You Are Being Watched

PERSON OF INTEREST

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything — violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act so I decided I would, but I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up, we’ll find you.” 

What Harold Finch does not tell you in this prologue is that Person of Interest is a well-written, intelligent, action-packed (translation: Jim Casizzle kickin’ butts), and extremely addictive show that might just be the best show on television right now. It definitely has the best theme song. And now that I’ve finally finished the first two seasons, I can finally watch Person of Interest every Tuesday at 10 P.M. on CBS like normal people do instead of watching two or three or six episodes a day. An unfortunate side effect to this viewing schedule, however, is that I spend every other day of the week wandering the earth like a zombie, unable to function properly without my daily dosage of Finch and Reese.

finch

Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) is a reclusive, intensely private billionaire who designed “The Machine” for the government and is now using it to prevent crimes. The Machine will feed him a number of a “person of interest” who will be involved — in some way — in a violent, premeditated crime. Nothing less than a genius with computers, Finch generally acts behind the scenes, digging up relevant information, buying security companies, breaking firewalls and the like to help his partner, John Reese, solve the mystery of what exactly the violent crime is and how their person of interest is involved.

reese

While Finch is the money and brains behind the operation, John Reese (Jim Casizzle — okay, so the credits list him as Jim Caviezel, a common typo ‘cos this dude be on fiiiiiiiiiire) provides the muscle. An ex-CIA agent, presumed to be dead, Reese has “the skills” to intervene and physically stop the violence. If there is one person who can save the world, it’s John Reese. Calm, cool, collected, and very attractive John Reese. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

Reese and Finch are the core of the show. They are two people the world believes to be dead. They are two people whose past lives are not revealed to the audience — or each other — immediately or all at once. They are two people who have saved each other and who need each other. Part of what makes Person of Interest so compelling is the chemistry between these two characters and their stories. The audience knows very little about them at the start of the show, yet you instantly trust and believe in them. And as fragments of their past lives are revealed piece by piece, you gain a greater understanding of who Reese and Finch were and why they are now doing what they do — and you love them all the more for it.

Person of Interest is also compelling because it has the ability to create and seamlessly intertwine multiple story lines into single episodes. Nearly every episode has, at its core, a person of interest whom Reese and Finch are trying to save. But there are often larger story arcs integrated into these stories — one of the main ones being the hunt for “The Man in the Suit” (Reese) by the NYPD (and later the FBI and CIA), threatening to end Finch and Reese’s operation of saving innocent lives.

carterfusco

Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) initially instigates the search for The Man in the Suit, and, to keep an eye on Carter and to keep their operation intact, Finch and Reese arrange for Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) to become her partner. Carter is a good cop, through and through. She believes in abiding by and upholding the law and protecting the safety and best interests of the people. Fusco, on the other hand, comes into contact with Reese and Finch because he is a “dirty” cop. He has been involved in unsavory and unlawful situations and operations, but Reese saves him to use his connections with the NYPD.

Yet, as the series progresses, you see both Carter and Fusco undergo changes. Carter begins to see the necessity of forgoing police procedures (and maybe even breaking the law) at times for a greater cause. Fusco, too, changes from a very dirty cop to a cop who desperately wants to forget and erase his past wrongdoings and do what is right. When he tries to explain to Carter his darker past, he tells her that he has truly changed since he met “their friends” — Finch and Reese. Just as Finch and Reese saved each other, they have also saved Fusco. I love that about this show — that not only do nearly every episode we see the good guys saving innocent lives against very bad people but we also see how the main characters save one another and change each other for the better.

Finch, Reese, Carter, and Fusco are the dream team and main cast of the first two seasons. In the second season, another member is added to this dream team: Bear, a military-trained Belgian Shepherd who responds to Dutch commands.

bear

I love Bear. I love how he helps Reese and Finch take care of business, I love how he misses Reese, but most of all I love his relationship with Finch. Reese obtains Bear and brings him home to Finch, who is reluctant to adopt the dog and is also suffering from some post-traumatic stress. But Finch and Bear grow so attached to each other, and Bear is ultimately the one who helps Finch work through his post-traumatic stress. Bear is so sweet and loyal and the best addition to this show so far.

Which, speaking of additions, let’s discuss Season 3 thus far.

Prior to Season 3, I would not have hesitated to say that Person of Interest is the best show on television. But the show’s third season has some startling developments and additions to the cast. In the third season, Samantha Shaw, a lackluster character introduced in the second season, is now present in every single episode.

Shaw is now part of the team helping Finch and Reese, but she is an unnecessary third wheel. Her character would be better served if she were an occasional recurring character who help Finch and Reese — like Zoe and Leon — but inserting her into every episode is unbearable. She is a boring character who tries too hard to be the female version of John Reese. Except she’s not as cool or compassionate or just plain interesting as Reese. We understand why Reese and Finch do what they do, but Shaw appears to be nothing short of a cold-blooded killer, intent on revenge and violence.

In the episodes so far, her character’s presence has taken away from the other main characters — the ones we care about, the ones who are interesting, the ones whose chemistry and dynamic was letter-perfect. So why was Shaw added as a principal character? I’m really hoping that it is only temporary in order to give Jim Casizzle a bit of a break as he makes movies and models and all that. Regardless, I hope she is killed off soon. Like next week soon.

I’m also hoping that the third season will finally feature Guy Pearce as a person of interest and that when Pearce asks Caviezel why he’s doing what he’s doing, Caviezel can respond, “It’s complicated.”

pearcecasizzle

Despite my misgivings about the third season, Person of Interest is still being watched. Because I need to know if Fusco will ever go on another date with that woman from Season 2. Because I need to know what happens to Carter and her investigation of HR. Because I need to see Jim Casizzle’s face when Finch is explaining what he’s doing computer-wise to help solve the case. Because…well, it’s complicated.

Advertisements

Five Favorite Newly Discovered Rick Nelson Gems

After six months of listening to nothing but the Brothers Gibb, it regretfully reached a saturation point, and I forced myself to enter a new listening cycle. Chest hair, pearly white smiles, and tight white satin pants have been replaced by the laid-back, natural, gorgeous tones (and head and shoulders and knees and toes and eyes and ears and mouth and a nose – oh, a nose!) of Rick Nelson.

In case you’ve missed one of the recurring themes of this blog, I can’t just like something. I can’t just watch a movie. I can’t just read a book. I cannot — and I refuse to — just listen to a song or an album or an artist’s complete discography. I must completely immerse myself, devouring every last morsel of information and media available to me. I guess you could refer to it as an “obsession.” So right now, I’m obsessed with Rick Nelson…again. (I also tend to recycle my obsessions.) I’ve been tracking down episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet I haven’t seen (can’t wait for the ultimate box set to be released!), raiding the library of all their Rick Nelson materials (do you think they’ll notice if I don’t return them?), absent-mindedly drooling over my Rick Nelson records (I am going to have to start investing in those clear protective sleeves), and, of course, listening to all the Rick Nelson I can, all in my search for THE REAL RICK:

therealrick

(Yeah, I have totally been carrying this picture around with me and pulling it out, asking people if they know or have seen THE REAL RICK. No one’s signed me up for any medical attention…yet.)

And whatd’yaknow, the real Rick — I think — is not found in the wise cracks of an irrepressible kid or the idealistic portrayal of life found on his family’s television show (which I love dearly) or even his dreamy blue eyes and long, long, long — man, are they long! — eyelashes but in his music. And, thankfully, there is so much music. So much, in fact, that I am still wading through it, trying to find it all, digesting it and loving it.

While digging through all this music, I have enjoyed listening to old favorites and forgotten favorites, but I have most of all enjoyed discovering new songs I had never heard before — and here’s a list of a few, out of many, of my newly discovered favorites, most of which were never major hits (or minor hits or any kind of hit) and all, save one, were penned by Rick himself — yes, not only could this guy sing the phonebook, but he could write, too!

5. “Dream Lover”
Single, 1979

Rick’s cover of Bobby Darin’s 1959 hit is subtle, magical, and dreamier than the original (or any subsequent cover) ever even hinted was possible. His voice is older, maybe not quite as smooth as it once was, but still as beautiful and captivating as it ever was. I love that this song, which could have signaled yet another comeback for Rick, was released amidst the sea of Punk, New Wave, and Disco. Rick didn’t change his style to gel with current trends; he sang what he knew and loved.

4. “Gypsy Pilot”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

As understated and gentle as “Dream Lover” is, “Gypsy Pilot” is as loud and guitar-fueled — maybe even the loudest and rockiest song of his career. The autobiographical lyrics also offer a fitting epitaph, particularly the last verse: “When they claim my body/They won’t have much to say/Except that he lived a good life/He lived every day/And I know he saw the sunshine/And I know he felt the rain/And he loved everybody/And he hopes you’ll do the same.”    

3. “Easy to Be Free”
Single, 1970

I love that in the clip posted above, Rick is peacefully standing amidst the open country. He is calm and steady and completely at ease; the music, like his surroundings in the clip, is breathtakingly beautiful and lulling, perfectly mirroring the lyrics expressing freedom and the peace it brings. The ease and naturalness with which he sings this song reflects, I think, how he lived his life and directed his career. At times in his career, the music he created didn’t necessarily follow what was popular in the charts or reflect what many people perceived his (or, rather, their) “image” to be, but he did what he loved and believed in. He was genuine and heartfelt and free. But I doubt it was truly easy — nothing really is.

2. “Are You Really Real?”
Garden Party, 1972

Oh, I love this song so much. Hidden on the Garden Party album, this has to be one of the most beautiful songs Rick ever wrote (seriously, this dude could write songs — who knew? Not enough people!) or recorded. With the yearning lyrics and his voice doubled for effect, it envelopes the listener into a kind of a trance — the kind of trance where once the song ends, you have to listen to it again. And again. And again. And again…

1. “Life”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

The trance of listening to “Are You Really Real?” on repeat indefinitely can only be broken by listening to “Life” on repeat. Fact. This song is so simple, yet so poignant, and despite posing some of humanity’s common questions (“Tell me life, what are you here for?/Tell me life, I wanna know more/Tell me life, what are we here for?”), implying uncertainty and a desire to know more, the song exudes bliss. Still, when Rick asks, “Life, will you go on without me?”, in the song’s opening line, it’s sobering. Life has gone on without Rick, and it will go on one day without each of us. That last sentence looks so depressing in print, but I swear this song is not depressing. It’s beautiful, and I could listen to it all day. (Pssst, I already have.)

Oh, and check out this performance from 1972. I have no idea what the premise of this special (“Fol-de-Rol”, according to the description) was, but it features Rick as a kind of minstrel, replete with tights, so you know it’s totally worth your time.

Rick Nelson was a great artist, understated and under-appreciated. Miss him! Can’t wait to discover even more gems buried in his discography…