Spoilers for “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” ahead.
Opinions on the most popular season 2 theory varied widely after Mr. Robot premiered. Some loved the hunt for clues, while others disliked the idea. The main argument against it centered on the unreliability of the main character. Elliot’s mental disorders already rendered much of what the viewer sees as questionable. For those against the institution theory, a completely fabricated setting to hide Elliot’s true location arguably stepped too far and set a bad precedent moving forward. They did not want to spend every moment watching Mr. Robot wondering what is real and what is not. They did not want to question everything.
Now that episode 2×07 “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” confirmed the theory—Elliot has in fact spent season 2 in prison—the reactions will certainly vary just as much, if not more so.
As someone who loves the mental focus of Mr. Robot above all else in this show, the theory appealed immediately to me, and the reveal worked better than I expected. I thought the reveal would be dragged out, perhaps so far as the season finale. I also expected Elliot to drag it out, with each aspect of the fantasy he created meticulously deconstructed until he faced the truth. Instead we learn the truth in episode 7, and he admits to knowing the truth all along. Such was a great way to cap an episode Elliot spent coming to terms with himself and his alter ego. This conflict is too central to the show to vanish, but now we will see a fascinating new dynamic.
All of season 2 has focused on this struggle. Elliot spent most of these episodes trying to rid himself of the Mr. Robot persona, but the previous episode’s road trip saw a form of peace and understanding develop that carried over into this week’s resolution. He finally accepted that Mr. Robot is not a malicious entity threatening to consume his mind. Others disagree (I’ll discuss this later), but I think every moment spent on this conflict felt right to deliver this moment. He needed to arrive properly to Krista’s belief in Mr. Robot’s importance. To show this acceptance earlier in the season would likely have felt unearned. To show it later stalls the season’s pace. This felt right. “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” gave me exactly what I love about this show.
I’m not so sure about everything that happened around Elliot.
Eliminating Ray from the equation felt sudden, as if the writers had dozens of ideas surrounding him but lacked the time to explore them (especially considering his story about his wife). Losing Craig Robinson doesn’t help, either. The attempted rape and subsequent rescue by Leon, while very interesting regarding Leon himself, felt like too much abuse atop the abuse Elliot already suffered at Ray’s hands. The connection between Leon and Whiterose raises many, many questions. The number of prisoners apparently depending on Ray’s website to make money also raises some questions, and the prison politics of his arrest are introduced but only seen in Elliot’s assault.
I know other viewers will like Elliot’s impending release because it will connect him back with fsociety and Evil Corp, but so much potential story might be left behind as a result. Stripped of the fantasy, another two or three episodes in prison could provide terrific TV. I hope his release doesn’t happen right away so we see some of that potential realized. I suppose those episodes might play out like prison on any other show. Rape, beatings, shivs, corrupt guards and all those clichés. Maybe it’s best if the show moves on. I have faith Sam Esmail could do better, though.
And if not, well, at least we know Darlene and Angela will need Elliot ASAP. Dom made Angela immediately, as expected, and I highly doubt Angela’s capability to hide her involvement. I enjoy Portia Doubleday’s performance, but this episode especially makes me wonder how much of Angela’s wide-eyed obviousness comes from her, and how much comes from the director. I wondered the same thing while she somehow navigated the FBI offices last episode. Whatever the reason the FBI now has a solid lead to investigate into fsociety rather than abandoned arcades and aftermaths of their crimes.
Angela’s incapability also showed in the corporate maneuvers which took up much of the episode outside of Elliot. Happy as I am to see her resist the dark side, her inexperience showed in her dealings with her new boss. The man’s suspicion showed immediately, and Angela wasted no time validating it. Between the impending focus upon her by the FBI, an impending hostile workplace, the frustrations sure to set in from inability to affect change at Evil Corp, and the increasing isolation from her family and friends, Angela’s fate is far from certain. She might need Elliot’s release more than anyone.
“eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” brought us past the halfway point of a season with a mixed reception from fans and critics. And I get it; this season has been a bit of a slow burn. As an active participant of the Better Call Saul fandom, I know how divisive slow burn seasons dependent on character progression over plot progression often are. No doubt season 2 of Mr. Robot has been a character season. Along with the prison reveal not everyone is happy, especially considering the more episodic “thriller” feel of season 1. I won’t try to force my opinion on others or claim the right one. I’ll just say that I love this season, and I love the show Mr. Robot is becoming. Maybe season 2 will fail to tie everything together into a satisfying conclusion. Until that happens, I am content and confident that won’t happen.
I know I previously speculated about Tyrell’s death, but I doubt Mr. Robot’s confession of killing him. Can’t believe it without witnessing the deed. Mr. Robot’s hesitation to confess also adds doubt. We still don’t know how or why Joanna gets her gifts, either.
Speaking of, I feel horrible for her boyfriend. I don’t believe her affection for him at all.
While I saw the prison reveal coming, I did not expect Leon’s skill with a shank. His reputation must be known throughout the prison because Elliot’s assaulters wanted nothing to do with him at the basketball court. I hope he sticks around for a couple more episodes. His Whiterose connection increases the chances.
Love that the “Washington operation” was dropping the castrated Wall Street Bull testicles onto the House floor. It fits perfectly with the immature motif of fsociety’s schemes. They are truly a bunch of teenagers with spray paint and no idea how to truly create the change they desire.
This shows in Evil Corp’s continuing adjustment to the financial crisis. Despite the bailout vote failing, they seemingly control even more of society than before. Even taxis and limousine services only take “E Coins” now.
Images courtesy of USA Network