‘Person of Interest’ Returns with Dangerous, Unexpected Twists

by | December 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Interviews, Person of Interest

"Person of Interest": Michael Emerson as Finch, Kevin Chapman as Fusco, Taraji P. Henson as Carter and Jim Caviezel as Reese. (Photo: Frank W Ockenfels 3 /CBS)

When Season 2 of “Person of Interest” began, Finch (Michael Emerson) was in the clutches of a crazy kidnapper, so John Reese (Jim Caviezel) had to do a juggling act as he not only tried to rescue Finch but also keep safe the POI number the machine turned out.

When we return on January 3, the tables are turned. Reese has been taken into custody in a sweep by the FBI, which arrested several men in suits, and Finch needs to figure out how to protect Reese’s identity, even as he has to go undercover as a high school substitute teacher to try to rescue a teen genius POI.

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“The thing we are trying to do with the show is keep it dangerous and alive, and keep the narrative unexpected,” executive producer Jonathan “Jonah” Nolan tells XfinityTV.com. “We are entertaining into a chapter of our story in which one of our heroes is in real jeopardy.”

Before the season returns, though, Nolan and executive producer Greg Plageman reveal to us what lies ahead for the second half of Season 2 of “Person of Interest.”

Is John’s being captured more serious than it appears?
Nolan: So many shows, especially when the show is working and it’s found its audience, you want to keep it the same. Part of the deal that Greg and I had when we started is we always want to keep it dangerous and we always want to keep surprising people. We think there is some real jeopardy here.

Given how the mid-season finale ended, are you going to be playing with a “Thomas Crown Affair” type of thing that the Feds don’t know which guy in the room is Reese?
Plageman: We didn’t think of that movie when we were talking about it. Definitely, there is a special dilemma here for Special Agent Donnelly (Brennan Brown) and the FBI in terms of four suspects have been rounded up — all four are men in suits. There is a little bit of intrigue to be played with that and, like Jonah said, not easily resolved. We have to play fair with our audience in terms of Reese’s apprehension and incarceration and how long that plays out.

You have obviously reversed roles from the beginning of the season when Reese worked without Finch. Is Finch going to try to find some way to supplant Reese in his effort to assist the POIs?
Nolan: I think it is very unlikely that Finch will try as least as hard as Reese to rescue his friend and erstwhile partner. But you have a full team here. You have Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) and other people who might be interested in the fact that Reese — or someone who might be Reese — might be locked up.

We did see Reese going to great lengths to rescue Finch at the beginning of the season and, in the mid-season finale, expressing out loud how important this partnership has become to him. What can you say about Reese’s character growth this season and how he is changing?
Nolan: I feel like the promise of the show from the beginning and what Greg and I, the writers and the actors are interested in are four very wounded, very broken characters that are rebuilding themselves. Reese probably the most — but for reasons you will discover; Finch in his own way — there is a lot of damage there. So watching Reese over the course a season and a half and collaborating with Michael and Jim on these performances in which every tiny glimmer of connection you get means so much, and the ways in which we see Reese as this wounded animal who slowly is rebuilding his trust and his connections to the world, we love to do that right to the point where we smash it all to pieces. That is our favorite thing to do. Our writers are sadists, I think.

Obviously, Carter now has accepted a position with the FBI. How much will she wrestle with that decision? Is this the next level of how much she is compromised trying to help both sides?
Plageman: Obviously, Carter being enlisted by Special Agent Donnelly in the pursuit of the man in the suit has been a common running theme on our show. Donnelly is very much aware of Carter’s history as an interrogator in Iraq and now that he has Reese in custody, it is going to be enlisted in playing both sides of the fence.

When the show returns, will it pick up right where we left off? Or will time have passed?
Nolan: We are back on the air on January 3, so we not gone too long. We are right back into it, so we will pick up with the same velocity. A fun wrinkle to that is Reese is locked up. As you saw in the pilot, the numbers never stop coming, so watching Finch try to spin plates in terms of, “Okay, I’ve got to rescue my friend, but I’ve also got a backlog of people who may be in serious jeopardy,” becomes the focus as it was for Reese at the beginning of the season. Greg, I don’t know if you will agree with this, but I would characterize the next three episodes as completely bananas. I think that is the technical term.

Plageman: Not only are they bananas but they are almost picking up in real time from one to the next because we have to play these stakes for real. When Reese is incarcerated and the FBI is breathing down his neck, we want to show the audience that Donnelly is a very formidable character in his endeavor to take down Reese. We have a lot of fun with that and we have some big, serialized content coming into play here in the next couple of episodes with some cast of yore.

Nolan: We have some friendly folks returning to create fresh chaos, which we love. Our show has some periods in which we get to concentrate on the story of the week and things are nice and developing and we lull the audience into a false sense of safety and security. Then we just smash it to pieces. That is what we are heading into.

So Finch will now have to try to handle numbers from the machine on his own?
Nolan: Yeah. That is our first episode of the New Year, while plans are being put together and while our heroes scheme what they are going to do with Reese locked up. He is their friend, so it impacts all of them. Finch is going to have to go into very unusual circumstances in order to protect a very special person.

What is going on with Fusco? He has HR breathing down his neck, yet he isn’t bringing in Reese and Finch to help him.
Plageman: That is an excellent question and one that will be addressed when we resume in the next couple of episodes in the New Year. Obviously, some of Fusco’s problem is Reese’s doing as well, but the original sin of Detective Fusco’s is of his own doing, which Reese will remind him of. These things come home to roost. When he reached out to Reese in episode 209, Reese was preoccupied with another case and Fusco wasn’t quite sure how he was going to be able to squirm his way out of this one. Officer Simmons (Robert John Burke) will be back, as well as Quinn (Clarke Peters), who is revealed as the head of HR.
But perhaps the bigger issue with Fusco is we can’t figure out how he has become such a lady’s man on our show, including he will be tasked with the number of Karolina Kurkova [who plays herself] when she comes up in episode 212.

Nolan: It is a team effort with Reese out of commission to cover the numbers at this point. Finch is up first; Fusco is second. You will have to stay tuned for the third one.

You have four main cast members. Was it a deliberate decision to go with such a small core group, or did the story just play out that way?
Nolan: I think the missing number there is the POI. Every week there is a world that we enter. Greg and I talked about a lot of the shows we loved growing up, shows like “Magnum, P.I.” and “The Equalizer,” but also shows like “Quantum Leap,” whether they were coming at it from a hard-boiled, conventional PI direction or a more heightened concept like “Quantum Leap,” one of the great things about each of those shows is that each week you had the opportunity to enter into a different world — a world defined, on our show, by the person of interest, whose life Finch, Reese, Carter and Fusco are all inserting themselves into and trying to unravel before everything goes sideways. I think those shows have always been smaller casts. One of the great pleasures of creating a show and, in success, getting to continue writing it is you get to work with all these phenomenal actors.

Are we going to return to the issues of the machine’s artificial intelligence? We seemed to go back to HR issues and Elias (Enrico Colantoni) in the mid-season finale.
Nolan: One of the great problems we have with the show is our incredible writers have come up with so many compelling storylines and villains. I love writing villains and we have embraced that. We have an absolute wealth of them at this point with some amazing actors, like Enrico Colantoni, Amy Acker, Robert John Burke, Clarke Peters. We tend to tell our stories in chapters, we don’t draw a lot of attention to it, but the stories keep a steady simmer going on some element and at this point, the AI of it is poised to erupt back into view. But when you have fantastic actors playing great characters, you want to go back and service those storylines again. None of our villains are ever too far from surfacing, but we like to keep the audience guessing.

Are we going to see our four cast members follow their own paths, so they are torn apart?
Nolan: One of the things that Greg and I had said from the beginning about this show is we wanted the characters to be able to change and grow. We didn’t want them locked. There are many great TV shows where you are not invested in the personal lives of the characters. “Law & Order” is a perfect example. You are more invested in what they are doing than who they are. But with our show, we wanted our characters to evolve, change and grow season to season, even if that threatened relationships that have become comfortable and happy for all of them. The one relationship that Greg and I would add to the mix in there this season is the silent partner this season, which is the machine. Just because those relationships are where they have been for the last dozen episodes doesn’t mean they stay there. What these guys are doing is highly dangerous and illegal and in many ways ethically dubious. Those questions continue to drive and drive our heroes apart.

“Person of Interest” returns with all new episodes on Thursday, January 3 at 9/8c on CBS.