Person of Interest Season 3 Premiere Review: This Week On NCIS: POI...

By Tim Surette

Sep 25, 2013

Person of Interest S03E01: "Liberty" 

Reese and Finch are back! And they're back rather... unspectacularly. Person of Interest returned for its third season with an episode that was as plain as can be, an odd way to kick off what should be a very important season for a series that last season propelled itself toward becoming one of TV's most-watched shows. As opposed to its transition from Season 1 to Season 2, the Season 3 premiere didn't have a big cliffhanger to work with, and seemed more resigned to just get right back to business rather than work on all that mythology that Season 2 had built up. Okay, fine. But aside from a few check-ins with Root and one awesome fake Amish beard for Fusco, "Liberty" was pretty standard procedural stuff.

Perhaps Person of Interest wanted to ease viewers into the new partnership that's sure to irk some viewers, so "Liberty" played it safe. Samantha Shaw, like Sarah Shahi who plays her, is now a regular member of the crew, even though she's technically still a free agent. In fact, when the episode began, she was running her own assignment with Finch while Reese managed his own operation. From a pure adrenaline standpoint, this was cool stuff: Reese shot up the inside of a van full of kidnappers in Person of Interest's typical "show less and let our imaginations take care of the rest" fashion and Shaw rose up from a horse-and-buggy above an alarmed and undercover Fusco to lay waste to some mystery thugs in Central Park. All in a night's work of littering the streets of New York with dead or crippled bad guys! You'd think the authorities would be concerned about so much ongoing mayhem and carnage, but hey, that wouldn't be as fun. 

The question heading into Season 2 wasn't whether seeing Shaw and Reese shoot up gangs of baddies would be awesome, because it always will be; it was whether adding Shaw to the team would disrupt Reese and Finch's chemistry and partnership, the backbone of Person of Interest. And based on "Liberty," yeah, it's going shake things up a little. That's too bad, because I adore Shaw. Who doesn't love a hottie who gets a boner over heavy-duty sniper rifles and eats steak that's impaled on a knife like it's cotton candy? Shaw's presence overshadowed Finch's during the episode's main mission, which isn't what we're used to, and it undermined the great brains-and-brawn and eye-in-the-sky-and-beef-on-the-groud dynamics that worked so well in Person of Interest's first two seasons. 

I don't think this is a permanent problem. Person of Interest just needs to figure out how to use her better, and that starts with not taking responsibility and importance away from Finch. However, from the writers' point of view, they have a tall task ahead of them and establishing Shaw as a big part of the team is a number-one priority, so why not have her make some big moves on her first night out? Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I liked what she did with the popsicle and the foil wrapper in taking out the sniper. Her knowledge of military tactics seemed a natural fit to solve the problem of where a sniper would be stationed, and with Reese using the foil to blind the sharpshooter, she was able to bop him on the head and take him out. 

But she also saw those Russian gunmen on the second floor of the pawn shop and warned Reese, who was below. How about having Finch and The Machine ID those gunmen and tell Shaw to take 'em out? Everyone is happy in that scenario; Shaw gets her kills and Finch doesn't seem like a guy who's just really good at Googling things back at HQ. I love Shaw and her personality, but her presence pushed Finch out of the way a bit, which also meant that The Machine slid back a bit more, too. Aside from compiling that video loop of Reese to fool some bad guys, Finch mostly played dispatcher. At least he got a Boilermaker at the end. But the less Finch we see, the worse off Person of Interest will be. That's a fact.

As for the mission itself, the number of the week belonged to a Navy shipman named Jack who was onshore for Fleet Week. He inadvertently got mixed up in some diamond-smuggling when his trouble-finding friend R.J. grabbed a few uncut diamonds from a group of Force Recon Marines, which is apparently a real thing and which means these dudes were super tough. The diamonds ended up in Jack's possession, and the "Devil Dogs," as they're known, wanted their diamonds back or they were going to blow up R.J. with an iBomb. I'm going to skip most of the details because guess what? The team saved R.J. and Jack got to go back to the Navy and pursue a career in the military. Other than that, there's isn't much to say about the case. 

The biggest change for any character came with Detective Carter, who's been demoted all the way down to beat cop (she does look good in the NYPD blues, though!). Aesthetically it's a big change, but right now it appears that her new situation won't affect her relationship with Reese and Finch very much. In fact, if anything, she's more of a man on the inside who can move quietly behind the scenes. Having both Fusco and Carter as detectives was kind of redundant, and stripping Carter of her job gives her more time to pursue other avenues in her off-time. You know, like making information boards with the strings and pictures of criminals and old newspaper clippings in her closet so that she can take down HR. I'm cool with this; Carter has been needing something to do on her own other than be Reese's gofer. It also looks like Carter will be the big liaison between Elias and the group this season, as Reese and Finch are too busy to pay their old friend a visit in person. 

The only element of the episode that touched on Person of Interest's fascinating mythology was the update on Root. She and her crazy eyes were locked in a loony bin because she says stuff like, "The truth is God is 11 years old and she was born in Manhattan. And she chose me." You and I know she's talking about The Machine, but to everyone else? Cuckoo! But unlike the other crazies in the psycho ward, her line of communication with God is getting her cold, hard facts. Like details exposing her psychiatrist as a pervert who frequents rub-and-tugs. And her dialogue with The Machine goes further than gossip. She's actually conversing with the computer box, having arguments over procedure and protocol. Like whether or not to kill the psychiatrist (I am assuming Root is pro, The Machine is nay). 

The final graphic of The Machine showing a decision tree with probabilities of outcomes showed that The Machine isn't done increasing its artificial intelligence. The bag o' bolts has come a long way since sorting through numbers, and is ever so close to actual thinking and reasoning. THIS IS GOING TO BE SUPERCOOL, GUYS!

As much as I loved hearing Reese's wisecracks and seeing him act supercool in tense times, "Liberty" was a letdown for a series premiere. With "Liberty," I think we saw a season debut that tried to accommodate its new time slot rather than forge ahead as its own show. Person of Interest is now on Tuesday nights and partnered up with a pair of NCIS shows, and I assume the season premiere was designed to welcome the series to the new neighborhood and siphon some of that massive NCIS audience. How else could you explain the Navy storyline and rather procedural-y season opener? Creatively, I don't think it helped things at all. But hopefully we got it out of the way and Person of Interest can go back to being Person of Interest and not NCIS: POI


– I'm going with the theory that the Navy storyline was built in as a flimsy attempt to draw some of the leftover NCIS crowd, now that Person of Interest airs on Tuesday nights and follows both NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. And from a business standpoint, it was a huge mistake. It didn't work... at all. Person of Interest hit a series low (a series low!!!) in the key demo last night, netting only a 2.3 rating among those under 50, down from the 2.9 it scored at the onset of Season 2. This is baaaaaaad. How does a show hit a series low in a season premiere? Especially against Chicago Fire and Lucky 7

– Who is Elias's little bitch-boy? Have we met him before? Or is he just the guy behind the guy who does the dirty work and who serves as Elias's connection to the outside world? 

– I wish we had seen a little more of the government side of things.

– Did anyone else think that dirty guy in the first bar brawl looked like a young version of Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V? Or have I been playing too much Grand Theft Auto V? Ha, kidding, there is no such thing as playing too much Grand Theft Auto V.

– The humor was mostly anchored by Reese, who was great through and through. When he walked into the 15-gun standoff in the pawn shop and said, "I'm sorry, are you guys closed?," it was vintage cheesy Reese. Love that!

– Shaw was also not short on zingers, and her back-and-forth with Reese is great. I liked how bummed she was that she didn't get to use that big gun. "Aww, it's a shame to waste a rifle like this on kneecaps."

– Hey, Bear! Too bad he didn't get to do much.

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  • tornoofo17 Sep 25, 2014

    Damn. I really liked this episode and I've seen it a couple times, but I had no idea that this was the season premiere. It's a mid-season ep at best.

  • MightyMad Oct 01, 2013

    – Who is Elias's little bitch-boy? Have we met him before? Or is he just the guy behind the guy who does the dirty work and who serves as Elias's connection to the outside world?

    Tim... that guy has been there since season 1. Are you losing it, buddy?
    Gonna put this as lost memory caused by to much time spend playing GTA5. But get your sh*t together soon, dude.

  • 515DuMont Sep 30, 2013

    POI meets The Unit... Devil Dogs, blood diamonds, Max Martini still in character, I was expecting Snake Doctor(Dennis Haysbert) to walk in during the fence deal. Like POI, The Unit premise was making headlines. It also had a highly acclaimed black actress(Regina Taylor) as a lead. The Unit kinda lost its way with the story lines(especially the sub-plots with the wives) hope this isn't an omen. If the navy poi was a way for the NCIS viewers to relate to POI, then why wasn't The Big Bang Theory used to help POI on thursdays? POI is always being hustled at the comic-cons, Sheldon and his boys are into the AI, super hero comics and such... TBBT could've done a story line about meeting the cast of POI... have Howard try to impress Taraji by singing It's Hard Out There For A Pimp(there's a you-tube clip of her saying fans have done that to her.) Other than that great start to the season.

  • Whatifnuts Sep 29, 2013

    I really liked the episode. Yes there are things that could have been better. Less Root as in nothing would have been a good thing for me. I love Amy Acker I just can't stand her in this show. I think she was miscast but I'm probably in the minority. So if she gets much attention in each episode I have a sad feeling the show will become a chore to watch. At least some of it. Reese kicking ass will never become a chore.
    But I did love that Fusco was a part of saving the asset and also love the Shaw and Reese partnership. Could have been more Finch but I'm okay with him taking the back seat for a short while. I do hope it will get back to normal quickly. And please more Bear.
    I also really liked the Carter part - both the scene with her and Elias as I also like him but also the scene at home.
    So welcome back POI. Nice to see you.

  • 515DuMont Sep 29, 2013

  • Geertvdheide Sep 28, 2013

    POI always dispenses its mythology in small pieces, and it's not unusual for a few episodes in a row to feature little or nothing regarding the main story. But to have a season premiere so devoid of big reveals or advancements of the overarching plot, was a little disappointing. The show has earned a lot of credit though, and I expect the myth-to-standalone ratio will be fine going forward. I'm also confident the writers will find a good way to incorporate shaw in balance with the rest of the team. Both the character and the actress work well for the show; she can be way more than a beauty for the ratings. Can't wait till the next episode.

  • Amongster Sep 28, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed the episode. I thought it was classic POI, whilst at the same time foreshadowing of what is to come (The Machine’s third agenda, PRISM, etc). Finch: “Whatever else its (The Machine) been up to is almost too troubling to contemplate” and “I have a feeling things are about to get more complicated.” Seeds have been planted; now to watch it grow over the course of the season.

    Welcome back POI. Welcome back. You’ve been missed.

  • Glenn9999 Sep 28, 2013

    One reason for the "subdued" nature of the premiere to remember is that they blew off almost all their "mythology" storyline questions at the end of last season. As I rewatched the Season 2 finale on DVD, I can't think of many questions that are brought into this season compared to last (or even a mid-season show).

    • Root's in the mental institution and The Machine (emancipated) called.
    • Carter got framed and is off on the run with Elias.
    • Hersh and the old woman in the limo.
    We knew the numbers would return since there would be a new season, so this is pretty much the list. The first two got entered into, as watchers of this episode know, but we need to be patient and see what they create. We know the second eventually has to lead to the complete end of HR, so all we need to do is strap in and wait on that one.

    Then to address the new series regulars, keep in mind that they've casted many actors in periodic roles over the past two years. This means they really can't hold onto them for anything other than what they contract with the actors for. This also means that they can't stop an actor from leaving if a better deal comes along. All they can do is say "congratulations" and scrap whatever plans they had and be quick about writing them out. The abrupt ends of former agents Stanton and Snow come to mind here (I would love to know what they would have done if they had those two as long as they liked).

    So, having this happen, and being in the position of casting, you really have to hold onto the actors you have big plans for to prevent them from taking off. So they probably had to take the tactic of making them series regulars (maybe for a season or two?) until they finish their plans. That might mean shoehorning them unnecessarily into a few episodes to justify the label, but it's probably a compromise they have to make to hold onto the talent.

    That said, it is amazing that they held onto Amy Acker and Enrico Colantoni for as long as they have.

  • ninjadent Sep 27, 2013

    I really don't like the Smug faced Shaw , she destroys the chemistry of the show . Zoe could have been a much better addition. And where is Bear ?

  • Blooner Sep 27, 2013

    Note that The Machine seems to have a relatively risk-prone outcome weighting at the moment when it comes to Root (a.k.a "Analog Interface").
    Keeping her in play to attempt to activate her as an asset is currently yielding the following predictions:

    28.41% chance of asset activation
    12.66% chance of Root dying
    40.04% chance of violence (1.12% of which ends in global thermonuclear war)
    With the remaining 18.89% unknown

    Now obviously getting Root in play as an ally to the Machine's goals would be highly beneficial, but weight that against global thermonuclear war and you have to doubt the cost of error allocation matrix that The Machine is using.

  • BobTFish Sep 27, 2013

    haha, I wonder if the machine considers that a risk worth taking. Not sure Harold would agree. Also 40.04% of violence in relation to Root seems very low

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