As technologically suspect as the crime-predicting “machine” at the heart of Person of Interest may seem, CBS’ new action-drama does plan to slowly — in keeping with the style of exec producer J.J. Abrams — shed light on how the contraption works.
“I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed,” executive producer Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight) told me at the Television Critics Association press tour, upon hearing my thought that maybe the seemingly unbelievable machine’s workings should never be referenced beyond the pilot. “Following the J.J. rules, we’ll do it one piece at a time.”
Nolan went on to say that because he, personally, is “so interested in the machine, in its inception, in how [Mr. Finch, the character played by Lost alum Michael Emerson] put it together … we’re pushing ahead and exploring a bit more of that. It gets to some of the questions of the show that I’m fascinated by.”
As established in the series’ pilot (airing Thursday, Sept. 22, at 9/8c), Finch recruits an ex-CIA spook (played by Jim Caviezel) to use his mad skills to attempt to prevent crimes, based on the lone piece of data churned out by the machine — the Social Security number of either the incident’s victim or perpetrator. As revealed by Finch in the opener, the machine — developed in the wake of 9/11 — sifts through eavesdropped phone conversations, emails and what not to predict which individual might be in harm’s way… or exacting said harm.
If Finch’s machine sounds far out, Nolan cautions that given today’s technology, “The hardware is very much in place. Everyone has a device in their pocket which the police now use, more than anything else, to determine what happened when something goes wrong — your cell phone.” In fact, as demonstrated somewhat remarkable in the POI pilot, Nolan claims that a person’s cell “is a live microphone for the government should they choose to turn it on, it’s a location tracker… We’re standing on this precipice of seeing what happens when you start harnessing all that information. Which is why [Person of Interest] is not really a science fiction show; it’s more science fact.”
Nolan, though, was quick to add on this one caveat — that any exploration of the machine’s complex workings will “not be to the exclusion of kickass explosions and amazing, soulful relationships and character moments.”