Person of Interest "Bad Code" Review: Paper Trails

By Tim Surette

Oct 05, 2012

Person of Interest S02E02: "Bad Code"

I think it's fair to call last night's episode of Person of Interest "Bad Code" the second part of a two-hour Season 2 opener. Both carried over storylines that were only resolved last night, most noticeably the case of the missing Finch. But the two episodes couldn't have been more different in tone and crime-solving procedure, mostly because "Bad Code" was unlike any other Person of Interest episode I can recall.

In fact, things were so off from the normal routine that I never quite settled into the episode comfortably until the final act. We got this week's POI number last week, WHAT? The case was a decades-old cold case, HUH? Carter played the role of Finch by tagging along with Reese, PUZZLED EXCLAMATION? And on top of that, Reese put down his trusty guns in favor of tracking paper trails, bank account information, and old receipts. He traded his pistols and throat punches and rocket launchers and smoke-grenade-baby-pacifiers for one of those accountant's visors and some reading glasses, showing that he can brain up when he needs to. We'll let it slide this time.

But that's what happens when you chase Root, the sexy, brainy villain that's Finch's foil. It doesn't make for the same excitement as Reese's typical modus operandi, but it does show us that she's a different game than Reese's nemesis Elias. And the backstory on Root was satisfying; her whole philosophy on people (that she painfully blabbers on about at any opportunity... we get it you think you're better than us) is that they suck, and we see why. Her childhood friend was kidnapped and murdered by a sicko that didn't follow the "if there's grass on the mound, play ball" rule, and when she tried to tell someone that she saw her friend get into the car of a dude the night she disappeared, she was told she was a brat and a liar. That's a bit of a turnoff of the human race, especially at a young age. So she found solace in computers, which she understood a lot more than the sorry flesh-and-blood sacks that used them. I really liked her revenge plot on the pedophile. Steal money from a drug dealer, put the pedophile's name on the bank account that stole it, and let that work itself out. And she gets to keep the money after. If a teenaged Root can pull that off, imagine how nefarious she is NOW.

But for all her genius, there's a bit of arrogance and sloppiness that gets in the way of her accomplishing simple tasks. Let's call it Walter White Syndrome. I know that I can get a credit card for my cat with just a few phone calls. With her computer know how, she should be able to get some untraceable funds with a totally fake identification, or she should at least know to use multiple credit cards. Or how about cash? Yeah, cash! And why leave a receipt of the book purchase in the book that she sent to the pedophile's home as a reminder of what he did (and as torture for his wife, who called her a liar)? You can debate whether leaving the knife on the table for Finch to help Denton Weeks escape was intentional, too, but a smarter person would have known to clear the phone screen when Finch tapped out that coded message that Reese would eventually find. She's Finch's biggest fan, a quick look at the numbers he punched in would be a dead giveaway that he wasn't trying to make a call. That's the problem with writing characters who are supposed to be so damn smart and invulnerable; they still live in a world of television where things have to be stupid sometimes, because 44 minutes of air time and all.

Picking of nits out of the way, I do like her as a villain. She's totally insane, like ex-girlfriend psychopath insane. And her tone in this episode was designed to separate her from Finch after making a case that she and him were a lot alike in last week's episode. Her infatuation with Finch is clinical, but the more she presses, the more she repels Finch, who said: "Please kill me now, at least I won't have to listen to you any more." Oddly, it doesn't really faze Root who doesn't care about anyone liking her anyway. She's pretty much a crazy cat lady that's substituted the Internet and keyboards for furry felines. A sad and lonely soul that's entirely unpredictable.

It would be impossible to discuss this episode without talking about the "Mr. Reese Goes to Texas" aspect of "Bad Code." Person of Interest isn't exactly know for its honest depiction of regional-specific groups, and this fell in line. The Texans in the episode were all huntin' and drinkin' types, which made for some good laughs even though the whole idea was entirely ridiculous. If Reese were on the trail of some French dudes, they'd have pencil-thin mustaches, berets on their heads, and a baguette in each hand. This isn't a complaint, it's an appreciation of hilarious stereotyping.

The other story, which I failed to touch on last week because I forgot and I also had no idea what was going on, are the big bads in the government that worked with Alicia Corwin and tried to have Henry Peck assassinated last season. We got a lot more details this week, but this story is still a long way from breaking the surface. Best I can tell, they're hot on the trail of Finch and Root and the Machine via finding Corwin dead to cover up any connection they have with her, and the head guy is one of the few people that knows about the Machine. Honestly, this might be too complicated for me!

Reese making phone calls isn't nearly as interesting as Reese shooting people in the leg, but eventually, Reese did find Finch and the two were reunited, putting us back at square one and making me stoked for the next episode. We knew they couldn't be separated for long, but keeping them apart for two whole episodes helps us stay off balance and clueless about what this show will throw at is. Moving forward, we're back to the Person of Interest of old (two oddballs solving crimes!), but we should be ready for anything.


– Carter: "Why is there a crossbow on the bed?" Obviously you've never shared a hotel room with Reese before, Carter. Also loved when Reese pointed the crossbow at the yokels and calmly told the operator on the phone, "I'm still here." That was the laugh of the night.

– Hello Margo Martindale! Not exactly a role that shows off your skills, but it's nice to see you. If you haven't seen her in Season 2 of Justified, go do that now.

– Also nice to see Loudon Wainright III as the sheriff, although I'm not sure why he was cast in that particular role. But seeing him in Person of Interest makes me forever tie his song "Clockwork Chartreuse" to Reese and Finch, two buddies causing havoc all over the city.

– Finch has a new roommate! A roommate with an appetite for expensive books, ha!

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • Nixinthe616 Dec 29, 2014

    You CAN NOT win oregon trail that fast, even at a gruelling pace, and rafting all the rivers. It also has a horrible ending for a game that dominated in computer lab i n the early 90s. But i am really)y enjoying the show as whole, Great Christmas present. Who isnt in love with Amy Acker?

  • bothcats Oct 11, 2012

    This was a rather unconventional episode of Person of Interest, but thanks to the amazing acting by our regular stars, Amy Acker AND Margo Martindale, I didn't really feel that much was lacking. Their performances made up for the lack of bullets and Reese being a tough guy. Amy Acker is fantastic as Root, and I look forward to her popping up in the series again. That being said, I am SO HAPPY Finch has a new roommate!

  • NeeUyank Oct 09, 2012

    I am very relieved that this looking for Finch thing is finally resolved, I was kinda scared that it will take ages.. that Root bitch has to die asap, she really is extremely annoying:) and I might be reaching to far back but I remember an episode last season where Reese's ex CIA partner caught the extremely annoying Reese hunting CIA guys.. do we or will we ever know what happened next? are those guys dead? what happened to her? are they by any means related to these governmental guys.. man, and they call this a procedural:)

  • SweetMissJaye Oct 09, 2012

    I really liked this episode but I'm disappointed that Reese didn't catch Root and blow her brains out or something. While she impresses me (like you, I like how she got revenge) I just don't want to see her anymore. I'm tired of villains come back again and again.

  • gilbz Oct 08, 2012

    Funny Moment: Reese and Carter getting to their Texas motel room - Carter says "No".

  • AriSky Oct 08, 2012

    I like the notion that this was a two-part season premiere, but still feel like the case could have benefited from one more episode. I'm very glad that the boys are back together, though, and that Bear decided $10K Asimov books were the chew toy of choice - kinda like Leyla teething on Finch's tie, but better.

    Not sure what to make of Root/Sam/Crazytownbananapants's hair being blonde all of a sudden. It doesn't look like she changed the style, just the color, and her eyebrows are still dark, so she's got a noticeable feature going on. Not very smart.

    It feels like this season is going to be Root tracking down those remaining from the Machine 8 - makes me wonder if she'd already gotten information out of Alicia before shooting her in the head. It would have been a waste if she hadn't, but it might be a plothole... or just a crazyhole. Root can totally claim insanity on any of the mistakes she makes.

  • Suncatcher1 Oct 09, 2012

    Great thoughts, AriSky! Love your catch phrase, the "Machine 8." (Referring to the fact that only 8 people know the machine exists). Who were the 8 - (before Reese, Root and the POI in No Good Deed)? Finch, Nathan Ingram, Alicia Corwin, Weeks, the evil DoD (NSA?) guy in Washington who Weeks reported to - who else? Anybody?

  • Judson43522 Oct 08, 2012

    I liked the episode a lot, but I don't want the whole series to become another serial type show. I'd like to see them visit past characters occasionally, but for that not to be the main focus of the show.

    Bear is Great ! Keep the dog in the show every few episodes even if it's just to greet Reese or Finch. Actually I can see Finch reluctantly warming up to him.

  • bluemystique Oct 08, 2012

    Awesome. I loved the episode. I mean even though it wasn't the traditional POI and Reese wasn't kicking ass the way he usually does, I appreciated the fact that they let us know he's brains and brawn. I mean we knew that already but it was great to see.

    -The whole Fusco investigating the stuff with Nathan or that Alicia chick or whatever was lost on me.

    - What I wouldn't have given to see Carter and Reese on that plane ride or whatever to Texas. He irritates the heck out of her, and he seems amused by her and it makes for one of the fun little things to the show. I was actually expecting more of those funny little one liners and bantering that those two are known for. She was there but she didn't really serve much of a purpose for being there honestly.

    - Even though I figured out that Root was Sam long before the conclusion I still enjoyed it. Also, Root is kind of awesome. I mean sure she's Fatal Attraction meets SWF histrionic nuts...but she plays it so well! Plus, any girl that cheated her way through Oregon Trail is awesome.

    -Bear. LOVE Bear. Reese with a baby was hysterical. Reese with a snarky little mini-me tailing him around was amusing. Reese with Bear is just Awesome.

  • dref22 Oct 08, 2012

    I didn't think I'd say that but so far, I believe season 2 is even better than season one. It was nice to see Margo Martindale! Such a scene stealer.

  • Suncatcher1 Oct 08, 2012

    TIM SURETTE - It's obvious that you love Person of Interest as much as over 14 million of us do also every week (Nielsen). Thank you for these great reviews of the show! It helps keep POI on the air - and attract new viewers to this growing POI family!

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