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Mr. Robot Flashes Back and Moves Forward

We’re already halfway there! Last week ended with Elliot back in the game, the FBI discovering fsociety’s hideout, and the hacker group preparing to hack them in response. There was also a glimpse of a darker side to Ray. This week’s Mr. Robot recaps picks up on each of these plot threads and introduces a much more complicated one. And thankfully these episodes run shorter than the two hour-plus episodes preceding them. Still, plenty to talk about here.


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Well that was intense.

Elliot’s decision to help Ray and return to fsociety activities was sure to dial up the excitement. I figured Ray wasn’t a good guy. We already knew Whiterose (Chinese Minister of Safe Security Mr. Zheng, apparently) does bad things. As the episode progressed and our main characters increasingly found themselves in opposition to these two, the sense of danger grew palpable. If I had submitted this before seeing the following episode I likely would spend the majority of this recap babbling incoherently.

Much of “logic-b0mb.hc” revolved around the FBI’s investigation of fsociety. Elliot returned to hacking to help Darlene hack them. She recruited Angela to help. Angela became aware of her ex-boyfriend’s discussions with the FBI. The chain of events which led to Angela’s walking into fsociety’s new headquarters seem overdue, and inevitable considering her decision to use the Dark Army virus last year. It is also depressing; fsociety is in up to their necks here and Angela’s employment with Evil Corp puts her in the most danger. Still, seeing her and Elliot share a (kind of) happy moment together was nice. Too long has passed since they could be called real friends.

Too bad she only reentered Elliot and Darlene’s life for yet another dangerous hack attempt. I can’t pretend I am sorry to see Elliot back at work, though. The hacking has always been a reliable source of excitement on Mr. Robot, and Elliot’s own excitement at again sitting before a computer was shared by this viewer, at least. Hacking brings out the best and worst in him. It allows his greatest positive expression and presents the greatest danger. A part of me wished Elliot would make some excuse to step away from the keyboard. A bigger part of me agreed with his words during the opening: “I live for this shit.”

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And boy did Elliot’s hacking lead him to danger. The FBI may have been the overarching threat, but nothing felt tenser than the Notepad conversation between him and the IT tech previously responsible for Ray’s project. Unlike the FBI, Ray’s presence loomed over everything. He presented a very physical and imminent threat. His previous warning to avoid snooping let us know he hid some terrible things, but I did not expect that terrible. More than ever I wondered who the hell Ray is and how someone involved in underage sex slave trafficking, gunrunning, and drugs ended up in Elliot’s life (especially if the institution theory is true).

And of course Elliot got caught. He and the IT tech were terribly unsubtle. Ray’s thug had to be looking out for their little looks. Season 2 needed a personal villain for Elliot. Everything spelled trouble and trouble found him in the form of a beating to end the episode.

He can’t help himself. He knows that. We know that. We root for Elliot because of that moral center. Mr. Robot was right, though. Ray is no coffee shop owner, and all Elliot has done is attract the unwelcome attention of a dangerous, terrible person.

Dom DiPierro’s episode also ended with a violent cliffhanger in form of (at least two) gunmen opening fire on her and her FBI colleagues. Like Elliot’s episode arc, you knew trouble awaited Dom the moment she asked seemingly out of place to Whiterose about Dark Army. She caught the Chinese Minister’s attention, as evident by Whiterose actively seeking Dom out at the dinner party later. Their conversation was probably my favorite part of the episode. Besides the thirst for any information or insight into Whiterose (that Sam Esmail is well aware we want), they plain had a fascinating conversation.

While the uncharacteristic glimpse into her mind likely only occurred because of the plan to kill Dom, I still appreciated the moment. As I mentioned last week, fsociety has clearly been over their heads with this hacking scheme, and finding out Mr. Zheng’s position in the Chinese government only made this clearer. She wanted this hack despite “working” against it. Evil Corp might be involved as well. Why? Who the hell knows?

Despite her opposition to Elliot, Dom has quickly become one of my favorite characters. She’s smart, she’s quick, she alternates between utterly charming and complete awkwardness. She handled herself pretty well in what we saw of the gunfight. The way she manages professional excellence and social anxiety makes for a very interesting mix. I see how hard she tries to be the person her job requires, I see how that effort wears on her, and I love her for it. Even without seeing the resolution of the gunfight, I felt no danger to her character. This woman cracked open the case against fsociety. The arcade and the Steel Mountain facility are crawling with agents. Mobley’s pictured on an FBI computer screen.

I’m not sure if my divided loyalties towards her are a result of the relative blandness and unlikeable nature of fsociety outside of Elliot or the terrific job done to make Dom appeal to me. Either way the divided loyalty exists.

Mr. Robot s2_ep5_dom

Other Thoughts:

Joanna continued to be frightening. Takes a special kind of cold-hearted to casually discuss murder while breastfeeding.

Darlene has really embraced the leadership role with fsociety. Now she’s promoting underlings and giving them fake confidence for side missions.

Speaking of, interesting that they are still in that house owned by Evil Corp’s lawyer. I wonder if the plan is to frame her as part of the group? Could that possibly work?

Interesting that the legalization of gay marriage was on the TV in the bar. So, this episode took place on June 26, 2015 or soon after?

We know Darlene is taking care of QWERTY but what about Flipper???


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Did anyone else hope the entire episode continued the ‘80s sitcom theme? That was fantastic. I don’t know the reaction elsewhere but I loved every moment of it, and not just for the nostalgia factor. That played a part, for sure (Laugh track! Alf! 28 kbps dial-up internet! An opening theme that all but ripped off Full House! Game Boy!), but the Alderson family road trip was loaded with suggestion Mr. Robot fans will spend weeks analyzing. Did Tyrell’s appearance as the Man in the Trunk a possible reveal of his fate? Was Elliot’s mother this abusive in real life? Why exactly did they decide to have Alf murder Gideon and why do I find it so funny? This opening fascinated me stylistically, symbolically, and with the eventual reasoning for its existence.

I’m probably alone about this, but my anger if this ran the whole episode without resolving last week’s cliffhangers would pale in comparison to the enjoyment received.

Most of all I found the opening to be a possible hint that Elliot and Mr. Robot may one day find peace. Wherever Elliot currently calls home, he spent half this season trying to get better while there. He fought so hard to rid his fractured mind of the piece that created this persona. This opening called back to Krista’s words earlier in the season. Like it or not, this construct IS Elliot. This is some part of his mind that is vital to him. Mr. Robot serves as an escape. He was an identity to inspire Elliot’s desire to take down Evil Corp, and here he is a retreat from the vicious beating Ray’s thugs delivered. This is a bad spot Elliot has landed in. Ray’s speech in the hospital (?) made clear he thinks Elliot no more free or independent than his dog.

Our “hero” is enslaved to a cruel, dangerous man with no present hope of freedom. He will need that part of him that created Mr. Robot. Their hug near the end of the episode implies Elliot’s realization of such. Both sides seemingly recognized the need to stop warring and make a peace. While this will probably lead to short term unhealthiness, a resolution can hopefully lay the foundation for a better Elliot in the future.

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However much I loved the Alderson family road trip, though, I’m glad we had resolution of the previous episode’s cliffhangers. Quick overview; 2 weeks passed after Elliot’s beating and the murder of 4 FBI agents in China. Dom survived. FBI security supposedly increased greatly (more on this soon). The investigation into the hacks has stalled and the FBI is leaving the Evil Corp offices. Because of this, fsociety’s plan to hack their phones must happen beforehand. This leaves one day to train Angela for her part.

The hack of the FBI office provided excitement reminiscent of season 1 which season 2 mostly lacks to date. I mentioned before about the hacking providing the tensest moments of Mr. Robot, and we saw so again here. This show plain knows how to shoot a fun hacking scene; the music, the acting, the cinematography, everything blends to create a tense scenario. It certainly helped that we followed Angela through this scheme. Even so recently as 2-3 episodes ago I would not imagine her agreeing to a hack, let alone successfully carrying one out. She seemed to get away with it this time; I doubt Dom caught her or will suspect her right away.

I have to wonder, though, what happened to the increased security mentioned before? Angela walked in and out with almost zero resistance. The only person to question her was a guy looking for a date who gave up wondering who the unknown woman wandering their offices as soon as she agreed to lunch. Um, the FBI just suffered a terrorist attack that killed 4 agents. They know the attack came in response to their investigation of a crippling cyber-attack. Why the hell did no one care who Angela was? At least ask for credentials!

Still, it made for a fun scene and an important one for Angela. Her split loyalties between her friends and Evil Corp’s seduction has made for some of the best scenes this season. It sucks to have yet another cliffhanger of Dom catching her mid-hack, but not nearly enough to take away from what was the best episode this season.

And I have no qualms about calling this the best episode yet of season 2.

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Other Thoughts:

Speaking of Dom, she seems very sure that the attackers in China meant to distract, not wipe all the agents out. Makes sense. We saw one of the gunmen kill himself. Also very clear why she doesn’t want a month off after that shootout, considering our glimpses of her home life.

Whiterose is very clearly scheming on a level no one else in the show can match. She works with Price but participated in the hack. She is responsible for the Chinese investigation into the hack, yet had to have been responsible for the attack on the FBI. Which apparently stopped the U.S. government from bailing out Evil Corp. She also provided the device fsociety used to hack the FBI. I’m not going to bother guessing. Not yet.

I’m disappointed that Elliot named the Mr. Robot shop. I really wanted the name to come from his father. We see in the ending flashback that his father was fired specifically because of the cancer diagnosis, or at least the visits which determined the diagnosis.

Yet another casualty of the hack as Dom’s favorite convenience store goes out of business.


Conclusion

Season 2 continues to improve each week. I don’t know the general opinion, but Mr. Robot feels like a different show in a very good way. More confident, more skilled, more assured of what story they tell and how and why they want to tell it. “eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes” hit a season high. Things look bright moving forward. Here’s hoping the trend continues.


Images courtesy of USA Network 

 

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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