Mr. Robot: 409 Conflict

"All this over a little pipsqueak in a hoodie."

The very, very long Christmas night comes to an end.

Luckily, our patience was rewarded with a Christmas miracle.

I guess there's no sense beating around the bush. From beginning to end, this was amazing. This might be the most wonderfully satisfying episode in the entire series. Which is saying something when you consider how bleak and cynical this show is for the majority of the time.

They did it. Fsociety owned, exposed and destroyed the Deus Group, the literal Illuminati organization of at least a hundred astronomically rich and powerful dickheads who run the world, profiting off the suffering and oblivion of people from all across the globe. Obviously, I figured they would have to go down, given the general direction of this season -- and really the entire series.

But I was intrigued to see how Elliot and Darlene would pull it off, because they had to go through a ton of hoops to even get close to being capable of hacking these guys. And this episode definitely gave the impression that they still had a lot more obstacles in their way. For one thing, an emotionally overwhelmed Elliot is absent for the first half of the episode, forcing Mr. Robot to assume command and complete the hack with Darlene. Then we discover the plan is to infiltrate the Deus Group meeting location to collect their cellphone information and trick them into handing over all their money, which appears easier said than done, as the meeting is watched over by a tight security detail. Not only that, Whiterose shook things up by changing the meeting place at the last second, with her only remaining to confront Price. She's figured out Price and Elliot are working together, and wants details on their plan before Price is quietly executed.

Fortunately, things start spiraling wildly out of control for Whiterose the moment she realizes Tyrell Wellick won't be attending the Deus Group meeting. When she refuses to accept defeat after Elliot compromised her, Whiterose's top assistant walks out on her ass. This is the most cathartic aspect of the episode: Whiterose's mounting confusion and despair as things start unravelling, made all the sweeter with a fatalistic Price sitting around getting drunk and poking fun at his longtime rival's frustration.

It's especially nice because, as Price tells her, Whiterose's defeat is a direct result of her own hubris, her arrogant belief that she could freely control and manipulate the world to her benefit. This is most clearly seen when she tries to make a truce with Mr. Robot by persuading him that Angela is still alive in whatever alternate reality bullshit Whiterose has yet to reveal the validity of. Her attempt to once again use Angela causes Elliot to resurface and take control just as everyone learns that Darlene came up with the perfect solution for rattling the Deus Group. She dropped a new fsociety video and doxxed them all, revealing their existence to the world.

It's a very clever move, on the part of both our heroes and the writers. I love that Elliot and Darlene managed to turn the tables on the Dark Army and Deus Group by employing the hacktivist strategies fsociety was known for in the beginning. That fsociety used society itself, the thing the Deus Group believed it dictated, to bring them down by incorporating the news, social media, research available online, and ultimately the people of New York against them.

And it felt realistic when the situation quickly slips through Whiterose's fingers as the various fat cats in the Deus Group begin to devolve into panic, leading to their desperate attempts to escape. When Darlene manages to trap them by disabling the entrance to the building's garage, many of them stupidly decide to try leaving on foot, only to walk outside and find themselves surrounded by reporters and curious citizens. This allows Darlene to begin swiping their phone credentials, while Elliot uses a cell tower outside of Whiterose and Price's meeting place to get her number too. Pretty soon they've owned every member of the Deus Group and taken their collective fortune.


Whiterose was clearly trying to maintain her composure throughout most of this, refusing to let Elliot's rebellion or Price's drunken insults get to her, but the realization that she's lost seems to break her. As many times as she's put them in their place, Elliot and Price managed to strike back and ruin her.

This episode also finally explains what Angela's overall purpose was in the show. For the longest time, Angela was the one character whose journey didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative, but it makes sense to me now. At the start of the series, Angela is an innocent, Elliot tells us "she's one of the good ones", and that initially appears to be the case. Slowly though, Angela started to become a much darker, morally ambiguous character. She willingly acted as an agent of fsociety, Evil Corp and the Dark Army on multiple occasions, all in the hopes of fulfilling her own ultimate agenda to avenge her mother's death. Whiterose manipulated her into thinking she could not only avenge her mom's death but have her sad life erased in exchange for a life where the people she loves are alive, safe and happy, and this belief led her to do unforgivable things, things that slowly drove her insane with guilt right up until the moment Whiterose disposed of her. But the way she was used and thrown away is the reason Elliot, Darlene and especially Price didn't just accept defeat and chose to avenge her death by bringing down Whiterose. She was the catalyst. In death, she saved the world.

One of the series great ironies is that Elliot and fsociety might never have been able to succeed were it not for Philip Price, who for most of the series has been the CEO of E Corp and one of their greatest enemies. Were it not for his suicidal, vindictive need to get even with Whiterose, the world might still be under the Deus Group's thumb. It's kind of sad when Whiterose snaps and guns Price down in the street right after he'd solidified himself as one of the show's greatest characters.

But Price's death and that of the Deus Group certainly gets the message across. The world order has been broken, making it possible for the people of the world to wake up from the mass illusion we've all been living within. Does this mean a better tomorrow, or will society crumble without some hidden force guiding its way? Is this the freedom we've always dreamed of, or a brief jailbreak before new prison wardens assume their positions?

Well, one thing we do know is that it isn't over yet. I mean, literally, there are like four episodes to go after this one. There's still Whiterose's mysterious secret project to deal with, which Price asks Elliot to destroy. Elliot still has to tell Darlene about what their father did to him. There's still Elliot's fractured mind and Dissociative Identity Disorder to work out. And, of course, the final scene of the episode -- wherein an eerily calm Whiterose applies her makeup as the FBI raids her mansion and gets into a shootout with the still fanatically loyal Dark Army soldiers -- makes it clear that our main antagonist isn't going down without a fight.

Ones and Zeroes:

* Let's talk about that meeting of the minds in the opening scene. Somewhere in our hero's messed up mind, Mr. Robot and the two alter egos who resemble his mother and younger self meet to discuss Elliot. This is our first glimpse of a conspiracy even more hidden from Elliot than the Deus Group. The split personalities are clearly planning something, which they believe will be to Elliot's benefit. Alter-Magda and young Elliot believe they should tell Elliot whatever it is they know, but Mr. Robot feels he's not ready yet. His plan is to finish the hack, which he believes may allow him to get through to Elliot. He plans to do this by showing Elliot "what he did." We also get some hint as to the nature of the unseen personality. Mr. Robot and Alter-Magda both refer to Elliot "waking up." Which led me to think, maybe I've been looking at this the wrong way. Instead of being another character, maybe the third active personality is another version of Elliot. Maybe that's the real twist. What if the Elliot we've seen throughout the series is not the true Elliot, but another version of him that the real one uses to cope? Maybe the real Elliot is not a hero, but a villain, the scary guy who started the revolution, enabled Tyrell's god complex and ignored Vera's return. I need the deets, Esmail!

* Speaking of the split personalities, I really like it that Darlene can now tell when she's talking to Elliot or Mr. Robot. As much as Rami Malek and Christian Slater mirror each other, Mr. Robot is still clearly more expressive than Elliot.

* Mac Quayle's score in this episode was absolute perfection. The music provided half the thrills.

* Donald Trump is clearly one of the attendees of the big Deus Group meeting. I find it a little hard to believe that he would be a member of that particular clique. These appear to be guys who would prefer to keep a low profile — Price seems like one of their most well-known members and he’s pretty enigmatic from a public perspective. Maintaining a low profile is not exactly Trump’s strong suit. Though, I guess Whiterose is planning to install him as president, so it kinda makes sense.

* B.D. Wong and Michael Cristofer acted their asses off in this episode. I'm gonna miss their dynamic.

* The best part of the episode has to be when Whiterose is being rushed to the car and has just enough time to see Elliot putting his hood up and coolly walking away. It's such a deliciously cheesy moment. It's like, "Ooooohhh, I'll get you, Mr. Robot!"

* The end scene at Whiterose's mansion reminded me of the ending to Scarface.

Quotes:

Mr. Robot: That's where Elliot is, mired in conflict. And that's why I'm here.

Zhi Zhang/Whiterose: I thought we'd start with a drink.
Philip Price: I'm an old man, Zhang. I gave up on foreplay a long time ago. Let's just skip ahead to the part where you try to fuck me.

Wang Shu: (to Whiterose) He's beaten you!

Darlene: Deus Group, you have been owned. Fsociety and the world will cheer as we watch your black heart stop beating. This is not a warning. This is the beginning of the end. We are fsociety.

Whiterose: So that's it? So that's your big move? You think that I can't survive being doxxed?!?
Price: I have no idea. I'm as curious as you.

Price: Truth be told, I never liked Mr. Alderson. His anxious demeanor, his juvenile anger. But he does bring something to the table. Well, for me. Mr. Alderson is the only person, I believe, actually able to hurt you. Truly hurt you. And clearly, you believe it too.

Elliot: It happened. It actually happened.

Whiterose: What?
Price: Something wrong, old sport?
Whiterose: What is this?
Price: Well, if it's what I think it is... we're all broke.

Whiterose: Where is it, Philip? Where is my fucking money?
Price: ... Gone.

Price: Look at it this way, Zhang. You didn't lose the game. You just ran out of time.
Fucking savage.

Mr. Robot: And like that, Rome falls. No more Deus Group. No more top one percent of the one percent. No more controlling every piece of our lives. No more playing God without permission. We took them down. All of them.

Another magnificent episode of Mr. Robot. Five out of five toppled empires.

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