I happen to be a huge Person of Interest fangirl. I loved the concept (humanity vs. AI) from the very beginning, the execution was always nearly flawless and the fabulous performance of a stellar cast was a dream to watch. We have had 4 awesome seasons of this procedural+serialized sci-fi show (yes, I know, some episodes were less awesome than others), and the time came for Season 5.
Fans, like myself, had been worried about a possible cancellation. The ratings were not too bad, but PoI is not a CBS owned show, so, given the gains from syndication is not significant, there was a good chance that CBS would axe it in favor of its self-owned shows.
Looks like there was reason to worry. A few days ago, CBS announced a shortened, 13 episode season for PoI. More recently, people figured that not only would it be a shorter season, it wouldn’t even start until mid season. And to top all that, CBS hasn’t yet announced if the plan is to end the show after Season 5.
My intention is not to rant against CBS. That wouldn’t be entirely misplaced, but it’s not. Although, I’ll admit, I’ve been pretty upset about the situation. I mean, why does something as excruciating as CSI:Cyber get a whole season but PoI doesn’t? But, that’s beside the point.
So, what is my point exactly?
It’s about learning to let go. Of stories we love reading about or watching, of the stories we love to write ourselves.
Sometime in the last few days, I’ve gone from demanding a full season of PoI to wanting it to come to a graceful finish within the 13 episodes. I wish the show would go on forever, but would that be the best outcome for the story I love? Probably not. In that case, I would want it to end in the most memorable way.
That holds true for all stories. Writers usually start with a certain framework of a story in mind, irrespective of whether they are plotters or pantsers. Sometimes, to meet prerequisites for a genre and sometimes to make good of the popularity of a series, authors get tempted to add on outside the basics. In the realm of TV shows, we get what is called “filler” episodes–episodes that don’t add to the core of the story. Is that a good thing? Not always. Sometimes, leaner and meaner make for better and sharper outcomes.
To make a book shine, we authors are often told to cut down ruthlessly. Every word, sentence or paragraph that doesn’t add to the progress of plot or character has no place in the final version. Hard work, yes? Of course it is. But good advice? Heck, yes.
I’m currently working on the last edits for Population Morpheus, a collection of short stories, and just this afternoon I deleted an ample paragraph that the story could do without. Was I sad? Yes. It was a nicely written paragraph. But I was happy as well, because I ended up tightening the narrative and the chapter looks so much cleaner and sharper this way.
Coming back to PoI–I want the story to wrap up nice and tight instead of meandering for years and losing its edge. I want the remaining 13 episodes to be to-the-point and focused. However, the question remains, whether or not, 13 episodes will be enough to achieve the graceful exit. I think it’s totally doable. That’s how authors/creators tighten stories, sometimes with the able help of their editors. Jonathan Nolan, IMO, is capable enough to do the job.
[Spoiler Alert] I think Season 4 tied up a lot of loose ends already. Okay, nothing on PoI should be called loose, but you get my point. Quite a few serialized arcs were tied up. As in Dominic and the Brotherhood vs. Elias, a closure of Carter’s loss in Terra Incognita, and Samaritan (evil AI) pushing the Machine back to the wall. So, Season 5 could be lean and solely a serialized final PoI season. Finch has come around to taking a protective father role, and Reese, Root and Fusco have all been place at the right points of their character arcs. And oh, we have a clearer sense of Control now and the Shaw arc is also quite within reach. So, we are well positioned.
For those who don’t watch PoI, and are intrigued by the all-powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) vs. humanity premise, now might be a good time to catch up on the previous seasons. Or maybe you could binge watch after the regular season begins.