I haven’t watched Person of Interest since the writers’ decision to kill Joss Carter. Here I’ll explain why that decision continues to upset me.
Joss’s role as one of the three main characters was to bring the show back down to earth, to add believability. The idea of a guy with genius programming abilities and virtually limitless funds joining forces with a guy with action hero powers to fight crime might almost be silly if not tempered by real-world considerations. And as an audience, we can’t truly identify with the superhero. Like Bones needs Booth, like Holmes needs Watson, like Superman needs Clark Kent’s relationships with regular people, the John-and-Howard superteam needs Joss. And so Joss was there from the beginning, balancing John and Howard out.
At first, Joss was something of an antagonist, then she became a protector, and then she struck out on her own. After Fusco’s story arc, Joss’ may have been the richest of all the characters’. We see it as it happens, whereas John and Howard’s character development has largely been flashback.
Beyond being a necessary counterpoint to John and Howard, Joss was the only relatable female character in the show. Root is fascinating, and Shaw is a lot of fun, but neither of them is a person the audience can really identify with. Root and Shaw are also lithe; Joss’ full figure was a welcome change from the Hollywood stereotype. Joss was also the only person of color in the main cast.
In one fell swoop, the writers have transformed Person of Interest into a show about a bunch of larger-than-life white people. Yawn.
The decision to kill Joss was bad enough, but then they had to do it so badly. Don’t get me wrong, the suspense and twist at the end were well done. But there was a completely unnecessary element: Joss and John’s supposed love story.
I have never picked up on a romantic relationship between Joss and John. Retconning it in at the last minute cheapens her death. It seems to say that the reason her life meant something is because she was John’s love interest. That she had no worth beyond that. That John wouldn’t have found her death as tragic if not for that element. (And they’ve already done a star-crossed lovers story for John. No need to do another one!)
Downgrading Joss from main character status to love interest status also reinforces the fallacious notion that men and women can’t have relationships without romantic love eventually coming up. If this were true in the real world, we’d never get anything done.
Joss and John were comrades. Buddies. Friends. Yes, of course they cared about each other, but I would argue that it was in the same way John and Howard care about each other. I highly doubt the writers would shoehorn a love story into an episode about Howard’s death.
I also highly doubt the writers will kill Howard, or John. I don’t feel that Joss’ death has suddenly made the show more “dangerous”, in which “anything can happen”, as the producers seem to be claiming. The writers were able to kill Joss because she was a she and a person of color, therefore traditionally expendable. Her death relegates her to “token black character”. It doesn’t matter that removing her character from the show changes the concept. Audiences have plenty of precedent for minority characters being offed regardless of their importance. We understand it, and unfortunately we accept it.
I have no doubt in my mind that the writers consider killing off John or Howard much more difficult–that such a thing would break the show. Yes, it would change the concept. Joss’ death also changes the concept. But unlike Joss, John and Howard are two white guys, and therefore their stories are “essential”. The producers joke about killing John, but if they do, I imagine it won’t be until the last episode of the series.
Want to know another way in which the show isn’t “dangerous”? They very carefully made it clear that the kids would be okay. First they retconned in Joss’ ex and showed that he had changed, so we know her son will be taken care of. And then they saved Fusco’s son. If this show’s concept was actually changing into a Game of Thrones-style story (ugh), no one would be safe, not even children. No, this show isn’t “dangerous”. Killing the solitary minority character is not a groundbreaking move that changes the paradigm. It is simply a weak decision that follows decades, perhaps centuries, of lazy storytelling tradition.
Feel free to prove me wrong, writers. I never wanted any of the characters to die. I love them all. But now that you’ve killed the “expendable” minority, how about you put your money where your mouth is and make a truly dangerous decision about who to off next?