Person of Interest "Bad Code" Review: Paper Trails

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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