Mr. Robot is undoubtedly known for plot twists. Even better, it’s known for good plot twists, not nonsensical jackassery meant to be shocking and bold in the worst of ways. Mr. Robot’s best twists culminate a series of hints you can easily piece together but only the most obsessive of fans tend to notice ahead of time. This week the show presented what probably its biggest twist to date, and one of the best I’ve seen in any show in years. A twist resulting in what also might be the best episode of Mr. Robot yet.
I feel like a broken record at this point. Between this, The Leftovers and Better Call Saul, 2017 has been an amazing year for third seasons.
Spoilers for 3×06 “eps3.5_kill-process.inc” below
Who likes flashbacks? Well we get one to start this week, showing some kind of horribly depressing “hey I’m dying let’s party” gathering for Angela’s mother. Elliot’s father approaches a forlorn young Angela and convinces her to be strong for her mother and talk to her. This involves a bunch of talk about Back to the Future. Oh boy, more sci-fi.
After Mrs. Moss talks to the lawyer in charge of the Washington Township lawsuit, and making clear how she’s accepting her death, Angela gathers the nerve to talk to her mom. Angela’s mom tells her death is not the end and they’ll meet again in another place, where they’ll laugh and play and have fun.
Cut back to the present and last week’s ending point. Elliot confronts Angela about lying to him and working for the Dark Army, and Angela tries to convince him it’s for the greater good. Whiterose is going to save the world. She also repeats how Whiterose is going to somehow save their dead parents. She refuses to answer Elliot’s inquiries and asks him to leave. He notices the Red Wheelbarrow takeout bag before he goes.
Meanwhile, Darlene is questioned by Dom and her partner. She gets a call from Elliot, and he tells her about the restaurant and says Tyrell will be there. Darlene apologizes to him before the call ends. Dom doubts Darlene is telling them everything. She goes to her boss (a Dark Army agent, remember) to tell him about the location. He tries his best to squash it and reports to Irving so he can get Tyrell out.
Whiterose and Price then meet up during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago to talk about everything happening. Price pushes her to support E-coin now that she got what she wanted from the UN vote and Whiterose makes noncommittal promises. The two try some awkward small talk before parting.
Afterwards Whiterose gets a call about Tyrell’s location being compromised, and shrugs it off.
Elliot makes it over to the E Corp building meant to be blown up that day and sneaks in. He finds an empty conference room to hack into E Corp’s network and hopefully stop Stage 2, but glitches out and comes back to awareness inside a taxi. Turns out Mr. Robot can manage temporary control.
Darlene calls Dom at her office for a progress update and Dom shuts her down, again saying Darlene must be hiding something. Dom and her partner decide to “go get lunch” at the Red Wheelbarrow. Where, presumably we next see the Dark Army packing up all Tyrell’s equipment. Meanwhile, Elliot returns to the E Corp building to find his laptop gone. He sneaks into a computer room to continue hacking.
While Dom and her partner scope out the restaurant and Irving gives Tyrell his next instructions (to the behest of a furious Tyrell wondering where his family is), Elliot tries another hack and Robot again takes control, though this time for not as long. He returns to the computer room and tries again. Much to the confusion of some poor guy also using the room.
This time Robot eventually makes Elliot smash the computer he was using. He decides to get to the battery room itself and stop the devices from sparking and igniting the explosion.
Over at the Red Wheelbarrow, Tyrell starts a fire and organizes his hideout supposedly according to instruction. Dom sneaks into the kitchen and notices smoke coming from behind a back room. She tells her partner, the FBI, and breaks in to check. She finds an empty, dark room and the various things Tyrell set up. There’s also a hidden tunnel Tyrell marked with a tie.
Meanwhile, a mugger tries to steal Angela’s purse on the subway. She refuses to hand it over and he flees when they reach their next stop.
While Elliot tries to reach the battery room, Mr. Robot continuously takes momentary control to fling him around the hallway and hurt him. It’s every bit as funny as that sounds. The FBI collects evidence from the restaurant while Dom’s boss chews her out.
Time for another series of quick cuts! Elliot reaches the battery room while Darlene confronts Angela and Dom orders a coffee outside the E Corp building. Elliot tries to convince Robot to help him get inside. Angela and Darlene argue about the lengths the Dark Army is going to and the evilness of Stage 2. They’re interrupted by alerts on their phone that freak them out. Tyrell runs out in the open begging someone to stop the building from being destroyed and is arrested.
This is very hard to recap.
Finally, Elliot convinces Robot by showing him none of the paper records reached the building and there is no point to blowing it up. Robot breaks into the battery room and Elliot pulls the fire alarm, which prevents the explosion. Hooray! Good guys win!
Only they don’t. Turns out the plan was adjusted to blow up the 71 separate buildings Elliot rerouted the paper records to, killing thousands.
I won’t say no one say this coming. The Mr. Robot fandom is too active and obsessive for no one to predict Whiterose’s plan adjusting to Elliot’s efforts this way. Still, wow. I can’t imagine there were many predicting this twist. Mr. Robot used Elliot’s POV and the mystery of Whiterose to brilliant effect.
All season, just like Elliot, the fans have watched with the assumption that Stage 2 required all of E Corp’s paper records consolidated to a single location. If they were spread out, the manpower and effort needed to attack each separate site was too difficult. The events we saw on screen suggested the same thing. Elliot, his Robot persona, Angela, Tyrell, Irving, and everyone else we saw working for and against Stage 2 focused on the single E Corp building in New York.
And yet, just like with every good twist, once the twist happened you can easily reflect and see how wrong you were all along. Whiterose’s insistence on executing the attack so soon suddenly makes perfect sense. Tyrell’s asking for the full force of the Dark Army to solve the opposition from Elliot, as well. This was always the new plan to get around the unreliability of Elliot. The Dark Army didn’t care about loss of life or the difficulties of separate facilities. The plan would happen however necessary.
Now that the full horror of Whiterose’s ambition and resolve has been revealed, it’s decision time for everyone else. And it looks like the world vs. Whiterose.
Arguably the best part of this episode, even more than the twist, was how everyone came unknowingly together to experience the true terror and evil of Whiterose’s plan. Connecting the dots for the entire cast to end up on the same side seems suddenly plausible and even likely. Elliot and Robot began the process of reconciliation. Both Angela and Darlene connect to Elliot. Dom connects through Darlene. Price and E Corp connect through Angela. Depending on whose side Tyrell is actually on, he connects through multiple people.
They also have shared motivation against Whiterose and the Dark Army following this horrible attack.
Now, this doesn’t mean we’ll have everyone holding hands and working in harmony next week. Angela won’t completely forget whatever the hell Whiterose promised her. The FBI won’t forget Elliot’s role in starting all this. Dom will almost definitely assume Darlene hid the truth about Tyrell to protect Elliot. E Corp will also hesitate to trust anyone.
Still, the plan is in motion. Even if everyone doesn’t end up actively working together, they all should have the same goal. Whiterose’s attack here was too monstrous, and required flat out lying to those who trusted her. It was a bridge-burning moment beyond repair.
Which makes you wonder just what in the hell her end goal is. A subject leading me to my one familiar source of unease about the episode and Mr. Robot as a whole; are we actually heading into hard sci-fi territory?
Once again, Mr. Robot suggested this possible outcome through the flashback opening. Young Angela watching the Back to the Future cartoon was tease enough, but at least it was just that, a tease. Something easily laughed at and moved on from. By following it up with Angela’s mother talking about death not being the end and hinting at something more where they will all be reunited…well, it was the latest hint atop an increasingly large pile.
At this point all these hints have to be leading somewhere. Angela agreed to work with the Dark Army because of she was promised some type of reset where her mother and Elliot’s father are alive. This episode had Angela’s mother talk about something similar. Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother both worked on whatever the Washington Township project is, and Mrs. Moss and Mr. Alderson accepted their deaths without a fight, suggesting they both believed in whatever Whiterose got Angela to believe in.
Combined with Whiterose’s cruel disregard for human life, also hinting she believes death can be undone, this is beyond teasing at this point. This is a clear roadmap of plot points leading towards something. There’s no way Sam Esmail can simply drop all of this or chalk it up to fun teasing. Not in any way remotely satisfying.
He has ruled out time travel already. Parallel dimensions are another popular theory not yet ruled out. What will all this lead to? Probably something mindblowing in the moment but well-seeded in retrospect. Especially with so many hints like this. I just hope the show doesn’t lose itself afterwards.
Considering how good this season of Mr. Robot has been, I don’t think I need to worry.
- Mar-a-Lago. Boooo. I think I have to agree with Alan Sepinwall on this; it gets harder to justify these unsubtle shots at our current political situation when Mr. Robot’s reality has diverted so far from our own. However much I might enjoy the shots personally.
- No one noticed Elliot swipe a badge in front of a couple dozen people looking right at him?
- For anyone wondering why no one questioned the guy in the hoodie walking around the E Corp building, trust me; people in these buildings don’t give a crap unless you really, really go out of your way to make them. They trust that you wouldn’t be there and have the badge unless you’re supposed to be there.
- The girl playing younger Angela in the flashback was the same girl who questioned Angela in the season 2 finale. Chalk up more evidence for a hard sci-fi twist, and also an explanation of what exactly convinced Angela over to the Dark Army.
- Another week, another fantastic visual treat on Mr. Robot. I loved the glitch effect as Elliot and Robot struggled for control, and despite the dread of his attempts to stop the building from blowing up, I couldn’t help but laugh as Elliot beat the crap out of himself.
- Speaking of, the coexistence between Elliot and Robot was awesome and a good sign for the future of Elliot’s mental health. I could spend an entire article talking just about what this hopefully means for Elliot.