Recap / Person Of Interest S 01 E 13

Season 1, Episode 13:

Root Cause


The latest number is Scott Powell, an unemployed construction manager who has sent threatening emails to a congressman and obtained a rifle license. Reese and Finch believe he's planning to assassinate the congressman at a public event in the city, but when Reese tries to intervene at the last moment, they realise the shooter is someone else entirely: Powell is a patsy, set up as the assassin by a computer hacker. With the evidence against him, Powell is arrested by the FBI, forcing Reese to intervene and break him out of custody, which kicks off a city-wide manhunt. Finch attempts to locate the hacker who set up Powell — a woman who goes by the name "Root" — but she reverses the trace and starts destroying Finch's systems from the inside-out. To prevent Root from compromising everything, Finch destroys his set-up at the library and orders Reese to destroy his cell phone before going mobile with nothing but a laptop.

While Reese and Powell evade the shooter, who is determined to clean up the final loose ends, Finch calls in Zoe Morgan to help figure out who hired Root and the shooter to kill the congressman. Together, they're able to gather evidence on the congressman's business partner and forward the information to Carter while Reese dispatches the assassin and Powell turns himself in to the FBI so he can be exonerated. After Powell returns to his family (With Finch hinting that Powell may be contacted by a construction company he owns that has a foreman job opening up in the near future), Finch is contacted via IM by Root: she knows his real name, acknowledges im as a worthy opponent and looks forward to "the next time".

Tropes present in this episode include

  • Brick Joke: The womanizing student Finch meets at the library gives him the thumbs up later on.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reese rips a hand drier out of a bathroom wall and gives Root's gunman a concussion with it.
  • Conspiracy Thriller
  • The Cracker
  • Cut the Juice: When he realizes that his system has been compromised, Finch simply destroys his phone and turns off the generator powering his equipment.
  • First Name Basis: Used to give Harold Finch an Oh Crap! moment.
  • Frame-Up
  • The Ghost: Root, who is only ever seen from behind or as fingers typing on a keyboard. She clearly exists, yet is more meticulous about staying hidden than Finch.
  • In Medias Res: Reese is in the middle of a fight when the episode begins.
  • Kinda Busy Here: The episode opens with opens Finch at the library pouring tea, then ringing up Reese to wish him a pleasant "Good Morning". Cut to Reese being slammed about the room by a bald-headed thug twice as big as he is.
    Finch: Bit of a bad connection. Were you able to convince Mr Billoc to abandon his plans to kill his ex-wife?
    Reese: I'm working on it.
  • MacGyvering: Finch builds a Wi-Fi antennae out of a Pringles can. Truth in Television: it's called a cantenna.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted when Reese advises Finch to take an empty water bottle on stakeout.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The only thing we know about Root (At this point, anyway - we learn a lot more about her in later episodes) is that she's a she.
  • Searching the Stalls: Root's gunman does a really bad job of it.
  • Similar Squad: Finch for Root, and Reese for her hired gunman.
  • Ship Tease: Reese's story ends on a promise to buy Zoe a drink sometime.
  • Shown Their Work: The episode has a very accurate portrayal of how computer security and hacking work, and used correct terminology throughout.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: Scott Powell failed to tell his wife that he'd been laid off due to budget cuts. This makes him the perfect patsy for the assassination of the politician who made said cuts.
  • Worthy Opponent: These exact words are used by Root.