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With some room to breathe after a jam-packed pilot, new CBS crime thriller Person of Interest found its groove this week in “Ghosts,” a case-focused episode, but one that continued to highlight some long-term questions about our future crime-stopping duo, Reese and Finch.
The see-all know-all machine, whose past we get to see a little of in this episode, wastes no time making things interesting when it churns out the Social Security number of a girl believed to be several years dead. Reese (James Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) start digging up the past to see if the machine is right and the girl is, in fact, still alive. Not only must they solve what happened to her several years ago, but also what might happen to her in the near future.
Interspersed in the action are a couple flashbacks to 2002 and 2007 when Finch initially created the machine. An unnamed supervisor (we learn he is one of eight people at the time who knew of the machine’s existence) questions Finch about his work and while there are no shocking revelations, it seems Finch initially had no qualms with the machine separating out the small “irrelevant” crimes from the major terrorist plots. Considering his number one hobby these days is stopping these irrelevant crimes, we’ve been set up to one day eventually find out what changed Finch’s mind.
Reese’s back story gets very little attention in this episode and for the most part he’s reduced to general badassery. One of his more notable scenes would be a good metaphor for his purpose in the story: plow into things like an 18-wheeler. On a few occasions, he moves the story along by barreling in and getting the information he wants. Totally cool, but admittedly rather cheap. Considering how little action there is in “Ghosts” compared to the pilot, you can see the budget drop-off too. Instead of watching him go into a bar and beat the crap out of a bunch of guys that work for a hit man, we see it from the outside. At least longtime CSI director Richard J. Lewis makes what money can’t buy more interesting.
With nearly the full 40 minutes devoted to telling the story of the missing girl, who Reese discovers early on, it’s a much more compelling case than the pilot. There are still tons of characters to follow in solving the crime, but the stakes are felt for sure, especially when the mystery evolves into cat-and-mouse thriller.
Still slow to develop are the subplots involving NYPD Det. Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Reese’s dirty-cop-turned-informant, Fusco (Kevin Chapman). Reese still eludes Carter, though he’s begun toying with her, which is interesting. The ending of the episode made for a nice touch with some promise for this story line. Fusco, on the other hand, comes in handy to make a connection to further the case, but he hasn’t really been wrapped into the whole operation yet. Of course, it’s still early.
“Ghosts” sort of sets the bar for the standard procedure of the show. Until a better case-driven episode comes along, this would be a fair way to judge each episode if one needs a comparison point. The pacing was strong, the tension solid and there was a good balance between focusing on the “case of the week” and dropping enough interesting tidbits to continue generating interest in the show’s ongoing story.
Creator and writer Jonathan Nolan also establishes an important precedent for any quality television show: connecting the week-to-week story with the overarching story using a thematic link. Theresa, the girl at the center of the case whose SSN was pulled, has trouble trusting Reese and Finch (and who could blame her, seeing as they’ve come from out of nowhere). The writing draws the connection to the pilot and how Finch mentioned he’s an incredibly secretive person. Reese was able to track down and discover Finch’s day job (hiding within his own company as a software writer), which Finch didn’t like, so he removed himself. Even though we felt the two characters growing closer through their working relationship, it appears the trust levels will take awhile, at least before we’re going to learn any more of Finch’s secrets.
Based on the first two hours of airtime, I’m interested in finding out.