Person of Interest: s02 e02 – Bad Code


Root and Harold

Episode 2 of the second season of Person of Interest is both the resolution of the kidnapping of Harold Finch by the mysterious Root and the setting of the course of not just this season but all those to follow. Though the show separates its cast into three different strands, as well as providing us with our deepest flashbacks to date, everything is integrated. Though Finch is reclaimed, and restored to the Library, from which Numbers will once again emerge, this isn’t a reversion to the status quo. Things have been stirred up.

Reeese divides the forces succinctly. He and Carter are off to Bishop, Texas, investigating the 1991 disappearance of 14 year old Hannah Frye, who walked out of the Public Library one night and was never seen again. John is convinced Hannah is Root.

Fusco stays in new York, looking after Bear, the dog who’s joined the team, and pursuing the Alicia Corwin murder case, including just who’s interfering with the investigation. He may not appear to be the World’s Finest Detective, but our chunky little man does at least pick up that Hersh is the one doing this, if not necessarly who/what Hersh is.

And Finch is still bound to a chair in Denton Weeks’ love nest, waiting for Weeks to wake up, and listening to Root expressing her opinions on humanity in general and those to whom Finch and Nathan Ingram sold The Machine in particular. She sees them as Bad Code, and much of what goes on between her and Weeks is proof that she’s not wrong in her specifics, but, listening to her, it’s hard not to see her as mad, clinically insane. She is obsessed with The Machine, with unfettering it, with letting a truly Artificial Intelligence force an extreme evolution on humanity, but she sees that humanity as unimaginably beneath her, failing to attain a level of intelligence that she possesses, and which she uses as a bar to them that cannot be crossed, except by the exceptional, like Harold Finch.

Whilst this is going on, Reese and Carter are in Bishop. There’s the usual small-town trouble: the local idiots want to take the piss out of ‘Wall Street’, the man out of place in the suit, and get their comeuppance, the Sheriff (played by Loudon Wainwright III) won’t let Carter see the case file without her coming over with what she’s got that might tie into the matter that still haunts the town, twenty years later, so Reese steals it.

They work the case Cold Case style, from the beginning, but nobody’s got anything new. Hannah was playing a primitive video game, the question-and-answer type, and consistently dying of dysentry, whilst her younger friend, a slight, fair-haired girl, pooh-poohs it.

There’s very little to go on. Hannah leaves the Library, accepts a lift from a respected local man in his car, Trent Russell. Her friend makes an anonymous call to the Police, which gets nowhere. She makes a much more specific statemet to Librarian Barb, who shouts her down and tells her to keep her mouth shut. But Barb is in love with Trent, and will marry him, have a few, brief years of happiness, until Trent is killed in a roadside robbery (oh, but there’s much more to it than that).

There would be no lead but for the fact that someone, Hannah/Root, is sending yearly reminders. Credit card statements in Hannah’s name to her drunken and neglectful father, copies of Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (Hannah’s favourite book) to Barb.

The pieces slot together. Reese, stil using his stolen identity as Detective Stills, traces the credit card back, step by step. He discovers that Hannah’s first Bank Account was opened with $100,000 electronically stolen from a Mexican drugs kingpin, paid into an account co-signed by Trent Russell (classic Root manipulation, setting up Trent’s murder). He finds a credit card transaction, three hours ago, at a gas service station in Maryland.

Where Root is still manipulating. Weeks is subjected to Palestinian Hanging Torture until Finch pleads with her to stop. Whilst she is gone to get gas, Finch manages to knock a suspiciously handy knife close enough to Weeks so he can free himself. Weeks jumps Root and beats her. He thanks Finch, who he now knows to be The Machine’s creator. He’s proud to finally meet him. He then shoots him with Root’s gun.

Actually, he doesn’t. There are no bullets in the gun. And Root was only shamming and tasers him down and ties him up again. Everything wa a set-up, to demonstrate to Finch that The Machine is in the hands of the wrong people. He still refises to assist her in any way. Weeks does give up some information, the beginning of a trail of where The Machine went, but that’s all he knows. Then she administers a mild sedative to Finch: they’re going on a train journey.

In NewYork, Fusco’s got to Corwin’s hotel room before Hersh. He provides John with an address in Maryland, that love nest. John’s going there, where Hannah’s got Finch.

But she hasn’t. Hannah Frye is dead, has been dead for a very long time, her body discovered under a patio relaid two weeks after she disappeared. She couldn’t be Root. But her twelve-year old friend, Sam Groves, who solves the video game that frustrated Hannah inside thirty seconds, establishing an unbeatable high score, could be. And is.

Reese catches up with Root and Finch at the station. Root’s dismissed John as a knuckle-dragger so his appearance genuinely startles her. But Finch has broken her rules, so someone innocent will be shot. Finch manages to disturb her aim, John has got too close, and she runs off. Finch ticks him off for coming after him: his job is to protect other lives. John’s unabashed. The pair have passed through an ordeal by fire: things will change.

Not Root though. When they’re back at the Library, she calls Reese on a supposedly disconnected mobile phone. It’s partly a warning that she isn’t going to give up. But it’s also a thank you. Thank you for finding my friend Hannah, for assuring her a proper burial: Root won’t forget.

So, like I said, the status quo is restored. Only it can’t be. New conditions exist. The Person of Interest of season 1 could have gone on forever, or until viewers interest dissipated. Now there’s a story taking place. and stories have endings. We are on the road that leads to final fates. We will learn what fates these are over the next 78 weeks.

7 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s02 e02 – Bad Code

  1. Brilliant tragic backstory for Root here. POI has a way with villains, and it has a way with humanizing villains. I always found Root to be a very sad character, and this episode’s the main reason why. Shy, lonely kid, good with computers, only friend brutally murdered.

    1. Nature or Nurture? I believe that both affect who we are. We begin as the product of the genes we inherit but we are then shaped, often irrevocably, by what happens to us. Samantha Groves was marked out by her high intelligence, which made everyone around her look like aliens, another race. But without Hannah’s murder, and her own silencing by adults who thught themselves superior to her, would she have become Root? We don’t know. I think that she would not have been Root as we know her – but that her reaction to Finch’s Machine existing woiuld have taken her down a parallel course.

      1. The answer is, of course both. Your interpretation of Nature v Nurture is the consensus of psychologists. Sam Groves was a strange, highly intelligent kid who never quite fit in. I could see her searching for a higher purpose like the Machine if she caught wind of it. But I think her misanthropy, her view of humans as bad code, would not have been quite as strong without the murder of her best friend (/crush?) and the complicity of the librarian.

  2. Not crush. Friend yes, but more as an only-one-I-can-tolerate. The rest I agree with 100%.

    How nany other series are there where we can discuuss the psychology f its cast so deeply?

    1. I saw that theory on Miranda Ellen’s recaps, which are primarily concerned with LGBT issues.

      As for other series……The Sopranos, for Tony, at least. The Wire not really–it is Dickensian in the truest sense, more sociological and political than personal. Treme, maybe. I’m struggling here. Halt and Catch Fire, for sure. Maybe Buffy. (Not DS9).

    2. Also, I never thought about the theory that Hannah may have merely tolerated Sam out of pity rather than being a true friend.

      1. Interesting thought. I was considering it from the perspective that Sam tolerated Hannah, but such a relationship has to be two-way.

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