This episode really turned up the heat. Say what you will about Sam Esmail's style over substance, but this whole season is on fire.
Our first look at the fully returned Elliot Alderson is an epic sequence. We remember what makes this character who he is and why he like it. And I loved the way the scene illustrates how incredible computer hacking can be in spite of its seeming mundanity. He manages to create the malware that he and Darlene plan to use to hack the FBI, so that they can eliminate any evidence against those involved in the Five/Nine hack that the feds might find in Evil Corp's system.
Interestingly, Elliot and Darlene have to bring Angela into their plot. As Darlene points out, Angela became partly responsible for the Five/Nine hack when she inserted the Dark Army's corrupted disc into a computer at Allsafe. Though initially dismissive, a meeting with her ex-boyfriend Ollie makes her think twice. She finds out very fast that he's spoken with the FBI, whom he is trying to sell her out to. This revelation leads her to meet with Darlene, Trenton and Mobley, joining fsociety's plot against the FBI base at Evil Corp.
Angela's fluidic willingness to play both sides is a fascinating aspect of her character. She seems to greatly enjoy the level of authority and respect working at Evil Corp affords her, yet she holds no real love for them and is willing to actively sabotage the company (and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) in order to survive. Just like she sabotaged Allsafe with the corrupted disc last season, when Cisco and the Dark Army threatened her and her father with a financial crisis that was coming for everybody anyway. For someone initially presented to us as being pure of heart, Angela has become a surprisingly mercurial person. In a lot of ways, she's as hard to decipher as characters like White Rose and Joanna Wellick.
Speaking of Joanna, this episode sees her reaffirm her status as the show's scariest character. She has a meeting with Kareem, her contact that connects Elliot to Tyrell, who is extremely paranoid, thinking the FBI is watching him. This news coupled with the fact that she no longer has the funds to keep him quiet leads Joanna to order Kareem's assassination at the hands of her and her husband's henchman, "Mr. X/Mr. Sutherland." Not only that, she specifically orders that the man's death be drawn out, so that he would have time to process why he was being killed. In her mind, this was more merciful and not "ruthless" because he was able to "die with answers."
I think this cuts to a deeper side of her personality. Maybe this is indicative of Joanna's sadomasochistic tendencies. Perhaps she thought inflicting that sort of incomparable terror was the only way she could give the man peace, the way she seems to find some sort of catharsis in being subdued and abused. It is interesting that she would rather not see herself as a ruthless murderer, despite the fact that that's clearly what she is.
This episode is really all about unraveling layers around our various enigmas. My favorite part was Agent Dominique Dipierrio's trip to Beijing with the FBI and her interactions with Whiterose. It turns out Whiterose is the alter ego of Zhang, China's Minister of State Security. Zhang locks onto Dom after she abruptly announces their intention to investigate The Dark Army. At a party hosted at his mansion, Zhang and Dom get to know one another somewhat. Dom drunkenly divulges her professional and personal reasons for joining the FBI, making her character even more relatable. Zhang gives a more composed explanation for his obsession with time, of course, but he also reveals an understandable fascination with identity; he even veers dangerously close to his Whiterose identity when he shows Dom his "sister's" ancient Chinese gowns.
While this bonding experience with Dom was worth sparing a few minutes of his valuable time, it evidently wasn't worth enough for Whiterose to not send Dark Army assassins to shoot up the FBI headquarters in Beijing. The last we see of Dom, she's alone and taking cover from heavy gunfire after her colleagues have been killed.
Dom's arc in this episode parallels Elliot's, as he makes a startling discovery about a seemingly nice man. Snooping around on Ray's computer, Elliot eventually discovers that his new friend Ray is a very bad man. His super-secret website is, in fact, a shadowy black market outlet, offering drugs, sex slaves, weapons, all kinds of heinous shit. Just as he reawakens the hacker part of himself Elliot finds something to reawaken the part of himself that is a crime-fighter. Unfortunately, before he makes his decision about how to handle Ray, Ray finds out that Elliot knows his secret. The last we see of Elliot, he is getting beaten in the street outside his mom's house by Ray's men.
So it looks like no one's really safe, at the moment.
One & Zeroes:
* Dom visits Steel Mountain, which Elliot virtually left in ruins after he totally compromised their supposedly unbreakable security last season. Dom seems to admire Elliot's handiwork with the thermostat.
* Tyrell sent his baby a gift: a rattle with a little silver duck on top. Joanna later receives a call on the phone she found a few episodes back, and hears someone breathing on the other end. Then she realizes the caller is somewhere outside the apartment, but when she runs out into the street no one is there. Was it Tyrell, or someone else?
* The room of clocks was very neat. Everything in Whiterose's mansion is pretty damn immaculate.
* It turns out that fish in Angela's apartment is the same one Elliot had in season one, which I believe he originally received from the late Shayla. Apparently, Elliot named the fish Qwerty. Of course, he named the fish Qwerty.
* I found it interesting that even Mr. Robot seemed disturbed by Ray's black market website. He may be insane, but I guess he has some standards.
* The elusive nature of identity has been a running theme throughout this season. Is the self defined purely by our own thoughts, or are we fated to be as we are? Do we have a true self, or is everyone just wearing a mask? Do we really crave personal sovereignty and the freedom to make our own choices, or are we all no different than glitchy ones and zeroes in a computer, unwittingly enslaved to systems and shaped by systems?
Elliot: (narrating) This -- the feeling of pwning a system -- this is the greatest rush. God access! The feeling never gets old.
Steel Mountain guy: In fact, because of all the lawsuits we're facing, our company's rebranding. Our new name! Steel Valley. What do you think?
Dom Dipierro: Honestly, it's pretty terrible.
Mr. X: Ma'am, if I may, why drug him? It would have been just as easy to shoot and leave.
Joanna: Killing a man instantly robs him of explanation. He has no time to process his final moments. Now, even though he was paralyzed, his mind was still able to understand why his life was ending. To let him die with answers. Otherwise, we're nothing but ruthless murderers.
Angela: Answer me. Honestly. Right now. Did you talk to the FBI?
Ollie: No. Yes.
Ollie is such an entertaining schmuck. It was amazing how he just became more and more pathetic as that conversation went on.
Zhang/Whiterose: Pardon me, do you have the time?
Zhang/Whiterose: "Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more."
Dom Dipierro: You've surrounded yourself with the constant reminder of mortality.
Zhang/Whiterose: There is much work to do. Great work! As each second passes, I push myself to keep moving.
Dom Dipierro: You're making me think I need to invest in a decent watch.
That Whiterose relates to Macbeth is telling.
Zhang/Whiterose: Now if I may ask, how does a young woman from New Jersey find her way into the FBI?
Dom Dipierro: I was... I am disgusted by the selfish brutality of the world, but at the same time I'm utterly fascinated by it. The FBI's the perfect place for that kind of contradiction.
I know what that's like.
This was quite good. Four out of four bad ponytails.
- Next episode
- Mr. Robot season 2
- Mr. Robot home
- Watch this episode or the entire season on Amazon now