Choice was definitely the theme of the episode. Two choices, specifically. Coke or Pepsi, as Elliot puts it. Or ones and zeroes, as Mr. Robot puts it. And the indecision that manifests when both choices are particularly dissatisfying.
For someone as OCD and set in his ways as Elliot, the act of choosing is becoming more and more difficult. And no matter how simple figures like Mr. Robot or Tyrell Wellick make their grand schemes out to be, the decisions don’t get any easier for him to make.
Picking up where the first episode left off, we find out that Elliot isn’t in a room full of the world’s richest and most powerful men. It’s actually just Tyrell, the self-described “Interim CTO” of Evil Corp, and his arsenal of lawyers. He knows what Elliot did to get the former CTO Terry Colby arrested, and actually wants to make Elliot head of cyber-security at Evil Corp once Tyrell comes into power.
The choice here is between the shady conglomerate who wants to make him a millionaire and the shady hackers who want to bring the conglomerate down.
Awkward as ever, Elliot rejects the offer. He had a few reasons for doing so. One, the success of Elliot and Tyrell together would mean the failure of Allsafe, Gideon, Angela, pretty much all of Elliot’s coworkers. Two, by joining Tyrell he would be stabbing his new fsociety friends in the back, which could be dangerous. Three, he really doesn’t want to work at Evil Corp.
Can’t blame him really. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere near creepy, pale-eyed Tyrell Wellick, who goes from being a smug aristocrat to acting like a sullen child remarkably fast.
His encounter with Tyrell leaves Elliot in a state of extreme trepidation. Coming in to work to find that fsociety has broadcasted a threatening message for Evil Corp doesn’t help ease his paranoia. This increasing anxiety prompts Elliot to abuse his morphine habit, putting his friend and dealer Shayla directly into the crosshairs of Fernando Vera.
This leads Elliot to his next hard choice. He knows Vera is a depraved maniac, and now he knows he’s raping Shayla. Yet Vera is the only supplier who can get Shayla the drugs that Elliot needs. Does he allow Shayla to be a victim of a monster for the sake of his addiction, or should he give Vera to the police and go cold turkey?
Being the hero, or wanting to be, Elliot obviously chooses the latter option. With that choice, he’s left in a precarious position. Exposed to the effects of withdrawal at any moment during the most complicated time of his life.
Bad timing too, as Mr. Robot and fsociety enter his life once again to fill him in on the next stage of their plan. Blowing up Steel Mountain, the offsite and data storage facility for every corporation SMP, including Evil Corp. While the plan would strike a heavy blow at Evil Corp, it presents Elliot with his third choice. Destroy Steel Mountain and risk innocent lives being lost in the balance, or turn his back on fsociety for good.
We see him go one way. Then, thinking he’s found a better, non-violent solution, he wants back in on the plan.
Prior to this, we got to delve a bit deeper into Elliot’s past this episode.
After he has to destroy a bunch of his equipment, Elliot gazes at an old photograph of him as a little boy, standing with his mother on a beach.
Krista, the psychiatrist, relates Elliot’s inner turmoil over his indecisiveness to his father, who Elliot believes gave up instead of choosing to take a stand against the corporation that ruined his life; this causes Elliot to shout at her in frustration.
Finally, during his speech on “ones and zeroes,” Mr. Robot accuses Elliot’s father of being a zero and receives a resolute “fuck you” from Elliot. At the end of the episode, he presses Elliot into telling him how his father died. He notes the leukemia, the cause, the fact that his father made him swear to keep it a secret, and that he violently lashed out at Elliot, pushing him out of a window when he broke down and told his mother the truth.
Mr. Robot seems to think his father was right to hurt him, since Elliot broke the promise he made to the man. He then blatantly draws a parallel between himself and Elliot’s father when he pushes Elliot off the boardwalk they’re on. Why? We’ll have to find out next episode.
I will say it’s doubtful that our main character just got abruptly killed off in the second episode right as we were getting some backstory (this isn’t quite Game of Thrones), and not just because I’ve seen the rest of the season.
Bits and Pieces:
* One thing that I forgot to mention in my last review is that Mr. Robot is a cinephile’s delight. This episode has a reference to JFK, with Tyrell’s henchmen going by both “Mr. X” and “Mr. Sutherland.” With its fractured editing, paranoid/delusional narrative, and its outcast loner protagonist, it brings to mind films such as Fight Club, Taxi Driver, and Memento. Fsociety is basically the hacker group Anonymous, itself inspired by V for Vendetta. The show’s gritty, cynical atmosphere and sleek yet off-kilter quality reminds me of Breaking Bad. Even Christian Slater’s whole character is like a homage to the ‘80s cult movie Pump Up the Volume.
* Elliot’s new dog likes to use his bed as a bathroom. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.
* Fsociety’s mascot seems to be a combination of Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly and the infamous Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta and Anonymous.
* Elliot hacks Tyrell, and finds nothing amiss. The ease of this causes Elliot to think Tyrell was expecting to be hacked, leading him to hastily destroy the software he used in a panic.
* Tyrell and his wife are apparently of Swedish descent. Her maiden name is Oloffson.
* Another of Elliot’s hacking rituals is putting the files he has on various offenders like Vera or Krista’s philandering boyfriend last episode, onto discs and disguising the discs as music CDs.
* The Dark Army: a serious hacker organization catering their services to all kinds of shady entities, including terrorists. Now working with fsociety (maybe). Elliot is worried about associating with them, but Mr. Robot figures it doesn’t matter so long as the arrangement is mutually beneficial.
* Angela and Ollie get hacked by someone who isn’t Elliot. Uh oh.
* I should highlight the other members of fsociety: Darlene, a quirky, talkative chick who is overly familiar with Elliot despite the fact that he thinks she’s crazy. Trenton, a quiet but efficient Muslim girl who Mr. Robot claims has some “allahu akbar” in her. Romero, a grim looking fellow who seems leery of Mr. Robot and Elliot. Mobley, a jovial looking fellow who seems to respect Mr. Robot and Elliot.
Tyrell: Give a man a gun, he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, he can rob the world.
Elliot: I’m gonna need to wipe everything.
Great scene. Excellent editing.
Gideon: You’re never sure about anything unless there’s something to be sure about.
Elliot: Maybe you don’t know me that well.
Mr. Robot: Hello, Evil Corp. We are fsociety. Over the years, we have been watching you. Your financial abuse of the poor, your corruption of governments, your coverups of the murder of ordinary citizens all for the sake of profit. This is why we at fsociety have decided you must die. We are malicious and we are hostile. We do not compromise, we are relentless. We will not stop until every tentacle of your evil monstrosity is sliced off at the nerve! But we are also not without mercy. Our latest hack was our last warning. Meet our demands and we will consider not destroying you. First, release our leader Terry Colby from your illegitimate prison immediately. Second, release all the people of the world from your even more illegitimate prisons of debt! Third, dissolve your corporation and donate all your assets to charities around the world. This proposal is non-negotiable. The people are realizing they don’t have freedom of choice so long as you exist. The people are waking up, no longer accepting your economic slavery. Meet these demands or we will kill you. Consider yourself warned.
Ollie: I’ll tweet, but only if I like it. Alright, I only have 48 followers, but it’s growing.
This guy may be pathetic, but at least he’s a funny sort of pathetic.
Darlene: I’m stealing your clothes, my dress has cum stains on it.
She was just messing with him, but that was hilarious.
Darlene: Okay, now that we’re all done going down on each other, could we please hear the plan?
Elliot: Tyrell Wellick knows-
Mr. Robot: What they want him to know! He’s a corporate robot, just like the rest of them. Besides, the entire company is gonna be reeling from all the data dumps we’ve got in store for them, and man do we have some goodies. Good old fashioned executive racism, sexism, fascism. Trust me, we are going to ism so much all over them they won’t be able to see straight.
Mr. Robot: Tell me one thing, Elliot. Are you a one or a zero? That’s the question you’ve gotta ask yourself. Are you a yes or no? Are you gonna act or not?
Elliot: You’ve been staring at a computer screen way too long, homie. Life’s not that binary.
Mr. Robot: Isn’t it? Sure there are grays, but when you come right down to it, at its core, beneath every choice is a one or a zero. You either do something or you don’t. You walk out that door, you are deciding to do nothing. To say no. Which means you do not come back. If you leave you are no longer part of this, you become a zero. But if you stay, you become a yes. You become a one. So I’ll ask you again, are you a one or a zero?
Darlene: You don’t get to disappear from this. We can do it with or without you, but you’re a part of it either way. Yeah, even your stupid hoodie can’t protect you, bitch!
A satisfying second episode. Three out of four pieces of popcorn.
- Next episode
- Mr. Robot season 1
- Mr. Robot home
- Stream this episode or the entire season on Amazon now