, opening up a slot for Person of Interest. The pilot episode won its time slot, drawing 13.2 million viewers. On October 25, 2011, the show received a 22-episode full season order. The order was later increased to 23 episodes.
On Metacritic, season 1 scored a 65 out of 100. Of the pilot, David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said "Person of Interest separates itself from the gimmick pack, not only because of superbly nuanced characterization and writing but also because of how it engages a post-9/11 sense of paranoia in its viewers." David Hinckley of the New York Daily News gave the pilot four stars out of five, commenting on Caviezel's and Emerson's performances, saying Caviezel "brings the right stuff to this role" and Emerson "is fascinating as Mr. Finch." Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times stated that in regards to the pilot, "the notion of preventing crimes rather than solving them is an appealing twist... The surveillance graphics are very cool."