Person of Interest S2, Ep2 - Bad Code
Show: Person of Interest
Episode: Season 2, Episode 2 - Bad Code
Aired: Monday 9:30pm, October 15th 2012
* SPOILERS – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THIS AND PREVIOUS EPISODES OF PERSON OF INTEREST.
In 1991, fourteen-year-old Hanna Fry leaves the public library in Bishop, Texas, and is never seen again. Soon after, someone calls the police to report Hanna got into a car, and gives the licence plate. In the present, Reese and Carter leave for Bishop, believing that solving Hanna's disappearance will lead them to Finch. Fusco is left to keep investigating Alicia Corwin's murder, but Hersh is undercover in the precinct, trying to figure out why Corwin was in New York while throwing NYPD off the scent. In Bishop, the sheriff refuses to help Carter, so Reese steals Hanna's case file. Reese and Carter speak to Barbara, the librarian working the night Hanna disappeared. She remembers the other people who were there that night, including Hanna's friend Sam Groves, a local boy named Cody, and a patron named Trent Russell. In Maryland, Root tries to convince Finch that her "bad code" view of humanity is correct, and offers Weeks, who has been strung up for several days, as proof.
Keep dreaming, Finch. It ain't gonna happen.
Hanna's father believes she's dead, and shares the popular opinion that Cody killed her. As they leave, Carter asks if anyone's made contact, and the father says he's received bank statements in Hanna's name. Fusco realises Corwin's personal items have disappeared. He suspects foul play and grows suspicious of Hersh. Reese goes to the local bar to talk to Cody, and after roughing up the regulars, he concludes that Cody is innocent. Based on the bank statements, Carter runs a credit check and discovers a bank account in Hanna's name, opened two years after her disappearance. Root ties Weeks up while she leaves to fuel her car, and Weeks begs Finch to help him escape. Reese and Carter learn that $100,000 was transferred from a drug kingpin's account into the account in Hanna's name, and the co-signatory was Trent Russell. They go to Trent's house and find Barbara, Trent's wife until his death fifteen years earlier; he was murdered by drug dealers, although no one knows why.
The licence plate on Trent's car matches the one from the 911 call, and Reese concludes Trent kidnapped Hanna. He theorises Hanna escaped and got revenge by stealing the $100,000 from drug dealers, who traced it to an account in Trent's name and murdered him. In Maryland, Finch is reluctant to help Weeks, knowing he tried to hack the Machine, but he eventually relents and kicks a knife over to Weeks. When Root returns, Weeks brutally attacks her and takes her gun. Searching Trent and Barbara's home, Carter finds sixteen copes of Flowers for Algernon, the book Hanna checked out from the library. Barbara says one arrives every year on the anniversary of the disappearance; the latest one has a receipt, and Reese leaves to track it down. In Maryland, Weeks agrees to let Finch go and asks if Root can access the Machine. Finch says it's uncrackable except via the hardware. Satisfied, Weeks tries to shoot Finch, but the gun isn't loaded and Root takes out Weeks with a Taser.
He's trying to catch a 12:45 to the city. It's okay, Reese; we've all been there.
Carter and the Bishop sheriff play the anonymous 911 call for Barbara, who identifies the caller as Sam Groves. Sam told Barbara what she saw, but Barbara accused her of lying and told her to stay quiet. Using the book receipt, Reese tracks down Root's credit card, which was used only hours earlier in Relton, Maryland. He's still convinced Root is Hanna until Carter and the sheriff find Hanna's body buried in the backyard; instead, Carter thinks Sam Groves became Root. In New York, Fusco uses some of Finch's phone-cloning technology to eavesdrop on Hersh. He overhears Pennsylvania Two ordering Hersh to investigate Week's disappearance, and passes the lead along to Reese. Between Weeks and the credit card in Relton, Reese figures out where Root is. When she realises Reese is closing in, Root sedates Finch for a train journey. Weeks can't tell Root where the Machine actually is, so she kills him; while she's distracted, Finch leaves a coded clue.
Reese arrives at the house soon after they’ve left, and finds the clue pointing him to the local train station. When he follows them, Root is furious, and Finch says Reese is living proof that not all humans are "bad code". She tries to make good on her threat to kill bystanders, but Finch manages to stop her shooting a transit cop, and in the confusion, Root escapes. Reese and Finch return to New York, where Finch is less than pleased to find Bear chewing on his first editions. Root calls them to say thank you for finding Hanna, and to tell Finch she'll be in touch. She hangs up, and goes back to photographing Hersh and his team as they take Weeks' body away.
Thoughts on the Episode
The follow-up to last week's season premiere is much slower, simpler affair, presenting Reese (and the audience) with a simple problem and the promise that solving it will lead to the resolution of the plot. Without having to cram as much plot into the episode, 'Bad Code' is free to explore some themes and get to the root (pun intended) of the titular phrase and what it means. Because really, this episode is all about exploring the dark side of human nature: at every turn, Reese, Finch and Carter are encountering people who act badly, fulfilling selfish impulses rather than doing the right thing. The obvious candidate is Trent Russell, guilty of kidnapping and killing a teenage girl, but it's all too easy to shift the spotlight a little to the left and find his wife, Barbara, who was driven by a supposedly selfless and wonderful human emotion -- love -- to aid in the kidnapping and cover up the evidence. Hanna's father beat the man they thought was responsible. Those drug dealers murdered Trent, though it's hard to feel sympathy for him. Denton Weeks turned on Finch and tried to kill him, after Finch put aside his own personal misgivings and tried to help Weeks for a greater good.
'What a tragedy.'
'I know. That patio furniture, with a house this colour? It's just tacky.'
And then there's Root herself, an Übermensch of the highest order who uses her own conclusions about human nature to justify stealing and killing with unrestrained joy. She abuses Weeks and Finch to try and prove how terrible people are, which seems like the most backwards logic ever. It all puts the heroic actions of Reese, Finch, Carter and even Fusco in sharp relief; when Finch declares at the climax that Reese's arrival at the train station proves Root wrong, what he's just witnessed is an ex-CIA hitman move heaven and earth (not to mention a sapient supercomputer) to save his friend. Root has to earnestly take her hat off in the final minutes and respect Reese for getting justice for Hanna, the kind of justice that Root herself, with her bad code, could never achieve.
It's this interesting thematic core that holds the episode together. Not that everything surrounding it is bad, but thanks to the slower pace, it lacks the immediacy of the season premiere. The mystery of Hanna Fry was always going to have an obvious subversion, because simply letting the suggestion from 'The Contingency' that Hanna became Root was too easy for the writing team. Root continues to be an excellent villain and Amy Acker revels in the upbeat psychopathy of the role, but two episodes is definitely the limit for scene after scene of her 'humans suck' viewpoint, and giving her a rest after 'Bad Code' was a wise move. Some more of Fusco holding down the fort in NY would've been nice, and the few fight scenes felt tacked on, like the episode had some sort of quota to fill, but they're nitpicky complains in the midst of another fantastic episode and a great follow-up to the season premiere. For such a relatively small victory, our heroes come out looking more heroic than ever, and we, like them, are ready to get back to receiving numbers and seeing what comes next.
What Did We Learn?
- The location of the Machine is such a highly-guarded secret that even Denton Weeks didn't know more than the first few legs of its shipping route. Does Pennsylvania Two know where it is? Could it be possible that the shipping was done in such segmented secrecy that no one knows its final location?
- Hersh's brief seems to be cleaning up after the Machine operation's deceased, as evidenced by the final scene. How much does he know about what he's doing and why? Given that Reese left Weeks' house in a hurry and left some evidence behind, how long will it be until Pennsylvania Two is on Reese and Finch's trail in earnest?
If you've got any opinions, questions or theories to contribute then feel free to leave your feedback below, but please don't post any spoilers.