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Person of Interest revisits its roots

March 12, 2013

Harold Finch in what can best be described as being completely out of his comfort zone.

Just a friendly warning up front, this article totally spoils the most recent episode of Person of Interest.  I’ve already written before about how PoI is based upon the old pulp hero The Shadow.  In last weeks episode, titled Proteus, the series returns to that classic era for inspiration.  This episode was pretty unique in that it took the cast outside of their normal Manhattan setting.  The set-up is that the team is chasing down a serial killer that assumes the identity of his victims.  This leads them to an island on the eastern end of Long Island just as storm hits, washing out the only bridge to the mainland, killing the island’s power, and effectively isolating John and Harold at the local sheriff’s station along with a handful of other people one of whom they know has to be the killer.

It’s a claustrophobic setting which got me thinking of my friend Vince Rotolo at the Bmoviecast as I know he is fond of stories like these.  This was also my first hint as to what the deal with this episode was.  The classic movie to feature this sort of enclosed environment is the 1951 film The Thing from Another World which Vince covered not too long ago on the podcast.  This film was based upon the famous 1938 Astounding Stories novella Who Goes There? written by, then editor, John W. Campbell.  In 1982 director John Carpenter made his version of The Thing that was more true to the original story.  Getting back to Person of Interest, what really locked things in for me was a scene where John and Harold discover a burning pile identification papers which makes them realize that their “monster” has destroyed its previous identity to completely hide itself in its new one.  This particular scene must have been shot in way that mimicked a similar one in The Thing, where the characters would find a destroyed set of clothing that meant their monster had just taken over another member of the base’s crew, because this scene immediately reminded me of the Carpenter film.  The finishing touch that confirmed every thing for me was a when Detective Carter, one of Harold’s agents, tries to contact the sheriff over the station’s radio which is, of course, garbled by the storm.  This leads to the sheriff approaching Harold saying that someone was trying to contact him but, she couldn’t quite make out the name.  Maybe it was Campbell or Carpenter?

As odd as this episode was for Person of Interest it completely worked for me.  Even without noticing the references to the story on which it was based, I thing the episode was really quite effective.  And even though it was outside of the regular arc, it did manage to put some pieces in to move this season’s arc about the machine itself forward.  The homage to the classic pulp era SF story was just a perfect icing on the cake.  For those who want to read the original Who Goes There?, which I highly recommend, the story is conveniently available on the web here.


From → Random Thoughts

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