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Review: ‘Mr. Robot’ Gives Us A Literal Garbage Fire

In Season 2 Episode 7, "2.5_h4ndshake.sme," a controversial fan theory is confirmed, while Elliot (and the show) hopes we don’t stay mad at him for long.

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme" Episode 207 -- Pictured: Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

Portia Doubleday in “Mr. Robot.”

Michael Parmelee/USA Network

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Mr. Robot’ Abandons Reality And Blows Our Minds

In Elliot’s Head, Two’s A Crowd

If you were one of the many viewers who thought that Elliot was not really hiding out at his mother’s home then congratulations, you win a bitcoin. The reveal that Elliot has actually been in jail for the first half of this season isn’t much of a surprise, and many will undoubtably find it to be a letdown. Like the unmasking of Mr. Robot as Elliot’s dead father in last season, the show attempts a one-two punch by pulling another surprise at the same time. Last year, it was the hammer blow that Darlene was Elliot’s sister; now we learn that Leon is actually working for Whiterose and the Dark Army. But the surprises are not nearly as effective this time around. On the bright side, this episode brings a sense of relief — having Elliot off by himself for the first half of the season has dulled the forward momentum of the storytelling, and while it continues to use pyrotechnics to distract from that, that strategy is wearing thin.

Elliot’s period of incarceration draws to a close just as he develops a sense of acceptance about Mr. Robot. As he tells Krista, “you can’t destroy a part of yourself.” They are now supposedly on the same side, and it will be interesting to see how long that remains true, especially since there’s every indication that Mr. Robot lied to Elliot about Tyrell’s fate. He leads Elliot to believe that he shot Tyrell with Chekhov’s Popcorn Gun, although Mr. Robot never actually says he’s dead. And it doesn’t explain how Elliot talked to Tyrell on the phone, or who is sending packages to Joanna. This is the danger of repeatedly showing your characters living inside hallucinations — it opens everything up to speculation and doubt.

Positive Reinforcement Guy

Adding to the sense that this is a mid-season finale, Ray’s storyline is brought to a somewhat abrupt conclusion, with Elliot leading the FBI to his door. It turns out that Ray’s wife is the one who started their illicit marketplace, and that Ray himself never even looked until Elliot did. It’s a development which feels unearned and unlikely, and the attempt to parallel Ray’s unknowing complicity with Elliot’s need to take responsibility for Mr. Robot’s actions is forced and rushed. It would be surprising if we see Ray again this season, and while it’s a relief to be freed from Elliot’s incarceration plot, Craig Robinson will be missed.

READ MORE: ‘Mr. Robot’ Episode Goes ’90s: Watch The Amazing Fake & Real Vintage Ads (That Only Aired Once)

It Gets So Lonely Being Evil

At E-Corp, we pick up right where we left off — Angela in mid-hack with Darlene in her ear, being interrupted by Dom, who wants to know why she was on the FBI’s restricted floor. Her answer — that she was making plans with Agent Thomas — doesn’t really persuade Dom. It also feels like this scene originally belonged in last week’s episode, where it would have paid off the Agent Thomas interaction more neatly.

Angela uses her influence with Price to maneuver her way into the Risk Management division, where she thinks she can get access to all the data about E-Corp poisoning her town, but her oily new boss (“The Knick’s” Jeremy Bobb) knows she’s up to no good.  Portia Doubleday has managed to find a way to make Angela’s stillness very compelling.

Alert The Authorities

When Dom confronts Angela, she reveals she knows all about her history with E-Corp and the death of her mother. And she shares an insight that whatever Angela is up to, it isn’t really her. Does she mean helping hack the FBI, or her entire presence at E-Corp? Cue the Angela/Dom shippers.

After Angela completes Darlene’s instructions and fsociety gets access to all of the FBI’s data, Dom and the techs discover their evidence and surveillance logs have been deleted. She immediately knows they’ve been hacked, and that there’s nothing to do about it.

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme" Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Carly Chaikin as Darlene, Azar Khan as Mobley -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

Carly Chaikin and Azar Khan in “Mr. Robot.”

Peter Kramer/USA Network

READ MORE: How ‘Mr. Robot’ Star Rami Malek Used Anxiety to Carry His Breakthrough Emmys Drama

Swedish Psycho

Joanna Wellick is having a rough time, getting doused with red paint and receiving a creepy framed photo of her baby’s sonogram — ostensibly from Tyrell (who is “always surprising her with little gifts”). But when Derek lays down an ultimatum about attending his thirtieth birthday party, Joanna responds by filing for divorce from Tyrell. Maybe this storyline could have a crossover episode with “Younger” — I’d love to see Joanna and Liza commiserate about their man-child boyfriends.

Reality Bites

  • The show is now firmly a period piece; computer screens show that its July 2015. This leads to some distracting sights, such as John Boehner still serving as Speaker of the House, and E-Corp’s Risk Assessment group tracking a “future” class action suit about the Flint Water Crisis.
  • The economy is getting worse, as trash pickup suspensions are leading people to burn their garbage. This is an interesting companion to the recent release of Netflix’s “The Get Down,” which highlights the forced cutting of services in the 70’s Bronx, including both trash and fire services.
  • At least the taxis are now accepting E-Coin. You won’t actually find an E-Coin app if you search the App and Play stores as suggested, but you will find a new “Mr. Robot” game disguised as an E-Corp messaging app.
  • We see Walmart selling “E Kit” Five/Nine disaster supplies. Any way to make a buck.
  • Lone Star confronts Elliot about the 800 bitcoins in his wallet — at mid-July 2015 rates, that equaled around $200,000.
  • The Risk Assessment directors ask about the missing Susan Daniels — we saw her in the first episode of the season when it seemed that “Madame Executioner” would be a major player, but there’s been no sign of her since. Maybe now that we’re moving to the back half of the season, she’ll make her return.

Standout Lines and Moments

  • Angela, to Darlene: “You guys always thought you were smarter than me. You never actually hid it that well.”
  • When asked where she’s going, Dom quips that it’s “fourth of July tomorrow — gonna find a barbecue to be miserable at.”
  • Angela: “You protecting some evil, secret agenda?” Price: “Don’t we all protect our evil, secret agendas?”
  • Elliot (and by extension, maybe Sam Esmail): “This will be the last time I keep things from you. I promise.”
  • Earlier, fsociety sliced the balls off the Wall Street bull statue. Now, that fragment of statuary is dropped onto the floor of the House of Representatives during the vote over the E-Corp bailout — a vote that E-Corp is losing.

This is a tough episode to grade. Most of the things in it that don’t work are the result of story decisions that span the entire first half of the season, and are more related to damaging the show’s credibility and the audience’s trust, rather that the merits of this one installment. Nevertheless, while it may not be totally fair, this week gets…

Grade:  C+

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