You’re a Little Imbalanced: Mr. Robot, ‘402 Payment Required’

At the end of last week, I sort of skipped over the fact that while he lay ‘dying’, Elliot saw not merely Mr. Robot, but his mother and a younger version of himself all watching him fade away. More importantly, the three of them were not a memory he was reliving; rather, they were ‘active’ at that moment, worrying over what would happen now that he was finally about to die.

It took a minute for that to sink in with me but it has now, and I’m sort of obsessed over it. Does that mean they’re actually other alters? Does that mean they’ve always been there? Are they who Elliot talks to when he speaks to the camera?

In the Previously On, we’re reminded Vera the absolutely terrifying drug dealer came home, Dom is trapped and doomed, Elliot was almost killed and then saved by Philip ‘If-Whiterose-is-a-vengeful-God-I-am-the-Prideful-Satan’ Price and oh yeah, last year? Darlene killed a bitch. And not by accident, either. She knew the woman had a heart condition and she zapped her with a taser and she, in her own words, did it out of sheer spite (I mean, I’m not even mad but that was a dark day for our girl).

Price narrates the grainy videotape (remember, last week I mentioned a sudden emergence of analog versus digital? Yeah.) we see of the fall of the Berlin wall and the global political chaos that made up the end of the 1980s. Over an old film reel of a startlingly young BD Wong And His Cheek Bones, Price explains how Chairman Zhang (Whiterose’ public persona) saw the opportunity to shape a new world order and formed an investment group called Deus. Deus is the Illuminati analogue for the show — the new world order — the gathered, powerful rich who control and manipulate everything to their own ends. They started the first Gulf War for a profit, they weaponised capitalism, they rolled out computers and the internet and smart devices and social media, all to keep the population docile, all to gather the population’s data in massive quantities so they could be controlled, manipulated and played.

At some point, Price gravely intones, the members of Deus realised Zhang had taken over and they all knew they worked for him. He built his machine under the Washington Township power plant (leading to the ‘mysterious cancer’ deaths of Elliot’s father, Angela’s mother, and dozens more). Price remarks how Zhang’s project, which they belittled for years, turned out to be the sole purpose of Deus all along.

Back in the Allsafe headquarters, Price tells a still shaken, weakened Elliot how lucky he was it was Price’s job to ‘deal with’ whoever comes to the apartment. While Price examines Elliot’s Red String Wall-o-Crazy, Mr. Robot speaks to us, marvelling we’re still alive and Philip Goddamned Price saved us. While he speaks we get a shot of Price in front of the glass doors of the server room. Elliot’s note cards are stuck to the glass and behind that, lights flicker on the servers in little square flashes of blue. There’s a beam of sunlight falling across the whole thing that looks like when the tape is worn or the tracking is off and you know what it looks exactly like? Like an old, analog TV or computer screen, with blocky graphics and broken pixels.

Robot wonders what Price’s angle is while Elliot ignores Darlene’s call, and suggests to Price that he just rob Deus group and defund Whiterose in that way. Price claims it can’t be done, clarifying Deus members change their cell numbers every few days and oh yeah, they are people like Putin, the Saudi King — not the most accessible folks on a given day. He doesn’t say ‘Also, Donald Trump’ but … I mean, it’s implied.

Elliot shrugs this off, but he can’t shrug off Price’s revelation that one Susan Jacobs was the E-Corp employee who handled all Deus/E-Corp business and has been missing for months. Elliot doesn’t know, does he? What? Darlene did? Oh, no. As Price, still reluctant to help, is about to leave, Elliot drops the hammer; ‘Whiterose killed your daughter’.

Credit to Rami Malek that as casually as he drops the line there is visible pain in his eyes and every line of his face, and in the way he holds his body at the mention of Angela’s death. Elliot wonders aloud how Price sleeps with his history of just, you know, pure evil, but appeals to his humanity, suggesting that this can be the first day Price doesn’t look back on with regret. Price gives it the old ‘IF I help you, and I mean if’ and asks what Elliot would need. Turns out it’s every member of Deus in one place, in the next eight days, with literally no notice.

Price asks how he’s meant to pull it off, so Robot points out how loyal Whiterose thinks Price still is. Elliot adds the ‘how’ sounds like a Price Problem, and finishes that not fighting back is like being dead already — Price doubles down that he died the moment he agreed to work with Whiterose. Just like Elliot.

He leaves and Robot worries he won’t come back, but Elliot isn’t concerned; Price wouldn’t have saved him if he wasn’t in. He finally takes the call from Darlene and …btw, their mother has died.

Over at her nursing home, the Alderson children are stone cold in the face of a carer who explains how kind and well-liked their mother. It sounds exactly like something she says about every dead resident and, cut to Elliot and Darlene, who know Magda as abusive, stony-faced and not buying a god damned word? It would be funny if it wasn’t so horribly sad. They are left alone to pack up her things and it’s nice to see Darlene at least appears sober and more level-headed than we last saw her, weeping alone in Angela’s apartment. Elliot is in no mood and just sets about packing while Darlene rescues a gorgeous coat of her mother’s, then settles down to smoke while Elliot does all the work. Elliot points out Darlene was afraid to even enter their mother’s room for a few years, but Darlene just calmly admits she’s relieved their abusive mother is dead. Which, is completely fair, don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. You don’t have to forgive or grieve your abusers if you don’t want to.

Elliot finds an old walkman (see, there’s that analogue again) and the way the camera follows Darlene taking it and putting it into her bag is clearly intentional, so … Darlene makes a discovery; their mother had a safe deposit box.

Over at the FBI offices (poor, poor), Dom is having her interview about Santiago. Given how frustrated I got with Dom last year, over how long it took her to realise Santiago was a blatant, obvious mole (which I will remind you I guessed during the massacre in China), it’s hilarious to see her anxiously explain how she never saw anything suspicious or strange during his tenure as her boss. I can’t decide if she’s lying for the story or … you know, really still not that smart.

She’s asked about right before his disappearance and … bruh, specifically the day he vanished and the CCTV of his leaving was erased. Dom hesitates because this is where she has to start lying and after a sip of water Dom — Oh girl — Dom outright accuses Santiago of being a double agent. Over Agent Horton’s stuttering, she breaks down crying and admits Santiago was working with dangerous people. Horton … seems like he might be legit and gently encourages her to continue, calling her brave. Just when it seems like Dom will out Dark Army, she names a drug cartel and claims Santiago was working for them.

Oh, Dom. Grace Gummer blows my fucking mind, y’all.

We’re back with Cheery Janice The Taxidermist and Assassin as Dom calls her to report about the interview. Janice is listening to a podcast about Charles Manson because of course, she is. Dom, eerily cold and spent, clarifies how well the interview went and then perhaps without realising, she names Horton and suggests he’s ‘only’ 99% accepting of her story. Janice is creepily nice and ends the call to greet a customer who wants her dog stuffed. The final shot of Janice is so Kubrickian I almost took up Axe Murder as a hobby.

Elliot and Robot are at a funeral home, Robot lamenting the cost of funerals, the trauma of death. Elliot is more worried about tracking down Susan Jacobs than where they are, just wants to get the death certificate and get out. Robot calls him out on this, suggesting he take a minute and grieve his damned mother. Elliot just reminds him that if they don’t take down Whiterose, they are all dead, so … you know …

In the office, Darlene is trying to arrange the funeral and has absolutely no idea what to do, has no idea what her mother would even have wanted. Elliot zips in to declare it’ll be a cremation in a cheap urn, and they are done. Again … it would be funny, if not so … powerfully sad.

Waiting for their train, Darlene wonders about the safe deposit box and desperately wants Elliot to come with her to find out what’s in it. She suggests treasure, a secret inheritance, adoption papers … Elliot is still trying to track down Susan Jacobs and there’s a second when Darlene grabs his phone and she might see the screen, and she might take a half-second to react with absolute horror before turning back to try convincing him as if nothing has changed. Carly Chaikin is astonishing. I don’t say it enough. Watching her and Rami together is a joy I am going to miss when this is over.

Darlene reminds him how, as a kid when he had his episodes, she would hold his hand and ground him and now he needs to do the same for her. As their train arrives, a man in a snowman costume who has overheard their whole conversation offers them sincere condolences … funny/sad.

Meanwhile, at the FBI ranch, Dom is back to work interviewing a human trafficking scumsucker named McGuire. McGuire also helped a bunch of the escaped prisoners from Season 1 get new identities and stay off the grid (… did he, now?) and just as Dom is getting back into her groove, she gets a text from Janice, lamenting Dom’s ‘loss’. Cut to the news that Agent Horton has ‘jumped’ to his death. Janice texts Dom to ‘suggest’ she make sure the next agent is 100%, not merely 99%.

At the bank, the kids are learning their mother lapsed on her payments for her safe deposit box and its contents, long since been thrown away. It’s an E-Corp bank, because of course.

And. Okay. Maybe it’s just me, but they don’t just throw away safe deposit boxes, do they? There’s no way that’s a thing they really do?

Either way, Darlene is just devastated and even Elliot can tell she needs him. He asks what’s wrong and Darlene is mad he doesn’t give a shit, but not about their mother; it’s about Angela. Darlene knows she’s gone and doesn’t understand how Elliot can have just moved on. Of course, he hasn’t. He shows her what was in the walkman, a tape labelled ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. They both recognise it and point out it wasn’t for their mother, but she must have listened to it out of loneliness. Darlene says they are both going to listen to it and Elliot has to hug her to get close enough. The tape, it turns out, was made by Angela, for her mother. We hear all the kids giddily wish Mrs. Moss a Happy Mother’s Day.

The Alderson children huddle together.

The world weeps.

At Whiterose’s public home, she is appearing as Mr. Zhang and decorating a giant Christmas tree. Price arrives and tries to resign, and is literally just told no.

Heh. I love Whiterose.

Price, 1400000% done with this bullshit, does not care a fiddling fuck; he is done, he is leaving, Bye Felicia, Dee I’m Outtie — you get the point. Whiterose invokes how loyal Price has been and then As You Knows to (us) Price that if he resigns, the Deus leaders have to convene a meeting in person, immediately, to decide his successor. Oh, do they? Price is all ‘Sounds like you have a problem, my friend’ and all but moonwalks out of the place. Whiterose seeeeeeeeeeethes and throws her beautiful Christmas tree onto the floor.

Y’all, I am not accustomed to seeing her so undone. This is THRILLING.

At the chapel to retrieve his mother’s ashes, Elliot takes a call from Price that the meeting is happening. The shot of Elliot framed against a simple but brilliantly lit cross is so pretty. Darlene has collected the ashes and admits she did see Elliot’s phone earlier and recognised Susan Jacobs. Piece by piece she admits what happened; how they broke into Susan’s home, Susan came back unexpectedly. She doesn’t say the words ‘I killed her’ but Elliot gets it and freaks out completely., screaming ‘Jesus Fucking Christ!’ while he stands at the altar before that glowing cross and somewhere nearby, a bell rings in the hour. It’s such a darkly funny moment in an episode surprisingly packed with them.

Darlene needs to know Elliot is okay with her, with what she did and Elliot sits down, reminds us that Susan was a Bad Person who decimated the class action suit their hometown took against E-Corp, laughed and smiled, on fucking camera, when the courts found in favour of the corporation. In his own way, he’s saying he’s as okay with it as he’s going to get.

Elliot asks for everything she has on Susan and explains Susan was Dark Army too. He admits he’s going after Whiterose and while Darlene is initially uncertain, she takes a half-second to be completely onside and ready to go to goddamn fucking war. She does some hacker thing to link their phones so they can always track each other, and it’s nice to see them back on good footing. As she so often does when she and Elliot get close, Darlene opens up a bit more and admits she thought he was sketchy because of Vera.

And oooh, if that doesn’t get Elliot’s attention … Darlene points out she told Elliot all about Vera when the man showed up two months before, but Elliot just blew it off. Elliot, who clearly has no idea what she’s talking about, turns to see Robot sitting nearby, looking, honestly? Completely baffled. Darlene heads off to go and get all her Susan intel, and Robot leaps up to immediately and vehemently claim that he didn’t talk to Darlene about Vera. Neither of them did. But, someone was in control of Elliot and that someone hid the information from both of them.

We jump into what I’ve seen called a flashback (or Elliot’s internal headspace?). It’s that gorgeous office from way back in Season 1, the place where Elliot first met Price and the strange framing and striking angles got us all really buzzing on the Kubrickian eye Esmail has. A young Elliot spins on a chair and then Mrs. Alderson — Magda — looking youthful and sharp as a knife in nicer clothes than she ever wore in real life, strides in to warn him out of the seat, before ‘He’ comes back. Young Elliot asks ‘Who? Mr. Robot? Elliot?’

Magda says no. She says ‘the other one’.

Little Elliot runs to her and they disappear back through the doorway, leaving the door open for something to pass through.

Okay. Let me contain myself a second; The safe deposit box. I don’t know for sure how safe deposit boxes work but just getting rid of one doesn’t seem like something a bank would do. Surely they would keep trying to locate someone to claim the box? And it’s an E-Corp bank. But before they even arrived at the bank, remember Darlene’s ‘joking’ mention of adoption papers and my OUTRIGHT OBSESSION SHE IS NOT A PART OF THE FAMILY IN THE WAY WE THINK SHE IS? BECAUSE I DO. I have been convinced there is something strange about Darlene’s isolation and detachment from her family since way back in Season 2. Arguably, since the first season’s revelation she was Elliot’s sister. I’ve never been able to understand how he could forget her (something she suggested he did fairly often, but he has not done since) and she’s always seemed to come and go from his memories of their childhood. Mostly, go. Even in the ‘sitcom’ episode, Darlene was mostly unconscious. And now she’s joking about adoption papers? I’d have freaked out anyway but with the revelation Price was Angela’s father, I can’t help but wonder.

Now that’s out of the way…

Y’AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL?

Okay. It’s been a WHILE since we seriously considered the possibility that Elliot has more than one alter (or technically, two, since we’re like one) and more importantly, that some other alters are active in some other ways we are not at all privy to. I know you TyrElliot believers have stayed strong. But, oh my SHIT.

Who could it be? Seriously, who? The first and most obvious answer, it goes without saying, is Tyrell. There’s been a longstanding theory that Tyrell is an alter of Elliot’s since Season 1, but let’s look at this a second.

So, way back in Season One, we all started to figure out, at different points, that Mr. Robot was an alternate personality of Elliot’s and from that revelation there came a flood of theories and ideas. At times, we theorised that every member of F-Society was one of Elliot’s alters, that Angela was one of Elliot’s alters, that Darlene was one of Elliot’s alters, and most importantly of all … that Tyrell was one of Elliot’s alters. Piece by piece we mostly figured it out and up until now, we had a fairly good grasp of who was real.

As a general rule, seeing any characters interact with each other outside of Elliot’s perspective, became the quickest way to determine who was real and who was not. Angela had dates with (ugh) Ollie, we eventually saw Darlene attend a ballet class with Angela, we saw Romero’s apartment and dead body and before he disappeared, we frequently saw Tyrell having involved experiences that had nothing to do with Elliot, including, you know. That murder.

Season 2 played with the nature of reality as opposed to people, but still kept us guessing for a while over how real or unreal Leon (Joey Bada$$), Elliot’s prison buddy and Whiterose’s personal assassin was. He was never presented as a full-blown alternate like Robot, but between his on-point philosophical ramblings and his mercurial ability to be anywhere he was needed, we were definitely meant to wonder if he existed anywhere outside Elliot’s head. Until, of course, he was violently confirmed to be real when he saved Elliot from the Nazis about to rape and likely murder him. Still, it was the season finale zinger before we finally saw Leon exist completely separately from Elliot’s perspective, when he turned up out of literally nowhere (seriously, watch that scene back, he just materialises) to ambush Trenton and Mobley.

Season 2 reintroduced the previously missing Tyrell to the main story and that’s when things got complicated. Tyrell was very pointedly kept away from everyone except Elliot, wore only the same familiar, Patrick Bateman-esque suit from Season 1 and only seemed to exist in and occupy that loft overlooking the data tower. Things got a bit … religious iconography-y, with Robot, Elliot and Tyrell routinely taking on Father/Son/Holy Spirit roles in debates and positions in carefully framed shots, strongly hinting Tyrell was, essentially, a ghost, dead, and present only because of Elliot’s imagination. Of course, this was only for part of the season.

At the same time … we got a lengthy flashback to explain Tyrell’s absence, showing him at the farm and growing a beard, chopping wood with the axe that would later kill be used to kill Santiago, situations and scenarios that Elliot couldn’t have imagined, and that grounded Tyrell in reality. Tyrell’s face and name have appeared in the news and as of this season, he has returned to the public life.

So, my point is, because everyone is going to assume it … I don’t know if the alter who spoke to Darlene is Tyrell. Not the real Tyrell from Season 1 who had a wife and a child, and murdered a woman his wife had ordered him to seduce, and then quite clearly had a full-blown mental break down by the time he was alone with Elliot in that arcade.

That Tyrell might still be alive, might really have been abducted by the Dark Army and eventually returned to the world as the face of E-Corp.

But the Tyrell who lived in the Dark Army loft where the guards never spoke to him or acknowledged his presence? The Tyrell who ‘shot’ Elliot, a man who perceives his own violent self-harm and suicide attempts as attacks by his imaginary friend?  … You get where I’m going. Maybe it’s this TyrElliot who spoke to Darlene and if it was him, and he can take over so completely that neither Elliot nor Robot is even aware. That’s just terrifying.

If it’s not Tyrell, which I’m prepared for it not to be, I’m going through every character we’ve encountered so far, major or minor and IS IT BILL? IS IT BILL, WHO ELLIOT WAS SO MEAN TO? IS IT BILL WHOSE FINGERS OBLITERATED ELLIOT’S FINGERPRINTS AND ENSURED HE AVOIDED BEING CONNECTED WITH THE HACKS? IS IT DEAR BILL WITH WHOM ELLIOT WANTED SO DEARLY TO RECONCILE AND MAKE PEACE? IS THIS HOW ELLIOT DEALT WITH HIS GUILT? DID HE MAKE A BILL?

Sorry. What I meant to say was, I’ve been racking my brain for who this alternate personality could possibly be. There is no way it’s someone completely unknown because it’s way too late in the game to introduce a totally new ‘character’, but it likely isn’t someone we see a lot of or could be someone we think of as ‘gone’ from the show, someone who has been a passing character, or more likely someone who’s died. Mr. Robot is a … version, at least, of Elliot’s father, so there’s a precedent for him making alters out of dead people who were known to him, loved ones so far, but … he’s a damaged man. That … is not a short list. Shayla, Romero, Trenton, Mobley, Sisco, Joanna, Grant, Angela, Mrs. Moss who we only briefly saw in a flashback but was directly referenced in this same episode.

Remember the conversation Angela and Elliot had in this episode? Angela reminded Elliot of one of his past episodes when she found him yelling at someone only he could see. She wondered out loud if that was Mr. Robot, his father, or  … someone else.

Could that have been the other Alter?

It’s not clear yet. I sort of hope there isn’t some alter version of Tyrell who takes over. It would almost be too obvious and it might confuse the journey the ‘real’ (… presumably. This show is confusing.) Tyrell has had from murderous up and comer to widowed abduction survivor, who may or may not have helped commit the worst terror attack in history.

Only time will tell.

But, no, seriously … is it Bill?

 

 

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

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