Comprised of connecting threads which see Root interrogating Finch and her newest captive Denton Weeks, Reese and Carter digging into Root’s past, Fusco digging into Alicia Corwin’s death. and the exploration of Root’s backstory, the episode offers plenty of development and a sense of progression.
Admittedly, I found some of these elements a touch bland and convenient in places, but ultimately “Bad Code” feels better than the sum of its parts.
While the episode delivered less ‘Machine perspective’ than in the premiere, in some ways Root is a substitute for our omnipresent friend, with her ability to predict human nature continuing to draw intriguing parallels.
She proved herself dangerous, capable and rather humorous throughout her bid to find the Machine’s whereabouts. There are a few occasions where she seemingly lost credibility as a ‘villain’ (like conveniently leaving the knife and phone in reaching distance of Finch), but she swiftly redeemed herself.
The Root flashback didn’t delve into the character in the way I might have expected or hoped, but the almost detached nature of the backstory ultimately works for the plot and makes enough sense for the character that Root ultimately becomes.
What I found interesting about the flashback is that while we can imagine how the murder of her friend sent Root down her dastardly path, it didn’t ‘create’ her as such. She was already gifted at code (the scene where she beats the game and gets to “Oregon” in the space of about 10 seconds was awesome), but obviously she decided to use her possibly God-given talents on a much larger game structure.
In another show she’d be the protagonist eliminating ‘bad code’ from the system. But this isn’t that show, and as yet she’s still presented with her villain hat on despite the tragic circumstances of her origins.
I mentioned after the premiere that there was a brief moment where Root became a sympathetic character. The flashback strengthens that idea, but at the same time a lot of villains have sympathetic backstories, whether it’s too late for Root to change or be helped remains to be seen. But who could guide her….?
The episode did a good job of making sense of some of Root’s more curious actions in the premiere. Capturing Denton Weeks, the guy who Nathan ‘sold’ the Machine to for $1, connected the backstory to the current events while also giving Finch two monsters to choose between. He’s already admitted that handing the keys to the Machine over to the government was a mistake, and Weeks’ attempt to murder him will have only compounded matters.
But is Root the lesser of two evils? As I mentioned after “The Contingency“, she wants to liberate the Machine, but to what ends? Where does the Machine fit in today’s society, and who should be making those decisions?
Maybe it’s time for Finch to share the knowledge, certainly this is what Root hoped he’d be game for, telling him that she’d be the best partner he could hope to have, and definitely the most fun. Root’s fun but she’s also mean, so I don’t know about that. She also blows right through games without enjoying the experience. But in all seriousness, it was interesting to see her reaction to his rejection. She tried to brush it off but this was one of the rare occasions where her heart was more visible than the kevlar.
Finch learning that the Machine has been helping Reese — something he didn’t account for, despite those early signs back in the day — was a nice moment. He now knew that Reese would be able to understand his clues and he didn’t waste any time in planting a seed for his good friend. It also restored Finch’s credibility a little bit, because I had been a bit surprised that he didn’t have any other tricks up his sleeve.
While the episode played out fairly predictably from here, with Reese finding Finch and Root escaping into the wind, it pushed the through line to a nice place with our heroes now on a more level playing field. A lot of the ‘discussion’ is put to the back-burner for now, but looking at these past three episodes as a whole, which we can do thanks to the tight continuation, it feels like the characters are in a different, more exciting place — even though I expect the story to revert into its shell in the next episode, per the procedural requirements.
Still this is not unexpected, and as long as the show can continue to weave the overarching story within the weekly stories (as well as provide those serial-weighed puzzle pieces) then we could have an even more enjoyable chapter on our hands.
8/10 Seriable Stars