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Recap / Person of Interest S02 E02

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Season 2, Episode 2:

Bad Code

We've managed to perfect the apple—a genetically modified version that never goes brown—and yet, we still haven't upgraded human beings. The human race has stalled out, Harold. And from what I've seen, most of it is rotten to the core.

Following a lead from the Machine, Reese and Carter head to a small town in Texas to investigate the twenty-year-old disappearance of Hanna Frey, a teenage girl who was last seen leaving a public library late at night. Between their combined experience, they managed to figure out who kidnapped Hanna all those years ago, as well as Root's true identity. The investigation also yields a lead on Root's source of funds, and Reese is able to track her as far as a small town in Maryland.

Meanwhile, Fusco is left to stay in New York and do what he can on the Alicia Corwin investigation. Hersh, Pennsylvania Two's chief Mook, is also hanging around the New York Police Department to stymie any police investigations, posing as a detective, but Fusco quickly spots the rat and starts tailing him. Thanks to a technological leg-up from Reese, Fusco is able to monitor Hersh's calls and finds out he's a government agent, investigating links between Alicia Corwin and the recent disappearance of Denton Weeks. When Hersh gets word of Denton's love-nest in Maryland, Fusco passes the information along to Reese, who's able to narrow his search.

Meanwhile, Root tortures Denton Weeks and taunts Finch that soon, his "bad code" will cause him to give up the Machine for self-preservation. Later, when she leaves the two tied up and alone in the house for a little while, Denton convinces Finch to help him escape, which Finch does. When Root returns, Denton takes her by surprise, gets her gun and knocks her out. After getting Finch to confirm that no one can alter the Machine unless they physically access the hardware, Denton apologizes and tries to shoot Finch — but the gun isn't loaded, and Root springs her trap and uses a taser to take Denton out, believing she's proved her point to Finch about humans and their bad code. She questions Denton but when he doesn't have anything to say, Root kills him. While she's distracted, Finch drops one of his cufflinks and tries to dial the phone, but Root has disconnected the phone lines. She sedates Finch, and they leave for the train station.

Following Fusco's lead, Reese locates the house and finds Finch's cufflink next to the phone; the number he dialed is a cypher for "TRAINSTN". Reese heads to the train station, but when Root realizes Finch has tipped Reese off, she tries to make good on her threat to hurt innocent people. Despite being mildly sedated, Finch tries to stop Root and spoils her aim. In the confusion, Root escapes, but Reese gets Finch back. They return to New York, where Reese introduces Finch to Bear, their new teammate. Root calls Reese to thank him and Carter for getting justice for her friend, and to let Finch know she'll be coming for him when she's ready. Reese tells her never to return to New York, but Root simply hangs up, and returns to the task of photographing Hersh and a team of suits as they take custody of Denton's body.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Bait-and-Switch: For most of the episode, we are led to believe, along with Reese, that Hanna grew up to be Root, an impression enhanced by casting an actress to play Hanna whose facial features are similar to Amy Acker's.
  • Bar Brawl: Ending in the requisite Destination Defenestration.
  • Call-Back: In-Universe example. Barbara receives a copy of Flowers for Algernon in the mail every year on the anniversary of Hanna's disappearance, reminding her of what Trent did, and the fact that she covered it up.
  • Cassandra Truth: Root's attempts to report what really happened to Hanna being ignored is what triggered her Start of Darkness.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: During the Previously onů, we see Root's ID bracket change from yellow to red, and it remains red throughout the episode. Viewers paying close attention will have noticed that during "Firewall", Root's bracket as Caroline Turing was always yellow - indicating someone with knowledge of The Machine.
  • Continuity Nod: Reese buys Carter and Fusco the round of drinks he promised them at the end of "Firewall." At 8 in the morning.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Again, Fusco proves to be a very good detective who turns a simple hunch into one of Reese's best leads.
  • Dead All Along: Hanna isn't Root.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Reese stealing the file from the police station.
  • Evil Counterpart: Root for Finch.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: At the end of the episode Root has changed back to being a blonde, as per her child self. It doesn't last long.
  • Finally Found the Body: Hanna Frey, until Reese and Carter showed up.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Reese helps himself to a laptop and a cool crossbow.
  • Flashback: More in the style of other procedurals, the flashbacks follow Reese and Carter's investigation of Hanna's disappearance.
  • Forced to Watch: Root forces Finch to watch her torture Denton Weeks.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The reference to Flowers for Algernon foreshadows what Root experiences in "Zero Day" and "God Mode": first gaining, then losing, extraordinary abilities.
    • Root opening an account using Hanna's name seems rather stupid for someone who apparently wanted to disappear - and far more stupid than the Root we know. Turns out that Root was using her dead friend's name to drop some Laser-Guided Karma on Trent Russell.
  • Freudian Excuse: Finch assumes this is why Root has such a dark view of humanity, which she describes as "sweet." Whether or not he was right is never confirmed - although it can be safely assumed.
  • Get It Over With: Finch to Root. Also counts as a Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The sheriff refuses to hand over his file on the Hanna case unless Carter reveals the name of her suspect. Understandable as this case has clearly been hanging over the town for years.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Subverted; Weeks says this to Finch as the creator of the Machine, but intends to kill him.
  • It's a Long Story: "Why is there a crossbow on the bed?"
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Root does this in a Batman Gambit to show Finch just how bad Denton Weeks is.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • What Root does to Trent Russell, the man who murdered her childhood friend. She hacked a drug cartel's bank account and transferred funds to an account in the joint names of the killer and her deceased friend. Then she made sure the drug cartel found out about it....
    • Denton signed off on the use of torture ("enhanced interrogation") against terrorists; Root uses the exact same technique he authorized to torture him.
  • Meaningful Name: Other aliases used by Root are "Dyson" and "Von Neumann."
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Root realises she's seriously underestimated John's intelligence and fanatical loyalty to Harold when they meet in a train station.
    • She has a more subdued one earlier when she realizes that the Machine itself must be helping Reese.
  • Previously onů: From the Machine's point of view.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Ends happily.
  • Rousseau Was Right: As Finch points out, despite all Root's claims that Humans Are Bastards and only follow their worst impulses, a supposedly heartless CIA hitman moved heaven and earth in order to rescue his only friend.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Root tries to convince Finch that she's on his side, he promptly calls her out and tells her to just kill him already.
    Finch: No. You're worse than Weeks, you're worse than all of them. I'd rather die than give you the Machine so please kill me now. At least I won't have to listen to you anymore.
  • Start of Darkness: For Root, via flashback. She saw her best friend get kidnapped and tried to report it, but the police did nothing and the kidnapper's girlfriend tried to suppress the information. Root then took matters into her own hands (see Laser-Guided Karma entry above).
  • Tempting Fate: "You're not going to sucker punch me again—" [Groin Attack]
  • There Is Only One Bed: But not used for Ship Tease. Reese volunteers to sleep in the tub. After learning that there's only a shower stall, he volunteers to sleep on the floor. In the end, the matter becomes moot, as he and Carter finish their business in town before sleeping arrangements become more than a hypothetical problem.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Root lets Weeks overpower her and even deliver a savage beating, knowing he and Finch will reveal more information if they believe they have the upper hand.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Weeks tries to kill Finch after Finch helps him to escape his bonds.
  • Villain Episode
  • Villain Ball: Come on, Root. Did you really think it was a good idea to try and shoot an innocent person in order to punish Finch when you knew darn well that Reese was there too?
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Trent Russell. Root was forced to keep silent about his kidnapping Hanna because he was respected and liked in the town, most of all by the librarian.
  • We Will Meet Again: Reese threatens to kill Root if she comes near them again. Root makes it clear she isn't finished with them. She's not wrong.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Bear chews up a first edition book by Isaac Asimov.
    • This may also be a Mythology Gag, as Asimov wrote a short story about a supercomputer that could predict crimes before they happened in 1957.
    • And of course, Asimov is famous for the Three Laws of Robotics, which deal with the ethical limitations placed on artificial intelligences and how they react.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Denton tells Root, "You have no idea what you're getting into." Root shoots him.