Person of Interest goes on a road-trip to Texas as the hunt for Harold Finch continues. We also learn more about the origin story of the mysterious Root the hacker femme fatale who kidnapped Harold and wants to ‘free’ the Machine by any means necessary. Can Reese and Carter help figure out who Root was so they can see where she is now and save Harold Finch before it’s too late?
After a quick meet-up at a local diner to discuss their game plan, half of the Machine team heads off to Texas to track down a lead on Root’s identity. Fusco gets left behind to keep an eye on the Alicia Corwin case as well as to dog-sit Bear (that is one charming dog I’m pleased they decided to keep him around). The minute Carter and Reese arrive in Bishop, Texas they face a fair amount of opposition from both hostile locals at the local watering hole, The Razorback, as well as from the sheriff’s office when they ask around about the infamous local missing girl case of Hanna Frey. Seems one evening she never came home from the library and no one’s heard anything from her since. Reese is positive that the missing girl would wind up being Root, but they soon learn there’s more to the case as they realize there’s a dark secret in Bishop, Texas.
It turns out that all those years ago when Hanna Frey disappeared she left the library and got into the car of a local man, Trent Russell, a beloved member of the community and sweetie of the librarian Barbara. Trent would go on to marry Barbara (the present version played by guest star Margo Martindale who many people know from her spectacular award-winning turn on Justified) in the years since that night in 1991. Unbeknownst to the librarian, she was in love with a psychopath who took Hanna and gave her a new home…in he and Barbara’s backyard underneath a new patio extension two weeks after Hanna vanished. Once they realize this, Carter and Reese’s Root suspicions shift toward Hanna’s friend, Sam Groves. The friend who tried to inform the police and Barbara about what she knew about Hanna’s disappearance and was completely rebuffed by the latter who refused to think of her crush in such a manner.
Even though it’s standard POI practice to have a story-changing shift in an episode they really dragged us along with the idea that young Hanna would become Root. The flashback scenes for ’91 featured a young actress who looked an awful lot like Amy Acker and she had a love of computers (playing the original Oregon Trail game) as well as heady fiction (she checked out a copy of Flowers for Algernon before disappearing and a new copy of the same book would find its way to Barb’s address every year since Hanna disappeared) that fit what one would look for in a younger version of Root. That final touch especially evoked a sense of homage toward The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo if you replace Wasp with Root and remember that in the film as well as the novel that someone was being sent pressed flowers every year on a missing girl’s birthday. It turns out while Hanna Frey struggled to ‘get to Oregon’ while playing the game in the library that Sam Groves was more than adequate at anything involving computers—a skill that would only grow and contribute to her warped perspective on mankind and morality that we know so well now.
We’re here to observe another kind of code—bad code
Over in Maryland where Root is keeping both Finch and Denton Weeks in her custody we see more examples of how unhinged Root truly is. There have been hints of it before with her complete apathy toward harming others to get what she wants and that’s on full display with her preference in torture techniques (‘Palestinian hanging’ is apparently the new water-boarding on TV) against Weeks. She tries to question him on the whereabouts of the Machine as well as use him to prove to Harold the ‘bad code’ that exists in people like Weeks—a man she’s appalled was given any access to the Machine when Nathan Ingram ‘sold’ it to the government for one dollar. Root plays possum and allows Weeks to get the upper hand to allow Finch the chance to witness first hand the kind of man he ‘sold the world’ to. He’s downright vicious toward the woman when he gets the chance and Finch has to compel him to keep from killing her in his rage–playing exactly into Root’s hands all the while. Weeks relents and asks Harold if the Machine is safe and hidden away from people like Root now that the knowledge of its very existence has been compromised. Finch assures him that the Machine cannot be accessed remotely, but that’s practically begging for the servers to be found sometime before the season is out now that Finch said that out loud.
After Root believes she’s gotten all she can out of Denton Weeks she strikes back against him at her first opportunity. She asks him once more to tell her where the servers for the Machine are and he explains that they were put on a train to Utah before he winds up with a bullet for his trouble. Finch manages to leave behind a message for anyone who may come trying to find him while Root is distracted during her last conversation with Weeks. She transports the (mostly) sedated Finch to the train station so they can head out west. Unfortunately for her, Reese and Carter cracked who she really was with the help of Fusco and following the trail Root left behind they put the pieces together and Reese heads off to find his friend. Reese first arrives at the abandoned cottage where he finds a simple tap code Finch left behind then finally to the train station itself.
Loved that Finch was actually the one whose actions were essential in freeing himself from Root’s clutches but she did manage to get away during the melee at the train station. She’s a fine enough villain and it’s wise for the show to dole her out in small appearances much like they did with last year’s big bad Elias. I’m still eager for him to come back in some way. Also it was great seeing Reese do his thing outside of NYC as he proved handily if there’s a bar in your town then John Reese can get in a brawl there no problem. Caviezel really knows how to play with his character’s lack of respect for the way things should be done in a proper investigation as long as it gets results. Yeah I know that basically makes Carter the cop that’s by the book and Reese the rebel that breaks all the rules but it’s a system that works well for POI. It was also a good idea ultimately for the girl they went after to not be Root since actually finding out what happened to Hanna Frey led her own father and town of Bishop some much-needed closure. Giving the Machine team a way to help someone who needed it even without the Machine giving them a number.
Reunited and it feels so good…wait is that a first edition Asimov?
Thankfully, Person of Interest didn’t decide to make the hunt for Harold into a cross-country road trip that lasted more than a couple of episodes. Finch is clearly both grateful and deeply touched that Reese decided to go after him even though he wasn’t supposed to. When Finch gets the chance to give Root his parting shot that not all people are just ‘bad code’ it was a great moment that proved how close Finch and Reese have become in their short-timing of knowing each other. Since Finch is the man who gave Reese his chance for redemption it must hearten him to see what John’s truly been able to do with it. They arrive back at their HQ and Finch gets introduced to Bear who’s got one of his first editions clenched between his teeth when he saunters up. So while Finch may be safe for now Root’s still out there and while she may be hotter than ever on the trail of the Machine, but she’s got John Reese to deal with now. I’m sure he’s going to be vigilant in keeping Harold safe from harm as well get back at Root for putting Finch in those circumstances to begin with.