I tried to review this episode basically in the same (apparent) one take as it aired (accounting for a few much required hand resting pauses). Enjoy.
Open on Elliot in the elevator to work, being eyeballed by a coworker. The man mutters in German ‘Aller anfang ist schwer. Anfang ist angang’. The beginning is Hard. The Beginning is the beginning. (Some redditors think he said ‘Anfang ist einfach’; translates to: The beginning is easy.)
On a screen in the elevator the news discusses the annexation of the Congo by China, which, again, just a thing that can happen apparently. Elliot’s phone rings, and suddenly Angela is there asking if he’s going to answer.
All one shot, so far.
Darlene is calling and demands he meet her downstairs at once, and a suddenly there Angela is curious who he’s speaking to. Elliot, though, is spaced out and weird and in voiceover to us, says he doesn’t feel quite right. At his desk, he accidentally prompts IT Bro Samir into owning the worst parts of his personality, and vowing to do better (fucking hilarious) while figuring out with a quickness he’s locked out of his work account. Elliot uses Samir’s machine and learns the Dark Army ran Stage 2 earlier that morning, though Elliot’s earlier work prevented it from happening, but now it’s all up in the air. Elliot realises he’s about to be fired, and once he does and loses access to the building he’s screwed, so hoping to hold that off as long as he can, he grabs a laptop and runs.
IT Bro runs some interference on the HR lady coming to get him, and Elliot bumps into the manager from his meeting who wants to congratulate him, as the bosses are going to implement his plans. Elliot learns he was absent Friday and lost four whole days after the work party, but doesn’t know how or where. Darlene calls again, but he explains he can’t leave the building yet, as he wont be let back in and all his access, including his maglock card for the door, has been revoked.
HR and security are following him into a stairwell so Elliot manages to trick a distracted guy into letting him out on another floor, and then Elliot tries to blend in and act normal like everyone else around him. He realises in a hot second that plan won’t work as he’s, you know, Elliot, so he needs to get his hands on a machine.
There’s a lot of cool, quiet social engineering happening throughout this as Elliot quick thinks his way around.
Oh, and 13 minutes in, still one shot.
Elliot spots a lady warming up for her workday by sniffing TipEx/White Out fluid, like she’s having her first coffee in a decade. He introduces himself and technobabbles an excuse at her to get on her machine, but in my favourite moment in TV, she turns out to know as much if not more than Elliot, and babbles right back at him. His look of strained exasperation is hilarious. However! The lady does know some literal Bernie Bro who does use shady software, so she leads Elliot over. Bernie Bro tries to give attitude, but Elliot literally scares him off his machine and logs in.
Elliot does some checking and learns Dark Army are going to use a new software to bypass his patch. He can stop it physically by getting to the right place on the twenty third floor and why yes, he does use a lot more words to explain that to us; if you think I can keep up with half the shit comes out of his mouth, you are WRONG. HR and now several members of security are floating around, so Elliot does all he can do and just slips into a conference room where a meeting is taking place, and sits down like he belongs there. He whips out his phone and to enquiring questions, acts like he’s mid-email and can’t be disturbed. Elliot stalls for a while about whether he’s in the right room, then just as he’s making his exit, Evil Corps frikkin’ ENTIRE security contingent is just chatting away right outside the door. He hilariously, anxiously stalls a second longer, then can barely stop himself sprinting to actual safety as soon as he can. He’s spotted and chased, and has to dive into the elevator and head for the lobby.
The camera spins and spins around while he panics, so you get a damned good look at the inside of the elevator, enough to leave you wondering how the hell Esmail pulled this whole thing off. Elliot asks what Robot would do and his name spoken, the Devil appears. But, to me, it is not Robot Robot. It’s Elliot’s version of Robot, a sounding board for him to bounce his panic off of. They talk through the situation, and realise he can’t get to the server room that he needs to today. He has to focus on emptying the tower before it’s blown up, which seems inevitable.
He leaves the elevator and without much fuss, he’s escorted off the premises and into the crowing protest outside. Crowds chant ‘This what democracy looks like!’ while Elliot tries to call in a bomb threat to clear out the tower building, unsure if it will even make a difference. Darlene turns up, and just up and admits the FBI shit, and Elliot’s world goes silent while she spills the beans about how much they know. Elliot asks how long, and she claims to have made a deal for them in exchange for Tyrell. Elliot is quietly freaking, thinks she’s wearing a wire, and can’t believe her claims she’s being truthful.
Then she tells him about Angela, that she knows, and they’re working with Tyrell. Elliot remembers the other night, and that Angela is the one behind it all. Darlene tries to call Angela a traitor, but Elliot says she is well. In a cleverly hidden cut ( I see you though, Sam) we pan across to a CNN reporter discussing the unusually large crowd of protesters outside the building. Somehow, rumour is out and at least a few protesters are there because of the Annex of the Congo.
While security fails to quiet the crowd, we follow a very confident seeming guy palming a beer bottle. We move forward without him, then the bottle is thrown at a guard and it’s a riot, and the crowd rushes into the building. This is Dark Army, mark my words.
Anarchists race around the building, trashing the place and forcing employees to use their magnet badges, so they can get around the building. The same music starts from the beginning, as a repeat of the same scene takes place with everyone in an elevator waiting for it to arrive at the right floor.
We follow the chaos and destruction and then join Angela, who’s on the phone to Irving. He confirms (some of) the anarchists are Dark Army, while she walks through the chaos untouched to find a package with hardware and a fake ID for Elliot. She needs to give it to Elliot so he can enact Stage 2, but she neglects to tell them how impossible that might be and quietly resolves to do it herself. A security guard boards her elevator and conveniently enough, can take her to a secure room on floor 23, right where she needs to be. Conspicuous.
The news in the elevator is following the UN vote on the Congo when the power goes out on them, and they get trapped for a second. The package spills, and turns out the ID she’s carrying is above her pay grade and this guy knows it, and is at once suspicious. He grabs her to drag her off on floor 23 but Angela … holy shit, calls on a passing anarchist and then three of them rush the guy and beat him … honestly, probably to death.
Holy. Shit. Then they chase her too, and Angela winds up locked behind several doors in the right server room and gosh, this is almost too easy.
Amaaaaaaaaaazing shot from overhead that actually floats outside the building for a second. Damn, this is so good.
Angela, wearing gloves, follows the instructions on the note
and starts plugging in the hard drives, while the sound effects make it clear the danger is just outside. In an amazingly tense moment, she has to go looking for a damned USB cable in the less secure outer office, and another Evil Corp woman busts in to hide. She, too, notices Angela is not who she claims ,and Angela starts lying about Elliot’s cover. An anarchist busts in, and the lady maces him and runs off. Angela hurries back to the server room and continues on with the hack and we pay so much attention to her putting everything neatly away that I’m convinced she left something, but I can’t be sure.
Job apparently done, Angela sneaks out but the building is still, of course, entirely full of anarchists who don’t know she’s onside. She spots the maced anarchist’s fsociety mask and cleans as much mace out as she can, before donning it and a nearby black hoodie. The mace has left a red, bloody residue on the eyes of the mask.
Angela gets to the elevator before tearing off the mask, and back on the news, China will annex the Congo. She calls Irving and explains she was made by Mace Lady, but Irving just wants to know why she was there, and not Elliot. She lies she couldn’t find him in the riot, calling it overkill. She gives Irving the woman’s name, and Irving finally asks what I’m wondering, which is did she really follow EVERYTHING on the list — which, see? He tells her to give the package to guy on her floor. She double checks the tower is evacuated, and Irving lies it is, reminds her of Whiterose’s capacity to keep her promise. Angela braces herself and gets off the lift on her floor, and hands the package over to a Dark Army dude eating fast food. He exchanges her bag for his own and trembling like a leaf, emotion overwhelming her, Angela stumbles back to her office and wait — there’s only like ten seconds left. What?!
Elliot is waiting for Angela, asking if there is anything she needs to tell him.
OH FUCK ME, IT ENDS THERE?
*THIRTY-EIGHT SECONDS OF MY ENRAGED SHRIEKING*
Guys. Okay, first of all, that was amazing. Sam Esmail has been working longer and longer One Shots into the show since somewhere in season one, and I knew he’d build to something like this eventually. I paid close attention and I only spotted one cut, if it was a cut at all (How it was made to look that way.). I was trying to explain to the Mister how to me, it called back to season one, when 95% of the show happened to or around Elliot. He was present for nearly everything, fueling our theories of just how much, and who of fsociety was in Elliot’s head.
Interestingly, if I remember season one right, the few non-Elliot Scenes were … Angela. I mean with (ugh) Ollie, but she was about the only formally separate entity from Elliot, until her dancing lesson with Darlene confirmed Darlene’s existence. In both their plots in season one, through intent or accident, Elliot and Angela set up the 5/7 hack. So, curious that it’s those two who carry this episode and start the next stage. I see you, Esmail.
It’s also genius because, as we know, there is a lot to theorise about with this show. I’ve said before how often Elliot’s life feels like a video game; He has the Main Story to finish and complete, but he keeps getting caught up with side missions. This just felt like the extension of that, creating a third-person-shooter effect. Even the sweeping camera movements put me in mind of when of when you unlock the camera in your game, and swing around the player or the map. That, in turn, ties back to my own theories about what exactly is going on in this show. Cindy and I talk a lot about what it could be, and the idea Elliot is inside some sort of simulation or game has come up. Esmail doesn’t do anything without a reason, and while this episode does just work well as a One Shot, this particular format feels … intentional. Or at least a little nod to the mes of the world. Again, Mr. Esmail, thanks for reading.
I’m going to go and rewatch that a couple of times, because I feel like there’s a whole bunch of things I probably missed. Mr. Robot returns Wednesdays on USA.