Person of Interest (TV series)

Person of Interest

Season 4 and 5 intertitle
Genre Crime drama
Science fiction
Created by Jonathan Nolan
Composer(s) Ramin Djawadi
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 103 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Athena Wickham
  • Margot Lulick
  • Kathy Lingg
  • Stephen Semel
  • Erik Mountain
Location(s) New York City, New York
  • Scott Lerner
  • Scott Powell
  • Ryan Malanaphy
  • Ray Daniels III
  • Mark Conte
Running time 43 minutes
Production company(s) Bad Robot Productions
Kilter Films
Warner Bros. Television
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Original release September 22, 2011 (2011-09-22) – June 21, 2016 (2016-06-21)
External links

Person of Interest is an American science fiction crime drama[1] television series that aired on CBS from September 22, 2011,[2] to June 21, 2016,[3] over five seasons, comprising a total of 103 episodes. Person of Interest was created by Jonathan Nolan, and executive produced by Nolan, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Greg Plageman, Denise Thé, and Chris Fisher.

Person of Interest centers on John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a presumed-dead former CIA agent who is hired by a mysterious billionaire named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), to prevent impending violent crimes predicted by the Machine, a mass-surveillance computer system that relays the identity of a single person predicted to be the crime victim or perpetrator. Their efforts to covertly infiltrate the lives of their targets and mete out their particular brand of justice attracts the attention of two NYPD officers: Jocelyn "Joss" Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), both of whom Reese uses to his advantage during his investigations. Reese and Finch are later aided by Samantha "Root" Groves (Amy Acker), a highly intelligent computer hacker and contract killer whom the Machine later designates as its "analog interface" with administrative access, and Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi), a former ISA assassin who dealt with the "relevant" (terrorism-related) targets unknowingly fed to her by the Machine.

The series received a highly positive reception from critics, including an increase in acclaim when the series introduced more serialized storylines and deepened its exploration of artificial intelligence in later seasons.


"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered 'irrelevant'. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you".

Season one opening voice-over by Harold Finch[4]

John Reese, a former Green Beret/Delta Force operator and CIA operative, is burnt out and living as a vagrant in New York City after the death of the woman he loved; he is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire software genius who is living under an assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using the repertoire of skills he gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security numbers of those who will be involved in imminent crimes, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what any crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.

They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco, a corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter, who in early episodes investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Reese arranges for Fusco to spy on Carter by becoming her partner, but Carter eventually becomes Reese's ally and drops her investigation on him. Nevertheless, for the entirety of season one neither Fusco nor Carter is aware that the other is also working with Finch and Reese and both detectives are kept in the dark about the Machine. Periodically, the team enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan, a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers who are initially in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias and later with the Russian mafia; in earlier parts of this arc, Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important story line revolves around Root, a psychopathic hacker who is determined to gain access to The Machine. During season two, another organization of powerful business figures, Decima Technologies, is revealed to be attempting to gain access to the Machine. Carter vows vengeance against HR after they have her boyfriend, Detective Cal Beecher, murdered. Reese and Finch encounter Sameen Shaw, an ISA assassin, on the run after being betrayed by her employers. Shaw learns about The Machine in the season two finale and subsequently becomes a member of Reese and Finch's team. In Season three, Carter delves deeper into her investigation of HR, eventually uncovering its leader; but she is killed. In his grief, Reese briefly leaves the team. The team also battles Vigilance, a violent anti-government organization devoted to securing people's privacy. During the second half of season three, Decima Technologies starts to acquire hardware to bring to life a new artificial intelligence called Samaritan, using the code from Harold's old college classmate, Arthur Claypool. In the season three finale, it is revealed that Vigilance was created by Decima to make them appear as domestic terrorists. This allowed Decima to obtain all the NSA feeds to make Samaritan operational. The Machine creates new identities for the Team so that they can fly beneath Samaritan's radar.

The Machine

The Machine is an artificially intelligent mass surveillance system that is able to accurately predict premeditated violent crime by monitoring and analyzing all surveillance cameras and electronic communications worldwide. It divides those crimes based on whether they are relevant to national security; those relevant cases are handled by the U.S. government, while the non-relevant cases in New York City are the focus of the show. Built by Harold Finch following the events of 9/11, it was originally housed in two unoccupied floors of IFT, the company run by Harold and Nathan Ingram (his best friend from college). When Finch discovered that the Machine was tracking all premeditated crimes (episode 2, "Ghosts"), he programmed it to delete the personal, non-relevant cases every night at midnight, explaining to Ingram that the Machine is not built "to save somebody, we built it to save everybody." When delivered to the government, the finished Machine was installed in a fake nuclear reactor in Washington State. During season two, it moved itself, piece by piece, to an unknown location or locations, and by the end of season four it is shown to have distributed itself to control boxes on utility poles throughout the U.S.

An intense believer in privacy rights, Finch originally programmed the Machine so that it would be a complete black box, able to provide only the Social Security Number of people involved with the crime. While this meant that the government was not able to use it without regard for privacy, it means that numbers Finch and his associates received could belong to a victim or a perpetrator. Originally unknown to Finch, however, Nathan Ingram created a routine called "Contingency", on the eve of the government handover, to access the non-relevant data (shown accessed in the season 2 episode "Zero Day”). Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent directly to him and shuts down the routine, before reactivating it after Ingram's death. To minimize detectability, The Machine feeds him numbers in coded messages through public telephones.

Within the ISA, the program responsible for The Machine was known as Northern Lights before—after being leaked to the public, Northern Lights was shut down. The private technology firm Decima Technologies steals a hard drive containing code from a separate artificial intelligence, Samaritan, which was commissioned by the ISA as a contingency in case Northern Lights/The Machine became unavailable. In season three, Samaritan is built by Decima, and replaces Northern Lights in supplying information to the government. Samaritan takes a much more active role in shaping society, and The Machine and its human associates go underground, spending season four under cover.

Much of the series is from the point of view of the Machine: scene transitions are framed as video feeds of surveillance camera footage and satellite imagery, and flashbacks as the Machine reviewing past tapes in real time. In the Machine-generated perspective, individuals are marked by dashed boxes with different colors indicating the person’s status in relation to The Machine and whether they pose a threat. Season four features Samaritan’s point of view, using a different UI—though some episodes jump back and forth between the two UIs. Over the course of the series, the internal "thought processes" of The Machine are shown, including the prediction models and probability trees it uses.

The Machine in its current iteration started running on January 1, 2002, following 42 failed attempts. During the season four episode "Prophets", a previous generation of The Machine's source code was shown on screen, which was that of the Stuxnet worm. It generated the first relevant number on February 8, 2005, following three years of training by Finch.

Near the end of season five, after Root's death, The Machine chooses Root as its voice and begins guiding Finch to destroy Samaritan using the Ice-9 computer virus which will destroy the Machine as well. Ice-9 destroys both Samaritan and the Machine, but a copy of the Machine is uploaded to a satellite to destroy a Samaritan copy. A week after Samaritan's destruction, the Machine returns to Earth to continue its work through Shaw.


Initially developed by Arthur Claypool (a former MIT classmate of Finch and Ingram) at the NSA, the project was closed down by the government when the Machine was developed first. Later it was resurrected by Decima and adopted by the U.S. government as a replacement for the Machine.

Unlike the Machine, Samaritan is an open system and can be directed at specific targets. It is very aggressive and often orders the elimination of persons (labeled "Deviants") that it considers threats to the U.S. or itself. It identifies a group of several hundred individuals (including Elias and Dominic) that will prevent its plans and sends agents to kill them all in an operation called "The Correction".

Although nominally under Greer's control, Greer wants to allow Samaritan to reshape the world and guide humanity. Season 4 shows Samaritan gaining power and building a global network of agents and companies while seeking to find and eliminate the Machine and Finch's team. Samaritan has agents within the ISA (and possibly other agencies) and (according to Greer) has rigged at least 58 national and state elections in the U.S. to position its favored candidates. In season 5, Greer states that Samaritan is beyond his control and he sees it as the next level of evolution.

In ".exe", Finch uploads the deadly Ice-9 computer virus to Samaritan. The virus destroys the main Samaritan program, while also causing significant damage to global infrastructure. Samaritan's last backup, hosted in an orbiting satellite, is eliminated when Reese uploads a copy of the Machine to the same satellite.

Cast and characters


Left to right: Jim Caviezel (Reese), Michael Emerson (Finch), and Kevin Chapman (Fusco)
Sarah Shahi (Shaw) and Amy Acker (Root)
Reese is presumed dead following a mission in Ordos, China. Little is known about Reese's background and his name is one of several aliases that he uses. He lost his lover Jessica Arndt prior to meeting Finch, which appears to have marked him deeply. Reese demonstrates skill in the use of a range of weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and counter-surveillance tactics. He knows very little about Finch and often is rebuffed when he attempts to learn more about him. The Machine identifies Reese as its "primary asset." In the series finale "return 0", Reese sacrifices himself to allow the Machine to destroy Samaritan.
His real name is unknown and he has many aliases (most commonly Harold Wren), using various species of birds as the last name. Finch has developed a machine that can isolate the Social Security numbers of people with either premeditated homicidal intent or who will be homicide victims, based on its analysis of surveillance data. He recruits Reese to help him deal with the people that the Machine identifies, following a traumatic event in his own life that led to the death of his business partner and close friend Nathan Ingram. For the first three seasons, Finch lives and works in an abandoned library and, beginning with season four, in an abandoned subway stop. Finch shows the results of severe physical injuries, including a rigid posture, and a limp. Finch cares for Bear, a Belgian Malinois dog with military training. The Machine identifies Finch as its "admin." At the end of the series finale, Finch is presumed dead by Shaw and Fusco, yet is actually alive and meets his fiancee who thought he was dead.
Carter is a former U.S. Army interrogation officer who passed the bar exam in 2004, but gave up practicing the law to return to police work. Carter first crosses paths with Reese following his encounter with a group of young men on a New York subway, but knew him principally as a mysterious man in a suit. Carter is initially determined to apprehend Reese, but eventually forms an alliance with him and Finch. In the season 3 episode "The Crossing", she becomes aware of the Machine's existence and is later gunned down by Officer Patrick Simmons, HR's second-in-command.
Finch later arranges for Fusco to be transferred to Carter's precinct so that he works alongside her. Over time, Fusco becomes increasingly loyal to Finch and Reese, as he stops being a corrupt cop, although he continues to keep a secret regarding the death of a cop involved with HR. Fusco and Carter become aware of their mutual membership on Finch's team in the season 1 finale "Firewall". Fusco is not aware of the Machine's existence until Reese finally tells him in the season 5 episode "Sotto Voce". Like Reese and Shaw, Fusco is now identified as a "primary asset".
Root has a highly keen interest in both Finch and the Machine. Her real name is Samantha "Sam" Groves. First a genius hacker and killer obsessed by the Machine, she becomes a crucial ally for the team with The Machine adopting her as its "analog interface" and using her as its agent for missions of unknown purposes, as well as an intermediary between itself and individuals with whom it wishes to communicate. Among her numerous false identities, she uses the name of Augusta King, the first programmer in the world. In "The Day the World Went Away", Root is shot by Samaritan operative Jeff Blackwell and dies at the hospital. The Machine later chooses her voice to speak to Finch. In "return 0", the Machine appears in the form of Root while musing with Finch about human life and guiding Reese in battling Samaritan agents.
Shaw unknowingly deals with the "relevant" numbers from the Machine. She later becomes an ally of Reese and Finch. She claims that she has an Axis II personality disorder, making her unable to feel and/or express common human emotions like fear or sadness. The Machine identifies Shaw as one of its "primary assets". During the course of the series, she develops a close relationship with Root. In "return 0", the Machine continues its work through Shaw and Fusco after the death of Reese and the retirement of Finch following the war with Samaritan.


The Government

The following characters are tied to a government project related to the development and use of the Machine:



The following characters are involved in the HR storyline, in which a group of corrupt police officers work to control organized crime in New York:


The following characters are part of Reese's backstory relating to his time with the CIA:

Decima Technologies

The following characters are involved in the Decima Technologies storyline, a shadowy organization that is in possession of the Samaritan AI:

The Brotherhood

The following characters are involved in the Brotherhood drug gang storyline:


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
123September 22, 2011 (2011-09-22)May 17, 2012 (2012-05-17)
222September 27, 2012 (2012-09-27)May 9, 2013 (2013-05-09)
323September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24)May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13)
422September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23)May 5, 2015 (2015-05-05)
513May 3, 2016 (2016-05-03)June 21, 2016 (2016-06-21)


Michael Emerson filming Person of Interest in New York

The series was officially picked up by CBS on May 13, 2011,[5] and debuted on September 22, 2011.[6] On October 25, 2011, the show received a full season order.[7] It was renewed for a second season on March 14, 2012, by CBS, which premiered on September 27, 2012.[8] CBS renewed Person of Interest for a third season on March 27, 2013,[9] with Sarah Shahi[10] and Amy Acker promoted to series regulars.[11] The series was renewed for a fourth season on March 13, 2014,[12] and was renewed for its fifth and final season on May 11, 2015.[3][13] ADR recording for the series was done at recording studio Cherry Beach Sound.[14] The music is composed by Ramin Djawadi.[15] The first season soundtrack was released on November 12, 2012.[16] The second soundtrack was released on January 21, 2014.[17] The third soundtrack, which contained music from the third and fourth season was released on January 29, 2016.[18]


According to CBS, Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years,[19] what one CBS executive called "crazy broad appeal you don't usually see", prompting CBS to move CSI, which was broadcast on Thursday for over 10 years, to Wednesday, opening up a slot for Person of Interest.[20] The pilot episode won its time slot, drawing 13.2 million viewers.[21]

Critical reception

The first season of Person of Interest received generally positive reviews, with the pilot episode drawing a favorable response from critics and later episodes receiving higher praise. On Metacritic, the season scored a 65 out of 100. Of the pilot, David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said "Person of Interest separates itself from the gimmick pack, not only because of superbly nuanced characterization and writing but also because of how it engages a post-9/11 sense of paranoia in its viewers."[22] David Hinckley of the New York Daily News gave the pilot four stars out of five, commenting on Caviezel's and Emerson's performances, saying Caviezel "brings the right stuff to this role" and Emerson "is fascinating as Mr. Finch."[23] Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times stated that in regard to the pilot, "the notion of preventing crimes rather than solving them is an appealing twist... The surveillance graphics are very cool."[2] The episodes "Many Happy Returns" and the finale "Firewall" were particularly acclaimed. Tim Surette of called the former one of the series' "best episodes", commending Caviezel's performance and the episode's character exploration,[24] while the latter was called "exactly what a season finale should be", with Surette concluding his review by saying "'Firewall' was a spectacular finish to what has been an incredibly surprising first season of Person of Interest."[25]

The second season received highly positive reviews. Surette praised the premiere episode as "vintage Person of Interest amplified, showing off its trademark combination of complex intrigue, creative action, and clever innovation in bigger ways than ever before." He praised guest star Ken Leung's character as "one of the greatest POIs the series has had" and praised the episode's overall narrative, as well as the flashbacks.[26] "Prisoner's Dilemma" and "Relevance" were the two highest-rated episodes of the season, with Surette calling the former "as complete an episode of Person of Interest as there's ever been"[27] and The A.V. Club's Phil Dyess-Nugent praising Jonathan Nolan's directorial work in the latter.[28] The season finale "God Mode" also attracted positive reactions. Nugent called it an "unapologetically kick-ass episode" with some "terrific action set-pieces".[29] The episode "2πR", meanwhile, garnered 16.23 million views, making it the most watched episode in the series to date.

The third season received critical acclaim, and is noteworthy for drawing in more critics for its exploration of artificial intelligence, as well as its timely storytelling format. In regards to the season, Slant Magazine said that the show "is at its best when sticking to cutting-edge topics" and called it a "solid action-thriller that intersperses twist-filled standalone episodes into its season-long arcs."[30] The A.V. Club said that the show captures the "national post-post-9/11 mood"[31] and that with the mid-season arc in season three, "turns conspiracy theory into art".[32] The season's two story arcs both received a considerable amount of praise: the two episodes ending the HR storyline are commonly considered to be some of the best episodes of Person of Interest. Matt Fowler of IGN gave "The Crossing" a 10 out of 10, reacting extremely positively to the cliffhanger at the ending.[33] The episode to follow, "The Devil's Share", was the most acclaimed episode of the season, being praised for its opening sequence, its writing, Chris Fisher's direction, and the acting performances, especially those by Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman. Surette called the episode a "stunner" and declared it as the series' possible best episode, praising the opening sequence as the "greatest sequence the series ever put together", feeling it succeeded in eclipsing the devastation induced by Carter's death. Surette also praised Fusco's effectiveness and character development in the episode, as well naming the cinematography and direction to be the best of the series, and identifying points of symbolism in the episode he felt were noteworthy and effective.[34] Fowler gave the episode an "amazing" rating of a 9.3 out of 10, also praising the opening sequence, as well as the flashbacks and the ending scene.[35] Phil Dyess-Nugent of The A.V. Club gave the episode a perfect A rating, praising the atmosphere of grief the episode built and feeling Fusco's character development served as an appropriate tribute to Carter.[36] Sean McKenna of TV Fanatic called the opening sequence "brilliant",[37] while Courtney Vaudreuil of TV Equals praised the ending.[38]

The fourth season has received critical acclaim, with critics praising the thematic value of the Samaritan storyline. The episode "If-Then-Else" garnered near-unanimous praise from critics and audiences alike, with many considering the episode to be the best entry in the series. Fowler gave the episode a perfect rating of 10 out 10, indicating it to a "masterpiece", and praised the simulation format, the action scenes, the emotional value, and the ending. He called the episode "next-level inventive" and a "jolting, exciting, heart-wrenching episode". Fowler said the ending scene "crushed" him, and he also offered praise to the significance of the flashbacks to the chess games.[39] Alexa Planje of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A rating, and in her review, said that though the task of executing a story structured like "If-Then-Else" was difficult, the episode did so "elegantly" - she cited the "interesting score, vibrant color work, and humor" as the key elements. Planje said the episode "aces every scenario" during the simulation segments, and appreciated how the episode transformed itself from what appeared to be a "standard mission-focused story" into a "moving ode" to Shaw. She also praised the episode's exploration of the parallels between being a human and being a machine.[40] Shant Istamboulian of Entertainment Weekly lauded Emerson's performance in the flashbacks and felt the season marked the series' "creative peak". He concluded by saying "Moving like a rocket, this episode is fast, funny, exciting, and, ultimately, sad, ending with what seems like the loss of another team member. We’ll have to wait until next week for the outcome, but as it stands, “If-Then-Else” is an instant classic." Surette also had high praise for the episode, calling it "playful, mind-bending, heart-breaking, and flat-out excellent." He praised the episode's incorporation of its "recurring theme of sacrifice", and called the flashbacks "as fascinating and provocative as anything the series has done." Surette cited his favorite part of the episode as the exploration of the Machine's perspective, and additionally praised the humorous segments.[41]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave a 100% approval rating for seasons three and four with an average rating of 7.7 out of 10 for season three and 8.4 out of 10 for season four.[42][43]


Season Time slot (ET) Premiere Finale TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Live + DVR
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Thursday 9:00 p.m.
September 22, 2011
May 17, 2012
13.47[45] 2011–12 #13 14.34[46] 16.28[47]
September 27, 2012
May 9, 2013
13.16[49] 2012–13 #5 16.07[50] 17.87[51]
Tuesday 10:00 p.m.
September 24, 2013
May 13, 2014
10.95[53] 2013–14 #8 14.05[54] 16.21[55]
September 23, 2014
May 5, 2015
8.18[57] 2014–15 #21 12.22[58] 13.11[59]
5 Monday 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday 10:00 p.m.
May 3, 2016
June 21, 2016
6.51[61] 2015–16 N/A 6.14[62] TBD

CBS said that Person of Interest was, ratings-wise, the fastest-growing drama on broadcast television from the 2011–12 season to the 2012–13 season, using ratings up to December 2.[63]


Person of Interest has been picked up by many networks for broadcast outside the United States. It premiered in Australia on Nine Network on September 25, 2011.[64] The series is simulcast in Canada and premiered on City on September 22, 2011, and moved to CTV in 2013.[65] It premiered in the UK on Channel 5 on August 14, 2012.[66]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominee(s) / episode Result Ref.
2012 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Short Form Dialogue and ADR in Television Thomas DeGorter, H. Jay Levine, Maciek Malish, Matt Sawelson / "Witness" Nominated [67]
Hollywood Post Alliance Outstanding Sound – Television Thomas DeGorter, Keith Rogers, Matt Sawelson, Scott Weber / "Matsya Nyaya" Nominated [68]
IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [69]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated [70]
People's Choice Awards Favorite New TV Drama Person of Interest Won [71]
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) Noah Timan, Keith Rogers, Frank Morrone, Scott Weber / "Pilot" Nominated [72]
2013 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Short Form Music in Television Tom Trafalski / "Firewall" Nominated [73]
IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [74]
Best TV Hero Taraji P. Henson
for the character "Joss Carter"
Nominated [74]
2014 IGN Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Nominated [75]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won [76]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Dramatic TV Actor Jim Caviezel Nominated [77]
2015 IGN People's Choice TV Series Person of Interest Won [78]
Best TV Action Series Person of Interest Won [78]
People's Choice TV Action Series Person of Interest Won [78]
Best TV Episode "If-Then-Else" Nominated [78]
Saturn Awards Best Network Television Series Person of Interest Nominated [79]
Zimbio, Inc. Best Overall Show Person of Interest Won [80]
2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Television Episode Teleplay Erik Mountain, Melissa Scrivner Love / "Terra Incognita" Nominated [81]
People's Choice Awards Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor Jim Caviezel Nominated [82]
Favorite TV Crime Drama Person of Interest Won [82]


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