Review: ‘Mr. Robot’ Struggles To Activate Single User Mode

In Season 2 Episode 4, "eps2.2_init1.asec," Elliot’s plan for a careful massacre of the bourgeoisie reaches a stalemate.
Christian Slater and Rami Malek in "Mr. Robot."
Christian Slater and Rami Malek in "Mr. Robot."
Peter Kramer/USA Network

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Mr. Robot’ 2.1 k3rnel_pan1c.ksd — How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mr. Robot?

Hack The Planet

This week’s episode belongs to Darlene, and its a great showcase for Carly Chaikin. We get the clearest view yet behind her facade during a scene set before the start of the series — she suffers from panic attacks, barely remembers their father and shares a sibling shorthand with her brother. Darlene’s cry for help comes in the form of the Linux command that gives the episode its title: “init1” is their code for “Emergency Mode.” It’s enough to make Elliot put his fog aside and act like a big brother, letting her in for a viewing of their favorite bad 80s movie. The hysterically titled “Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie” turns out to be the source of the now-iconic fsociety mask. When Elliot puts it on, we see one of the first times Mr. Robot takes control.

In Elliot’s Head, Two’s A Crowd

“init1” also denotes “Single User Mode” in Linux, setting a system to only allow access to the primary user. This is a literal description of the main conflict, as Elliot and Mr. Robot fight for who is going to have control of Elliot’s existence. The question becomes, who is the primary user? And if only one of them is going to survive, which one will it be? But since this is only the beginning of the season, it’s not really a surprise that their winner-take-all chess match ends in stalemate. More important than the outcome is that Elliot seems to have finally decided to get off the sidelines and back into the game.

Positive Reinforcement Guy

As seemed obvious from last week, Ray’s bitcoin scheme becomes the vector for getting Elliot back online. There’s been a fan theory going around lately that says Elliot isn’t really at his mother’s house, but incarcerated in jail or a mental ward; he eats with Leon every day in the cafeteria, goes to the same pickup basketball game because he can’t go anywhere else, and his meetings in Ray’s office are really his therapy sessions. But Ray enlisting Elliot’s help with his cybercrime seems to punch a pretty big hole in that theory — especially Ray’s menacing exit line, while leaving his goon Lone Star behind to make sure Elliot doesn’t look where he shouldn’t.

Ray is also the one putting some dangerous ideas in Elliot’s head, suggesting that hearing voices might just make Elliot a prophet. Ray seems to be turning into Mr. Robot’s version of Littlefinger — just because he’s smiling, doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.

Rami Malek in "Mr. Robot."
Rami Malek in “Mr. Robot.”Peter Kramer/USA Network

It Gets So Lonely Being Evil

If Ray is Littlefinger, you could make a strong case for Phillip Price as this show’s Tywin Lannister. He always seems to have the upper hand, a hidden move and unshakeable confidence. Angela think she’s figured out what he really wants from her, but her attempt to create her own leverage fails miserably, earning her a patronizing dismissal.

The one person who Price can’t seem to cow is the mysterious White Rose, leader of the Dark Army and a dangerous force with unknown aims, and whatever they’re planning seems to hinge on Angela. White Rose’s appearance was one of the highlights of Season 1, so let’s hope we see more of zir destabilizing influence.

Swedish Psycho

Still very little of Tyrell Wellick this week. We only see him in Elliot’s dream of the world he wants to fight for; a cracked, saccharine Thanksgiving Day dinner in the middle of the street, while Evil Corp crumbles. But Joanna Wellick is busy, trying to get her severance money out of E-Corp CTO Scott Knowles, and bribing parking attendant Kareem to keep silent about finding Elliot asleep in Tyrell’s car after the Five/Nine hack.  And in a, well, tender? moment with her new boy-toy, she confesses she loves him — precisely because he can’t provide for her all the things she got from Tyrell. Somehow, things don’t seem like they’ll end well for DJ Derek.

READ MORE: ‘Mr. Robot’: Rami Malek, Christian Slater and Cast on the Show’s Surprising Direction

Alert The Authorities

Dom and her FBI cohort only find one piece of physical evidence at the arcade––a spent shell casing found behind the “Murder Mallard” game. Could this have been fired from Chekov’s popcorn gun?

Somehow, a copy of Dom’s report ends up in the hands of White Rose and the Dark Army. And in another “Game of Thrones” parallel, the show uses some sexposition to introduce the idea that Romero stumbled onto some kind of illegal surveillance initiative called “Operation Berenstain” — a nice touch, given a popular theory about the variable spellings of Berenstain being evidence of alternate dimensions.

Reality Bites

Elliot downloads movies using uTorrent and manages his media with Plex. But don’t bother looking for the torrent for Careful.Massacre.of.the.Bourgeoisie.1984-VHSrip — it’s not real. Or is it?

If you want to learn more about init1, here’s an overview of Linux Run Levels.

Rami Malek in "Mr. Robot."
Rami Malek in “Mr. Robot.”Peter Kramer/USA Network

Darlene hacked the API for Postmates, giving her unlimited coupons. Like the Amazon Echo bit from last week, this feels pretty weird to be a paid placement.

As Elliot dons the mask and hatches the plan to take down Evil Corp, the dramatic music is from Holst’s “The Planets” — specifically “Neptune, The Mystic,” with the dramatic crescendo over the credits spliced in from “Mars, The Bringer of War.”

When we see Darlene on the subway, there’s a prominent ad for “Allez Ridesharing.” A way to avoid getting sued by Uber, or a potential in-world website to keep an eye out for?

When Elliot gets on Ray’s computer, he contacts Darlene through the old-school web protocol IRC. His IRC client is BitchX and the username he signs in under is “samsepi0l,” which was the same alias he used last season in a Wikipedia hoax.

Standout Lines and Moments

  • Elliot’s donning of the Mr. Robot jacket and mask was chilling. But too bad “Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie” isn’t a real movie, since Darlene calls it: “definitely the root of all of our psychological dysfunction.”
  • Darlene: “I have to tell you something. It’s pretty fucking metal though.”
  • Again, we hear about them “lowering the allowance to $50 a day,” this time from Kareem the parking attendant. Here’s hoping they go into more of the wider economic chaos soon.
  • Angela’s still listening to her affirmations, including the ominous “I dissolve all false messages” and “my beliefs create my own reality.” Tell that to Elliot.
  • Elliot asks what would happen to him if he loses the chess match, and Mr. Robot describes it as, “The absence of knowing. Losing time forever. A deep black void that you will never come back from. No thoughts, no body, no memories, absolute nothingness.” Sounds like a typical Saturday night in Paterson, New Jersey.
  • White Rose: “That will require much patience. And you know how much I detest that.”
  • Leon: “You know back in the Age of Enlightenment, motherfuckers used chess as a means of self-improvement. Cause there weren’t no Toby Robbins DVDs back then.”
  • Elliot’s entire fantasy scene of the imagined life worth fighting for seems to show him in a relationship with Angela, with Cisco proposing to Darlene, and even allowing the Wellick family to join in. And there was a distinctly delicious-looking pie sitting right at the front of the table. Now THAT’S worth fighting for.

Grade: B

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