Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Stealth Science Fiction Series

I was late to the game with Person of Interest, due to a scheduling conflict. I was always out when it was on, and at the time it wasn't available on demand, and though I was intrigued, I didn't really think of setting the VCR for it since I hadn't ever seen it (yeah, I'm behind the times and don't have a DVR, but I do have plans to correct that). I caught episodes, usually during reruns, on weeks when I had a break from the activity on that night, and then picked up the series for real during the second season. By then, the science fiction elements were really coming out.

Last weekend, I finally got to see the earlier episodes via the WGN marathon, and wow, they really did manage to sneak a science fiction series onto the procedural-heavy CBS under the guise of a procedural. In the first season, this looked like another good-guy vigilante series along the lines of The Equalizer or Leverage, where there are good guys with some advantage that allows them to intervene on behalf of ordinary people. We knew the good guys were getting information from a surveillance-oriented supercomputer, but otherwise the plots were all about the intervention of the week.

And then once they were entrenched, things started to change. Yes, they were still doing that intervention thing, but the computer became more important, and issues of artificial intelligence and what counts as a "being" came to the forefront. By the end of the latest season, the series was full-on science fiction, about a war between two intelligent -- sentient, even -- supercomputers who had very different ideas about how to carry out the task of protecting humanity. One still saw individuals as important and even seemed to have some affection for its human colleagues, and the other wanted perfection for all, at all costs.

They'd never have been able to sell that storyline up front, and I think the show is the better for it because they were able to start with a focus on the human characters and gradually build the science fiction elements as the characters themselves became more aware of what was really going on. Now that they've gone all-in on the concept, there's no telling where this could go. Are we seeing the birth of something like the Skynet system from The Terminator? Will the battle of machines go global? It's all rather riveting, and definitely worth watching if you like a dash of science fiction in your crimebusting.

Plus, possibly the most awesome dog on television, a former police/military dog with a taste for first editions and played by a dog who seems to take more pleasure in his work than any human actor (seriously, there is sheer glee all over that dog in all his scenes. That dog loves his work).

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