My Thoughts on the Half-Season Order for ‘Person of Interest’
So, it’s been confirmed that ‘Person of Interest’ will have a 13 episode season next year, possibly its last at CBS. People are understandably upset, but I think that this may be a real opportunity in disguise for the writers. Some great writing and showrunning can come from working within limitations, and I think that with a little effort, this team can rise to the challenge. However, there is a decent amount of rethinking that needs to happen for this to succeed. They need to make this thing tight. Make it count.
Season 4 lacked the coherency of the earlier seasons, lacked the intimacy and the wonderfully simply character dynamics. By attempting to inject ‘interpersonal drama’ into the show, I think the writers did it a disservice. Facing down an AI apocalypse was more than enough, you didn’t need every character suddenly failing to be the incredible superheroes we’d seen them be before. They had challenges to equal their talents, so why were all their talents hobbled?
So, a few suggestions to make season 5 kick all the ass season 4 didn’t:
1. Both showrunners need to be 100% involved. Nolan ran off during season 4 to work on other projects, and it showed. Greg Plageman cannot hold everything together on his own. He has to cut corners and trust others to do things without supervision, and it made a lot of the episodes by the non-senior writing staff feel very flabby and sometimes out of character. So Nolan needs to be on-board. None of this half-assed shit. This is your baby, Nolan, and it may be on its last legs. Are you going to piss off and leave it floundering, or are you going to step up for those 13 episodes and make them count?
2. Do away with the fake identities. The writers were already talking about doing more with John Riley and all the alternative identities plotlines. NO. We don’t have time for John to have a girlfriend or Root to get odd jobs or Harold to grade papers, all cut off from one another. Instead of dicking around with that bullshit, start them on the run, having to literally live and exist underground. Have their surface appearances dictated by the shadow map, and anything anywhere else by ski masks. Show us why superheroes have to cover their faces, particularly in this world. Starting the team in the subway and keeping them there during their off-time is a great way to get a lot of good character interaction and downtime in without taking away from the main thrust of the plot. Do what you did in early seasons, and get the character moments in while they talk about exposition.
3. Have Fusco be their go-between with the real world, and for him to be under suspicion. Fusco had no storyline in season 4, and it was painful to see such a great character have nothing to do for an entire season. With John out of the police, and Fusco the only one of them with a legitimate identity, seeing him navigating an increasingly Orwellian world would be a very interesting way to reincorporate him into the story. Particularly if Samaritan operatives within the NYPD itself suspected him, we could get him involved in the AI plot without any rejiggering of his position in the team.
4. Bring in old Numbers. One of the biggest successes of the end of season 4 was bringing back Caleb Phipps to help. Think that, but larger. If this is to be the last season (which it might be), make it worthy. Call back to all the people John and Harold helped, and how those Irrelevant individuals can change the world by helping the team in a thousand small ways. If we don’t get Number of the Week stories, instead remind us of why all lives matter, and no one is truly irrelevant.
5. Have a plan and stick to it. No dawdling or side-paths. At the beginning of the season, Harold should have a plan to bring the Machine back and take out Samaritan. We shouldn’t necessarily know how it’s going to play out, but the characters need to ALL be in on it. Each of them needs to bring different skills and contacts to this plan, and over the course of the 13 episodes, we need to see it unfold to perfection. We are reminded that Harold is a genius, Root is a consummate infiltrator, John is a superhero, and Lionel saves the day when all hope is lost. Give us a major win in season 5. We’ve spent two seasons doing nothing but losing, and that wears on an audience. A lot of viewers lose interest if every character they used to get vicarious superhero fantasies through is a shadow of their former selves. So give us those heroes and make them amazing.
Remember, there are a lot of incredible shows that routinely only get 12-13 episode runs a season. ‘Agent Carter’ had that order, and it was possibly the best show of last season. The major British shows only get around 13 episodes per season, and many others have a 4-episode season, yet the good ones can take that limited time and make it incredible.
You can do a lot with only 13 hours, but you have to use every second. You have to know what matters, and what can be cut. You have to focus. Often, the best writing comes from limitations. ‘Person of Interest’ has been given a limitation, now it’s time to see them rise to that challenge.