Mr. Robot: 402 Payment Required

“Something inside you is telling you to stop looking the other way. That can start here.”

This show is wasting no time in emphasizing that sense of finality. Which is not to say it hasn't got any more surprises up its sleeve, oh no.

I am getting the feeling that the show is still trying to develop its story even as it has begun to wrap up. Yet it all feels organic, and as compelling as ever.

I didn’t mind the blatant exposition dump at the beginning because I understand why it would be said. Why Price would succinctly confirm to Elliot that the Illumnati exists and Whiterose is its architect.

Enemy Minds

Oh, forgive me. The Deus Group exists and Whiterose is its architect.

So, apparently, following the First Gulf War, Whiterose as Minister Zhang founded a secret club of the world’s richest, most powerful men. Men who sought to “consolidate control and manipulate global events for profit." These, I assume, are all the men we saw at that mansion in the season one finale.

As we might have guessed, Elliot immediately begins forming a plan to trap Whiterose and the Deus Group. And yes, he seems to only be going after Whiterose to save himself and his sister. But wouldn’t eliminating people like Whiterose and the Deus Group (who, again, are pretty much the Illuminati) change the world somewhat? It would be decapitating the “new world order” they've been building for decades.

And how ironic that Philip Price, the man previously set up to be the story’s villain, is the one who makes it possible for our heroic hacker friend. Or that he does so by resigning as CEO of E Corp, his oh so mighty position of authority. While I am hoping this is some attempt to make amends on his part, I do wonder if it's all just a move to turn the tables on Whiterose and regain control.

Regardless, Elliot now has a will and a way. Which Darlene becomes savvy too when she finds out the key to Elliot’s scheme is Susan Jacobs, E Corp’s queen bitch lawyer whom Darlene killed in cold blood.

The Cost

It looks like Elliot might actually have a chance at not only surviving, but also a chance to truly own and take down the top one percent of the one percent.

But as Mr. Robot points out, there is always a price to be paid. The journey to success is bound to include a few hardships, I’m sure. And even if Elliot and Darlene do win, will they be any better off for it?

One of my complaints about another show I loved that reached its conclusion recently was the way it portrayed its lead characters in the end. Despite this show (which I will not name) being fairly cynical in tone, our heroes are all smiling and looking ahead to a brighter future in the end. None of the horror and pain and despair that we’ve seen them endure seems to have affected them very much. The show displayed how far they came, but neglected to illustrate what it cost them to get there or the toll getting there took on them.

Mr. Robot doesn’t appear to be making the same mistake.

A lot of time in this episode is taken to show Elliot and Darlene dealing with the fact that their insane and abusive mother Magda has died. At first, they both seem to be completely indifferent. Darlene is even initially happy. But as the episode goes on, Darlene becomes determined to discover what her mother was keeping in a safe deposit box, and gets frustrated with Elliot’s enforced lack of interest.

It’s Elliot’s old walkman found among their dead mother’s belongings that softens them both up, though.

The tape recording of young Elliot, Darlene and Angela wishing Angela’s mother a Happy Mother’s Day reminds us that, when you strip away all the cyber-crimes and cloak and dagger, this is a story about a few average kids who were desperate to avenge their stolen childhood.

The fact that Magda kept the walkman and listened to the recording, which Elliot speculates she did out of loneliness and regret that no one felt inclined to wish her a happy anything, lends some depth to an otherwise complete nutjob of a character. Which is something this show has done from the beginning: humanize antagonistic characters, as well as play fast and loose with what we imagine antagonists to be.

Speaking of antagonists, Darlene inadvertently reminds Elliot about Fernando Vera. And neither Elliot or Mr. Robot remember Darlene ever telling them that the loose cannon psychopath who killed Elliot’s girlfriend and got away with it was back in town.

Which also reminds us that, no matter how this ends, Elliot will still be totally insane.

Alter Aldersons

So it seems my growing suspicion (and that of many others, I know) was correct. There is another split personality.

As a matter of fact, I haven’t even pointed out that there seems to have been many personalities from the start. As we now know, Elliot’s mental projections of his mother and younger self that we saw in the first season finale aren’t mere projections. They seem to be distinct entities. Aware, but not active the way Mr. Robot (the projection of Elliot’s father) is. In the episode’s final scene, these two are awaiting the arrival of the third active personality.

I believe this is the one who convinced Tyrell he and “Elliot” were meant “to be gods.” The one who told Tyrell he was only seeing “what was in front of him” and not what was “above.”

When Elliot discovers the new identity — wondering who it is — we cut to the image of the open sky, panning out to reveal it is a view from the window of the room where Tyrell confronted Elliot in the first episode, the room we were led to believe was the meeting ground of “the ones who play god without permission.” It’s fitting that this would be where Elliot’s alter egos convene; in the end, he’s still ruled by unseen forces.

Judging by this imagery and Elliot’s behavior when this personality seems to have been in control, this is someone way more serious, ambitious and possibly more influential than Mr. Robot. Someone who aspires to great and scary things that go beyond rebellion.

This is just what I mean, though. Defeating the evil overlords and saving the world from tyranny won’t suddenly cure Elliot’s mental problems. Problems that predate his quarrel with Evil Corp or Whiterose, and seem to have been guiding him along this dark path before then as well.

What does eliminating people like Whiterose and Vera really accomplish if Elliot himself turns out to be more dangerous than all of them?

Ones and Zeroes:

* The opening exposition from Price felt like a cross between a Martin Scorsese movie voiceover and a Metal Gear Solid cutscene.

* “Pruit Igoe and Prophecies” by The Philip Glass Ensemble was an appropriate tune for that prologue.

* "Deus" is Latin for "god" or "deity." Elliot really was right all along.

* Dom breaks and gives in to the Dark Army, diverting the FBI’s attention away from them by suggesting that Santiago was in league with a drug cartel. Nevertheless, Janice the taxidermist continues to make her life a living hell.

* While doing taxidermy, Janice was listening to some sort of radio show in which the host fervently defends Charles Manson’s actions. In case people were still wondering whether or not this person was a total psycho.

* Love Whiterose's pause before Price clarified he was talking about his Christmas tree when he said "You're a little unbalanced."

* I found Elliot's reaction to Darlene's murder of Susan Jacobs amusing. He's angry and horrified one minute, then understanding and sympathetic the next.

* At the end of this episode, my mind was buzzing with ideas about who or what exactly this third identity could be. I’m assuming it can’t be Darlene (or even a projection of Darlene separate from the real one) or the imaginary friend/we the audience, since Alter-Magda referred to the "other one" as a male. Part of me hopes it isn’t Tyrell, since I feel it would be a stretch at this point to pull that off. And it would be a bit pretentious if it turns out to be Sam Esmail or something. Who knows, maybe it’s that creepy guy from the elevator who spoke to Elliot in German last season.

* Most Obvious Symbolism: The man in the snowman suit quietly sitting next to Darlene and Elliot as they argue over their family issues, a snowman being integral to the day when trauma began to define their lives as children.

Quotes:

Price: A few backroom deals, a promise here, a bribe there. Like that, the Deus Group was rich on oil and had a foothold in the military industrial sector. With the right players in place, running the world turned out to be surprisingly easy. I have to say, business was booming. With his network of hackers and terrorists in place, Zhang suggested that the Deus Group look in a new direction. Industrial espionage was yesterday’s work. What better way to gain leverage on everyone than if everyone was connected? The United States was a test case. Americans seemed the most ready to give their lives over to a box. Without hesitation, everyone jumped online, offered everything they had: bank accounts, electric bills, DNA data, baby pictures. We staged the biggest coup in human civilization and the whole world volunteered to take part, opted in, checked the box, and clicked “I agree.” With the Deus Group behind it, E Corp became the world’s biggest front. With every new device we rolled out, there was a new way for the Deus Group to manipulate the public.

Mr. Robot: (narrating) Crazy, right? Yeah, I never thought we’d still be here either. Thought we were goners. But here we are, still alive. That’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is we were saved by him, the enemy, the one we’ve been after this whole time. The question is what’s the angle, what’s the cost? Because one thing we know by now, it ain’t free.

Elliot: And if it’s your life you’re worried about. Doing nothing, not fighting back? You may as well be dead.
Price: I became a dead man walking the minute I agreed to work with Whiterose. Just like you.

Mr. Robot: (narrating) I agree, that could have gone better. Fuck you.

Darlene: Maybe there are some secrets.
Elliot: Secrets?
Darlene: I dunno. Like maybe the secret to why mom was such a bitch. Money. The deed to a chateau in France. Adoption papers. Your adoption papers.

Whiterose: Your tenure at E Corp will be over soon enough, but you will simply have to wait. Nothing can rock the boat now as my project has not yet shipped.
Price: Yes, yes, I understand. But here’s the thing, I don’t care.

Darlene: If this is the biggest thing you’re ever gonna do, we’re doing it together.

Getting better and better, as usual. Five out of five church bells.

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