Is Person of Interest following Sherlock Holmes’ footsteps?


‘Person of Interest’ has its own Sherlock and Watson, multiple Moriartys, two Lestrades, and many strong female characters. Is ‘Person of Interest’ the Sherlock Holmes for the digital age?


I noticed two things this week: a Holmesian pattern for this season’s arc and a pattern concerning the female characters. I’m getting a strong Sir Conan Arthur Doyle feel this season catalyzed by this season’s villains. Root is Finch’s Moriarty and Wesley, the evil agent in “Critical,” is clearly John’s. However, while Root is criminally insane, Wesley is insanely logical. Wesley’s eerie, distanced calm makes him a better Moriarty, especially since I see the wheels turning in his mind. Root, by contrast, is just plain crazy.

Every Sherlock mystery requires a bumbling police inspector whom Sherlock relies on. Fusco and Carter make a great Lestrade. I love watching them unite as the Wonder cop Twins. This week showed their complementary strengths. Fusco pulls and hides the evidence while Carter strings together leads. Fusco is the street-wise detective who always knows when something’s wrong. Carter’s the innocent cop, who’s a bulldog in following leads. They’re both good detectives in their individual ways and I love how Person of Interest continues to develop that this season. I also love that Snow knew enough about Carter’s capabilities, to expect she’d find him.

Just as Sherlock needed to face Moriarty, Carter will eventually need to face John’s darkness.

The week felt closer to Holmes because Sherlock never let Lestrade (or any detective) into his tiny secrets. When Sherlock mentioned Moriarty to Inspector MacDonald in Valley of Fear, I felt something dark around the corner. Similarly, this week, when John dangled the opportunity to grab the forbidden fruit of knowledge, with the caveat that danger would plague Carter’s every step if she took it, I shivered. Does Carter grab at the shiny red apple hanging in Reese’s hand? Probably not this week. But, just as Sherlock needed to face Moriarty, Carter will eventually need to face John’s darkness. The strongest line came from John, “You’re a very good detective.” I thought Fusco’s insatiable curiosity would bite John, but, clearly, Carter’s Eve-like concern in this garden bit him in the back.

If Fusco and Carter are Lestrade, then clearly John and Finch are this show’s Watson and Holmes. Finch’s relationship with John grew over time like our Victorian dynamic duo. Last season, he would’ve consistently requested John verbalize his status during a fight. This time, he listened quietly, expecting John would win, and trusting him enough to do his job without double distractions. But, if both John and Finch are the more competent side of Watson and Holmes, who plays the bumbling sidekick? Clearly, that’s Ken Leung as Leon Tao. Did Leon scan Finch’s system? Of course he did. While I’m surprised that Finch and Reese covertly encouragedLeon’s predilections, that’s the show. It keeps showing a new side to existing characters and a new twist to old formulas.Leon’s an awesome asset. Unlike Fusco who wants to care and the rest who do care,Leon doesn’t care one wink. He just likes when the game’s afoot. And, I like that contrast. Side note: Does everyone call Reese, John, now? In a way, I like it. Again, it shows his increasing humanity.

Finally, the return of Cara reminded me of Irene Adler. After I read “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Irene Adler served as the quiet specter in subsequent Holmes mysteries for me. I kept expecting her to return, despite her retirement to the States. That’s Cara. We thought she died in the beginning of season one, only to discover she hadn’t. Just as Irene was the female Sherlock, Cara is the female who trained our favorite CIA spy. Irene, like Cara, was just as clever and just as cunning as her foe, albeit on the wrong side of the law. When Snow referenced Cara as “she,” the dark hand over all, I got a strong Irene Adler vibe.

Speaking of strong female characters, Michael Emerson praised the show’s women at NYCC. However, considering the show specializes in incredibly strong female leads, is I alright if John specializes in rescuing strong women? What type of message does that send? The pattern never hit home to me until we had the kickbutt female doctor and her wife, TWO women, who needed saving. That’s when I started to think ‘hmmm.’ In some ways, these aren’t the weepy, faint-hearted women of the 80s, but still … Even though Carter now helps John rescue people (or basically rescues John), most of season one surrounded John protecting Carter from doing her job. I’m still steamed that John thought he needed to string up a run of the mill drunk. This season, excluding the two-part pilot, with the waitress, the diplomat’s daughter, the journalist, the doctor, and the doctor’s wife, that’s five helpless female characters in four back-to-back episodes out of five. But, let’s be honest. The show specializes in victims and villains. Any female character on the show will start off as one or the other. Does it bother me? Not fully. Do I think it’s odd. Yea, kinda. Do I want the show to stop using strong female characters? Absolutely not.

But, considering Root is batshit crazy and Cara’s starting to come across as a grade-A nutjob, does Person of Interest have a covert message about female villains? So what do you think, is Person of Interest covertly following a Holmes template this season? Or, is the Holmes template just a standard of most procedurals?

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Photo Credit: CBS

9 Comments on “Is Person of Interest following Sherlock Holmes’ footsteps?

  1. Villains are memorable when they are well written and brought to life by great actors. I would hazard to guess that most actresses would rather play the villain that another version of “main-characters-girlfriend-freightened-and-waiting-to-be-rescued”. In recent memory, Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet on “LOST” went thru many permutations and added mystery to her character much as Michael Emerson did with Ben.
    To answer your question, the murder mystery trope is most associated with Holmes since he is by far the most well known. Personally, Rex Stout’s “Nero Wolfe” is a favorite but doesn’t translate as well from page to screen.
    Please keep up the recaps on “PoI”, your viewpoint adds to the enjoyment of this show.

  2. I have not seen this show yet, but your article has made me curious…

    Interestingly, Elementary is aired right after Person of Interest on CBS!

    • I didn’t really notice the connection until this episode when Reese went up against a British villain who was his mirror opposite. And, I thought, ‘hmmm, he reminds me of Moriarity.’ When the show shifted to a quick focus about Cara I had a quick ‘aha! She’s like Irene!’ moment and then I started to notice the pattern in other events this season.

  3. You left out the Macguffin – the compassionate machine'; the all-seeing AI that guides our heroes and without whom no stories unfold.

    Sherlock Holmes has no ‘dues ex machina’. Hence, your analogy falls flat, IMO. Sorry.

    • You don’t need a machine in Holmes to see if POI follows Holmesian patterns ;) There are tons of other things you can point out as well ;) But, I just realized that if Leon isn’t the bumbling version of Watson, he (a long with Zoe and the other people Reese pick up) could serve as one of the Baker Street Boys (Holmes’ ever-expanding intelligence network ;) ).

  4. Enjoyed this article immensely! Love the similarities you pointed out…….that now seem to obvious!
    You mentioned everybody in your main article but Zoe. I like her character and her interaction with Reese & Finch AND Carter……….where does she fit in your theory?

    • Well, Zoe could fit into one of two figures. Sherlock had the Baker Street Boys. They were rag tag people he met along the way who belonged to the neighborhood whose special skills broadened his network. Zoe definitely fits into that category. Additionally, Watson’s wife started as one of Holmes’ clients. Holmes commented on her attractive nature and felt her calm, thorough notes helped him in the caper. Considering Zoe’s an attractive woman whose calm nature helps Reese on cases, he could potentially fit into that category.