Once you have your story world and people in place (usually after the first act), you can start to layer your characters (and your plots and subplots, but that’s tomorrow). By Season Two, everybody knows how the Machine works, that it also works for the government, that the agency it works for is ruthless and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone it thinks might be a threat to the Machine. At that point, it’s time to change things up. Things are going to get worse, yes, but they’re also going to get more complex. Continue reading
Apologies for this being late. For some reason, I set it to post tomorrow.
Today we’re watching “Firewall” by Greg Plageman & Jonathan Nolan; “The Contingency, by Denise The & Jonathan Nolan; and “Bad Code” by Greg Plageman & Patrick Harbinson to talk about the Climax as Turning Point (Things Get Worse).
Person of Interest has great antagonists, mostly because the writers refuse to see them as just Bad Guys. Every major antagonist they’ve had is layered, well-motivated, and intelligent, with the possible exception of the thugs from HR, and even they were led by the smart, smooth Quinn. Elias may be my favorite of all of the Major Big Bads because he’s so complex. And that, in turn, makes the stories about him as complex and layered as he is. The protagonist may drive the narrative, but the antagonist shapes it, and Elias always shapes an interesting story. Continue reading
A reversal is just that: a reversal of an expectation the reader/viewer holds about what’s happening next in a story. Reversals often happen at turning points in a story, events that show the protagonist that her or his assumption about what’s happening is wrong or at least too narrow, and that revelation turns the story in a new direction, sometimes casting everything that came before in a new light and sometimes blowing up everything completely. Continue reading
Previously on Person of Interest: Continue reading
Someday, I’m going to do a post analyzing my top five TV pilots, and when I do, this episode will be one of them, along with the Leverage pilot and the first episode of the UK’s Life on Mars. (After that, I’m still cogitating.) It does everything a long-form story beginning should do, and it does it brilliantly. Continue reading
Person of Interest is not just good TV, it’s groundbreaking TV both in terms of content and in terms of storytelling. It has one of the best communities ever put on film. It’s interesting and exciting and funny and heartbreaking. The showrunners and writers reinvent the show every year, upping the stakes to the point where this coming season, the fifth, nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake, so it’s a great lesson in how to escalate over the long run. And although I’ve seen some of the episodes a dozen times, I see something new every time. For all of these reasons and because I just love this series, Argh brings you the 2016 PoI binge watch, during which we cross our fingers that nobody we like dies in Season Five.
PERSON OF INTEREST BLOG POSTS
If you’re not sure if the show is for you, here’s an intro:
Harold Finch is a computer genius who has written a diagonistic program called The Machine for the US government that watches everybody and pinpoints those who are about to commit acts of violence. Because Harold is fully aware of how dangerous to civil liberties The Machine might be, he has programmed it to only give out social security numbers that pinpoint those who might be involved in acts of violence; the Machine does not distinguish between victim and perpetrator, it just says, “Watch this person, he or she is of interest.” The government is only interested in acts of terrorism, but the machine also pinpoints regular crimes about to happen. Because nobody acts on that information, murders are committed every day that could be prevented. Finch begins to work to save the people in New York whose numbers come up, beginning by hiring a burned-out CIA agent named John Reese to act as his muscle. Over four seasons, a crooked cop (Fusco), a brilliant, principled cop (Carter), a demented programmer(Root), a German Shepherd (Bear), and a sociopathic CIA hitwoman (Shaw) join the team, forming one of the best communities in fiction. The team also draws on a smart NYC fixer (Zoe), a hapless, crooked, but very smart accountant (Leon), and a Machiavellian mob boss (Elias). It does not hurt that these people are played by Michael Emerson, Jim Calviezel, Kevin Chapman, Taraji P. Henson, Amy Acker, Sarah Shahi, Paige Turco, Ken Leung, and Enrico Colantoni.
The first season appears at the start to be a crime-of-the-week show, but once you watch the entire series and then go back to the beginning (which I’m warning you now, you will), you can see how carefully the entire series plot is layered in, and how brilliantly the community of damaged people who will come to fight the good fight together is assembled. This is a huge story that’s developed over four years of intricately plotted episodes, almost all of them excellent on their own and some groundbreaking in their approach. It’s not a comedy although there are laugh-out-loud moments, it’s not a caper although the best episodes are the team working together for the Machine like a finely tuned machine themselves, it’s character drama that increasingly becomes science fiction as the Machine reveals itself to be a full-fledged AI, heartbreakingly human-like in the last moments of the fourth season finale. It’s the smartest character-driven drama on TV. And while I hate that it’s ending, it’s ending with a thirteen-episode last act this May and June that I can’t wait to see because the people doing this show are brilliant, and I’m confident they’re going to nail the landing.
Here’s the promo for the first season of the show. Watching it now, I keep thinking, “I had no idea what this simple premise would become . . .”
Edited to Add:
Nicole asked a good question, and as part of the answer, I posted this, which probably should have been in this post from the beginning:
. . . for a shortened catch-up spree, here’s IGN’s suggestions for key episodes:
And here’s Indiewire’s seven reasons to binge watch Person of Interest:
Including the not-surprising-to-anybody-who’s-watched-the-show fact that more half of the episodes have been rated 9.0 or above on IMDB and the lowest rated show is 8.2.
And it has an 87% critics rating for the series on Rotten Tomatoes and 93% viewer rating.
You should watch Person of Interest.
NOTE: This post has been revised many times.
I watched three TV episodes this week about teams of good guys battling a mastermind who communicated with minions using ear coms. Two of them aired in the past week, the other is several years old, but the basic plot was the same: bring down the mastermind. The difference was in the way the stories used their subplots, and it was a big difference.
(Important Note: This is NOT a writing technique, it’s a critical approach. Don’t do this for your own stories, it’ll make you insane.) Continue reading