***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Mr. Robot through “eps2.7_init_5.fve” follow. Spoilers***
Sam Esmail has said more than once that what he does not want for Mr. Robot is for us to think everything is a twist, and that makes perfect sense. You can’t really build a strong show on a foundation of uncertainty. If we’re half-convinced that, at any minute, young Elliot will wake up in that snow drift from the first episode and this was all just a dream, it makes it harder to invest in anything.
That said, twists remain abundant, and I, for one, remain convinced there is yet more to be revealed that will change everything we know.
In that Mr. Robot way, that particular and unique style it has, the episode only really had about six scenes tonight and featured a relative fraction of the main cast. But the scenes are so long, so heavy in detail and exposition, that it doesn’t need more than that. There have been complaints about this, that some scenes run long without much changing and I’ve said before that you may be missing the point if you feel that way. Mr. Robot isn’t just about moving the story on. It’s an exploration. Sometimes explorations linger.
This week surely can’t suffer the same complaints. Even the briefest of appearances were world-changers.
We’ll start with Whiterose, in the US to visit with Price, but not before an exposition-heavy scene in a graveyard beside the marker of one “Lester Moore.”
The CEO of Evil Corp before Price, Moore died in a plane crash shortly after crossing Whiterose, trying to shut down the same project Whiterose still fights to keep alive. The not-so-subtle implication is that Whiterose had Moore murdered, just as she surely did the Feds in China, though nothing is clear yet.
Guys, did Whiterose bomb or crash an actual fucking plane?
Whiterose literally takes a piss on Moore’s grave and, more shockingly yet, ignores her own carefully managed time limitations to do so. I know. I was stunned . She might be late somewhere! Whiterose is also directly informed of Elliot’s release from prison.
Later, Whiterose wears her Zhang suit and her diplomat face and speaks with Price, who is clearly at his edge. They talk up Price’s “pet project,” presumably Angela, who has surprised Whiterose by doing exactly what she was expected to do. Price shrugs; it won’t matter anyway, since the bailout bid failed and Feds are coming in to seize Evil Corp property. This includes the Washington Township Plant.
Which is the same Plant Whiterose is so insistent can’t close. Oh, shit, you guys. Oh, shit.
Zhang nnnnnnopes this idea and full on Super-Villains: “You disappoint me, Philip,” at Price, and mentions Lester. Price calls this what it is, veiled death threats, and misses the absolutely thunderous look Whiterose gives him.
I’m just saying, last time I saw that face she threw it at Dom in the first meeting of the FBI and Chinese government. Then, after a night of genuine pleasantries, had most of the Feds massacred. So watch your back, Price.
But Price impresses me. He has run all out of fucks to give and claps back that a new CEO will be as helpless to stop the plants being seized, so do your worst!
Unaccustomed to having the lower hand, Whiterose tersely asks for the damn point already, and Price wants fat stacks of cash. Free cash. In fact, a gift of cash from the Chinese government to Evil Corp, a bail-out, as a sign of goodwill and an attempt to help America to recover!
With said cash, Price could certainly keep the plant open, don’t you know. Zhang appears to diplomatically agree to this. Then vanishes again. There’s a third part to Whiterose and Zhang that lives between the two of them. It’s this part that coldly kills people, I think. That part of them emerges briefly to warn that Price never, ever threaten the plants again.
But Price still hasn’t found a single life-giving fuck and literally says, ‘Then what? WHAT?!” See, apparently, any action on the plants will start World War III. Price points out he’s a mercenary; he doesn’t play fair; he plays what he wants. It’s who he is. Whiterose/Zhang can’t hide behind order and watch beeps anymore. Price promises, “I will rain chaos” and, good God, what a line reading.
Price will rain chaos at his own expense if it’ll drag Whiterose down, too. He checks his watch and shrugs about being out of time, and off he goes, leaving Whiterose a little lost for words.
Not as lost as Angela, who does either a very brave or very, very stupid thing. A couple of weeks ago, Angela called out Darlene on the fact she and Elliot never involved her in the hack, and one of the undercurrents of the conversation was Angela’s belief they thought she wasn’t smart enough. This was highlighted by the difficulty of teaching her to hack. But this clever, clever show has Angela figuring out social engineering and simple hacks all on her own. She finds the USB Mobley gave her, their plan B in case she couldn’t pull off the FBI mission and hacks the login of her new boss. In minutes, she finds the Washington Township files and copies them over to a new drive. She scurries over with the files and the USB to the Nuclear Commission and we learn that the Township plant not only has nuclear material, but the levels of leaked radiation remain high enough to pose an actual threat to the safety of civilians. The agent she sees promises her anonymity and perhaps even a cash reward. She doesn’t want a reward, just a quick response and resolution of the problem.
It seems, briefly, like maybe Angela finally, finally got a break, like maybe some kind of plan has played off at last. The man she’s speaking to disappears with all the files and the USB drive she used to copy them. But … Angela, girl, you made copies? Please tell me you made copies. Oh, man.
As soon as that happened I had two thoughts: She’s accidentally given him a USB with evidence of the hacks on it, or he’ll take it all and Angela will never see any of it again.
She’s left waiting hours, enough time for it to change from light to day outside the room, then she’s greeted by a woman named Phelps, the deputy director. Phelps walks our girl down a long and creepy hall and asks probing questions, including mentioning she knows Angela works for Evil Corp, information Angela hasn’t shared.
Angela’s jimmies are suitably rustled by Phelps’ slightly creepy and overeager approach. She asks for and fails to get her documents back and books, leaving Phelps with the most curious look on her face. She’s pissed Angela left, but why? Because she’s evil or because Angela just walked away from saving the world?
Then, as if Angela’s blood pressure wasn’t high enough, Dom stops over at Angela’s house. Another resident lets her into the building, and then Dom walks her own ass into Angela’s house over the girl’s protests.
Dom, you’re an FBI agent who sort of sketchily dug through Romero’s belongings and your agency has since been swept up in an illegal wiretapping scandal. Maybe don’t just walk into the home of major suspects in your case with no warrant. At night.
I am briefly distracted by Angela’s breathtaking dining suite but Dom is too busy eating her favourite turkey sandwich all over the table’s beautiful glossy surface. She tells Angela of a dream she had about drowning, then dives right in to explain Ollie sang like a bastard canary the second he was interviewed, and talked about the CD at Allsafe.
Fucking Ollie. Fucking Ollie.
Angela gapes as Dom witters on that she’s had Angela under surveillance for some time now. Though …presumably not enough surveillance to lead to the Smart House, so maybe climb down Dom, you’re not that fucking smart.
Dom knows Angela was at the nuclear commission and it seems like she might be trying to genuinely warn Angela she’s playing with fire and could be protected by Dom if she wanted. She gets up to leave and tells Angela that in her drowning dream, she only survived when she stopped fighting. She leaves on her wise words but, frankly, I am just completely distracted by the fact Dom leaves her entire sandwich and all the wrappings just sitting on Angela’s table and just walks out.
Naturally, though, it’s Elliot for whom shit gets really, really crazy.
We’re thrown into an enlightening flashback about the nature of his arrest, which simply boils down to the hack on Krista’s boyfriend and stealing Flipper. See, it turns out Flipper is a $1,200 dog so, technically, stealing him is a felony. That … seems like a legal system skewed to fuck people over, but okay. Elliot is advised to plead not guilty by a lawyer, but he does the opposite and ends up in prison. I wonder if at least part of why was to avoid his computers being examined in the event of a trial, and to avoid being a guy going on trial for hacking right just as 5/9 destroys the world. That has to be another part of why. It’s a great way to disappear into the system right as you need to, alongside his need to control Robot.
We learn Ray was indeed the warden; his henchman was Elliot’s intake prison guard.
We do not learn exactly how and why Leon came to find Elliot, just that he did, and it’s Leon from whom the advice came about routine, about joining a church group, about finding your way to do your time.
I said before Leon was a spiritual guide, but I thought he was an imaginary one.
If Leon doesn’t live, I will riot.
The letter Elliot showed Krista must be the same one Leon talked up, because it turned out to be release papers. 5/9 has affected prison budgets along with everything else, so low-level, “nonviolent” offenders like Elliot are being released in droves.
No mention is made at all of his work for Ray, or of Leon’s astonishingly violent rescue of Elliot from the Nazi rapists and, if you thought I’d get caught up on that, you’re right. The show skips past it. Elliot is free and greeted outside the prison by his sister. They hug, and it might be the only time we’ve seen them embrace at all. It’s actually really sad. Darlene whispers something in his ear we don’t get to hear, but later, we learn everything that’s happened since last week: it’s been 3 weeks since Mobley and Trenton vanished, with the latter officially classified as missing; 3 weeks since Cisco was spying on Darlene and she smashed him in the face with a bat. They take about five seconds longer than they have to to reveal she didn’t kill him, and I love it.
Darlene thinks Dark Army is cleaning house and Elliot says that makes no sense, as he thinks Dark Army got him out early. But, we don’t see him say this to Darlene directly. Cleverly, the shot cuts away and we hear him speak but don’t know if it was his internal voice or not. Darlene doesn’t seem to register the revelation all that much, too caught up on Elliot wanting to speak with Cisco. Despite her protestations, Elliot talks her into going back there to see him, just in time for them both to get paranoid on the train and jump off, to lose anyone following them.
Not before a very strange visit with … their actual real mother. They must have used visiting her care home as a way to lose anyone curious as to the Alderson siblings’ movements, but Elliot actually wants to stop by and see her. She has whiter hair than the woman Elliot imagined and her face is actually less lined and tired. She looks far kinder, though far older, than the one in Elliot’s head. Maybe that’s just how she looked when they were children, or maybe he imagines her as more monstrous than she is. It’s hard to know with Elliot.
She’s silent; doesn’t even acknowledge his presence. She lives in some sort of care home and presumably the kids have some power over how she’s treated there. Elliot thanks her, tells her she helped him get through the last few months. He promises to get her broken clock fixed, but leaves fairly quickly. A broken clock? Call Whiterose.
It’s a short, achingly sad scene that answers a lot of lingering questions about the Alderson family structure, and raises a few more. Mrs. Alderson is nearly catatonic. Is she mentally ill? Did Elliot inherit his problems from her? Darlene, for the record, flat out refuses to go and see their mother. She ‘waits’, (hides) in a stairwell, until Elliot is done.
After the family reunion, they head over to Cisco, and Elliot has an unnerving moment while he’s in the bathroom, of realising he’s actually not. He, or Robot, is outside arguing with Darlene and Cisco about their next move, while Elliot imagines something else entirely. Disturbingly, even Robot doesn’t know what happened. He says Elliot just got all quiet so he had to intervene.
This strangeness abounds. While Elliot hacks Cisco’s special phone so they can listen in to the Dark Army, Robot complains of feeling hot and off and weird. Elliot demands a meet with Xun — the guy who stuck needles under Cisco’s fingernails a few weeks ago — and explains his plan: he somehow hacks into Dark Army phones to turn them into listening devices, then says he’ll mention Stage 2 in his meet, so they’ll talk about it in the audio feed Darlene will be listening to. They even have an audio translator to turn the spoken Mandarin into English text. He does exactly that, but only after another scene in which he finds himself trapped somewhere else while “Robot” talks to Cisco.
While the boys are gone, Darlene realises that she left the broken tape from last week at the Smart House. I knew that shit would come back.
Elliot and Cisco meet Xun, mention Stage 2, but the Dark Army leaves without another word. Not a problem; this was the plan. At home, Cisco is sent off to fetch the forgotten tape and Elliot/Robot has another strange switch out while he talks with Darlene. We saw this flicker effect when the Nazis were beating him up.
Is he integrating Robot? Is Robot basically dying? Elliot decides he has to go back to his old apartment, against Darlene’s protests.
Cisco finds the tape in the Smart House but he finds something else, something that sounds like a person whimpering. It sort of sounds like Mobley. But, at points, it sounds female. Trenton?
Darlene is sitting at home, and, guys. This shit is about to get real: Xun comes on the chat and talks about meeting Elliot, and Elliot wanting to know what Stage 2 is.
Which they find weird.
Because Stage 2 is Elliot’s plan.
The best part of this whole scene is Darlene. She doesn’t look incredibly surprised. I mean, there is shock; this is news to her. But because Carly Chaikin is a goddess, there’s so much more to her expression. She looks heartbroken. Elliot forgot again. She rises to answer the knocked-upon door. The knocking sounds exactly like when Elliot was arrested.
All episode the lights have been flickering, brownouts caused by a strike at the power station, and in this flickering, Darlene opens her door. We don’t see to whom.
Elliot has made it back home and, as he approaches, he notices a car parked out front. It’s Tyrell’s SUV. He walks over to the window, in shock; we all wait for “Bonsoir, Elliot,” but the window rolls down to reveal Joanna.
And she calls Elliot “Ollie,” the fake name he gave her back when they met in Season 1.
But the way she says it? She knows who he is. And I think she’s always known.
- … well.
- … what??
- … holy frikkin’ shit.
- I have no shame being the Told You So person, so: I told you Ray was the warden; I told you Elliot would be in prison because of Flipper. Now that that’s out of my system …
- Well, not entirely; Elliot’s release is some weeks, months, removed from what happened with Ray, but no mention is made of it upon his exit. The same thing happened with the Season 1 prison break. I know prisons can be little fiefdoms unto themselves some of the time, but … you know. The lack of mention of the prison break from Season 1 still has people wondering if it happened at all; if Shayla could still be alive. Esmail claims he doesn’t want us to pick apart every single thing, but, bro, a little more closure on both seasons’ “prison” plots would go a very long way.
- Now we know the Washington Township Plant is hosting poorly stored radioactive material and the same said plant is of personal interest to Whiterose (though not necessarily the entire Chinese Government), but we still don’t know the exact nature of what is made there.
- Whiterose profits in some way off the plant’s remaining open and the talk of a “project” that dates back twenty-some years. What are they doing at that plant that is so secret, and so important?
- How smart/dumb was Price to cross Whiterose the way he did? I think we can probably put a countdown clock over the big man’s head from this stage forward. He’s doomed, and knows he’s doomed. But that line about raining chaos, that was badass.
- Was his mission with Angela as she speculated? To remove the contingency from the lawsuit? Now we know it’s Whiterose’s plant, it seems the case, but relying on the whims of someone as historically flaky as Angela seems … risky at best. He couldn’t have predicted Angela would come along the way she did. I think we’re yet to find out exactly what Angela was meant to do for Price and as he’s told her now twice, I don’t think it’s that contingency. Hell, considering where he now finds himself, maybe he wanted Whiterose and the plant to be shut down by the inspections.
- And what did Angela stumble into at the Nuclear Commission? She thought she had legitimate evidence of ongoing safety breaches and leaks; she may have had a legal way to bring down Evil Corp, especially if Whiterose has some shady involvement. And, yet, the whole mood over her meeting with Phelps was so strange and just … off. Phelps motivations were brilliantly concealed; the entire scene staged as very subtly unnerving. That could have been Angela’s anxiety and the gravity of her situation. Or it could have been big, red warning signs something was terribly, horribly wrong. Was she right to run away? I don’t know. I can’t decide if Angela ran away from danger, or from saving the world.
- Think about it: Evil Corp, through Price, is on the verge of taking millions, billions, in “gifted” cash from the Chinese, who have a vested interest in a US-based plant leaking radiation? They’d be sunk. And Angela just ran.
- And how is Stage 2 Elliot’s plan? What in fuck does that even mean? And what’s Stage 2??
- Finally, who was the old man on the train, mashing his electronic keyboard as if he was trying to tip Elliot over the edge? What’s happening with Robot and Elliot that is causing these schisms? Robot mentions Elliot will just “shut down,” so he has to jump in and say something. In the same episode, we learn Elliot’s mother is catatonic? It gets more curious the more I think on it.
- Imagine if it turns out Darlene is his mother’s Mr. Robot. That won’t happen; Darlene has done too much independently of him, but there is a still an unresolved story with Darlene’s role in and absence from the family, and her relationship to the woman we think is her mother. I think it’s going to be key, but I don’t know how yet.
For someone who doesn’t want us to second guess everything, Sam, you got a strange way of showing it.