Mr. Robot: 406 Not Acceptable

"There it is. That sense of dread. It only happens when you cross a line you didn't even know existed..."

Although every episode this season has felt as if it were building up to something greater, this one takes the cake.

This one in particular sets the stage for all of our anti-heroes' greatest challenges before they reach whatever endgame scenario we are going to get with Whiterose.

Elliot's mission to defeat Whiterose and save everyone requires him to follow through with his earlier plan to manipulate Olivia Cortez. Only this time manipulation meets betrayal, as this is after he had sex with her and discovered they were kindred spirits. Now he's exposed her to his dark side, ruining any chance of them ever having a relationship. He spikes the coffee he gives her with Oxycontin, using her drug addiction to force her to help him own Cyprus National Bank, which will allow him and Darlene to steal the vast collective wealth that Whiterose and the Deus Group use to control the world and play god without permission.

He chooses to ruin this innocent woman's life because he was running out of time and it was the only way to ensure her cooperation. Of course, Elliot tries to rationalize it, citing her willingness to work for an organization she had good reason to suspect of wrongdoing. Yet this is just another way in which they are the same; at the start of the show, Elliot was working for All-safe, the cybersecurity firm that protected Evil Corp, which is essentially the face of the Deus Group on the world stage.

There really is no other reason besides his feeling that hurting this person was necessary to fulfill his goals. In that sense, is he really that different from his monstrous antagonists like Whiterose and Fernando Vera. After Olivia has attempted suicide and then followed through with Elliot's demands, she accuses him of being a monster. He can't deny it either. Elliot has begun to accept these terrible things as the cost of saving the world.

I appreciate that the show is taking time to examine the actions of the characters and the consequences of those actions. Because Elliot's actions aren't wholly good. Much of the chaos and misery we've seen escalate over the course of the series has been a direct result of the things he or one of his personalities has done. And more people keep suffering even as he's never been closer to his goal.


Of course, the people he loves are not exempt from this either. In the end, two different women he cares about deeply have fallen into the hands of two very different psychopaths.

Darlene is caught by Dom DiPierro, on orders to bring the Aldersons in at the behest of the Dark Army. However, when Janice finds out the information they need to track down Elliot is on Darlene's phone, she orders Dom to kill Darlene. Due to the fact that she is a moral person (and she and Darlene still have complex feelings for each other), Dom understandably struggles with this task, since the alternative is the Dark Army killing her entire family. Eventually, unable to commit murder and incapable of turning on the Dark Army, she begs Darlene to kill her and escape. Somewhat thankfully, Darlene is saved from this trauma by the arrival of Janice and her goons, providing a distraction that allows her to wipe her phone of Elliot's location tracker. This means she is still useful to Whiterose, but that she and Dom are now in the care of crazy, scary Janice.

Meanwhile, Elliot's former psychiatrist Krista has been abducted, who interrogates her in the hope of discovering Elliot's greatest weakness. Using the timeless Christmas story of "the bully and the lil' bitch," Vera explains his motivation to Krista and what he needs her for. When you put aside the trashy, unhinged street punk exterior, Vera is truly one of the series most startling villains. He's just some psycho drug dealer, but he's smart, devious, ambitious, even philosophical; he certainly sees himself as being sophisticated. And because he's such a psycho, he also knows what masterminds like Elliot and Whiterose know: how to own people.

Vera believes that if he crushes Elliot's spirit completely then uses their "bond" to restore him, Elliot will be forever loyal to him. In a weird way, he and Elliot are alike; they both believe they have to hurt people in order to "help" them. And the messed up thing is, Vera actually has the ability to do it. When he's sufficiently threatened Krista (and her new nice guy boyfriend), she finally breaks down and gives him what he wants. She lets him know about Mr. Robot.

This is huge. None of Elliot's many adversaries have ever known about his Dissociative Identity Disorder. Tyrell found out, but that somehow only made Elliot less special in his eyes. The same cannot be said for Vera, I think; I get the feeling he's gonna love it.

With Elliot caught and on his way to confront Vera for the first time since season 1 -- only whetting our appetite until he confronts Whiterose for the first time since season 1 -- we have a grand setup for something truly explosive. Something nerve-racking and, hopefully, something cathartic. Something you only get with a show like Mr. Robot. I'm excited.

Ones and Zeroes:

* Elliot gets the Oxycontin from Leon, who claims to be a “full-time freelancer” now. Like Irving, he seems to have completed his tour with the Dark Army. His number might come in handy now that Elliot’s been captured by Vera. I really should hate Leon for his involvement in Trenton and Mobley's deaths, but goddamn it if he isn't one of the most likable coldblooded killers I've seen in a work of fiction.

* Whiterose refuses to have Elliot killed. In part because his death would ruin her super-secret plans, but also because she's apparently decided to finally reveal these super-secret plans to Elliot (and us). She claims "they are on the same side." Good that Whiterose has finally realized that she and Elliot are much alike. I imagine she means what I've long thought, that they share the ultimate goal of saving the world. I just get the feeling that Whiterose's version of this idea is far different from Elliot's.

* While I do think they are laying it on a little too thick with the creepy taxidermy workshop and the deranged radio shows in the background, Janice is quite frightening. As with Vera, I'm on edge every time she's on screen.

* As Elliot and Mr. Robot are exiting the subway, there's a sign behind them for Omni-Consumer Industries (OCI). I thought that looked familiar, because the company name and even their logo is a homage to Omni-Consumer Properties (OCP), the heartless mega-corporation from RoboCop. Unlike the season premiere's nods to Halloween III, I can actually see this being some kind of clever foreshadowing. OCI's prominent slogan reads "The future has a silver lining." This might have a double meaning in that even if Elliot defeats Whiterose and the Deus Group and puts an end to the Dark Army and Evil Corp, there will obviously just be another evil superpower that rises from their ashes down the line, yet like Evil Corp and OCP in RoboCop, their actions will inevitably create a flawed hero who is destined to rebel against them.

Quotes:

Fernando Vera: See, Miss Krista, we all have a purpose in this world. And it’s our lot in life to wait for the cosmos to reveal what that purpose is.

Mr. Robot: What you’re about to do is crossing a line.
Elliot: Well it’s a little late for that, don’t you think?

Elliot: I brought peppermint mochas. They said it was Christmas in a cup.

Whiterose: I want you to locate Mr. Alderson and bring him in. He should see the full potential of what we’re working towards. It’s time he learns we are on the same side.

Elliot: I get it. You needed a job, they were paying well. That’s how they do it, that’s their business model. They back everyone into a corner until all that’s left is for us to compromise ourselves. It’s why what I’m doing has to be done. They’re hurting you, just like they’re hurting all of us.
Olivia: The only one hurting me right now is you. I wonder how many people you’ve had to hurt to get what you want. Hmm? How many has it been, Elliot? How many people have had to suffer because of you? Was it worth it?

Mr. Robot: (narrating)... Maybe that dread is a good thing. After all when you realize you’ve crossed a line, that means you still had one. But when those crossed lines are all behind you, up ahead is only darkness.

Krista: Please let me go. Whatever you’re looking for, I don’t have it.
Vera: I know the two of you had a special relationship.
Krista: Special? He hacked me. He threatened my last boyfriend, he threatened me. You know I had to stop seeing him because he scared me so m—
Vera: You weren’t scared of him! You loved his ass!
I think he's right.

Olivia: You know, I may work for monsters, but you are one. And you’re the worst kind, because you don’t even know it.

Vera: Lil’ bitch showed up when no one else would. He saw his bully like no one else could. And that was all it took. And Miss Krista, from that moment on, he owned that bully for life. Now if I wanna own Elliot, I don’t just gotta break him. Me and Elliot are linked on a spiritual plane. I got to come at him on the same level I find myself, and breaking him only gets you so far. I gotta break him so I can build him up. I need to wound his soul so I can be the one to heal him. That is how you own a nigga.

Darlene: I can’t.
Dom: You can.
Darlene: What would you do if it was your family?
Dom: I’m doing it.

Mr. Robot: (narrating) Here we go again, off to play the hero. Is that even who we are anymore? You saw what he did back there. We just watched him destroy someone’s life, and none of us did a thing about it. Rules and morals, parameters? They only break if you’re broken to begin with. Did we change under pressure, or did this only reveal who we really are?

This is certainly one of the most dramatic and intense episodes of the season so far, in addition to the previous one. Five out of five razor blades.

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