I’ve never really bingewatched an entire TV season before. I’ve set aside days to watch the extended versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies one after another, and I have been known to breeze through box-sets of The Big Bang Theory in pretty short order (after all, you can do four advert-free episodes in well under ninety minutes). But I’ve never previously taken an entire drama series and shot through twenty-three episodes of it in just a fraction over seven days.
As a fan of Lost, who had thoroughly enjoyed the performances of Michael Emerson as Ben Linus, I did take note of his casting in 2010 in Person of Interest. But I never got the chance to watch it. I hadn’t gotten into a rhythm of catching things from America, and over here it was being broadcast on Channel Five. I did catch one isolated episode which did not especially grab me.
But the summer’s coming up, and there’s two last final episodes this week, so there was room to experiment. Man cannot live by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine alone. Therefore I got my hands upon Person of Interest season 1 with a view to trying it out.
Last Sunday, back from the Rheged Centre in Penrith, and feeling tired after my 6.00am start, I wasn’t in the mood for doing much so I decided to try the Pilot episode. I found it interesting and, whilst not necessarily brilliant, it interested me enough to carry on.
The next day, I took the train back to Manchester. The journey was badly delayed, I got home after 2.00pm, with nothing to do and no plans and still feeling the effects of Sunday’s early start. It seemed easier to watch a bit of TV than anything else so I went back to Person of Interest. I ended up watching four episodes in a row.
During the next six days, I watched the entire season.
It was easy watching. As I’ve said before, now I’m blogging regularly, it’s hard to just watch something without thinking about how I would write about it. What made PoI so easy to watch was that I had no intention of blogging it. It could just slip past, case of the week by week. And the background stories, the delving into the complicated pasts of Mr Reese and Mr Finch, the shiftings of position as various forces try to fins out about, and stop, ‘the man in the suit’, have been slipping away quickly, no complicated delays for thinking and speculating.
For those unfamiliar with the series, the premise is simple. In response to 9/11, the American Government commissioned a super surveillance system, to collate and monitor all input nationwide. The Machine was designed and built, in secrecy, by Emerson’s character, currently going under the false name of ‘Harold Finch’. The Machine was built to identify terrorist threats but it also identifies all threats of violence to individuals.
Finch, who is supposed to be dead, has built a back door into the Machine that, every week, delivers the Social Security number of a person who may be the victim, or perpetrator, of murder. In order to prevent these things, Finch employs a man using the name ‘John Reese’. Reese is a burned out ex-CIA killer who has lost his purpose after the death of the woman he loves. The Machine gives him something worthwhile to do.
The two men know little about each other. Both are naturally secretive, especially about their backgrounds. Both are believed to be dead, and, if discovered in what they are doing, are likely to end up that way.
Basically, we have a case of the week superhero set up, with Finch’s software skills and Reese’s fighting abilities getting people out of trouble. The cops are after them – Detective Joss Carter in Homicide principally, though she winds up aiding the cause, as does Detective Lionel Fusco, a dirty cop being used by Reese under what begins as blackmail but ends up as being a genuine desire to do good work.
What distinguishes the series is that it operates in the moral grey zone. Bad is done to achieve a good outcome. What lengths will, or should, people go to to achieve a positive, desired outcome. This shifting ground is brilliantly incarnated, week in week out: after all, Finch and Reese can only do good as a result of unprecedented, unjustifiable, illegal surveillance.
The show ended on a well-judged cliffhanger. I shall look forward to watching season 2. At the moment, the show is closing in on the end of its truncated, final season. I doubt I could possible bingewatch fast enough to get there along with the series’ regular audience.
But having enjoyed bingewatching, I am keen to repeat the experience.