Person of Interest: It's Getting Smarter!

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Person of Interest computer

Do NOT F with Reese, even when he's on crutches! That's lesson number one. But more importantly, Person of Interest is doing some really, really cool things with themes of privacy, technology, and good old-fashioned ass-beating. CBS's new drama has been pretty terrific all season long because it benefits from a clear sense of what it is and what it's about, and all the while has building an intriguing story with interesting characters. Last night's episode, "Super", continued this, and gave us a flashback for one of the show's coolest characters: Finch's computer code, which we lovingly refer to as the program, computer, or machine.

What other show out there would devote a flashback to a computer? You can argue that the trips back to 2005 were about Finch and his former boss Nathan, but my takeaway was understanding how far the computer has progressed and where it will go next. Computer back in '05 wasn't nearly the slick machine it is today; we saw that in the cool interstitials. Now it's generating three-dimensional wireframes of buildings and tracking people, even keeping tabs on its partners Reese and Finch. Before, it used voice recognition (and gait analysis!) to spit out information on people in DOS-style font. Now it's registering audio, tapping cell phones (it even has the decency to block out the whole phone number), and updating threat analysis in real time. It's getting smarter every day and becoming more of a character with each episode. This kind of stuff gets me very, very excited.

But any show can make a super-smart computer program that can spy on the population and identify potential threats and victims. What Person of Interest does differently is show us how that kind of technology relates to the two characters who rely on it. It also shows how the information the machine processes and spits out is useless without the right people to process it. I absolutely loved the mini-program microcosm Finch and Reese set up in the apartments by hacking the building's Wi-Fi networks and the hare-brained hypotheses the dynamic duo came up with as they tried to analyze the information they were receiving from spying on the tenants (especially the hot girl doing yoga). It all added up to character development... for a computer. Finch and Reese and the computer are in this together, and they're all integral parts of their operation.

Person of Interest computer

Sorry about all that dorking out over a fake computer becoming the Third Amigo. The episode's main story involved a superintendent of an apartment building, played by Dexter's David Zayas, expanding the series' impressive guest list. It was one of those "He's the bad guy he's the bad guy he's the bad guy oops he's not the bad guy!" cases-of-the-week, which is fine by me because most of the cases are merely there to supplement the main characters, backstories, and overarching themes. Unless a case is particularly interesting, I won't talk about it in these reviewcapanalysis stories, and this episode's case doesn't merit a lot of time. All you need to know is that in the end they got the bad guy, a pretty boy stalker with a violent streak toward women. Oh, and that he was thrown out of the window by a guy (Reese) on crutches .

It was really fun to watch a laid-up Reese and Finch swap places. Anytime Finch goes out into the field, things are going to be entertaining, and seeing a wheelchair-bound Reese go stir crazy in the apartment while peeping through binoculars at various tenants (Rear Window homage to the max) was like watching an indoor cat paw at the window. The show's subtle sense of humor continues to impress. How funny was it to see Reese in a wheelchair and wielding a hammer while his sink gushed like a geyser?

Person of Interest computer

Carter also made some serious progress in figuring out what Reese and Finch are up to, thanks to Finch "throwing her into the deep end of the pool." He essentially handed her one of the computer's numbers, and she became witness to their little game in person. "That, Detective Carter, is what we do," Finch said as she cuffed the perp and had no choice but to become a believer. Badass. She'll be part of the team in no time.

But before I wrap things up here, let's talk some more about the flashbacks. In addition to seeing a lot of computer backstory, we saw more of Nathan brokering deals with the government on behalf of his company, which was developing the machine. He offered to sell the program to the NSA for the price of an item at a dollar store, but never revealed why. And the biggest reveal came at the end of the episode (this show has GREAT endings, doesn't it?), when the good old computer, in 2005, typed out the words: "Possible Threat Detected. Subject: Ingram, Nathan C." right after Ingram referred to the computer as "a thing" and Finch talked about the machine's knack for self-preservation and warned him "Be careful, it can hear you." Oh. Shit. We know Ingram is dead in the present (remember his bust in the lobby of Finch's building in Episode 2?), and it looks like we'll find out how he died pretty soon. And it's probably not too farfetched to assume Finch had something to do with it, and may have gotten his trademark limp in the process.

Also, did the computer just feel threatened? Is this thing sentient? Is it beta SkyNet? Did the computer mean that Nathan was a threat to itself, or was it just crunching numbers and determining that Nathan might be the next Person of Interest? We need to discuss this in the comments, guys.

"Super" was a fantastic midseason return, and Person of Interest continues to open new doors at a perfect pace.

Person of Interest computer

Notes:

– Michael Kelly as the CIA guy is great. He's such a dick. "Coffee is for closers."

– Some more surprisingly funny lines of dialogue:

Finch: "Random alpha-numerics. You gotta love a girl with security habits."

Reese, pointing to his wheelchair: "We need to do some legwork."

– Speaking of Reese's wheelchair, I'm glad the producers didn't just have Reese walking around all healthy after getting shot. This show is treating us with respect.

– Do you think the computer is at all sentient?

– Are you telling all your friends to watch this show, or what?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom