Mr. Robot: eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme

"I'll be rooting for you, cuz. Always."

Well, this certainly un-complicates a lot of lingering threads in the story.

Then again, that's not true at all. Things just got a lot more complicated.

This episode starts where the last episode left off, so that is where I will start. Agent Dom Dipierro has unknowingly caught Angela as she's in the middle of hacking the FBI for fsociety. Dom knows exactly who Angela is and is acutely aware that she's up to something. Unfortunately for her, she decides not to drop the hammer on Angela, allowing the latter to complete the hack. Darlene wipes away any evidence of Angela carrying out the hack, and fsociety now has access to the cellphones of a vast number of FBI agents.

While this makes Darlene and her hacker friends very happy, Angela is unnerved by the whole situation. She tells Darlene that, in the back of her head, she always knew it was her and Elliot who were behind fsociety; they made her watch The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie when they were kids and she remembers.

Dissatisfied with her fsociety experience, Angela works to improve the situations of both Evil Corp and the common people, like her father. She's able to convince the families of the Washington Township victims to settle the lawsuit against Evil Corp in exchange for lots of compensatory money. She does Price a huge favor and lets him know it, earning a favor from him in return. Angela demands a position in the Risk Management division. He acquiesces her request, but he also not-so-subtly asks if she would "celebrate his birthday" with him, which she firmly refuses.

This seems like quite a victory for Angela: she screws over Evil Corp and the FBI one day, then she gives Evil Corp a leg up and gets what she wants the next day. And she feels that the Risk Management division is a place where she might finally be able to make positive changes from within Evil Corp, like Terry Colby told her. But as soon as she asserts herself as if she is an equal, her seemingly benign boss promptly dresses her down. Apparently, Price told him he could do "whatever he wanted" with her. And so, suddenly, coming in and changing the system does not look so easy. For now, it looks like Angela's righteous mission has amounted to nothing but emptiness. She may have betrayed her principles, as well as her father's respect and trust, for nothing.

Our other resident ice queen receives her karmic reward as well, with Joanna getting splashed with blood (or was it just red paint?) as she's out with her baby; that was a freaky opening scene. I can't say she didn't deserve it after what she did to that parking attendant. And the one person she can find any sort of relief with, Derek, is threatening to leave her if she doesn't commit to him as his girlfriend. Joanna eventually reveals to Derek that she's going to divorce the still-missing Tyrell so she can be with him. Although, she's probably doing it hoping that all of her husband's many enemies will stop plaguing her and her child once she cuts ties with him.

It might not be a bad idea, considering that Mr. Robot claims that he did indeed shoot and kill Tyrell after they initiated the Five/Nine hack. He did this out of self-preservation for himself and Elliot because Tyrell was clearly a megalomaniacal murderer. This is in line with Mr. Robot's previous opinions on Tyrell. That said, I still do not trust Mr. Robot and believe he is still actively manipulating Elliot. So who knows if he's telling the truth?

Interestingly, the tense situation between Elliot and Ray is resolved because Ray fully accepts his karma. After taking Elliot from his confinement and giving him access to his computer to bring his darknet market back online, then proceeds to explain his criminal origin to Elliot over another game of chess. Ray's beloved late wife was like Elliot, masterful with computers. She and Ray started the website for extra money, letting the market dictate what was sold and turning a blind eye, until it soon grew into something bigger than they knew. Sounds awfully similar to Elliot and fsociety, no?

Anyway, Ray tells Elliot he let him on his computer knowing that Elliot would expose him to the authorities. After finally seeing what was being done on his website, he wanted to be beaten by Elliot. He knew he had done wrong and accepted his fate. I wonder if Elliot will ever reach a similar catharsis when he discovers just how much damage he's ultimately responsible for.

Several weeks pass, and Elliot now looks to his god, Mr. Robot, for guidance. Mr. Robot states that he's only ever been following Elliot's lead and tells him that others see him as a leader, even if he doesn't want to be one. They seem to be gearing up to return to their old plans: leading fsociety to bring about Evil Corp's destruction.

Right around this time, we discover that Elliot's maddened, unreliable narrative has once more twisted the show's reality to suit his needs. Apparently, throughout this entire season, Elliot has been behind bars. That's right. All that stuff about hiding out at his strict mother's house and sticking to a regimen was just his way of coping with the experience of being in prison. Everything we saw was an illusion, distorted reality; the way the show illustrates this is spectacular. For instance, Leon isn't just Elliot's new friend who's obsessed with Seinfeld, he's an agent of the Dark Army (and a particularly deadly one) who is watching over Elliot. Ray was likely just another prison inmate as well, and the men who attempted to rape Elliot before they got carved up by Leon seemed to be skinheads.

So yes, the water has been muddied a bit more. But I think this also clears up several glitches I noticed in the course of this season thus far. Little coincidences that felt uneven, like Ray somehow finding Elliot's journal or how easily Ray's men got away with dragging Elliot out of his mom's house and out of the hospital. I have to say, though, I never saw this coming.

Well, by the end of the episode, Elliot has received a letter from Whiterose and embraced his bond with Mr. Robot. He has a renewed sense of direction, but we still don't know exactly how he arrived at this point.

Ones & Zeroes:

* Bloody Joanna's silent scream before the title card was quite effective.

* Elliot looked awful in the first half of this episode. Very good makeup job, but painful to behold.

* It just seems weird that they would build Tyrell Wellick up as this shadow version of Elliot -- as well as the mystery of what the hell happened to him -- only for him to be dead all along. Could he really be nothing more than Mr. Robot's scapegoat? If so, then why all the secrecy?

* The "Enjoy the shrimp cocktail" bit was depressing. Angela judged Terry Colby and his colleagues harshly last season for their passivity while signing off on atrocities. And now that she sees an opportunity to do what they didn't, she isn't allowed to have a say in anything.

* Knife in the ass... there's an image I could have done without. The f-word is censored, but I guess that is acceptable.

* I wonder if Elliot is in the same prison he broke Fernando Vera out of last season. That would be ironic.


Dom: (to Angela) Whatever this is, it's not you.

Darlene: We just owned the FBI.

Evil Corp tech: Hey, where are you going?
Dom: Fourth of July tomorrow. I'm gonna find a barbecue to be miserable at.

Angela: Drop the contingency. You'll get your money.
Mr. Moss: The inspections are there for a reason. Do you want what happened to your mom to happen again?
Angela: I'll make sure the inspections go forward internally.
Mr. Moss: Is that how they're suckering you?
Angela: Trust me, they value me over there.
Mr. Moss: (laughs bitterly)
Angela: You laugh, but they respect me.
Mr. Moss: ... I don't know who this person is in front of me, but I'm not agreeing to any of this. I don't trust them, and, to be honest, I don't trust you.

Leon: Just remember, cuz, sitting under the Sword of Damocles.
According to Wikipedia, "the Sword of Damocles" is a moral anecdote that alludes to "the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power." That Leon would say this to Elliot makes a lot more sense after the reveal about Leon in the end. In a way, he is what stands between the ever-present peril that threatens the powerful ones like Elliot/Mr. Robot and Zhang/Whiterose.

Angela: You protecting some evil, secret agenda?
Price: Don't we all protect our evil, secret agendas?

Elliot: (narrating) Sometimes control can be an illusion. And sometimes illusion can give you control.

H4ndshake is a bit of a game-changer. For a single episode, it provided a lot of material to wrap your head around. Mr. Robot continues to impress. Four out of four orange jumpsuits.


Henrik Bennetter said...

I didn't see it coming either, and was amazed (and delighted) by it. I love how this show can throw these kinds of punches!

The Tyrell-thing. Remember how in one of the final scenes of season 1 that Elliot is outside Tyrells building? Joanna approaches him, warily, and speaks to him in danish. Elliot doesn't understand and Joanna gives him a somewhat puzzled look.
What if Tyrell is only another one of Elliots personality?

Now that we know just how distorted Elliots sense of reality can become, I wouldn't say that's impossible.

Also, at some point in an episode we've seen Joanna on the front-page of a gossip magazine with a headline reading something like "How the wife of Tyrell Wellick dresses", but I don't think we've seen a picture of Tyrell in any newspaper. Or have we?

Anyway, that would mean it'd be easy for Mr Robot to "kill" Tyrell.
Just a thought.

Heather said...

I liked the reveal. It was very well-done, not to mention gorgeous to watch. More and more I just feel as though I'm along for whatever this ride has in store. Thanks for your thoughts here, Logan.

Logan Cox said...

I know what you mean, Heather. I want to critique this show, but I think it's better at critiquing me and the rest of humanity and society. It's really impressive fiction.

Henrik, I think the season finale played with the idea of Tyrell being another aspect of Elliot's psychosis pretty well. I'm betting he is really real, though. Probably. This is a show that definitely wants us to question what is real.