In the Nov. 19 episode Person of Interest, the show went to a place that not many TV shows are brave enough to do, when it killed off a main character. BuddyTV spoke with creator Jonathan Nolan and executive producer Greg Plageman about the repercussions of the death on Reese and Finch, the future of the Machine and that unscripted kiss.
Can you talk about what led to the decision to kill off Carter? How long has this been on the table?
Greg Plageman: We’ve always known we would want to go there with this character, but also, with all of these characters. We know that there is a larger, serialized story that we want to tell. This is not a 400-episode show. We’ve always known how it’s going to end and when it’s going to end. To keep it moving in that direction, there’s a sense that these characters are in peril every week.
It was a natural evolution of Carter’s storyline, especially because of the losses that she’s incurred. She was beginning to feel like she was working in an environment where she was drowning in a sea of sharks and [HR] was something that she had to take on.
Before it happened, John and Carter got extremely close and shared a kiss that a lot of fans didn’t necessarily see coming. Can you talk about what led to that moment between them?
Jonathan Nolan: They actually didn’t script the moment with the kiss. It was an intense moment between these two characters who had very strong feelings for each other. They had saved each other’s lives at different points in time [and] you never knew quite where it was headed. Underneath it all, we thought something platonic could definitely turn romantic, would the circumstances permit themselves. We didn’t write the kiss into the scene, it was something that the actors actually felt in the moment. We had takes where they didn’t do it and then they finally went there. Initially we didn’t think it was right for the episode and we didn’t watch it until finally we opened up the cut for the episode and we finally looked at the episode and went “Whoa.”
But it never felt seductive. It never felt lascivious. It was impetuous, but it was more of an expression of these feelings for and the understanding that they may never see each other again. And then when we got to the end of the episode and we knew that we might not see Carter again except for maybe in flashbacks we felt like, “Wow, what a missed opportunity if we didn’t actually go there?” If it hadn’t felt earned in the moment we wouldn’t have used it.
John has softened up a lot since the beginning of the series. What will Carter’s death do to his attitude now? Are we about to see a resurgence of the old John?
Jonathan Nolan: One of the reasons why, as writers, we like to write these big, f***ing tragic turns is that you don’t want these characters to become complacent. You don’t want their relationship to become taken for granted. Fitz and Reese have come to this uneasy alliance. It’s a true friendship between the two of them, but [it’s because of] this unusual task that Finch has set before in front of them for two seasons – that they get limited information out of a machine capable of getting unlimited information and act on it to try and help people.
Their inability to save one of their closest allies and friends is going to test that relationship and test Reese’s commitment to the principal of saving lives rather than taking them. That’s a [direction] that we’re excited to explore in the upcoming episodes.
How will Carter’s death affect the rest of the team? How long are we going to see residual effects of what happened?
Jonathan Nolan: That loss, that scale of loss is going to resonate through the show for a long-time to come. In this week’s episode, we have new wrinkle, which is that a number comes up and it’s Simmons’ number, the guy who killed one of our closest friends and allies. Finch looks around him and realizes that it’s probably going to be one of his friends. So for the first time he’s confronted with the job of trying to prevent a murder that may be committed by someone very close to him.
The Machine didn’t call until it was basically too late to save Carter. Is that going to be addressed or was it simply impossible for it to know until it was too late?
Jonathan Nolan: We wanted to play with the idea of the fallibility of the machine. It is sort of all-seeing, but there are wrinkles in there.[The phone ringing] was a cry, almost like an animal. Every season we’ve tried to anthropomorphize the Machine a little more. In that moment, Carter and Reese are sort of swept away in a moment of personal connectedness. Reese’s problem is that every time he lets his guard down, things like this happen, and the same thing with Carter. So in that moment, the phone rings and you see it as kind of the bleat of an animal just trying to get them to turn around. [It was trying] alerting them to the fact that Reese’s number was still up, since Simmons took a shot at Reese first and then went after Carter.
What kinds of stories are coming up for the rest of the season?
Greg Plageman: I think there are a couple things that we’ve been talking about. In the wake of Carter’s death, [Reese will wonder] how can Harold have built this machine if it wasn’t capable to save their friend in time? I think that becomes an interesting source of tension between our main characters.
But the other thing that’s clearly evolving is the Machine and [there will be] various entities that are out there who want to control it. [We’ll also see] a little bit of history of Harold Finch and his creation of the Machine. We have some really fantastic storylines revolving around the Machine.
Check out a new preview of Person of Interest Season 3 Episode 10 below, featuring interviews with Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson and Jonathan Nolan.
Person of Interest airs on Tuesday nights at 10pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)