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Mr. Robot: 403 Forbidden

“… You should know by now, if someone is asking for your patience they are asking for your surrender.”

The folks at Mr. Robot certainly aren't holding back with the surprise twists and long-awaited revelations.

While I quite enjoyed the unexpectedness of the former, I'm still not sure how I feel about the latter.

The Blossoming Rose

It is good to get some backstory for Whiterose, who still is one of the show's most enigmatic figures. And I did like the idea that, while she's always been an egotistical little bastard, there was a time when Zhi Zhang intended to change the world through more "legitimate" means -- I mean, sure, she wasn't causing global unrest but she was happily suckering the guys at IBM -- preferring to achieve her ends gradually through her political acumen and sheer force of will.

However, her original motivation is where I have some trouble. It seems her goal was ultimately to make the world a better, more tolerant place for her and her lover Chen to live. Chen, who loved Zhang and even accepted her transsexuality, couldn't handle it when his father forced him to marry a woman. He killed himself before Zhang's eyes, spraying blood on the bouquet of whiteroses ("the funeral flower") he'd gifted to Chen as a joke.

It is a powerful image and it does show that Whiterose's madness comes from a place of humanity, but I just don't know if this is the right message. A transwoman, so devastated by the world's inability to accept people who are different, is driven to play god, kill thousands of people and ruin the lives of countless more in the hopes of creating a new world where she would truly belong. I mean, should I be touched or annoyed?

The real interesting takeaway from this backstory, for me, was the way in which it explains Whiterose's obsession with time. Specifically the fact that it is not her own obsession, but Chen's. He was a man who always strived to follow a set timeline; in the end, he chose suicide over waiting patiently for Whiterose to secure their future together. As a result, Whiterose no longer wastes any time in pursuing her goals. Something she remembers in the present, when the idea that Elliot and Price are working together is brought to her attention. In typical Whiterose fashion, she intends to use their plan to get one over on her to get one over on them, refusing to allow them her plans to be delayed.

Zero Patience

Patience is the theme of the episode. Elliot is a lot like Whiterose now in that he has no patience for anything that doesn't pertain to fulfilling his goals. Or so it would seem.

This is seen pretty early, when he and Darlene join forces and find Olivia Cortez, the late Susan Jacobs's contact at Cyprus National Bank and account manager for the Deus Group. Darlene acts like it's the good old days and intends to get the information they need herself, but Elliot doesn't want the hassle of Darlene compromising their goals by getting herself into a potentially dangerous situation, so he forces her to stay. And it's taken even further when Elliot goes after Olivia Cortez himself. Elliot initially wants to ignore any of Mr. Robot's more discreet suggestions and simply wants to use Olivia's apparent drug addiction to blackmail her, despite knowing she's an innocent single mom. After she'd just been stood up. On Christmas eve.

Would've been a dick move. However, things get interesting when Mr. Robot intervenes and makes Elliot appear as the nice guy offering to buy the girl a drink. From there, Elliot only has to be himself and ends up relating to Olivia, and she with him. What could have been a traumatic situation for both turns into a meet-cute.

While it was a welcome surprise when Elliot and Olivia ended up passionately making love back at her place, it's still rife with moral ambiguity. On the one hand, Elliot was only really after the information on her flash drive; it's no different from what Darlene tried to do with Dom last season, only Elliot didn't get caught. On the other hand, by taking a less forceful route, he learns a lot. Most notably, that he and Olivia are a lot alike: she's also struggled with depression, self-loathing, drug addiction and thoughts of suicide, she has a complex relationship with her father, and these issues stem from the fact that her mother was one of the victims of the 71 E Corp facilities that were bombed last season, meaning her life was also ruined by Whiterose (who she is unknowingly working for).

For all the productivity that a ruthless lack of patience may yield, Elliot's approach with Olivia proves that there are major benefits to taking one's time. If he hadn't been patient and gotten to know her, he would never have discovered that the bottle of OxyContin he intended to blackmail her with only contained a razor blade to remind her of what would happen if she started using again. He would have been caught right there. Instead, he's got a new girlfriend! Maybe. He is planning to take out her bosses, which will surely leave her jobless.

The Men Who Would Be Kings

Elliot and Whiterose aren't the only ones struggling with patience, though.

Tyrell Wellick's lack of patience may have just signed his and Elliot's death warrants. Upon realizing that the Dark Army is following him, Elliot acts normal and heads home. Only to find Tyrell has broken in to tell Elliot the news that Whiterose has chosen him to be E Corp's next CEO after Price, bragging about how this position will aid them in taking the Dark Army down before Elliot can warn him they're being surveilled.

It's funny. When the show began, Tyrell seemed like he was primed to be the main villain. Lately, though, he's just been kind of a pathetic dope that other people use to their advantage. I don't know, maybe that's what he's always been.

Meanwhile, Fernando Vera, who seemed to be a beginner villain in season one, has returned and retaken his position as the scariest character on the show. He's now like Tyrell was early on, desperately wanting Elliot to be his partner in crime. Vera intends to be "King of New York", but believes he needs an "architect" like Elliot to build his kingdom. He's patiently sat in the wings for two months, watching Elliot and trying to figure him out. And he believes he's found the key when his henchman witnesses Elliot speaking with Krista, his former psychiatrist.

The last time Vera wanted to use Elliot's power to his benefit, he did so by using Elliot's girlfriend Shayla to manipulate him, killing her once she'd served her purpose. He's likely planning to do the same thing with Krista. Even worse, she's the one who knows the most about his dissociative identity disorder. Who knows what Vera could do with that information.

Either way, I'm scared.

Ones and Zeroes:

* Zhang and Chen thought America in 1982 would be more tolerant of their relationship than China. That says a lot about China’s views on LGBT issues, I suppose.

* Elliot is apparently choosing to ignore the fact that he has another alter ego, much to Mr. Robot's chagrin (and mine).

* I'm still not sure if Elliot's encounter with Krista was random or if he intentionally sought her out just to attempt to put her at ease. Mr. Robot was clearly surprised, but as he said, Elliot isn't talking to him as much as he used to. I really hope nothing bad happens to Krista.

* Speaking of which, the way the dynamic has changed between Elliot and Mr. Robot has been pretty interesting. It seems like the role of the Mr. Robot personality was to be the one who could do what Elliot himself couldn't (or wouldn't) allow himself to do. For much of the series, he was the embodiment of Elliot's cynicism, resentment and lust for revenge against a corrupt society. Some of that still remains, but now that Elliot has become the one being driven by those things, Mr. Robot has become the "good cop" and spends most of his time arguing in favor of the less extreme route.

* I forgot to mention the last couple of episodes that Elliot's new base of operations is the derelict remains of Allsafe, the cybersecurity firm Elliot worked for in the beginning. While it still doesn't hold a candle to the F-Society arcade, Darlene is right about it being a poetic choice of location.

* Isn’t it funny how so many different people end up developing a kinship with Elliot? He's such a genuinely damaged person that other damaged people just seem to feel an instant connection with him. Elliot relates to Olivia because they have experienced self-hatred. Which is exactly what Fernando Vera felt when he met Elliot.

* I love how Tyrell busted in Elliot's apartment door and casually sat at his desk. Guess he just couldn't be bothered to wait outside or send him a secret message of some sort.

* No Dom arc this episode. Come to think of it, there wasn't much of one for Darlene either. Bummer.


IBM Executive: Thank you, Director Zhang, for paving the way for IBM's first facility in Asia.
Young Whiterose: (in Mandarin) I look forward to stealing all your intellectual property.

Whiterose: If there is one way to disrupt a man’s plans, it is to destabilize his timeline. If they are indeed planning something together, we will not wait for them to make a mistake. We will force them into one.

Darlene: Nothing’s ever gonna change with you, is it?
Elliot: No, it’s not. I should have never opened my door when you came back into town.

Mr. Robot: (narrating) Elliot thinks the more he restricts everyone’s access the less vulnerable he’ll be. But there’s a tradeoff that he’s forgetting. If you block everyone, then what’s the point of being here, of doing all of this, of existing?

Olivia: Are you crazy or something?
Elliot: I guess so. I’m not like most people.
Olivia: Yeah, I’m starting to pick up on that.

Vera: Tell me you brought tidings of joy about my dude Elliot.

Four out of five bloodstained bouquets.


  1. Big kudos to two, no sorry, three guest-actors in this episode.

    I'm unsure if we've seen young Zhang before but the actor that portrayed him/her was absolutely superb! He emulated all the mannerisms, body language and looks that BD Wong have put into the older version.

    "Chen" was also really, really, good. The level of emotion he relayed with looks, language and posture were amazing. So was "Olivia".

    It's such a hallmark of this series. I utterly, fully, truly BELIEVE every character on this show. Amazing casting, acting, and directing.

  2. Something that's always disturbing about Mr. Robot is how effectively Elliot hones in on a mark's vulnerabilities when he's working on a hack. The way he chatted up the very likeable and relatable Olivia reminded me of his manipulation of the hapless IT guy at Steel Mountain. And he's already driven one man to suicide this season. And it's not like he's an unfeeling psychopath. In a way, his ability to empathize is part of his skill in manipulation.


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