Person of Interest: The Complete First Season (Warner), one of the success stories of the 2011 TV season, is a clever melding of surveillance conspiracy, freelance good guys, and mystery puzzle in the modern world where big brother is watching you and a supercomputer is cross-referencing your data.
The high-concept premise is recapped in the credits of every episode: the homeland security surveillance system keeps track of threats to national security and identifies the most immediate threats. Our heroes are freelance good guys who go after the smaller, personal threats ignored by the government, with nothing more than an identity to go on: a person of interest, either victim or perpetrator, and they have to discover which before they can stop the crime.
Science fiction, sure, but with just enough contemporary technology and present-day paranoia to make the hook work, and a small but dynamic cast of unlikely heroes. Jim Caviezel (Jesus in “the Passion of the Christ”) is the intense, fiercely driven field man John Reese, a burned-out CIA special operative roused back to action by the very private computer genius named Finch (Michael Emerson of “Lost”), the man who built the surveillance system and a multi-millionaire with such a low profile hardly anyone knows he even exists. Finch gives Reese a purpose and brings the coolly efficient field agent to life on the mean streets of New York City, where he’s kind of an incognito Batman who is not afraid to shoot the bad guys in order to save the innocent.
That’s probably no coincidence. Creator Jonathan Nolan co-wrote the recent “Batman” movies and puts a bit of the Gotham City corruption into his vision of modern New York, where the rot goes right to the top of the NYPD. The exception to the rule is Detective Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), who becomes both pursuer and wary ally of the vigilante hero (“the man in the suit,” as they call him), but the most interesting case study is the thoroughly corrupt Detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman). He’s essentially hitman with a badge in the pilot episode, a rotten cop left alive by Reese and forced into being their inside man. Through the course of the season, he too finds some kind of purpose in working for the good guys.