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'Person of Interest' and 'Prime Suspect': Reversal of quality in week two?

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If possible, I like to see at least two episodes of a series before reviewing it; it’s always difficult to assess a show based solely on its pilot, which tends to have a bigger budget and must do a lot of work introducing the characters and setting up the premise before getting down to weekly business. And so I thought I’d follow up on week two of Person of Interest (which I lauded in EW’s Fall TV Preview) and Prime Suspect (which I chided as misguided in a What To Watch review), since their networks, CBS and NBC, had made available only one episode each at the time of my first reviews.

Quick summary: Person of Interest turned in a notably weaker second episode, while Prime Suspect surged in quality with an hour much stronger than its premiere.

This week’s Interest, which featured a script co-written by creator Jonathan Nolan, spent too much time with its visual gimmick of showing us people as spied-upon and recorded by the vast computer system devised by Michael Emerson’s Mr. Finch. While I liked the revelation that Finch’s “cover” is to work as a cubicle drone in the vast company he actually owns, the plot that propelled the week’s action was lacking in distinctiveness. Jim Caviezel’s strong man of few words John Reese was used like a bullet to rip through difficulties, but the relationship between Reese and Finch didn’t progress much. Instead, there were some fun action scenes, such as Reese chasing the young woman he wanted to protect through, among other places, a Laundromat, and while it was a good notion to have Reese get trounced by a bad guy for a change (proving he’s not a superman), the hour was rather slack. I’ll keep watching, for sure, but this was a disappointing hour overall.

By contrast, Prime Suspect episode two was a lot snappier than its pilot was. Maria Bello’s Jane Timoney evinced both more humor and more tamped-down frustration in her dealings with both her colleagues (led by a terrific performance from Brían F. O’Byrne as the lead detective in a missing-girl case). I detected more of the hard-boiled sarcasm running throughout the hour that I’d expect from a team of producers that includes Peter Berg and, especially, John McNamara (Profit, Eyes, The Fugitive).

Suspect took a premise that could have been ripped from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — a missing tot may be in the hands of a man previously convicted of child abuse, who swears he’s reformed and innocent — and assiduously avoided the weepy grandstanding that L&O:SVU traffics in. The hour was exciting, poignant, and, yes, funny. I’m even developing a very slight fondness for that hat Timoney waves around like a magic wand whenever it’s not clamped down to her eyebrows.

Did you watch either or both of these shows? Did you find any difference in quality in their second episodes, up or down?

Twitter: @kentucker