I never expected to love Person Of Interest as much as I do. When the show premiered last year, I knew very little about it, and just went in expecting a fun action series. I left the pilot with a huge smile on my face. It was that good. I went on to watch every episode of season one, and had been greatly looking forward to last night's premiere.
POI fans will remember that season one ended on the cliffhanger of presumed victim Caroline Turing being revealed as the mysterious hacker known as "Root", and Finch's subsequent kidnapping at her hands. Last year's finale also gave us our first real confirmation that Finch's machine was sentient, with the final shot being Reese asking for its help, and getting a response.
"The Contingency" picked right up at that point, with the machine giving Reese coded clues to help him along in his quest to find Finch. The Machine also gave him a new number, which he first assumed was related to Finch's kidnapping, but was in fact just the "case-of-the-week" for Reese to solve.
While I enjoyed the guest spot by "Lost" alum Ken Leung as the person who needed help (along with the well staged fights between Reese and the Aryan Brotherhood), this whole plot kind of felt like the show was spinning its wheels in an effort to not end the Finch/Root story too quickly. I think the episode would have worked better if it had put 100% focus on the mythology of the machine, and how it ties into Finch's current predicament. It's not even that the Leon/Aryans plotline was poorly done, I just feel it would have been better served as the story of the season's first "normal" episode, and not as the resolution to season one's well done cliffhanger.
Which brings me to another concern. The best character moments of POI tend to revolve around the interaction between Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel, and the two did not share one scene in the entire premiere episode. If they keep this separation up for several more weeks, I feel it could hurt the energy and rhythm of the series. It reminds me of when Sam & Dean are separated on Supernatural, the episodes where they are together are always more entertaining than when they are kept apart.
Lastly, my biggest problem with "The Contingency" was Amy Acker's character of "Root". Before I get assaulted by angry "Angel" fans in the comments, I don't put the blame on Acker herself. I've enjoyed her performances in the past, and I think that the problem here is just poor characterization by the writing staff. Root just doesn't feel real to me. If I had to describe the problem, I'd say that she feels like she was transplanted from a different show. Her motivations are both vague and poorly explained so far, we still have no idea how she knows all that she does about the project, and I don't understand why Root went from expert computer hacker to homicidal psychopath so quickly. She almost seems "Joker"-ish, and her over the top performance feels very out of place in the fairly straight-laced world of Person Of Interest. I'm not saying the writers can't salvage the character, but so far, I'm not enjoying her presence.
Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the episode. Reese's case-of-the-week was entertaining enough, and the looks at Finch training the machine were very well done. I'm just not sure I like the foundation they are building for season two. Here's hoping next week sees the show bounce back.
Final Thought: As a standalone episode, "The Contingency" entertains well enough. As a resolution to last season's cliffhanger, things fall flat.