Regulators! Let’s dance.
Mr. Robot somehow made exposition interesting and kept it minimal. We get to see what it was for Elliot to be judged, processed and put in jail by… Krista’s jealous ex-boyfriend. Yes, the guy with the dog. Apparently an expensive dog as well. We learn that Leon was with him since day one, offering advice and assistance. We learn Ray was the warden, and possibly a corrupt one at that. The routine, something that Leon advices on keeping, is then explained. And finally, we hear about a hack and some budget cuts that amend Elliot’s sentence from 18 months to 86 days, which means that we also get to see him walk free.
We should be accustomed to Elliot and Mr. Robot’s dynamic, but here’s where it gets interesting. It’s been disturbed. All of a sudden, Mr. Robot seems to appear to Darlene and Cisco. I’ll talk about why they’re back in speaking terms with Cisco next, but let me enjoy this moment. So far, we’ve expected season 2 to just treat the co-processor relationship of Elliot/Mr. Robot as a given since the reveal back in season 1. This episode plants a very interesting seed. Neither Mr. Robot nor Elliot might be at the controls. Only when Elliot thinks that he’s hearing Mr. Robot calming down Darlene and Cisco is when he realizes he’s been doing the talking. Mr. Robot describes this effect as overheating. We see him flickering between his two personas later on.
At Elliot’s insistence, Darlene has introduced him to Cisco. He looks surprisingly healthy considering that bat to the face he took last week. Cisco insists spying on Darlene for the Dark Army actually protected her from becoming a target of them, which in this world of corporate espionage is either making a lot of sense or I’ve been sucked into the series’ paranoia. Nevertheless, Elliot’s reasons are soon revealed. Knowing Cisco’s contact, Xun, and his phone number, he’s managed to turn on the microphone (and, if I might add, make it stream via data in almost real time without the user noticing any slowness or the thing getting hot as hell? Somebody teach me that trick). However, Elliot wants to know what the Dark Army’s Stage 2 is, and he needs to get them talking about it. So, to do that, he wants to ask directly.
Angela’s storyline is getting even more cloak and dagger. She’s not comfortable in the belly of the beast, and she wants to hurt it. To do that she recycles that nifty usb key given to her by fsociety to pull all passwords and hidden details of any computer and uses it on an top executive’s workstation. The result is she accumulates enough evidence to bring to the nuclear regulatory commission. But after submitting her finds and told to wait, she meets a government official who pretty much knows who she is and tries to get her to follow down a corridor to a room where some people are waiting. Angela’s fight-or-flight instinct immediately takes over, and she chooses to leave on the spot.
Angela thinks she’s made a clean getaway, until she gets an unexpected visitor at her apartment. FBI Agent Dominique wants to talk. She’s had Angela followed and knows about the CD in Allsafe, and her visit to the comission. Angela doesn’t tell her anything. Dom leaves her card. As she does, she tells Angela that she might be her only option. Here’s the intriguing part where I might be reading too much into the actual dialog. Is the FBI compromised? She might have not meant it that way, but Dom might not only be Angela’s last resource, Angela might be Dom’s as well. How come nobody else from the FBI is knocking at Angela’s door?
Elliot’s meeting goes as well as it should have. Xun doesn’t want to talk and leaves. Elliot manages to fire off his question about Stage 2, which is only met with a brief stare and walking away. Darlene is listening in at home as the sound comes in and a speech-to-text translator reveals a new layer to it all, directly from Whiterose. Stage 2 is Elliot’s plan. Of course Whiterose instantly guesses there might be something afoot and asks for Xun’s phone, killing the eavesdropping session.
The whole thing ends with a bunch of cliffhangers. Darlene forgot a tape at Susan Jacob’s residence, the one in which she took off the mask for a moment. How careless are we getting? Anyhow, she did and Cisco finds it. He also hears what sounds like a whimper behind the couch and he goes to take a look… Meanwhile someone is knocking at apartment where Darlene was just listening into the Dark Army’s convo and she approaches the door as the knocking continues… We’re having way too many of these lately.
And finally, Elliot sees Tyrell’s SUV parked outside his apartment. It’s Joanna Wellick. All the characters are now connected.
- I liked how the whole reveal of the prison environment was kept to a minimum, without been overtly narrative. They also just gave away Ray’s actual identity as the warden but no details about how the actual illegal business was done. We might have need to see some of it, but not relive the whole thing so I was thankful that it was left to the audience to wrap the entire thing up.
- The dynamic between Elliott and Mr. Robot is now in peril, and we’re not quite sure why that is. We’re not even sure if Elliot is going mad, if this is another play from Mr. Robot or we have something else causing havoc inside Elliot’s already overclocked brain. Is somehow the Dark Army influencing this overheating?
- On that same note, I’m still not 100% convinced that Leon is real. I mean, he’s mentioned Whiterose and got Elliot that notebook. However, nobody else has interacted with him yet. I’m not sure how that fight happened in the real world either. I would prefer if he was real because Elliot’s head is already busy enough.
- I like how Dominique’s character, almost whimsical but decidedly smart, was started to get some clear definition lines well before she was involved with the rest of the cast. Otherwise, I’d be thinking she could be Angela’s own “Mr. Robot” illusion. Agent Dom could be interesting given her backstory with China’s Minister of State Security Zhang, who is actually Whiterose, the leader of the Dark Army.
- Is it my imagination or Whiterose seems to have a certain affection for Elliot? That might be what’s keeping our favorite hacker alive. Hell, perhaps that’s what keeping Agent Dom alive too. Whiterose seems to have his/her favorite chess pieces.
- Angela’s storyline is finally connected with Dom, cementing the lollypop FBI agent in the main plot. Elliot’s storyline is finally re-connected with Joanna, bringing back the wild card spot (previously occupied by Tyrell) into the main storyline. Dom and Joanna are what I like to call satellite characters, but now they’ve stopped orbiting and established a relationship with the main storyline.
- I know Joanna calls Elliot, “Ollie” as he identified himself when they met at the end of last season. I’d say she should obviously know his name now that she has tracked him home.
- The showrunners are abusing the person-behind-door cliffhanger. Cisco and the person whimpering behind the couch was enough, but we also got Darlene and someone knocking at the door. Mobley? Trenton? The FBI? Tyrell? The Dark Army?
- It wouldn’t make sense for Trenton (who was my first choice) to be hiding at Susan Jacob’s place, where the police should be barging in any minute now. Neither Mobley nor Trenton would be banging so strongly at Darlene’s (or is that Cisco’s apt?), unless the point is to confuse us. Then again, who else would be at Susan’s but someone from fsociety? I don’t think the Dark Army would be showing up at Darlene’s. Perhaps Leon got out of jail too and is looking for Elliot.
- I’ll give this series something that is difficult to accomplish. All characters have the potential to take the story somewhere new (ok, perhaps not Cisco).
That will do for now.