In Elliot’s Head, Two’s A Crowd
We begin with another view of a scene from last season, with Mr. Robot talking to Tyrell. Except now we see Elliott delivering the same words, and planting the idea in Tyrell’s head that “you’re only seeing what’s in front of you. You’re not seeing what’s above you.” Then Tyrell tells us the significance of the “Red Wheelbarrow” — a reminder of a father he doesn’t want to resemble — which highlights Elliott’s decision to give that name to the notebook he used to distance himself from his own unacceptable father figure.
And we finally learn the details of Stage Two, a Wisdom-esque attempt to wipe out all of E-Corp’s backup paper records and prevent them from rebuilding their database of “the bloodline of all real property in the country.” The femtocell hack of the FBI, ostensibly allowing fsociety to erase evidence of their involvement, was really a way to give the Dark Army access to E-Corp’s system to plant the malware that will blow up the building and burn all the paper.
When we watch a show like “Mr. Robot,” a lot of the fun is in speculating. What’s real? Who’s imaginary? Did we really see that thing we thought we saw? But if we get it wrong, there are no consequences. The same doesn’t hold true for Elliott, who believes Tyrell is another projection right up until the moment Tyrell shoots him with Chekhov’s Popcorn Gun. As he lies on the floor bleeding out, Mr. Robot blinks and flashes and fades out of existence. But Elliot’s not going to die, especially since he’s played by this year’s newly-minted Emmy-winning Best Actor. But the episode ends with a surprise, as the person Tyrell calls for help is Angela, who was told to expect the call. Last week Whiterose asked Angela for her belief; it would seem she’s given it. And as Angela leaves to meet them, and be “the first person he sees when he wakes up,” power across the whole city goes out.
The packages Joanna Wellick has been receiving, ostensibly from Tyrell, turn out to be coming from E-Corp CTO Scott Knowles, who has been trying to inflict pain on her in retaliation for Tyrell killing his wife. But he has no idea who he’s up against. He beats her bloody, which only allows her to bend DJ Derek into agreeing to implicate Knowles in his wife’s death. Poor Derek, who will undoubtably find himself dumped to the curb (or worse) once he’s outlived his usefulness to her. We get another reminder that they met at that same E-Corp party where Sharon Knowles was killed; has Joanna Wellick been playing this long con ever since that night?
Dom finally faces off against Darlene, who used her plot armor to survive the attack that we learn killed Cisco. It’s a credit to Carly Chaikin’s performance that when she says that Cisco “may have been the love of my life,” we actually believe that might be true. Dom and Darlene play a few rounds of interrogation bluffing, before Dom drops the bombshell — the FBI knows everything. Dom has been waiting, laying low, patiently using “The Python Approach” to reach the “Man In The Middle,” i.e. Elliott. With this knowledge, it would be interesting to rewatch the whole season to see just what Dom knew and when.
The entire reveal is a great scene; Grace Gummer and Chaikin continue the top-notch work that they’ve been doing all season. Which is why, perhaps, the show chooses this moment to try and slip by a small piece of head-scratching information — the murder of Romero, which kicked off most of this season’s action, was not the work of the Dark Army, but an accident. For a show that builds layers upon layers of manipulations and plots and reveals, turning this inciting incident into a Macguffin is a cop-out, and leaves a bitter aftertaste to an otherwise stellar conclusion to the season.
It Gets So Lonely Being Evil
No Phillip Price this week, so we do not get one last delicious Phillip Price monologue before the hiatus. But with the revelation of Stage 2’s objective, it seems that while Price and Whiterose work together at times, they are not on the same side at all. Alas, we still have no more information about what happened in Washington Township, and why it is still so crucial to Whiterose’s plans.
Hack The Planet
Last year, the final episode gave us a post credit sequence that showed us the first connections between Price and Whiterose, which served to expand the world of the story and the possibilities of what could come next. This year’s finale post-credit scene does the opposite, tying up loose ends — specifically Trenton and Mobley, who have left town and are hiding out in Arizona, working at a Fry’s Electronics. Mobley just wants to lay low until everything blows over, but Trenton has discovered something that she thinks may allow them to reverse all the damage they did with the Five/Nine hack. Just as she convinces him to take a look at what she’s found, someone approaches and asks the time — and it’s Leon. Given how we’ve already seen Leon kill several people on Dark Army orders, it’s a fair bet to say Trenton and Mobley will not survive their shift at Fry’s.
- Dom refers to Elliott as the “Man in the Middle,” which is a type of online attack and also a pretty decent metaphor for this entire show.
- When Tyrell brings Elliot to the empty building where Stage 2 will be launched, the soundtrack is Kraftwerk’s “The Hall of Mirrors.”
- Darlene’s slow-motion exposure to the extent of Dom’s knowledge is hauntingly scored to Les Deux Love Orchestra’s cover of Aimee Mann’s “The Moth.”
- Dom’s map of all the players includes several real, functioning email addresses for Terry Colby (TerenceColby@aol.com), Ollie (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lloyd, who used to work at Allsafe (email@example.com). The first rule is this: if a show ever displays a real email address, send it a message and see what happens. “Mr. Robot” is better at this that most every other show on the air right now.
Standout Lines and Moments
- Everything between Dom and Darlene is great, but the way Dom turns to look at her when she says “patient predators,” with such a sense of peaceful satisfaction, feels like a victory after a season spent watching her in existential crisis.
- Tyrell, about the Red Wheelbarrow: “My father used to say that to me all the time — it was the only English he knew. Some silly poem; it meant very much to him. I use it as a reminder. A reminder of him. And a reminder of what I never want to become.”
- The Dark Army flunky in the clean suit guarding the elevator is eating lunch from the Red Wheelbarrow BBQ — the same place whose menu contained the code in last week’s episode.
- Joanna Wellick may have delivered the single most profane sentence on cable television since the demise of “Deadwood,” when she tells Scott Knowles that his pregnant wife means nothing: “Fuck her and her fetus corpse.” Yeowch.
- When Dom tries some basic Good Cop moves on Darlene, she is not impressed. “You will not get anything out of me. So why don’t you go read your manual and find the chapter on conniving cunts that don’t give a fuck about you or your feelings and then get back to me with some real tactics.” And Dom’s reaction is just to laugh. That sound you hear is all the Dom-lene shippers sighing.
- Elliot: “They’re planning something. Mr Robot, Tyrell, Dark Army and Whiterose are in cahoots to plan something big. And the worst part — they all think it’s me. They all think I’m the ringleader. The one in charge. And I have no idea what it is.” Extra points for using “cahoots” with a straight face.
- If you had any doubt that “Mr. Robot” is the new flagship program for USA Network, then this bit from Agent Santiago should put it to rest: “This isn’t ‘Burn Notice.’ There are no blue skies for you out there. Characters like you are NOT welcome here.”
And that’s a wrap on Season 2 of “Mr. Robot,” which for the most part successfully navigated a very difficult job of expanding the very strange world that its built, while still keeping it fresh and surprising. But with USA placing heavy bets on the show, it will be interesting to see how long they’ll be able to keep this type of storytelling going, or if they’ll need to dial back on the secrets and reveals and imaginary people.