***Spoilers: Spoilers for Mr. Robot through “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12” follow. Spoilers***
If Elliot’s perception of reality reflects the power of computers to let us create and live out our fantasies behind a veneer of anonymity, then Darlene is the cold and logical code that makes everything keep working and moving forward. Though, curiously, we’re about to learn that Darlene’s reality might be just as controlled as Elliot’s.
The show opens on another foundation-building flashback, this time at the coffee shop when Trenton and Mobley first met. It’s not just any coffee shop. It’s Ron’s Coffee Shop, from the pilot episode. They even talk up his unusually fast internet. It’s another of those astonishing glimpses into the formation and creation of so much of what we saw in Season One.
Someone needs to show this to the people who decide how to plant Easter Eggs in the Marvel and DC movies.
Their first meeting is adorable, with Mobley either nervously trying to flirt or just be friendly and Trenton sweetly and calmly hacking his phone in about four seconds after some deft social engineering . Darlene breaks in on their meet cute and they both know her but not each other. She begs off Elliot’s absence but begins to read what sounds like a manifesto.
Last week, we briefly, briefly saw fsociety: Trenton, Mobley, Cisco, and Darlene, gathered around a laptop and acting awfully damned pleased about something.
This week it turns out they’ve seen the schedule for conference call between some FBI head honchos to discuss the 5/9 case, so, naturally, the kids tune in and record every word.
They stumble across such a goldmine of incriminating information that if you wondered if the whole scene was a dream I wouldn’t blame you; happy as you like, the Feds discuss the straight-up illegal wiretapping and warrantless surveillance they’ve been doing in relation to 5/9, with as many as 3 million Americans now under totally illegal surveillance.
Trenton and Darlene rush off and put together an fsociety video about the call, pausing only to have a brief video glitch, which I’m convinced wasn’t just technical problems, and, as soon as it’s finished, it’s posted and shared to Vimeo. Mobley kicks off an argument because other information on the call has left him rightly paranoid but, while Darlene and Sisco are talking him down, Susan Jacobs, owner of their Smart Home HQ suddenly returns.
We don’t get to see what happens next. We’re with Angela, who is tipsy at a bar with that cute guy she went home with a few episodes back. He’s trying to engage her in their date, but she wants to drink and watch the video. She stumbles off to get another drink and runs into an old family friend of her father’s, Steve. Steve the twat. He passive aggressively tosses undisguised hate all over her for working for and dealing with Evil Corp and is the second piece-of-shit, crap, awful, garbage man to suggest she slept around to get where she is. He asks her just who in the hell she thinks she is, and neither of them can hear me screeching the same question back at him.
Angela is crushed but then her motivational tapes prove their worth because her back visibly straightens and that viper-like Angela reemerges. This is the same one who shot down the shoe store clerk back in Season 1. Angela reminds Steve he’s a plumber living on about 60 grand a year and describes his job as “bitterly cleaning things.” Angela, though: she’s 27 and makes six figures at the biggest conglomerate in history and she’s literally just getting started.
That’s who she is.
Portia Doubleday really makes the scene. Though it’s the colder, nastier Angela emerging, there’s a haunted look about her as she speaks. Her conflicted relationship with her job, with Evil Corp, continues to tangle and twist and it’s weighing heavily on her. I am starting to think that the show is quietly setting her up for tragedy. Everyone is so worried about Darlene being caught or even killed, but I’m starting to wonder how much more Angela can take before she snaps.
Back at HQ, fsociety doesn’t get to celebrate their video immediately going viral because they have to tie Susan up in the loft pool room of her ridiculously cool apartment. While they try and figure out what to do with her, she underestimates Trenton a whole bunch, but does talk the softspoken hacker into cutting her lose to use the bathroom. Susan can’t disguise her hatefulness, though, and, despite Trenton’s obvious gentleness, Susan casually throws out some disgusting bigoted barbs about Trenton’s religion and links to ISIS, then tries to rush the girl.
Trenton just dodges and Susan crashes face first into the brick walls of her super nice apartment. Ouch.
Now the problem is worse because their hostage probably needs a hospital, so they need leverage. They hack every email she has, including a secret one Trenton finds, and, while they do, we cut back and forth between an emotional karaoke performance by Angela and their hacking montage.
She sings Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears and she’s a little drunk and emotional, a little off-key and not very confident, but there are glimmers of something special on this note here or there. It’s so sad and it’s the kind of moment where if Angela had any real friends in her life, anyone to take care of her, they’d drag her offstage and go and eat pizza and feel all the feelings.
But Angela has no one, so she sings alone. It’s like she is trying to justify herself, despite her flare of confidence with Steve, or she’s trying to comfort herself about the decisions she’s made.
She’s so lonely. Save Angela.
Later at the bar, an older man compliments her song choice and they flirt and even talk up the fact he could be her father and has actual grandchildren, but when he makes speculative noises about leaving, Angela invites him to stick around a little.
Darlene is checking in with Susan, cutting her bonds but flashing a Taser in case Susan wants to try anything. It seems Susan, a litigator for Evil Corp, wins cases by sleeping with judges, or so the gang has learned. Darlene knows Susan won’t care if that gets out. She’ll slime out of it somehow and fuck them over like they did Darlene’s dad.
At this point, I freaked out because Darlene was giving this woman so much identifying information and that is how utterly, utterly clueless I was about what was coming.
Darlene talks about being four the first time she saw Susan on TV, when the courts ruled in Evil Corp’s favour and found them not culpable for the toxic leak and the family-killing cancers that devastated Elliot, Darlene, and Angela’s lives. Susan had been standing with the Evil Corp team when the verdict was read out, and she laughed.
Just for a second, she laughed, and Darlene, four years old: she saw.
My notes at this point read: “Elliot didn’t radicalise Darlene; Darlene did.”
I still didn’t see it coming.
Susan shrugs that Darlene has her, so now what? She suggests they can figure something out but Darlene tells her she already did. And Tasers her. Susan falls into the pool, limp. She doesn’t even drown. She’s dead before she hits the water.
See, as Mobley later frantically points out to Darlene, who is claiming self-defense, they knew Susan had a heart condition. They had, after all, been living in her house and had spent hours scouring all her emails and personal information.
Darlene is like, “Gosh, did she? Gosh,” but tells Mobley and Trenton to leave while they can.
They go, but not without long, lingering, and knowing looks thrown at Darlene. She stares them down. She, on no level, gives even the smallest of fucks at all.
Later, in another gorgeous New York subway station, Trenton tries to talk herself into believing Darlene killed in self-defense like she claimed. She asks Mobley what they do, and he urges her to leave, now, fast. He warns against even going home in case someone is waiting. She’s scared to leave her family, but he reminds her they did a big, stupid thing and she needs to realise that.
Darlene and Cisco remain behind to clean up, including setting up Susan’s auto-response on her email. They argue back and forth over what to do with the body, but Darlene finally settles on a solution. A ten-second utterly actionless scene on the subway with a suitcase full of dead body and some passing cops is the most intense scene of television in all of the world, but Darlene and Cisco make it to their location.
They hit up the dog euthanasia lab from Season 1, the one where they burned their hard drives and then released all the death row dogs. Their little act of kindness didn’t do much good as the stray dogs were rounded up and returned to the dog warden, but it did cause the cost of his services to double. They don’t have two thousand in cash, but Darlene appears to have taken some of Susan’s ecoins and pays with that.
They pause just long enough for Cisco to point out how traumatising the whole thing is, but, without any ceremony or emotion, they burn Susan’s corpse.
Holy goddamned fucking shit.
On the subway, Cisco is taking Darlene to his place and she seems numbed out with shock but admits she’s just stunned she was able to do it. She doesn’t actually feel bad about it. Cisco is either terrified or falling more in love with her by the second as Darlene explains she always wanted to kill Susan, but figured if she ever had the chance, “something” would just stop her. It was easy. Cisco holds her and says she’s in shock, but he might be trying to reassure himself as much as her. I don’t know that I agree with him. Darlene is prone to panic and anxiety. We’ve seen her wired and intense and fired up. This is not that. She seems pretty calm, and not the dull calm of shock, either. She really might not that upset about it.
Back with Mobley, he’s paid a pizza delivery guy to check that his apartment is safe and empty. Meanwhile, Trenton watches TV with her dad and suggests they should just up and move. Like, now, or whatever. Her semi-oblivious dad shoots it down over problems with the bank and their deeds on the house, but Trenton is distracted by a noise outside her house.
At the same time Mobley is quickly packing up and there’s a thunderous knock at his door.
Trenton ventures outside and sees a suspicious but not super Federal-seeming car conspicuously peeling away from nearby her home.
Mobley is getting arrested by the FBI.
Dom (Beloved!) had earlier questioned the registered owner of the gun that fired the bullet found at the arcade, a gun he illegally owned. She had asked only for a name.
We’re not privy to his answer, but, later, Dom is interrogating Mr. Markesh, whom we know as Mobley, and lays out her case: Mr. Markesh was friends with Romero (whom Dom and we know is a suspect in the hack), who died, and had a flyer for the 5/9 End of the World party, at which a DJ Mobley provided the music.
Back in 2003, Mr. Markesh created a DJ Mobley fan page on Angelfire, the only one ever created for this obscure DJ with a unique name. Dom calls it the perfect recipe for the creation of a hacker handle. So she suspects he is Mobley?
She demands he give up Tyrell and any information at all from the party that would help. The mention of Tyrell is another confirmation (after last week’s divorce papers) the show is not married to Robot’s claims that Tyrell is dead. Mobley remains impressively calm, giving nothing away and just asks for a lawyer.
Outside, Dom’s boss — who suspiciously missed and survived the China massacre — reads her the riot act over her 12-hour imprisonment of Mobley with no actual evidence at all to tie him to anything. He points out the catastrophic fallout of the leaked conference call, with various directors being fired and Operation Berenstain being shut down. He tells her that, even by arresting Mobley, with little to nothing to go on, she’s put them all at risk. He orders Mobley released.
Dom is pretty amazingly clueless, calling Mobley a low-level player they can use to flush out bigger fish. But if she thinks or knows he is Mobley, wouldn’t she know he’s not a low-level player?
It may not matter, as Mobley isn’t exactly going to stick around to pursue a law suit and risk outing any level of involvement.
As soon as he’s outside, he sends Trenton a coded message, and then hard-wipes and ditches his entire phone in a bike messenger’s basket.
Trenton reads the message asking her to meet Mobley at the coffee shop from the flashback and in a very quiet and very sad scene, she puts some things in a bag, tells her mother she’s going out and leaves.
Back with Dom, she’s pissed at none other than Angela’s cutie-pie date, who is a Fed who was trying to get close to her. He’s ranting about her ditching him for some older dude at the bar. Dom insistently asks if it was a contact and the agent sighs. Angela just seems to like older dudes.
Oh, Dominique. You have hurt my heart this day.
Dom is obviously obsessed with the idea Angela is a way in and the irony is, she’s so very right, but seems so very wrong because of the hackers’ smarts. She’ll start to look crazy to her bosses soon enough. It can’t reflect well that every lead she insists on comes up dead. While Dom might see the obvious pattern of why, her bosses won’t. Because this is TV, so they can’t.
Poor, lonely Angela, though.
Darlene wakes up from a pretty restful-looking sleep, and Cisco is showering in the other room. She has to call out to him a few times and, in doing so, notices his laptop is running. She casually asks if he just got up and he lies that he did as she sees he’s clearly been on his computer.
Trenton is waiting for a now two-hours-late Mobley at Ron’s Coffee Shop. Ron’s Coffee Shop is both open and operating, raising questions about what happened after Elliot got Ron arrested. Excellent callback.
Darlene has logged in to Cisco’s chat and he’s been talking with the Dark Army, sending video stills of her sleeping to prove he has her with him. They congratulate his work on the FBI hack and talk up the next stage of their own plan, which is clearly an utterly different one to Darlene’s. It even seems Dark Army are the ones who sent over the device Angela placed in the building, which presumably means it’s been tampered with to let Dark Army get a look at FBI files as well.
Trenton glances up as the door finally opens.
Cisco emerges from his shower to find his laptop smashed to bits and a quietly furious and bat-wielding Darlene. He’s about to ask what’s up when she smashes him in the face.
And we cut to black.
Last week was all revelation with no advancement, though that isn’t a complaint, but this week exploded the plot forward more than it’s moved in weeks. Run through with a constant and growing intensity and pace, we watched Darlene in particular graduate from hacker to murderer with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. It’s unusual for one of a shows heroic leads to not only commit a murder, but so openly feel nothing about it. Arya Stark sort of started the trend, but I suspect audiences might find Darlene’s actions a little harder to justify. Sure, Susan was seemingly a cruel and callous litigator, but did she deserve to die?
And how do we feel about Darlene’s reaction? A lot of us have people we hate; maybe even people we say we’d kill if we ever met. Some are just blowing hot air with no real intent, but others, like Darlene, really mean it. And, like Darlene, most humans figure that common sense or conscience or just our self-belief we’re better than our enemies will stop us from going through with it. Darlene had no such moment of hesitation. Darlene’s cold affect may not last and she may well succumb to some level of panic and guilt, but is it weird I hope she doesn’t?
- How doomed is Darlene? I’ve seen and agreed with a lot of speculation she seems the most likely to be caught by the Feds and even some speculation she won’t survive the series. I think she’ll live, or I thought she would, but this episode is more absolute than any in dangling her over a precipice. Not only is she now a murderer, but Cisco is suddenly a potential danger to her. Right now, she’s very alone.
- What is the Dark Army’s, and presumably Whiterose’s, plan? Romero was the weakest link of our gang, with his flakiness about staying involved and his criminal history, which could easily have been leveraged against him if he was picked up. The massacre on the Feds was seemingly to prevent them going anywhere near the Chinese server farms. The promised visits haven’t been mentioned since and it’s safe to figure they were never carried out.
- But what of their involvement in the FBI hack? They provided the rigged router device Angela installed, so let’s assume they hacked the FBI, too; that much seems obvious, now. Could the device be more? Did Angela just inadvertently plant a bomb?
- If Dark Army is cleaning house, what of Leon, Elliot, and Whiterose? Is Elliot merely being protected because of his importance to the hack? Is he being kept alive as a scapegoat when the time comes? Or is there another purpose? Last week, Leon mentioned Whiterose, but not Dark Army. What if Leon is working for Whiterose and nobody else because Whiterose is just that smart?
- And what of Cisco? He’s a curious creature when you actually stop and give him some thought. He’s utterly crucial to so many facets of their hacks but he remains a pretty major mystery. He’s fluent in Mandarin and despite his “trauma” comments, he just rolled with his girlfriend committing a murder and didn’t hesitate to become an accessory by helping her dispose of a body. He seems as loyal to Darlene as he is to Dark Army. Is he a danger to her or has she gotten the wrong idea? Spying on her for Dark Army could be a sign he’s evil. Or maybe he’s doing it because they’re forcing him to. Maybe, in some twisted way, he’s protecting her, letting Dark Army think he’s on their side while he actually tries to help Darlene. Suddenly, he’s the most interesting guy on the show.
- Will Angela be okay? Seriously? I want her to be. I need her to be.
- And my “it’s probably nothing” theory of the week: When making their video to release the FBI calls, Darlene and Trenton had some minor technical issues. The show lingered over their recording device. If Cisco is suspected, he might have damning evidence of them making the videos. Shiiiit.