By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 20, 2013 at 2:29PM
If you're a fan of the show, and you haven’t watched last night's episode of CBS's hit series Person of Interest, and you hate spoilers, I suggest you skip this post entirely. Although if you're on any of the popular social media websites, the episode has probably already been spoiled for you, given just how active conversation about the episode was on my own Twitter feed after it ended.
It's not a show that I watch (I tuned in for a few episodes during its first season, and was never really hooked unfortunately, so I moved on); but it's been one of TV's highest rated dramas since its fall 2011 debut, averaging in the neighborhood of 12-16 million viewers per episode!
So clearly, lots of you are watching; and, as I recall from my post 2 weeks ago on the most-watched primetime TV shows amongst black households, it was ranked high, in the top 4.
And I'd argue that one key reason for its popularity with black audiences is the presence of one of the show's 3 leads played by Taraji P. Henson.
Last night, "black Twitter" exploded with tweets about last night's episode, dominating my timeline - specifically, on how it ended.
First, let me back up a little bit and say that I wasn't even on Twitter at the time, but I initially noticed a sudden huge spike in traffic to S&A, and when I checked for the reasons for the spike, I discovered that a significant percentage (about 40%) where all coming from Google searches for the search term "Taraji P. Henson, Person Of Interest."
I suppose maybe until last night (although I have no evidence of this), we've been one of a few sites that's written a lot about Taraji P. Henson's involvement in the series specifically, since the early 2012 kerfuffle over her exclusion from a TV Guide cover which featured the show's other 2 stars, James Caviezel and Michael Emerson - an *incident* which, as I remember, was heavily debated in the comment sections of the 2 or 3 posts we published on that specific matter.
But after noticing last night's traffic spike, since I don't watch the show, I immediately took to Twitter to see if it would tell me anything, and, soon enough, I found out that Taraji's character, NYPD homicide detective Joss Carter, had taken a bullet, and died at the very end - essentially killing her character off the show, after 2 1/2 seasons.
A sample of some of the tweets I read as I scrolled down my feed:
"I CAN'T WITH THIS DAMN SHOW ANYMORE"
"IF TARAJI'S GONE OFF THE SHOW, THEN THEY JUST LOST A VIEWER!"
"THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT!"
Up until then, I didn't realize that there was such passion for the series, especially among black viewers, and I even started to feel like maybe I was missing out on something good, and should give it another chance; Maybe I'll check Netflix to see if the first season is streaming, and I can binge-watch and catch-up, I thought to myself.
I didn't, but I did watch last night's episode this morning, courtesy of Amazon's VOD service, so I could see exactly how it all went down. But since I don't have the emotional investment that long-time viewers have with the series, and Taraji's character especially, I wasn't anywhere as affected as they were (and still are). However, I just wanted to see it all unfold for myself; and yeah, she got shot alright. Took one right in the chest, and she seemed to have died right there on the sidewalk, in co-star James Caviezel's arms.
But then I thought, well, maybe she's not dead, and this was a great cliffhanger to carry viewers into the next episode, where we might see her recovering. Maybe the episode begins with her in a hospital bed, unconscious, but alive. Maybe... maybe not.
Maybe she really has been killed off and it's done!
And if that's the case, it may hurt the show and CBS in the long run, if reactions from black audiences are any indication of what's to come, as many said that they'd no longer watch the show if Henson's character wasn't on it. Now whether or not they follow through on that promise is another thing entirely.
But it's a risk that CBS is apparently willing to take, knowing that this is a show with a significant black audience - some who were attracted to it in the first place, and who are continuing to watch it, in part because of Henson's character. If she's really gone for good, then there's the possibility that the show could lose a chunk of its audience in the process. "Black Twitter's" outrage was very real folks! Believe me. I witnessed it firsthand!
Henson didn't really comment on it on Twitter, although she did announce that she will be on David Letterman's show tonight to discuss last night's episode. So all your questions just might be answered tonight, some time between 11:35pm and 12:35pm EST. This just might provide a ratings boost for Letterman's show.
But if you can't wait until then, Henson did give an interview to Entertainment Weekly, published earlier this morning, in which she talked about the episode, and, I must say folks, unless she's been instructed to stick to this specific story (so that you all can be surprised again next week, when you find her alive again), everything she says in the EW interview suggests that she's definitely off the show.
Here's a snip:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn that Carter would die?
TARAJI P. HENSON: I always knew that we would have a beginning, a middle and an end. You don’t tell the audience “Hey, she’s not gonna last!” because that’s the whole surprise element, but that’s what’s so innovative about the show and that’s why I joined. We always knew we would do two, maybe three seasons.
How did you feel when you finally had the script in hand?
It was sad. You portray a character for so long, you care about her and her life. But art imitates life—it comes to an end unexpectedly. It was bittersweet, because I enjoyed portraying Carter. What a strong, powerful woman on television.
Did you feel like, from a storytelling standpoint, it was time for Carter to go?
Absolutely. The audience will be shocked because you don’t see it coming. She said she was going to bring down HR, and she did.
What was it like filming your last scene?
The mood on set was bittersweet, even with the crew. We laugh and we joke, but at the end of the laughs, it was a sigh. I was trying to keep the spirits up, so all night I was cracking jokes and not hugging and getting too emotional with everyone.
Was it a challenge for you to keep the secret?
Yes! I felt like I was lying to my lover. It was hard because I’m Chatty Cathy, and I love to share and talk and I’m a horrible liar. I felt like people could see it on my face.
So, like I said, unless this is all planned, so that audiences continue to believe that she really is dead, only to be surprised next week, based on the above, I'd say she's a goner for sure!
Henson does add that, up next for her, she'll be doing a play. She doesn't say what play exactly, only that it's what she wants to do next, adding that it was where she was trained, and after she completes a high-profile screen project like Person Of Interest, she always loves to go back to do theater.
So fans should be expecting an announcement soon.
Read the full EW interview HERE if you'd like, and/or tune in to Letterman tonight for her interview with Dave.
Person of Interest airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.