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Person of Interest: Canon gripes.

I am the kind of person who goes to a James Bond movie and is then bothered by Bond getting his novelty gun to Shanghai on a commercial flight, and being immune to hypothermia. So it will not surprise you that I have my share of gripes concerning Person of Interest. They don't diminish my enjoyment of the show, at least not generally. But even so, they can be annoying and distracting... as well as amusing. :-) And I like to voice them!

Hence, here are some plot details that could really have used more thought.

About the dog.

Bear is meant to be an incredibly well-trained military dog, right? Yet somehow, his every action shows him to be the worst-trained military dog in existence. He almost always acts like a pet, not a working dog. He doesn't pay attention to his surroundings. He doesn't guard. He doesn't wait for orders. He barks and whines willy-nilly – not to signal anything, but just because. He leaps all over the place not just when "off-duty", but also when out and about. He steals food. He is eager to make friends with strangers, and doesn't wait to be told how to act in new situations.

And worst of all: When John first meets him, he obeys a command by John – a random stranger – over that of his current handler. Why? Oh, because the stranger knows the right command (and his current handler is a criminal dirtbag). Oh my god. Seriously. There is not enough headdesk in the world.

It doesn't surprise me that there is only one trainer who trains military dogs like this. That is because this trainer sucks beyond the telling of it.

Aside: About interesting parallels.

Since I originally wrote this, a comment to my last post has made me think of an additional facet of the Bear situation. Namely:

It's possible to construct a parallel between Bear's situation when John meets him, and John's own situation back when he was working for the CIA. Both are highly-trained, dangerous military creatures, regarded and used as disposable weapons by malevolent, brutal and neglectful masters. Both are not evil in themselves, but are merely being misused.

So I now read the scene in which John meets Bear as John recognizing a kind of kinship with the dog, and rescuing him from the situation by offering him the chance to follow a better, "proper" master, who knows and uses the right kind of commands. A chance which Bear takes, just as John takes the chance Harold offers him (though Harold arrives on the scene at a much later point than John does with Bear).

Maybe I am over-interpreting. But I do think it's a striking parallel.

Of course, it doesn't change the fact that Bear's behavior in that scene (and otherwise) is very much not that of a trained military dog, who would never have obeyed a random stranger over his handler.

About "Foe" (1x08) - the Stasi assassin ep.

I will not go into the standard foreign language troubles (which were actually comparatively mild). But what is up with the foreign intelligence operative who is not only totally incompetent, but also breaks into incoherent babbling in his mother tongue when put into a slightly stressful situation? Wow, kid, as covert and resilient as you are, I think you'd better consider a change of careers double-quick. Or are foreign secret agents simply meant to be generally incompetent?

Another detail that bothered me is that our experienced Stasi superspy, who is otherwise not incompetent at all, fills his secret graveyard cache with Ostmarks, the East German currency. So basically, in the event he found himself in the US and needed to quickly disappear without a trace, he intended to, errr… run into serious money and secrecy problems because his cash was both worthless outside of the Eastern Bloc *and* bound to attract immediate notice?

About "Masquerade" (2x03) – the bodyguard ep.

I am used to bodyguards being absolutely incompetent on TV and in movies. I'm still wondering whether this is because nobody ever bothers to read up on how bodyguards actually work, or whether the ridiculous fictional bodyguard procedures are just considered more photogenic. (Actual criminals must be so surprised when their wily "make a noise just around the corner to lure the bodyguard away from the door" or "dress up as a hotel employee" schemes fail dismally. But whyyy? It always works on TV!)

So, okay. I don't like it, but I'm used to it. But, show. Do not have John call a bodyguard out on a mistake every TV bodyguard always makes, forever and ever, amen (not clearing a location before the guarded person enters) – only for John himself to then go on to be just as lousy a bodyguard. Why no, turns out you cannot guard someone from halfway across a crowded club. Surprise! (And uhm, John, I notice you didn't clear the room in advance, either…)

Show, you can't have your (beef)cake and eat it, too. Either go with the illusion that TV bodyguarding is "good" bodyguarding, or break conventions and actually show good bodyguarding.

About "2пR" (2x11) – the genius high school coder ep.

The genius high school coder triple-books his afternoon by setting up a meet with a) drug dealers who want their money immediately or else and b) a teacher who turns out not to be a bad guy after all, all while c) planning to actually spend the time in question killing himself. John talks the kid out of c – which is good! All is well, right? Brilliant kid will not die, but go on to be brilliant some more. Yay!

Except for the angry drug dealers on the kid's trail. Did I miss this or does nobody actually seem to remember them and their wish to set an example? Looks like it's gonna be a rather short brilliant career for this brilliant kid and his brilliant compression algorithm.

I will refrain from going into the fight scenes and the body armor that evidently works like an invisible force field, also protecting head, neck and all other potentially endangered body parts. These things are like TV bodyguarding: narrative conventions that I try hard to just ignore. ;-)

So, what do you think about all of this? Have any gripes of your own?


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 20th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
Not a gripe, per se, but this is something I wondered. Why do they call it a machine? Or more ominously, "The Machine" (which sorta makes me giggle). I'm married to a systems engineer and programmer, and I gave up on getting him to watch it with me after the first episode, because the way that Finch talked about The Machine seemed supremely... unlikely, coming from its designer. I'm not an engineer myself, so I am curious whether anyone else finds it odd. (I also wonder a lot about how the system could know enough to identify the culprit/victim with such astonishing accuracy, and yet have NO IDEA whether the person is likely to be a victim or culprit...)

Anyway, not gripes, but, curious.
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Good question about The Machine's naming - I wondered that myself, in the beginning. Maybe it's precisely because it sounds so ominous...? :-)

I also wonder a lot about how the system could know enough to identify the culprit/victim with such astonishing accuracy, and yet have NO IDEA whether the person is likely to be a victim or culprit...

Another very good question indeed. :-) For some reason I have a vague idea floating around in my head that the machine actually *could* know this, too, and just isn't programmed to calculate and/or divulge that particular bit of information. But I have no valid theory as to why on earth that very relevant bit of info should be so neglected... so in the end it really doesn't make more sense than the theory that the machine simply has no idea.
Mar. 21st, 2013 12:29 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I don't think I'm likely to watch the rest of the show, but... never say never and all that, and I was curious. :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
If you can get past The Machine, I think it might be worth it! I had my own troubles with POI... my first attempt to watch it failed dismally because the first ep gave me the creeps in a number of different ways.

It does get better. :-)
Mar. 21st, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, that wasn't what stopped me from watching more. I liked Carter a lot, and intend to watch her episode from S2 soon. I'm just... allergic to clams. It's one of the many ways in which me and most of fandom are polar opposites.
Mar. 21st, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
I'm just... allergic to clams.

You mean you don't go for the introverted silent types? That's a brilliant way of putting it. :-)

I can see how POI might not be your thing, in that case... although, maybe the clamminess is not as much of a problem as it might seem at first glance. For all that Finch and Reese are introverted guys - somehow they still manage to unclam in a myriad of ways. Take Reese, who talks about his feelings and emotions and is emo all over the place, all while somehow still managing to remain the strong unemotive silent type. It's a mystery.

But I really can't tell whether that kind of non-clamminess will work for you or not. :-) If you do have a chance to check one day, let me know what you discover!
Mar. 22nd, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
I had that feeling about Reese, which is why I said never say never. :)
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
I think my number one "most ridiculous thing to happen in a POI ep" is still that scene where Reese intubated the social network billionaire with a giant tube he'd ripped out of a faucet. After his throat had already swollen shut. There's indeed a live-saving thing you could do with a tube and a knife when someone's choking to death, but THAT WAS NOT IT. I'm still giggling about that one.

The foreign language nonsense in the Stasi ep was kind of annoying, too. I was really pleased how right they got that in the Sarah Shahi ep, though - everyone who was supposed to be a native German speaker sounded like one, and and Shahi did a good job of sounding like she actually knew what she was saying (and wasn't pretending to be a native, which she could NOT have pulled off.)
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
that scene where Reese intubated the social network billionaire with a giant tube he'd ripped out of a faucet

LOL, yes! I'd forgotten about that! God, that was hilarious. :-)

The foreign language nonsense in the Stasi ep was kind of annoying, too.

My bar on foreign language nonsense is very, very low. ;-) I mean, I considered grumbling to myself about the "Stassi" that cropped up in one scene, but then I thought - hey, I should be thankful it wasn't the "Staßi" or "Stubi" or some such.

But yes, they definitely did a much better job in the Shahi ep, which I was also pleased about. They didn't get all the details of the setting right, but it was a very valiant attempt, and I salute them for it. :-)
Mar. 20th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
I hate the thing about Reese and body armor!!

With the kid in 2x11, my biggest issue is really more, why does the prodigy computer whiz always have to be male? But that's me.

Also - Finch's "paralegal" who lives in a luxurious brownstone. Try a tiny one bedroom in Queens shared by two other paralegals.

Finch's plan to buy up the stock of that drug company in the Fix and then dump it - he'd have had the SEC crawling up his ass in a minute. And the excuse can't be that he hid the transactions - he was pretty open about that particular identity buying the stock and selling it.

The plot to bring down the bad guys in Risk didn't make a whole lot of sense either.
Mar. 20th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
I hate the thing about Reese and body armor!!

I try to think of it as just another aspect of the unrealistic fight scenes.

Yeah, the computer prodigies (or the prodigies in general) do tend to be male - but OTOH, this show does have Root. Granted, she is the villain, but still.

POI seems to be making an effort to break through the usual gender roles in a number of ways, and I think they're doing a rather good job of it, comparatively speaking. Stanton, Shaw and Carter (and also Root) are all very strong women in roles that would traditionally fall to a male character.

Finch's "paralegal" who lives in a luxurious brownstone

He must have been an independently wealthy paralegal. Or someone's boytoy. ;-)

The Fix is the only ep I haven't been able to watch yet! :-( Soon, soon...

Oh, I thought of another good one: Shaw fleeing into the den of drug dealers badly wounded, operating on herself, and then ordering them to tie themselves up barely in time for her to safely lose consciousness for a little while. It was like that one guy felt sorry for her and just pretended that her plan really was working because he didn't want to make her sad.
Apr. 6th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
And now for another female tech whiz, we have Monica! I was really really happy to see they didn't cast that role as Yet Another Twentysomething White Dude.
Mar. 21st, 2013 05:12 am (UTC)
I found Foe totally ridiculous. I am still wondering how exactly that eastern German soldier saved that woman's life when the Berlin Wall fell? What exactly was so dangerous? Did a piece of the wall almost fall on her head?
They made the whole thing sounds as if something really horrible happened during that revolution, when actually it was a totally peaceful and even happy day. The complete episode made no sense to me at all.
Mar. 21st, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
You know, I don't actually remember anything about how they depicted the actual historical events. Nothing at all - nada. Zip.

I suspect that I have suppressed the memory, or else managed to watch those bits without ever storing the information. It wouldn't surprise me. I have grown so leery of how series like this one depict historical events of the kind that I tend to run the other way (or just shut down higher reasoning, if at all possible *g*).
Mar. 22nd, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
I am still wondering how exactly that eastern German soldier saved that woman's life when the Berlin Wall fell? What exactly was so dangerous? Did a piece of the wall almost fall on her head?

That made me laugh out loud.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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