Tuesday, September 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'Person of Interest' - Reese and Shaw are Forced to Follow the Rules When a New Number is Delivered in 'Panopticon'

CBS' Person of Interest - Episode 4.01 "Panopticon"

Forced to take on new identities created by Root, the team tries to adapt to their new lives. However, some find it hard to ignore The Machine's numbers, which puts them all at risk of being detected by Samaritan.

Over the summer, a friend recommended that I check out Person of Interest. In describing it, he mentioned that the first season was largely just the show finding its footing and testing the limits of its formula with the second season producing 5 or 6 great episodes and the third season being one of the best dramas on a broadcast network. Upon marathoning, I tend to agree with that assessment. Every single year the show has gotten better. What more could you ask from a show? It's unafraid to ask the big picture questions. Every week it seems to be challenging its formula instead of getting too comfortable. That's a quality I really admire. The second half of the third season embarked on the series tackling its most ambitious story arc yet. And it stuck the landing too. The start of the fourth season was one of the few premieres I was actually excited about seeing this fall.

"Panopticon" is very much a premiere episode because it has to work extra hard to reestablish the status quo. The end of the third season saw the entire team having to go undercover in new identities in order to avoid detection from the now operational Samaritan. The return has to establish those lives as well as how every member is dealing with them. John is now all in with his detective cover; Harold is now a college professor; Shaw is working at a mall cosmetics story while Root is seemingly moving around with agility. They are now being forced to play by the rules. And that is understandably very difficult for a few of them. The numbers have started to return but the team can't go about things the way they usually do. John has to act as both a detective and a man who sets up the illegal dealings to ensure the number's safety. It leads to a welcome return appearance by Enrico Colantoni as Elias. It's wonderfully exciting when John gets to throw someone out of a window or Shaw gets to hold and shoot a sniper rifle. But operating in that manner will only get them caught much quicker.

Everything is a part of a plan being put together by the Machine. It is still looking out for their best interests because they are its only operatives left in this cold war with Samaritan. With the case of the week, John has to help an Egyptian store owner who's good with technology get his son back after failing to deliver an off the radar communications network to some local gangsters. He succeeds in doing so but the mission also serves as a way to establish communications without Samaritan also listening in. That's crucial because every day Samaritan is evolving and becoming more aware of the world that exists around it. The Machine is limited but Samaritan is not. That makes this an uphill battle for the protagonists. But they are slowly starting to rebuild. The Machine points Harold in the direction of a new sanctuary. John and Fusco will now operate as a team working from the 8th precinct while Shaw has joined a new gang who will aide somehow.

Lurking on the fringes of the premiere though is Cara Buono as a new highly trained asset with an agenda. She takes out Frederick Weller because he has stumbled onto the truth regarding artificial intelligence. Her mission is still very much a mystery. She is now in New York City so she will likely cross paths with John and company very soon. And when that happens who knows how things will shape up. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Panopticon" was written by Erik Mountain & Greg Plageman and directed by Richard J. Lewis.
  • It's still quite surprising how much Fusco doesn't actually know about the larger picture of the series. He's curious as to why John is now working as a detective and not helping prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
  • Loved the knowing glance between John and Fusco as they both recognize that John is now moving into Carter's former desk.
  • Greer doesn't know how much longer he can trust the U.S. senator. But I'm also curious how much longer Samaritan will want to work with Greer considering he has no desire to control it.
  • I'm not exactly sure I bought Harold's little crisis of faith in the Machine. They don't explicitly say how many people they've saved and lost since they started interfering. But perhaps it's a story arc that will become more fruitful as the season progresses.
  • Root and Shaw are always a strong pairing.