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.