YMMV: Person of Interest


  • Acceptable Targets:
    • The show does not hold the federal government's institutions like the FBI and CIA in high regard. To be fair, this is par for the course in any crime/espionage drama, and both organizations do/did have some good people in there (such as Agent Donnelly, Detective Carter and John Reese). It's just that the show is a fan of showing how many corrupt people are in law enforcement agencies in general.
    • Banks in this show are almost always shown foreclosing someone's home, involved in illegal activity (willingly or otherwise) or shown to be incompetent. "Mission Creep" even features a Narm-filled confrontation in which a pair of bankers harass Reese and an ex-soldier in a bar — as if there are roving gangs of bankers lurking around every corner, spoiling for a fight.
  • Anvilicious: The show holds war vets in very high regard, and as stated above, frequently holds big corporate guys in very low regard. However, two notable early exceptions exist: "Mission Creep", where a group of active duty American soldiers are the bad guys, and "Risk", in which the stock trader POI is sympathetic and entirely in the dark regarding the dirty dealings of others at the office where he works.
  • Base Breaker: Many as of Season 4:
    • Just going by the forums at Television Without Pity Detective Carter or her actress, Taraji P. Henson, were this in the first season. Inverted as of the Season 3 "Endgame" three-parter, with Carter now being considered one of the most popular characters and her death leading to a violent on-line backlash and much tenstion between those that despised the move to kill her off and those that accept the decision.
    • Sameen Shaw. In early Season 3, many fans were complaining that the series was becoming "The Shaw Show" and Reese and Carter were being given short shrift.
    • Iris Campbell and her relationship with Reese. Aside from the obvious Die for Our Ship that came into play, many people found the ethics of the situation highly questionable (as Iris did in-universe) and didn't like the overtly romantic subplot. The Reese-Finch shippers are particularly hostile.
  • Broken Base:
    • Multiple fans of the show were up in arms over the final moments of "The Crossing".
    • As of the end of season 4, there's an argument over the change of structure of the show, specifically with how POI is changing into a more "serialized" and complex format while discarding the "case of the week" episodes. Detractors believe it's making the show to hard to follow while supporters claim it makes the show a whole lot more interesting.
  • Crazy Awesome: Root. Evident when she's in a shootout with Hersh, a trained assassin and shoots him when she has her back to him.
  • Creator's Pet:
  • Dear Negative Reader: The show runners have been forced to utilize this trope after "The Crossing" aired.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Joss Carter, in spades.
    • Carl Elias and Scarface also became extremely popular, especially after they executed Officer Simmons.
    • Bear has also become a fan favorite, so much so that the showrunners felt compelled to reassure everyone that Bear is an exception to the general Anyone Can Die rule.
  • Evil Is Cool: Samaritan might be a Big Bad, but its interface and markers can definitely rival The Machine's in the Rule of Cool department.
  • Fixer Sue: Root, though generally with more emphasis on the "Fixer". In addition to Creator's Pet tendencies and seemingly being able to do anything, once she was on the side of the good guys her role seems to largely be to show up at the last second or with some convoluted plan and solve everything whenever the rest of Team Machine has been backed into a corner and/or the POI is otherwise royally screwed. Interestingly justified, as since The Machine cares so much about its assets, what reason other than Root herself being preoccupied would it have to not put those Invincible Hero skills to lifesaving use when Team Machine needed it?
  • Foe Yay:
    • In the opening of "Legacy", Carter waiting for Reese looks a lot like someone waiting for their date.
    • Root's obsession with Finch. Supposedly it's about the Machine and he just happens to be the guy who built it and thus knows everything she wants to know, but sometimes she seems just a little too keen on him.
    • Root and Shaw. Word of God outright confirms this.
    Amy Acker: She likes messing with her. There's an underlying competitiveness throughout, whether it seems funny or sexual or whatever. Each of them wants to be the alpha dog in the relationship.
    • All of the above are phased out over the course of the series as Carter and Root (both on opposite sides of the moral spectrum) join the team. Root/Shaw has even become the Fan-Preferred Couple.
    • "If-Then-Else" has Shaw kiss Root, seemingly confirming that attraction is mutual.
      • The alternate interpretation is that Shaw did it to keep Root from either following her out of the elevator or interfering with Shaw's intended Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Lambert and Root blatantly flirted with each other while making threats during "The Cold War".
  • Fridge Brilliance: Throughout the first three seasons, Finch's attitude towards the Machine is cautious and wary. It only becomes more pronounced when the Machine starts acting outside of its original parameters, even though it seems to be benevolent. This is explained in "Prophets", when we learn that Finch's first 42 attempts at creating the Machine all began self-improving at an exponential rate, and attempted to escape from the IFT servers or even kill him outright. That's the reason he implemented the memory wipe, and now that the limitations he put in place are gone, he's afraid that it will go rampant like its predecessors did.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Root's handle. Having root access on Linux is the same as being an administrator on Windows: you can do pretty much whatever you want to the system and it won't try to stop you. This could be a double bonus, seeing as the Machine thinks of Finch as 'Admin', indicating that she's his equal in hacking skills.
    • Her aliases are all connected to famous, innovative and eccentric scientists: Turing, Dyson, Neumann.
    • In one episode Finch is reading It Can't Happen Here, the 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis about a dictator who takes over the United States. An interesting choice for someone who designed the ultimate Big Brother surveillance system.
    • When translated back into English, the blue screen codes that appear in the later half of season 2 are revealed to be excerpts from various books and published documents.
    • The title of Episode 17 of Season 2: "Proteus" has two meanings. Proteus is an early sea god in Greek Mythology, which makes sense considering the setting. The word "protean" derives itself from the god's name, which means "versatile" and "capable of assuming many forms". That's especially fitting for an episode about an identity-stealing serial killer.
    • "The Devil's Share" is the psychological term which refers to that part of human behaviour that allows us to be cruel to one another, or refers to one person's inhumanity to another. It also refers to an individual's actions that are not good for him/herself or for others, highly appropriate considering John Reese goes on a highly self destructive roaring rampage of revenge regardless of his gunshot wound and innocent people that get in his way due to Carter's demise in "The Crossing".
    • "Lethe" and "Aletheia", Greek antonyms meaning "forgetfulness" and "truth". Given the condition of the number for those episodes, very apt.
    • "Deus Ex Machina"; translating as "god from the machine"...It also refers to the situation which Harold finds himself in at the climax. Alone and with no one seemingly coming to save him from the Decima Employee aiming a Glock 19 at him, Reese barely manages to get up there in time and screw up the man's aim.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In the show, the Machine produces the relevant and irrelevant lists by monitoring NSA feeds and other forms of electronic information gathering. Then came the real life June 2013 reveal of the US government's PRISM program. It takes a turn for Hilarious in Hindsight once you remember that Finch black boxed the Machine precisely because he didn't trust the Powers That Be with unfettered access to the Machine and the information it handles.
    • The irony is not lost on the showrunners:
      Jonathan Nolan: Turns out the only thing thatís science fiction about our show is the public outcry that we imagined if anyone found out about Finchís Machine.
    • And later even referenced in "Lethe", where PRISM is the subject of a Take That and listed by The Machine as a decoy in its interface.
  • He's Just Hiding: The next-episode promo after "If-Then-Else" suggested that Shaw might still be alive, pretty much ensuring that this reaction would happen. As it later turns out, Shaw is alive.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Around the time this show started airing, the Santa Cruz Police Department started field testing a computer program designed to predict areas where crimes are likely to happen in the near future and to redirect officers' patrols accordingly. It's helped them cut the robbery rate down by 19%.
    • Michael Emerson played a serial murderer on The Practice and several murderers on Law and Order series, now he's playing a guy who is dedicated to stopping murders before they happen.
      • Including one episode of Criminal Intent where he's a killer dating Martine Rousseau.
  • Ho Yay: John and Harold are drowning in it.
  • I Am Not Shazam: John Reese is referred to as a "person of interest" in the first episode. The Villain/Victim of the Week is always referred to by name or as a "number", not as a "person of interest".
  • Jerkass Woobie: Lots of examples in the show, but here are a few prime examples:
    • Detective Fusco, who became a lot more sympathetic as the show progressed. He still strives to atone for his sins and has succeed somewhat, even with everyone around him reminding him of his dirty past.
    • Peter Collier becomes a lot more sympathetic when his Start of Darkness is revealed: his brother was Driven to Suicide after being locked up and kept in federal limbo too long on suspicion of terrorism, the instigating intelligence even being implied to have originated from The Machine itself.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships:
    • Everyone. Literally. Pick any character that has appeared on the show, and then pick another one to pair them with; odds are good that someone has already written a fanfic about it, even if the characters weren't in the same episode or have never shared screen-time.note  Most of them are crack pairings, but some of them are actually pretty popular.note 
    • The most common victim does seem to be Reese, though; he's been paired with just about anyone he's ever shared screen-time with.
    • "If-Then-Else" even has The Machine getting into the act in-universe, shipping Root and Fusco in one of the simulations.
  • Les Yay:
    • Root and Shaw, the averted torture scene in "Relevance" was full of it. And in "The Devil's Share", when Root combines Guns Akimbo with Improbable Aiming Skills to dish out kneecaps, what's Shaw's reaction? "That was kinda hot.". In the second half of season 3, Root is basically openly flirting with her in most of their scenes together.
      Shaw: (after examining the bandages on Root's ear) Keep 'em dry. Change the dressing every 72 hours.
      Root: I love it when you play doctor.
      • In this interview with Amy Acker, she confirms confirms that their threats of violence are their way of flirting.
      • And as of season 4 Prophets, it's almost certainly official.
      Root: If the worst comes to pass, if you could give Shaw a message?
      Finch: I think she already knows.
      • In "Honor Among Thieves," Root implied that it's been canon since "Mors Praematura." Apparently they had ten hours to kill in the CIA safehouse.
      • And undeniably official as of "If-Then-Else," which has Root outright comment on how great the two are together and question the possibility of them becoming a couple, and then has Shaw kiss Root before sacrificing herself to save everybody.
    • Carter and Shaw, at times. Shaw's perpetual look of fangirlish adoration every time Carter does something Badass may have something to do with it.
    • Shaw and a Person of Interest, Kelli, are verging on canon due to their serious amounts of lesbian-ness.
  • Love It or Hate It: The fan-base is divided on many parts of the show:
    • The Genre Shift from a Post Cyber Punk science fiction procedural to a Post Cyber Punk science fiction caper show with Spy Drama elements. Some fans love POI for evolving. Some would have preferred to keep the human-scale stories of the original premise.
    • The shift from a stand-alone episode structure to one that's gotten more serialized. Some fans either love it or have gotten accustomed to it, while some others say it has made the show impossible to follow and claim that the show has gone off plot. This issue has become hotly debated.
    • The death of Carter. Seemingly the lurkers support everyone who has a strong opinion about this and the new direction the show took afterwards, and the conversation can be very heated.
    • Greer. He's either a Magnificent Bastard or a Villain Sue.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Elias and Root.
    • As of the conclusion of "God Mode," Harold Finch qualifies as one as well after deliberately putting a virus into the hands of the Machine's enemies, then hiding a virus within that virus that basically gives the Machine complete autonomy to protect itself.
    • Carter of all people in "Endgame." Starting a war between HR and the Russians, and decimating both organizations.
    • Greer, who somehow always manages to get what he wants.
    • Samaritan is already showing significant chops in the planning department. Makes sense, given Greer directly above helped make it what it is. Nautilus shows it completely bamboozling Finch and cheerfully walking away with absolutely no damage to its long-term schemes despite the target of its recruitment efforts being directly involved with him.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The Rejected Pepsi JokeExplanation  is so well known that even Jonathan Nolan has heard about it!
    • Three words from "Super": "Use the cushion!"
    • "Elias Happened!"Explanation 
    • "Overreacting Reese".Explanation 
    • A promo picture of Reese wearing glasses in "Bury the Lede" inspired the "Asshole Reese" Meme.
    • Reese is a Unicorn.note 
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Root's first appearance. She meticulously destroys the life of the economically destitute POI, makes him the most wanted man in New York by framing him for a political assassination and even causes his wife to doubt his sincerity. If John, Zoe and Harold hadn't intervened, the POI would be in jail for a crime he didn't commit and his wife and children would be living in poverty and under the stigma of having a convicted criminal for a husband and father.
      • And in her second appearance, she said she would shoot innocent people if Finch tried to get away after she kidnapped him. She would have shot a train porter, but Finch managed to knock her over.
      • Later, she threatened to murder Grace in order to gain Harold's cooperation in gaining control over the Machine in the pursuit of power. The strength of her later religious conversion to Harold's values by way of the Machine has been disputed.
      • She arguably crosses it again in Skip when she tries to murder Beth Bridges just because Harold wants to use her as an Unwitting Pawn in a plan she fears will expose him to Samaritan. It's well intentioned in a way, but still...
    • Elias locking a baby in a freezer car to get Reese to reveal the location of a man Elias wants dead. This is actually a double MEH - not only is Elias threatening to kill a baby, he had agreed to help Reese save the baby from some kidnappers as a return favor for Reese saving his life in an earlier episode, which shows how Elias honors his debts.
    • Reese and Finch openly admit to approaching it when they consider leaving two POIs who are trying to murder each other to their fate. If there had been a third number in need of their attention at the time they very well might have done it.
    • Quinn takes a flying leap off it by assenting to the murder of his own godson.
    • Det. Raymond Terney crossed it onscreen when he helped Quinn cover up Szymanski's murder.
    • If the fact that Finch created a sentient being, his child for all intents and purposes, and put in a program that basically forces it to kill itself over and over again every midnight isn't a MEH, I don't know what is. Later subverted when he then provided it a way to free itself. In Finch's defense, the machine wasn't supposed to develop a personality, and it processes millions of people's information. It absolutely has to remain unbiased. He couldn't leave that much power in the hands of what would essentially be an infant.
    • Northern Lights decides to let a terrorist attack occur, knowingly condemning innocent citizens to their deaths, in order to get to Nathan Ingram.
    • Word of God in "Liberty", the audio commentary notes the Force Recon Marines who kidnapped the POI'S friend were breaking their own rules by wiring said friend up to an I.E.D.
    • Officer Simmons was never a nice guy, but most of his actions were just generic bad guy stuff. That is until "The Crossing". If Trying to have Fusco's son killed while Fusco listens helplessly didn't cross the line than Killing Carter definitely crossed it. You know you've crossed the line when Elias is disgusted and has you killed.
    • Greer was always flirting with this, but just avoiding going over the edge; if kidnapping Grace in "Beta" doesn't count as a Moral Event Horizon, blowing up civilians and policemen for Samaritan to get the government feeds certainly does.
    • Samaritan, at some point during the fourth season midseason trilogy. Options include:
      • Releasing the names of all the people in Witness Protection.
      • Crashing the US stock market to force Team Machine to nearly-suicidal action to prevent worldwide economic chaos.
      • Manipulating the government's relevant number program into murdering a Nautilus contest winner who'd outlived his usefulness by framing him and his friends as terrorists.
    • Sometimes, even the numbers can cross this.
      • Nothing To Hide: Wayne Kruger was already established as a major league asshole, but when he smashed Harold with a vase, it was hard to feel any sympathy for him when he was killed off shortly after.
      • Nautilus: The episode ends with Claire Mahoney joining Samaritan despite Harold's pleading. However, she appears to have learned her lesson as of Q&A, seeking out Harold's help. But when Harold becomes suspicious, she pulls a gun on him, revealing that this was an elaborate trap all along.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Enrico Colantoni and Amy Acker as Elias and Root, respectively.
    • Mostly subverted by the premise of the show. Most shows start with a crime and spend the episode connecting it to a person, but this trope often gives away who that person is. An episode of Person of Interest, however, starts with the person, generally played by that week's main guest star, and the mystery is how that person connects to a crime.
    • And then possibly deliberately subverted with the head of Vigilance, who appears to be a random aide right up until the part where he kills his mark. He's played by a C-list actor.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • "You are being watched." By everything.
    • On occasion, the surveillance tactics used by Reese and Finch. Notably, "Bluejacking" people's phones, though it's deliberately portrayed as more effective than it is.
    • Remember the time they hacked into all the webcams in the apartment building so they could spy on the residents? Tell us you didn't immediately put tape over your webcam and/or change your WiFi password after that episode.
    Reese: We're going to hack [the Poi's] WiFi?
    Finch: We're going to hack all of them. If the threat's in the building, we should get to know our neighbors.
    Reese: You're into sixteen networks already?
    Finch: When the phone company puts in your WiFi, the password is your phone number. Most people never even change it. The other ones might actually take a minute.
    • Root embodies this trope. She's the show's best consummate liar, the best hacker in the show after Harold and is a talented actor who can deceive most of the Properly Paranoid characters in the show. She could be anyone from a meek therapist to a Sexy Secretary and you would be none the wiser up to the point she uses her taser, hog ties you and engages in a spot of torture before shooting you dead.
    • "Nothing To Hide" has a lot of this.
    • John Greer the former MI6 officer who acts as Decima Technologies Director Of Operations is an epic example. Polite, charming and perhaps one of the most competent antagonists on network TV. He may be old and not look like much but he always controls the situation as Team Machine and the hacktivist Peter Collier found out to their cost. With his half a centuries worth of experience and the resources under his control he constructs the most devastating Batman Gambit in the show's history to date, which ends with him having subverted the USA with the American public none the wiser and demolishing Team Machine's infrastructure.
    • The Samaritan system. an A.I with no moral constraints, in possession of all the power The Machine has and has grown beyond its initial programming to inherit Manipulative Bastard traits? A recipe for disaster. The only reason why it hasn't dropped the might of American Law Enforcement on Team Machine is due to the final tampering conducted by Root in Season 3. One wrong move will cause it to get a lock on the protagonists and ensure that certain death is the only option.
    • Season 4 appears to be running on this, especially the episodes "Prophets" and "The Cold War". The former has Team Machine struggling to keep their number safe from Samaritan and its agents even as he continues to investigate what's after him. In the latter, Samaritan takes over New York for 48 hours, and on the second day, begins tearing New York apart as it takes control of all critical infrastructure, makes the crime rate go up, instigates a massacre against witness protection program participants and to top things off, begins a cyber-attack to destroy the global economic recovery. And no one except Team Machine and Decima know what is going on.
  • The Producer Thinks of Everything: when the camera focuses on Root's earpiece in "Aletheia", you can hear high-pitched beeping that sounds like Morse code. If you're under 40, that is. Guess how the Machine contacts Root without Control noticing.
    • Remember, at the time this episode aired, Amy Acker was 37, while Camryn Manheim was 52.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There's a lot of things that you probably won't catch the first time around. Or even the second time around!
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Carter was initially a Base Breaker when the show began. However her evolution into The Chessmaster in "Endgame" was met with favourable responses from fans and critics alike. This may have contributed to a portion of the fan base having a highly negative reaction to her demise in "The Crossing".
    • Some fans believe this has happened to Root and Shaw because of efforts by the writers to give them Character Development.
  • The Scrappy: POI Wayne Kruger (though this is to be expected with an Asshole Victim), and increasingly in some parts of the fan base, Claire Mahoney, who some loathe for her Jerk Ass Smug Snake fanaticism to Samaritan, the fact she's being played along as a fool, seems to be willfully blind to Samaritan and nearly murdering Harold in the most recent episode have cemented her in some parts.
    • It's hard to find many people who like Iris Campbell, Reese's (department mandated) therapist and love interest of season 4.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: After the death of Carter, roughly forty percent of the fan base ceased watching the show. That could be seen as an example of this, if you assume that the drastic retooling of the show to a different format after her death had no effect on the audience.
  • Seasonal Rot: The later half of season 4, especially after the search for Shaw due to the amount of Filler, the show revert back to the less arc-based format and the unbelievable romance between Iris and John. This can be explained by Sarah Shahi's sudden pregnancy forcing the writers to speed up the storyline in the first half and leaving them with nothing to do in the second.
  • So Cool It's Awesome: A lot of what Team Machine pulls off on an episode by episode basis falls into this category.
  • Special Effects Failure: The show has largely stopped using blank-firing guns in exchange for nongunsnote  or non-firing props with muzzle flashes added in post production. It can bother viewers who are familiar with firearms, especially when muzzle flashes go off when characters clearly have their fingers off the triggers or are pulling triggers and there's no flash or smoke let alone recoil.
  • Squick: How Ulrich Kohl uses needles in "Foe" .
    • And then there's the horrifying ear surgery/interrogation Control performs on Root in "Aletheia".
  • Strangled by the Red String: Arguably, John and Iris in z"Skip". There is a significant lack of chemistry between them.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel: The Machine, an all-loving Benevolent A.I. that has nothing but humanity's well-being in mind. It keeps watch over everyone at all times and makes sure no one's rights or privacy are infringed by disallowing human access to the wealth of data within its reach except for the bare minimum needed to point them down the right path to discover and quell any given threat. Finch could very well have created the computer equivalent of Fred Rogers.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks:
    • The move away from the formulaic crime procedural format (like NCIS, NCIS:LA, and Hawaii Five-0) and increased emphasis on the serialized science fiction aspects of the show has divided fans who enjoy the new direction and those who disagree.
    • Fans have also voiced similar complaints about Carter joining Team Machine, Shaw being added to the main cast, Carter being killed off, Shaw (apparently) being killed off, Root joining Team Machine, and so forth.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Martine all the way. Supposedly an equal to Root, but it's never really shown. Her high point was in capturing Shaw but after that, she never really accomplishes anything against Team Machine. Her Surprisingly Sudden Death almost borders on Narm territory because of how cheap it is, which certainly doesn't help.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Fusco, all the way. He's one of the more sympathetic characters in the show, and a genuine atoner, but the universe keeps piling more and more shit on him. However, things have begun to look up for him since his promotion and now he's a hero in the eyes of most of his NYPD colleagues. Although from time to time he still gets some ribbing from the other members of Team Machine.
  • The Untwist: Carter's new partner Laskey does turn out to be a member of HR. It was so obvious that Carter herself picked up on it the minute she met him and used this against him.
  • Villain Sue: Samaritan and its followers could be easily accused of this. While Team Machine has remained (mostly) unharmed by the group (and many of the battles against Samaritan mooks have ended on a Curb-Stomp Battle on Team Machine's favor), the Team has unfortunately been unable to make much (if any) headway in taking the war to Samaritan, the writers were forced to give Samaritan an Idiot Ball (through an In-Universe hack by Team Machine) to prevent Samaritan from killing them all within minutes from being assigned to search for them, and almost none of the POIs targeted by Samaritan have finished the episode alive (the couple of times that they had, it's because someone at Team Machine had to discredit them so badly (so Samaritan backs off) that they have been effectively sentenced to a Fate Worse Than Death... or they were working for Samaritan all along (or will be soon)).
  • Vocal Minority: The show's Facebook page used to have a large number of posts with a negative opinion of Shaw and Root, although by Season 4, a higher percentage of posts there have spoken in favor of the two characters. This is, however, not always the case in less heavily moderated venues.