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Review: ‘Mr. Robot’ Anoints A New Madam Executioner

Season 2, Episode 8, “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12,” lets the other members of fsociety take the spotlight.

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12" Episode 208 -- Pictured: Carly Chaikin as Darlene -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

Carly Chaikin in “Mr. Robot.”

Michael Parmelee/USA Network

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Mr. Robot’ Gives Us A Literal Garbage Fire

In Elliot’s Head, Two’s A Crowd

Having revealed that Elliot has been in prison, with his release imminent, you might think that this week’s installment would drop him back into the world and start moving all of the various storylines towards a convergence, or at least the start of a new phase. But Elliot and Mr. Robot are nowhere to be seen, nor are Tyrell or Joanna Wellick; instead we get an fsociety-centric episode.

Some Kind Of A Revolutionary

With the stars of the show taking a break, we get more time with Mobley (Azhar Khan) and Trenton (Sunita Mani). In a flashback to the beginning of the series we see their hacker version of a meet-cute, which involves her pwning him while waiting to meet Elliot. Instead, it’s Darlene who arrives, and reads them a message from Elliot — the same words he recited to the audience at the very beginning of “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov.” In another callback to that first episode, they are meeting at a Ron’s Coffee and mention that this one doesn’t have the super-fast wifi of another location, where we saw Elliot take down the child porn distributor. It begins to feel like this episode will act as a kind of reset, getting all the players back on the board. But instead, it’s more concerned with tying up some loose ends.

There was an odd scene last week in which Trenton and Mobley, along with Cisco, tell Darlene about something they’ve found in the FBI files that was “happening tomorrow,” without any explanation. We get a replay of that scene this week (raising the question of why it needed to even be in last week’s episode) with the missing details — a conference call amongst FBI officials discussing “Operation Berenstain,” which fsociety promptly leaks to the public. The revelation that the FBI has secret access to millions of phones sends Mobley and Trenton into a paranoid panic; they both spend the rest of the episode looking over their shoulders. For Mobley, the paranoia is wise, as he’s picked up by the FBI for questioning. On getting released, he tells Trenton they’ve been burned and asks her to meet back at that same Ron’s Coffee. The episode ends with Trenton nervously waiting for him, looking up as the front door opens — it would not be surprising to pick up next week right where this scene left off, only to show Elliot walking through that door.

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12" Episode 208 -- Pictured: (l-r) Azar Khan as Mobley, Sunita Mani as Trenton -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network

Azar Khan and Sunita Mani in “Mr. Robot.”

Michael Parmelee/USA Network

Hack The Planet

This week’s episode is a showcase for Darlene, and Carly Chaikin makes the most of it. While Elliot may be the fevered brain behind fsociety, there’s no question that Darlene is the one who makes it all work, and she gets to be behind the mask in the newest video. But when they’re surprised by the sudden reappearance of E-Corp’s “Madam Executioner” Susan Jacobs, not expecting to find her smart-home turned into an improvised hacker command center, Darlene directs a desperate attempt to uncover something to use for blackmail.

READ MORE: ‘Mr. Robot’ Launches Text-Based Hacking Game to Accompany Season 1

But Darlene makes a crucial mistake, overlooking the copious evidence that Jacobs has a heart condition, and Darlene’s attempt to stun and scare her into silence accidentally leads to the lawyer’s death. It’s a transitional moment for Darlene, who is shocked to discover that she was capable of killing and that she feels no remorse, not even when she and Cisco return to the “puppy ovens” from the Season 1 finale to get rid of the body. The unlocking of a new level of ruthlessness for her has immediate consequences; when she discovers that Cisco is holding her for the Dark Army, and that their femtocell hack of the FBI included a backdoor, she takes a baseball bat to his head. It will be interesting to see what this new, more dangerous version of Darlene will do going forward.

It Gets So Lonely Being Evil

Angela continues her decent into an Elliot-like coldness; her every scene played with lifeless, empty eyes. She ditches the guy she previously hooked up with, trades insults with a friend of her father’s, propositions an older man (the great character actor Mark Moses) and even sings karaoke, all while seeming like she’s encased in many layers of thick plastic wrap. There’s no other character quite like Angela on television, and it’s going to be quite something when she finally cracks.

Alert The Authorities

In an episode where everyone involved was focused on illegal surveillance, Dom uses some old-fashioned detective work to find Mobley — if you can call searching through old internet posts “old-fashioned.” But with the growing controversy over the revelation of Operation Berenstein, she’s forced to let him go without realizing he’s more than just “Tyrell Wellick’s DJ.” We see her interrogating the douchebro who Darlene hooked up with last season — and from whom she stole the gun that ended up in the popcorn machine, from which Dom recovered a casing. And we learn that the guy Angela hooked up with — and ditched — is really an FBI informant reporting to Dom.

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12" Episode 208 -- Pictured: Carly Chaikin as Darlene -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

Carly Chaikin in “Mr. Robot.”

Michael Parmelee/USA Network

Reality Bites

  • The FBI people keep mentioning “Comey,” who has been kept in the dark about Operation Berenstain — they mean James Comey, the real-world Director of the FBI, who has been in the news recently for a different kind of report.
  • When Trenton is hacking Mobley’s phone, she uses a stagefright exploit.
  • Operation Berenstain is clearly modeled on the NSA’s surveillance program PRISM, one of the real secrets revealed by Edward Snowden, who makes a cameo appearance via news clip.
  • Trenton encodes the fsociety video with open source program ffmpeg and uploads it to Vimeo, where you can now watch it for yourself.
  • We see several email credentials for Susan Jacobs on various services, but none of them seem to be functional. However, freeze-frame through the shots of her email, and you’ll find several mentions of her heart disease, including subjects like “living with a pacemaker” and “preventing future heart attacks.” Insert joke here about E-Corp executives having no hearts.
  • Before the fatal shock, Darlene tells Susan that she uncovered her “Petraeus email scandal,” a reference to General David Petraeus giving classified info to his biographer, whom he was sleeping with.
  • Dom tracks down Mobley using the Wayback Machine, and proves that you never know what embarrassing stuff you’ll find in old Angelfire pages.

Standout Lines and Moments

  • The centerpiece of this episode is Angela’s dirge-like karaoke performance of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” over the frenzied montage of fsociety trying to hack into Susan’s email, easily the best use of karaoke for dramatic purposes since last season on “The Leftovers.” (For more on that “Leftovers” scene, by the way, check out our comprehensive oral history featuring Damon Lindelof, Mimi Leder and Justin Theroux.)
  • Darlene: “Can’t drop the soap around a proverbial black hat bitch like this, Mobley.” Translation: She respects Trenton’s skills. Darlene also gets the great line, “Relax kids, this isn’t the Stranger Danger episode.”
  • Though Darlene is masterful at the side-eye quip, she also gets to give a seriously intense speech to Susan:  “The first time I saw you I was four. I still remember it on the news. In the courtroom when they cleared E-Corp of all the bullshit they put my family through. And you were in the back, behind a sea of suits. And you laughed. It was so quick no one even noticed. Except me. Four year old little me. So, I’m happy I get to look you in the eye.”
  • Dom, to Mobley: “Trust me, I feel the same way about Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion”
  • Cisco: “This is some traumatizing shit, you know that?” Wait until you see Darlene’s Harley Quinn impression, Cisco.

Grade: B

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