In case you missed it, I changed my grade on last week’s episode the morning after I posted the review. I downgraded the A- to a B+, and while I try and avoid that kind of second-guessing, after watching “Judgment,” I'm very glad I made the change. Critiquing a series this early in the run can be difficult; the reviews aren't tough to write (and I’m not typing this from a coal mine or anything), but the grading is even more random than grading usually is. Sometimes, you want so badly for a show to get better that you start lowering your expectations and massaging your evaluations—not consciously, but just enough so that even the slightest improvement seems like a big deal. I stand by the fact that “Cura Te Ipsum” wasn’t terrible; that it was, in fact, the best episode we’ve seen so far. But after watching “Judgement,” it becomes all the more obvious that “Cura” was most likely a fluke, the proverbial stopped clock that’s right twice a day. This is firmly average to tedious television, and tonight’s episode was definitely on the side of the latter.
We’re dealing with the same problems we’ve been dealing with from the start. As those problems continue, they can either become tolerable through repetition, or they can start to grate even worse than before. I’m learning to cope with Jim Caviezel, so I’ll spare you the usual assault on his acting abilities; if the show used him better or if it shifted more of the focus onto Finch, he wouldn’t be an issue. What’s really getting to me right now is the dialogue. So many of the conversations in this show are unnecessary explanations of easy to follow plot developments, and each time Reese or Finch or someone else pauses to remind us about the premise, or make sure that we absolutely understand exactly what we’re seeing, the show gets a little more boring. A show that wants to be exciting, or even engaging, should force you to keep pace with it; it shouldn’t spoon feed you every twist and subtextual concept. We don’t need Breaking Bad levels of plot complexity here, just confident writers who trust that the visuals and the performances will be sufficient to convey the nuances of a kidnapping extortion plot. And once you start noticing all the belabored sentences, it’s next to impossible to ignore them. This over-statement even seeps into other areas of the show. I laughed out loud when tonight’s Person, Judge Samuel Gates, stared mournfully at a picture of his missing son while sitting at the bench in open court. Just in case, y’know, we’d forgotten that his son had been kidnapped, and the kidnappers were demanding Gates influence his current trial in their favor.
The other big problem right now is that the cases Finch and Reese are taking on aren’t particularly compelling. At least last week, we had a PoI who was both a victim and a potential murderer, allowing the show some room for dramatic movement. This week, it’s all about the saintly Judge Gates, a widower raising his son and fighting crime in the courtroom and generally being perfect. David Costabile is a fine actor (he’s most familiar these days as Gale Boetticher from, oh hey, Breaking Bad; sadly, no time for karaoke tonight), and he does what he can with the role, but there’s hardly anything to it. He’s worried about his son. He’s a little uncomfortable dealing with Reese and Finch, although once he gets over his initial concerns, he does whatever Reese tells him. That’s pretty much it.
And the bad guys? It’s a super-duper evil gang of high-class European bad-asses, who are trying to get the woman who helps them launder their money in American banks an acquittal. There were definite shades of 24 over all of this, especially given Reese playing the torture card, but where 24 had a freewheeling energy and intensity (at the show’s height), these villains were instantly forgettable. There are all sorts of fascinating avenues for discussion this show could be exploring. Why drove Finch underground? What are the moral ramifications of his and Reese’s work? How, exactly, does the machine know which numbers to pick, and is there a better way to use the information those numbers provide? (At the very least, you’d think Finch would be trying to find ways he can branch out to other cities.) By letting so much of each episode’s running time get eaten up by the details of that week’s case—details that are boilerplate TV crime drama, and will be irrelevant by the time next week rolls around—Person Of Interest is routinely sacrificing its most distinctive element in favor of fading into the crowd. The procedural format is a good fit for this show, but right now, by leaning too much on generic cases of the week, POI is becoming less interesting with each new episode. I found myself wishing more than once while watching "Judgment" that the series would die a quick death and let Michael Emerson move on to something more worthy of his talents, and that's pretty much the worst sign there is.
- There was also some stuff with Detective Carter and Detective Fusco that was basically pointless.
- I’m no legal expert, but I’m not sure finding three people beaten, bound, and gagged in a room full of money is legitimate grounds for arrest.