We Took Them Down, All of Them: Mr. Robot, 409; ‘Conflict’

Previously On Mr Robot; Elliot’s plan to hack and rob Deus Group is well under way and now only needs the 0.00000001% to gather in one place, though his emotional and mental health is so fragile he’s not sure can shake off his shock and finish it, leaving Robot and Darlene to carry things over the finish line.The plan is complicated by two things; Whiterose knows something is going on, even if she hasn’t just figured out his whole plan. And of course, guest of honour for the party, Tyrell is … well he’s not attending. If that’s because he’s dead … we honestly can’t be sure.

Elsewhere, Dom and Darlene barely escaped the sinister Janice and a Dark Army hit squad and it remains touch and go of Dom will survive the night.

Do yourself a favour and follow BD Wong on Twitter. Or, do yourself a favour and don’t follow BD Wong on Twitter. The man is wonderful and funny and takes great delight in teasing fans with possible not quite spoilers and hints. It’s a hoot, but also deeply traumatising BD please, my heart.

We enter the episode in what definitely seems to be Elliot’s headspace, first seen shortly after the reveal of the third Alter. Mr. Robot arrives in the boardroom, greeted by (versions of) Elliot’s mother Magda and Little Elliot. They ask after Elliot and Robot explains ‘It’ isn’t going to happen today. Magda suggests Robot go and bring ‘him’ here but it’s not clear if she means Elliot, while Little Elliot floats telling Elliot everything now. He thinks this will make Elliot okay but Robot and Magda share a weighted look. Robot insists Elliot isn’t ready and he and Magda argue over his role in these ‘shenanigans’ from the beginning, with Robot confessing he didn’t expect it to get this far. He wants to let Elliot complete the hack and only then try to get through to him. Magda is sincerely worried, saying ‘that poor boy’ and stating ‘he hasn’t woken up since …’ Robot points out ‘he’ woke up to speak to Darlene two months ago. Darlene might be their answer.

…. to what?

Darlene, cleaned up and doing a good job of not being catatonic with shock and trauma, is in a hotel across from the site of the meeting when Robot arrives. She obviously sees Elliot but we know different. Robot talks to us about Elliot’s position, trapped between digging deeper or just taking what he knows and trying to move forwards. He gets an update on where the hack stands from Darlene before she, naturally, starts to demand to know where he’s been. He begs off that it’s been a long night and she’s very much ready to explain how damned long her own night has been but Robot cuts her off, calling her sweetheart.

Darlene takes a moment to realise, and not without fear, she’s not talking to her brother, asking where he is and what happened. Robot assures her Elliot will be fine and will tell her what happened when he’s ready. Price turns up unexpectedly, but it’s somewhat… a ‘hat in hand’ kind of visit. He wants a favour; gives Robot a memory stick containing everything about Whiterose’s project and asking Robot to destroy it. He says it was what Angela wanted, which naturally gets Darlene’s attention (this is the first time they’ve ever met). Robot is taken aback but promises, and Price leaves to attend the meeting.

Robot voiceovers that they need to basically snipe every Deus member’s phone number and use it to access their accounts, setting up the transfer of funds. Then a script will be sent to the same phones, which will automatically authorise the transfers before anyone can react to stop it. But he makes it sound, like … more Hackery. He’s quite worried, naturally, and he probably should be because when Price finally arrives in the building, Whiterose alone sits at a table. Well, shit.

Darlene is wondering why Angela never told her about Price and Robot points out she may not have known. They realise no one except Price is entering or leaving the building and they might be in trouble as inside, Price and Whiterose face off.

Whiterose, in her Zhang persona (in a nice touch, Price used female pronouns and ‘Whiterose’ around Robot, but here with Dark Army present uses Zhang, showing more awareness than you might think him capable) suggests they start with a drink and given Esmail’s love of referring to The Princess Bride I suggest Price don’t drink or, to be honest, touch with bare hands anything Whiterose has laid out.

Whiterose calmly lays out that she knows Price and Elliot are up to something and offers Price the option of just telling her what it is, then being taken home for a painless death — or not telling her and… having a less painless death…

She explains the meeting is already underway and assumes Tyrell is charming everyone as they speak. Price, sipping champagne, wonders how that will happen when Tyrell won’t be in attendance. He realises they’ve never gotten drunk together as icy Whiterose glares.

Meanwhile, Robot and Darlene have realised something is wrong and access Tyrell’s phone to learn the meeting has been moved to Broadway. Darlene starts to rush over there while Robot wonders at the high level of security if Price is alone. He realises Whiterose is inside and offers to stay to hack Whiterose, while Darlene gets everyone else. Darlene points out they only have one of the devices required to snipe the numbers but Robot’s mind is made up.

Back inside there is a legitimately hilarious scene as a furious Whiterose learns from Wang Shu of Wellick’s status as ‘No, really, he’s missing’ and pissily asks Price what he’s done. Price, drunk-mumbles he sincerely has no idea where Wellick is, then suggests he’s driving across the country on a road trip.

The mood turns when Wang Shu argues in Mandarin that Whiterose is being played for a fool by Price and Elliot, and letting Elliot live this long was a mistake. Whiterose reminds her Elliot’s role in the shipping hack is vital to moving her project so Wang Shu snaps in English ‘He’s beaten you!’

Even Price looks around like ‘… damn girl’. Wang Shu just owns that they’re beaten and need to leave and regroup. Whiterose won’t go so Wang Shu does something I have never in my entire life seen, or likely will see again … she quits on Whiterose. She angrily shoves Whiterose’s iPad into her hands and just storms out.

And Whiterose lets her.

WHAT? Who is she? Who, exactly, is she?

At the Deus Group meeting, one hundred guests who hold literally all of the world’s wealth are bitching about it being Christmas Day though they’re enjoying the champagne just fine. There’s a pan across the room to show  Trump, the Saudi King, glimpses of what could be any number of famous world leaders and other figures. Esmail has worked himself in a corner and we leave the party to follow a waitress outside on a smoke break, only to be sent back inside by security. They even have the road blocked so people can’t just walk up to it. Darlene is realising all of this as she stands nearby, worrying there’s no way to do it until she spots a building under construction — bearing a huge banner for that the NBC made ‘Mr. Robot’ analog show we saw a poster for back at the open of the season. Heh.

Robot is still watching the building Price and Whiterose are inside and finally decides what to do, grabbing his phone to head out.

Meanwhile, Darlene has found a costume shop (which has an fsociety mask on the wall) and starts to build an outfit.

Readying to leave, Price’s phone rings and Whiterose answers, greeting ‘Elliot’. She wants to meet but Robot won’t, reasoning if Whiterose has Price’s phone, there’s not much to talk about. Whiterose offers to share something if it will make Robot stop and to Robot’s dismissal, drops Angela’s name. Whiterose suggests Angela is not dead, Price looking on in shock while Elliot points out the photo that was sent. Whiterose does not just suggest the photo is fake but also that Elliot shouldn’t believe so easily. She asks if Elliot would like to see Angela, touch her, speak to her. We cut back and Elliot has returned and meekly says ‘Yes’. It’s hard not to see what Whiterose is doing right now is the exact kind of grooming Elliot has already endured, as she goes on to offer Elliot a wonderful world with no pain or regrets or trouble.

Elliot is crying and looks ready to agree, but shakes himself and reminds Whiterose what was done to Angela before she died, how broken she was by the end. Whiterose is so warm and kind as she promises Elliot all she ever wanted to do was help but Elliot has seen a message from Darlene to turn on the TV.

He does and tells Whiterose calmly that it’s not Elliot who needs help. It’s Whiterose.

Whiterose’s expression drops like a sack of sand and we cut to the TV. The music, by the way, is amazing. Darlene has brought back the mask, suit, and hat and has posted the first new fsociety video in months. She names and shames the Deus Group, having doxxed every last one of them, and then goes ahead to report that these absolute bastards are in Broadway, partying. We see the Deus Group members start to become aware of the chaos as the video ends and Whiterose reels.

Darlene calls Elliot and asks if he saw the video. He admits speaking to Whiterose but failing to get her number and Darlene quickly realises it’s Elliot she’s speaking to, and something is still very wrong. Our boy, to be fair, is barely mumbling his responses. She tells him she’s glad he’s back and he looks out of the window, realises there’s a cell tower on a nearby building that he can use to get Whiterose phone number meaning they can still complete the hack on all the phones at once.

In the hotel, Whiterose is fielding calls from furious evil, rich pieces of scum-sucking shit, ordering them to stay inside the party while she tries to fix everything else going on, taking breaks between calls to rage at Price, who just keeps drinking, and has no fucks to give.

While Elliot tries to get her number, Darlene is just going BOSS MODE with this on the fly plan she has put together. She hovers near the parking garage and hacks the fob used to raise a security barrier, locking it closed mere moments before everyone at the party decides as one to leave. Their drivers and cars are all trapped.

We cut to two dozen furious trillionaires spilling out on that closed off-street, on their phones, trying to call their drivers, pilots, lawyers, fixers, personal assassins, whoever you call when you’re outed as a literal Super Villain. Darlene is nearby catching all these numbers as the trillionaires start to notice gathering press and crowds, and hover near the door. Darlene sends Elliot a message she’s basically ready to go but they only have moments (and elsewhere the cars are free and coming to collect their bosses) and he doesn’t have Whiterose yet. He’s hacked the telecom company and finally, finally, manages to hack the cell tower but can’t work out which of the many numbers is Whiterose.

Whiterose paces the floor of her hotel, sending a couple of Dark Army underlings to fetch any car. Price chuckles that this is all over thanks to a ‘pipsqueak in a hoodie’ who Price doesn’t like, but sees the value of as about the only person who can truly hurt Whiterose. And Whiterose knows it.

The cars are arriving and Darlene is out of time, so Elliot sends her all the numbers to check but still, no match. What?! Ya killing me Esmail!

Whiterose and Dark Army escort Phillip out of the hotel and Price stalls, points out how peaceful the cold winter air is. He becomes emotional and admits that for a second there, despite seeing Angela’s body dragged away … he believed she could still be alive. He felt the power of that promise she made to Elliot. He wonders if that’s the power Whiterose brought to bear on Angela, using her desperation, her pain. Price realises that’s why it works, Whiterose uses their regret to destroy people. But that didn’t’ work with Angela. She lives on in the lives of people who love her and that love inspires those people to destroy Whiterose. ‘You just remember, Zhang. You did all this to yourself’

Whiterose suggests Price take his own advice, accept his truth. It’s over. Price nods that it is, yes, smiling.

Smiling.

While Price was masterfully stalling for time, Darlene found the number, the hack has gone ahead, and Deus Group has been robbed completely blind. Whiterose is staring at her phone as Price just delights. The music is uplifting and inspiring as Whiterose phone explodes with ‘account overdrawn’ warnings from dozens of accounts. Price tells her the money is gone, reminds Whiterose of his warning, that he was a mercenary who would rather lose than see her win.

Whiterose is just… incandescent, stunned, shocked. Price strides off ‘You didn’t lose the game, you just ran outta time’.

So, Whiterose grabs a gun and shoots him right there on the steps.

Oh shit.

Robot intones that Rome has fallen. No more Deus Group, no more control. No more playing God. As one member of Deus Group leaves, staring at his phone, he glances into the crowds around his car. Darlene stands nearby and smiles beatifically, knowingly, at his shock and horror. She is radiant.

Whiterose is hustled to her car by her bodyguards, spots Elliot slipping away into the night but can’t give chase.

The FBI are at Whiterose’s home, demanding ‘Minister Zhang’ open the door. Upstairs, Whiterose readies herself, her hair did, her make up flawless. Despite everything, she is wearing the dress from that night with Chen. The FBI busts in and we hear but do not see the gunfight that follows between the Feds and Dark Army; we go to credits as she listens to the cacophony of chaos and death.

I’m not sure if any of us doubted the Aldersons would pull off the hack, but it was no less satisfying to watch that small and yet enormous moment when it was just, all of a sudden… done. The killer smile Darlene gave the Deus ex-member was viscerally satisfying, keeping in mind what she alone has lost and endured thanks to these people, let alone… you know, the rest of the entire world.

I’m in love with the fact that the conclusion to this lengthily planned and riskily orchestrated hack saw our two heroes sitting and standing quietly, watching screens. No action, no explosions, no chaos, just a pair of kids with internet connections watching the world change forever.

It’s perfect, frankly, for the show and for what Esmail has been building to. Of course, the season really wasn’t about the heist. They were always going to succeed because Whiterose can’t be defeated if they fail, but that doesn’t take away the power or impact of that moment. Seeing a bunch of pure evil rich bastards lose everything over the course of a few moments is… glorious.

Price is dead, but what a way to go. I have to say, kudos to Michael Cristofer who created and presented one of the most Magnificent Bastards to ever grace a screen. Price was ruthless, cold-blooded, uncaring and cruel. Even he only really turned on Whiterose when Whiterose made it personal, his ‘heroic’ about-face as selfish and self-serving as everything else in his life. But that doesn’t take away from how glorious his last hours were. Drunkenly sniping at Whiterose was one thing, but to have the presence of mind to both stall for extra time, and force Whiterose hand to ensure her arrest for his murder if nothing else. Price was a monster, but he went out like a fucking hero.

Similarly… Whiterose is apparently ruined. What do we make of that last scene? She didn’t seem terribly concerned about the, you know, large scale war happening in the lobby, but it’s hard to say if she was in shock, has given up, or perhaps still has one hand to play. This is Whiterose. Don’t for a second think she’s done. And now we know Elliot is going after the project, there’s just no way she’s out for the count. The Boss Battle is still to come.

Let’s be honest though, we all want to talk about the opening scene. Did you see Esmail play on the Holy Trinity again? The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in this case, a saintly version of Magda who is cultured, sane and cares about Elliot?

But more importantly, who, exactly, is the Third alter? What are the others not telling Elliot?? What don’t they want him to do? We don’t know exactly when this conversation happens though it’s implied it’s before the events of the episode. I mention this because their panic over Elliot’s actions is curious. They don’t just seem worried he’s endangering himself but have much larger concerns about this unspoken thing they can’t tell him. It must relate to the Project, right? To the simulation, or the… time machine?

I’ll get to that in a second. We got a few new clues about the alter, not much but enough to wildly theorise; the alter was active before, but some unspecified saw them retreat, go to ‘sleep’ and stop emerging, until the brief encounter with Darlene two months ago. That’s all we really learn but it gives us some room to speculate. We’re still left wondering if we have ever seen this alter, if this event that put them to sleep happened during the events of the show, or pre-date them. I very much believe we have seen the alter, but I’m left reaching as for who it could be.

Tyrell remains most people’s first guess but this week felt like it very intentionally pointed us away from him for the first time. If Tyrell was the alter, surely Magda and Robot would have mentioned the night in the woods. Something is off with Tyrell, there is no doubt. The nature of his existence is not clear, but I don’t think he’s an alter of Elliot.

I’ve got this sense I can’t quite shift that we may not be seeing a version of Elliot we’re used to, that season four Elliot isn’t quite, exactly ‘our’ Elliot. He’s been colder and more detached, doesn’t speak to ‘Us’, could barely muster emotional responses to the deaths of Angela and his mother. When the third alter was mentioned it was vaguely hinted he could be a scary sort of figure but now Magda and Robot want him to wake up, think it’s vital. Since Robot is a kinder Edward, Elliot has a sane, cultured, caring version of Magda in his head… his alter could be a more violent or assertive version of… himself? An Elliot capable of violence. One who isn’t intimidated by Vera?

If not Tyrell or Elliot and clearly not Darlene, then who remains? Who have we seen before who stopped appearing? Particularly after some event, or injury that could have traumatised them into a retreat? It won’t be someone who died, of that much I’m confident, it’s just someone who has gone away, been able to slip away unseen and forgotten even by us. And before the end of season three.

… is… is it Bill?

To finish, let’s talk about the Project. Could Elliot be in a therapeutic simulation? Something designed to help him work through problems he’s incapable of in his real life? A digital version of Shutter Island? Is there a chance that his dissociative identity disorder is interfering with this therapy? Simulation seems like the most likely answer to what is really going on, seems like it would explain some of the things we’ve seen, either glitches or blackouts or just the strange… designed way the universe can sometimes feel. Given Elliot’s acknowledged problems and traumas, from the abuse to his emotional issues as an adult, I can imagine a situation, similar to the movie The Cell where, in his real world, a perhaps drug-induced, VR-assisted therapy session takes the form of this… adventure. There are analogues in real-world therapy, with VR being used ever more frequently to help people deal with trauma. Veterans can take part in therapies where they play war games such as Call of Duty, reenacting events that lead to their own trauma, but in a controlled way, they can walk away from. For someone as… Elliot as Elliot is… something more elaborate could be a much better fit. As I say… Shutter Island comes to mind. If this was the case… would destroying The Project mean he’s completing his therapy or compromising it? And what exactly would it mean for Robot? Will he go away if Elliot leaves the Simulation, or is his presence the reason it’s taking this long for Elliot to succeed?

We’re almost there, friends. Until next week.

 

 

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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