Persons Unknown – The Big Questions

20 Jul

If you’ve aren’t caught up on Persons Unknown, then you might not want to read this.  I’m assuming you have, and I’ll be dropping spoilers right and left.  Even if you don’t mind spoilers, if you’ve never seen the show at all, then you will have no idea what I am talking about, so let me just apologize for that in advance.

I like this show, and although it’s making me a little nervous in terms of its random plot and character who aren’t really grabbing me too hard, as I said last time, I have a lot of respect for the producers because of their connection to The Usual Suspects.  I think Persons Unknown is going to be worth our time.

The biggest question:  Why is all of this happening? 

And then a small army of smaller questions gather around it.  Why is this happening to each character for instance – why have they each been selected or whatever this ghost town is?

And in order to answer all of these questions, they’re going to need to cover how it happened as well.

I think that’s the key to answering the big one, and I think there are only a couple possible answers.

Two things that stand out to me in trying to answer the big question are the force field around the town, and the fact that when they escaped it, they were teleported back.  What on earth could possibly account for these two pieces of sci-fi technology sitting around in an otherwise reality-based setting?

Okay – I know there’s not much reality-based going on, but it’s not set in space, it’s set on Earth, and the people seem to be constrained by normal, real world rules.  They have to eat and sleep, they can get hurt and be killed.  They are all normal people from our normal world, thrust into this very abnormal situation.

The military guy accounts for the force field by recognizing it as military technology.  Okay, that’s fine, but it still feels wrong to me.  This is the sort of show where you have to doubt every single thing they tell you.  It doesn’t seem likely that the first thing they tell us about the force field is the real explanation.

The teleportation isn’t explained at all – it just happens, and that’s that.

I think the force field and the teleportation point to a Matrix-style explanation.  The entire town could be a computer simulation.  Notice also that everyone who enters the town gets knocked out first.  That means we aren’t necessarily sure that they ever “woke up” at all.  They could all be lying on platforms hooked up to a mini-Matrix.

Even Erika was knocked out first – though it was ostensibly in the course of receiving her lethal injection. 

We already know that whoever is gathering these people up and depositing them in the Town is capable of pretty much anything.  Buying a death row inmate right out of the execution room would take either a load of money or super-high government craziness.  I’m game for either of those explanations.

So everybody gets knocked out, taken to a facility where their brains are hooked directly up to a big, crazy computer.  The ghost town even feels like a video game – a nice, finite setting bristling with puzzles and a cast of characters, whose nature we only slowly learn about.

Notice how that solution wraps up a lot of the other smaller mysteries – no one needed to sneak into the room and drop off a butterfly chrysalis, for instance, it can just be inserted into the program.    No need to worry about how they managed to building a steel barrier all around the entire town, underground no less. 

It also wouldn’t matter if they spun the lazy susan at the table, mixing up all the fortune cookies – the lazy susan is part of the program, so the controllers or programmers can stop it wherever they want.

There was a similar thing going on in an old John Cusack movie called Identity.  It was set in a remote hotel, and when one of the characters tried to simply walk away from the place, he came up over the hill and was right back where he came from.  It was a dead giveaway that we weren’t witnessing reality.  Spoiler coming, don’t read any further if you don’t want me to ruin that movie for you.


Okay, in that one, all of the characters were different personalities of a single crazy person.  The entire movie was set in the crazy person’s mind.  I don’t think that’s the answer here, because of the fact that we get plenty of action outside the town.  But we do have a crazy person, don’t we?

I have to say, I wouldn’t be very excited or impressed by the computer simulation explanation, only because it has been done before so many times and because it’s a bit obvious when you think about it.  Seems a little lazy.  If that’s the answer, I would need a real twist on that old Star Trek storyline.

I’d be even less excited about the whole thing happening in a crazy person’s mind, and considerably less excited about any sort of purgatory or afterlife explanation.  Again, both of those explanations seem lazy, and they’re setting up a lot of complicated plot structures here.   Complicated mysteries beg for solutions – without them the story would feel random and dishonest.

Again, this is the kind of show where we have to question everything they tell us, so if they seem to be pointing outside reality, then I am inclined to harbor suspicions that everything we’re seeing is real.

In that case, we’d have to swallow teleportation technology. 

I could buy this, if they just wrapped it up carefully in a pretty little box.  I’m not quite sure how they would do that, but I’m saying, I could buy the technology if I really had to.  My general policy with a story is to try and get on board and stay there.

But maybe they didn’t teleport.  We don’t even know how many people in the car were actually working for the Town, but we know at least one of them was – and he was driving.

So maybe the flash of light knocked everyone out, and then he drove back, and they used another flash of light to wake everyone up.  Maybe everybody except one person in the car worked for the City.  I could buy an explanation like that a little easier than actual teleportation.

 If I had to put money on this big question right now, I think I’d say computer simulation.  I think it fits everything pretty well and it’s the easiest to believe, especially since everyone who’s come to the town has been asleep for the trip. 

Either way, there’s the bigger question of why – and I’ve got a couple of theories on that, both of which work whether the town is real or simulated.  

I’ll post that later this week – I’m going to watch the whole thing again over the next couple of days.
Earlier: Persons Unknown Is The New Lost

And: Making My Peace With Lost


Posted by on July 20, 2010 in Persons Unknown


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Persons Unknown – The Big Questions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: