If Batman Was Two People

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant’. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up… we’ll find you”.

I am not sure who originated the idea that the tv show Person of Interest features Batman, if Batman and Bruce Wayne were two separate people, but it’s brilliantly accurate. The “muscle” character, John Reese, even wears a costume, in this case a business suit, but the authorities repeatedly refer to him as “The Man in the Suit.” “Suit” has often been used in comics to refer to a costume, as well. Meanwhile, Finch apparently has limitless monetary resources and access to vast stores of information through his skill with computers. Both men are possessed of the requisite angstful past and doomed romantic relationships.

There’s a female villain, the hacker Root (Amy Acker), who is clearly a superhero-type antagonist with vast power and ruthlessness. Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco), a “fixer” who appears several times, is also a superhero, in her ability to resolve tricky situations or provide vital information. There’s one episode with a young boy who draws Reese as a superhero. Late in the second season, Shaw (Sarah Shahi) is a character with an almost-superhuman ability to escape deadly situations, even going so far as to dig a bullet out of her own abdomen with a razor blade.

Reese (Jim Caviezel) doesn’t have a cape or a mask, but the actor’s performance bears resemblances to Christian Bale’s recent take on the Batman, with an even greater lack of affect, presumably resulting from Reese’s tortured past as a CIA operative and assassin. Caviezel is good at portraying a sort of squinty, generalized suffering when appropriate, but he rarely shows emotion, instead fighting his way through most situations. Also, he is good at seeming threatening in a scary way (because of the lack of affect). He always seems to be talking quietly, reminding me quite a lot of Bale’s hoarse Batman whisper.

While Finch (Michael Emerson) also frequently demonstrates lack of affect, he is much more likely to let emotion slip, and seems to find it much easier to fit in with the rest of the world. He usually seems polite and inoffensive, and though he dislikes violence, he feels free to invade privacy and use his money to accomplish his goals.

There are two secondary characters in the first season, both police. Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) is my favorite character. She’s a “lawful good” character (I never played D&D, but I learned the basics), but that doesn’t make her boring. I love how smart she is, and how ruthless in her pursuit of law, and how she has to negotiate her own morals with the ambiguity of what Finch and Reese are doing and whether or not she should help them, as the series progresses. I also love that she was military, and a skilled interrogator, and a lawyer, and is just overall awesome.

Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) is a “bent” cop who’s subverted by Reese for his own purposes. In contrast to Carter, I would call him “chaotic good” based on his current actions; he’s trying to be a better person, but also must act in his own interest to protect himself and, by extension, the people he is trying to protect. It interests me that we don’t know why he first became a “bad cop.”

Government surveillance always underlies the plot. Finch’s invention of “The Machine” after 9/11/2001 motivates all of his actions thereafter, and he and Reese rely on surveillance, cloning of cell phones, and the like, to help people. Despite lip service being paid to how invasive all this is, the action all shows the results as being helpful to individuals. The superhero treatment, in this environment, feels like a sleight-of-hand distraction from how we are really being watched, in real life.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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