Jim Caviezel could be the most successful con man in the world. Every time I look at his face I just want to, you know, just trust him… Like, forever, you know? Just sit across from him in the living room and break into tears and look at that stern but kind face and ask him for his advice on "what should I do with my goddamn life, Mr. Caviezel??? It’s like I’m at a crossroads, and there’s a Denny’s on one corner… And an IHOP on the other!!!"
If he wasn’t an actor he could probably be a damn good life coach. No wonder the guy played Jesus.
Actually, I think he may have gotten a bit of a raw deal out of that Jesus thing, because he sort of disappeared after that. No more blockbuster roles. It wasn’t long before he was doing that Vikings vs. Aliens crap to put food on his table. Next thing you know, he would actually be taking on that gig as a life coach.
Well, blessed be those who wait, because now he stars in one of the best crime dramas on television: Person of Interest. A crime drama that just reached its second season. With glory.
Person of Interest, for those not in the loop, is a TV series airing on CBS regarding an ex-CIA operative name of John Reese (Jim Caviezel) who works for the mysterious Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson).
Mr. Finch is a computer genius that invented a machine (otherwise called The Machine) that connects to every camera and microphone in the world to detect patterns of behavior and predict acts of violence before they happen. The Machine is used by the government to detect terrorist plots, but it ignores minor threats. Mr. Finch couldn’t live with that, so after being forcibly taken out of the picture and presumed dead by the state, he built a back-door for himself where he gets the heads-up on those smaller threats so he, along with Mr. Reese, can help the people involved.
Along the way, they add two more players to their team: Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman, from the timeless classic Black Dynamite) and Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson), who serve both as their contacts within law enforcement and as back-up whenever Mr. Reese gets in a jam.
That’s, like, seven different levels of high-concept.
In the last episode of the first season, Mr. Reese and Mr. Finch found themselves in their biggest pickle yet, as the subject they are assigned by the machine to protect, one Dr. Claire Turing, turns out to actually be a super-hacker (and also a total bitch) who calls herself Root and only wanted to get within close proximity of Mr. Finch to kidnap him. It was hair-raising stuff.
That episode was the first to end on a cliffhanger, and the second season premiere is the pay-off. Root is now traveling the country with Mr. Finch, as she plans to use him in one way or another to manipulate the machine in her favor, while an exasperated Mr. Reese tries to find and rescue his boss and only friend and protect some dumbass accountant against the Aryan Nation at the same time.
This episode was not quite as suspenseful as the last one, in which Mr. Reese had to protect Root (then known as Dr. Turing) from a group of corrupt cops and protect himself from the FBI in the claustrophobic environment of a hotel. All the while, Detectives Fusco and Carter were working behind the scenes in a surveillance center, alerting Reese to imminent dangers in his proximity. It was like watching someone juggle two chainsaws, a live grenade and a tiger while standing on a monocycle with a flat tire.
This most recent episode, however, proceeded in a lower gear, but that was compensated by brilliant flashbacks that give us insight into the workings of the machine, and its true power. The part where Mr. Finch tests the machine in a coffee shop? Two words: goose bumps.
Is that two words? I don’t know…
Person of Interest is like an X-Files for the surveillance-state generation, but better. It follows the same basic model: Each week Mr. Finch and Mr. Reese work a different case in self-contained episodes, but there’s also a sprawling, overarching plot weaving itself through the story.
Among the espionage and bad-ass action sequences, the show is garnished with an element of super-hero fare, as the rag-tag team of vigilantes accrue their very own rogues gallery of super-villains: A super-mobster named Elias (played by Jason Alexander’s evil twin), a super-CIA agent named Mr. Snow, and the aforementioned Root.
This show has an almost Zen-like balance between emotion and reason. The espionage bits are Jason Bourne-esque, with true regard for, if not realism, at least verisimilitude. Finch, for instance, is not one of those mystical, all-powerful movie hackers who can use a Gameboy to reroute your plumbing system. His access to information has limitations that often mean he has to hit the pavement and work on-site in order to hack cameras and computers. And Reese uses what seem to be real military tactics to achieve his goals. Alongside that is a careful concern with characterization and drama that makes us care for the characters and understand their motivations.
Beyond all of that, though, Person of Interest appeals to a primitive part of our brain that, like Bonnie Tyler, is simply holding out for a hero. How often have we been faced with a situation so overbearing, so hopeless, that all we wished for was some Knight in Shining Armor to show up and kung fu our way back into light?
When the world comes down on us hard and we’re facing enemies and injustices way beyond our stature, we all sometimes fantasize about a magical entity who will kick the door in and rescue us from the bullies, after handing their asses over to them in a plate. Someone who can fix anything. Someone like Mr. Reese.