Monday, May 20, 2024

Mr. Robot Takes its First Misstep

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Ever since Trenton and Mobley left New York and fsociety behind, Mr. Robot fans have wondered what happened to them. Almost an entire season passed and our only hint was a bonus scene after the season 2 finale showing the two of them living new lives. Since the second Leon approached them to ask the time, I’ve been desperate to find out how they’d reenter the picture.

Now I wish we never knew at all.

Spoilers for “eps3.6_fredrick+tanya.chk” below

mr robot the gang


We kick off this week with the two former fsociety members. They watch the latest breaking news on the Stage 2 attack with Leon between them, still ruminating on old shows with a dead guy on the floor. Mobley begs for his life while Leon assures him he isn’t there to kill them. He’s just there to watch over them.

Leon takes the two with him when he drives out to the desert to bury the dead man.

Elliot picks up literally where he left off last week, staring at TVs reporting on the attack. He goes to his therapist to try and tell her about his role, but can’t. Eventually he panics and retreats, leaving Mr. Robot to take over. Robot is furious about being used by the Dark Army. He all but admits Elliot’s role in 5/9 and Stage 2.

When Krista doesn’t believe him, Robot lays out the case to try and convince her.

Meanwhile, the FBI shows Tyrell’s lawyer another fsociety video claiming responsibility for Stage 2 and promising another attack in 24 hours. He doesn’t budge in defending his client. Tyrell’s defense claims he is innocent and was kept captive so his captors would have someone to blame. He will name those responsible in exchange for his freedom. Dom wants to bring in everyone and interrogate them. Santiago shuts her down and Dom loses her patience. He plays the superior card and tells her to step into line.

Darlene and Angela watch the news together over at Angela’s apartment. Angela is in a fragile, lost state, asking if everyone who died will be okay. Darlene leaves her there to get some stuff. Back at the FBI, Tyrell asks about his family and is told he has to point out the perpetrators of the attack first. Elsewhere in the building, Santiago speaks with his panicking mother, who has told people about his premature warning ahead of the attack.

Uh oh.

The man questioning Tyrell comes into the office with photos of those Tyrell identified and tells Santiago about Tyrell’s requests to see his family. Santiago goes to tell Tyrell personally about Joanna’s death. He threatens to make sure Tyrell’s son suffers in foster care if Tyrell rats about Santiago being Dark Army.

Leon finally arrives out in the desert and begins digging a grave while Trenton and Mobley wait tied up in the car. Trenton tells Mobley about an email triggered to send to someone she trusts if she doesn’t stop it. She then manages to undo her restraints. Mobley convinces her to drive them away even though Trenton doesn’t know how to drive.

Obviously, it doesn’t go well and she crashes into a nearby rock. Ouch.

Back in New York, Krista tells her lawyer about Elliot’s confession. She wants to tell the police but her lawyer tries to talk her out of it. Back at Angela’s, she uses her TiVo to watch one of the Stage 2 buildings collapse over and over. When Darlene returns, she tells her the death toll doesn’t matter. Everyone will be fine. To prove her point she rewinds to when the building is still standing and argues everyone’s okay again. Yeah. Poor girl.

Robot pays a visit to Irving’s dealership, ready for a confrontation. He doesn’t get a chance, though, as a couple Dark Army goons knock him out from behind. Over at Mar-a-Lago, Price confronts Whiterose over the Stage 2 attack. E Corp will survive but Price cannot. When Price causes a scene demanding to know why Whiterose came for him personally, Whiterose says it was because Price had to be asked twice to follow orders.

Back in the desert, Leon has Trenton and Mobley digging the grave now. Trenton is still sure they won’t be killed. Mobley isn’t. He wants to know what the Dark Army wants from them. Leon won’t answer. Meanwhile Irving brings Robot to a spot outside a penthouse hosting a party. He uses the party to prove a point about the futility of Robot’s planned revolution, showing how the rich and powerful come out on top no matter what.

Leon brings Trenton and Mobley back home where the Dark Army has moved in. He leaves, giving ownership over to another Dark Army member. He brings Trenton and Mobley into the garage where two PCs are set up. On the news, a coworker sees a news report naming Trenton and Mobley as the leaders of fsociety.

In the garage, the two PCs have a plan for crashing planes set up on the screens. The Dark Army bigwig talks about how their members are not afraid to die since they serve a higher cause. While he does so, we see shots of an FBI team preparing to breach the house. He talks about suicide in the name of the cause as an honorable gesture. One of the Dark Army goons puts Mobley’s hand on a gun and forces him to bring it to his head.

When the FBI team breaks in, Trenton and Mobley are dead in a staged suicide. The plan remains on the PCs and an Iranian flag hangs on the wall. An fsociety mask hangs on a camera. Santiago says it’s over and they got their guys.

Dom walks over to the planning room and draws an X across the pictures of Trenton and Mobley. She also adds a slip of paper with Whiterose’s name on it.

Get ’em, Dom.


This was just a complete waste of potential. Full stop.

With all the hints and winks Mr. Robot has made this season about the tragedies of life being “undone,” I was incredibly excited for the return of Trenton and Mobley. Their final scene of season 2 focused on Trenton trying to convince Mobley of something she found. Something that could “undo” everything. We spent a great deal of the hour with the two of them, wondering what the Dark Army’s plan was.

And it was just to blame them for the Stage 2 attack and kill them off. I’m sorry, but it’s a goddamn waste. It’s too much potential squandered to just move past and dismiss.

Both these character have been with the show since season 1. They played direct roles in the 5/9 hack. They were appreciatively expanded upon in season 2. So much more could have been done with them. Instead we watch them get tortured for an hour and then killed off. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth for the first time in what was been a fantastic season of Mr. Robot.

Look, I get it. This episode brought everyone to their lowest point, including the audience. Elliot gives up control to Mr. Robot out of inability to handle Stage 2’s destruction. Angela has a complete breakdown over the deaths. Dom is left alone and powerless. Tyrell learns of his wife’s death and son’s foster status. Whiterose has never looked more unstoppable.

We as the audience watch all these characters brought low and feel low ourselves. Right now it looks like nothing matters, that the bad guys will win and no one can do anything about it. It’s an old trick and one this episode pulled off well. You have to create a genuine sense of despair and hopelessness to give meaning to future triumph.

Unfortunately, the way Mr. Robot went about it just feels like a damn waste. Just like Joanna’s death, killing Trenton and Mobley feels like too abrupt an ending to the potential of a plotline. It leaves me completely unsatisfied and takes interesting characters out of the show in the most uninteresting way.

That’s without even getting into the fact that this is the third female character Mr. Robot has unceremoniously killed off and squandered the immense potential of. I’m not going to call the show sexist, and it’s not like Mr. Robot doesn’t have three other engaging women on the main cast, but three times now is a pattern. A pattern that doesn’t inspire hope in the future fates of Darlene, Dom, and Angela. Women still appear to be too easily disposable by TV shows anymore, especially if you want to go for something shocking.

So much more could have been done with Shayla in season 1. Even more could have been done with Joanna and Trenton this season. Instead they were all killed off suddenly and unsatisfyingly in order to sell a feeling of gritty “realism”. The foreshadowing for Darlene’s death suggests she might also be bumped off too soon.

I hope Mr. Robot does better than the pattern, but now there is a pattern.

Another point, and one many may disagree with me over most of all, is how…cartoonish the Dark Army came across in this episode. I have loved Whiterose’s character. I’ve mostly enjoyed the Dark Army as antagonists. Here, though, they almost came across silly. For the first time they stopped coming across as this mysterious shadow group with a lofty goal and more like a lame cult worshipping a leader with a God complex. Whiterose’s “reasoning” for removing Price from E Corp came across like a petty egomaniac rather than the coldly calculating figure she has been to date.

I’m not denying that the Dark Army has always been a bit silly. Here, though, was the first time I really noticed it.

Still, this is still one misstep in an otherwise nearly flawless season. Even my all-time favorite shows make these mistakes sometimes and recover. Mr. Robot didn’t doom the season here. For the first time, however, my faith was shaken. I hope the remaining three episodes don’t tank all the amazing work done in the first six. It would be a real shame.

Assorted Thoughts

  • Hopefully Trenton’s dead switch email works and her death wasn’t for nothing.
  • The acting in this episode was absolutely outstanding. Elliot’s panic, Robot’s anger, Dom’s exasperation teetering on the brink of surrender, Angela’s shocked brokenness…everyone stepped up their game to the highest levels this week.
  • I’m more confused than ever about the potential of time travel or any other hard sci-fi elements. Was Angela’s rewinding of her TiVo suggesting everything Whiterose told her was a lie? If so, just what in the world is Whiterose doing in the Congo?
  • Love Leon’s continued fascination with old-school sitcoms. I’m not so happy about him badmouthing Frasier. Come on, man. Frasier won all those Emmys for a reason.
  • With the deaths of Trenton and Mobley, only Darlene remains from the “people who died” montage in season 1.
  • I suppose you have to live in the middle of a major city to understand never learning how to drive. I couldn’t possibly survive without a vehicle.

Images courtesy of USA Network

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