Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 by Corey Atad
Sometimes TV gives you a sustained heart attack. I’m talking about the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, the opening sequence of the Lost pilot, and Breaking Bad’s “Crawl Space.” All are examples of TV episodes that come down to sustained, heart-stopping sequences. Intense moments that keep you fixed in place. Mr. Robot has certainly had moments of shock, and sequences that have kept us on the edge of our seats, but nothing like what “Hidden Process” has given us. After a season’s worth of revving up, and only three hours left, Mr. Robot has kicked things into high gear, and the result is the first episode that left me breathless.
The episode ended and I let out and took a deep breath back in. I needed it. The recharge. I was still shaking for minutes after. I’m probably still shaking as I type this. Mr. Robot has done great intercut sequences this season. It’s done long takes, often multiple times each episode. It’s had amazing, intense music cues. But here, all in one episode, Sam Esmail, his writers, and his crew, have performed something almost virtuosic—thirty minutes of symphonic interplay between several plots at once, interweaving tension and information, all leading to a single shot that demands attention and forces you not to blink.
If Mr. Robot season one demonstrated the perfect precision of a well-calibrated story arc, season two has played more ambitious, if a little more loose. We can sit here and argue over the long, slow stretches of “nothing” happening, or the amped up style and pompous dialogue. We can talk about how maybe the early section of the season was misjudged in terms of trying the audience’s patience week-to-week. We can have a conversation about the choice to separate Elliot from the rest of the plot for weeks on end, or the wisdom of having a big, reality-altering twist once again. The truth of the matter is, sometimes it takes going through some valleys in order to reach the peaks.
That’s what “Hidden Process” is, to me. It’s a peak. The kind of peak that’s only possible when a team of creative people are given the space to go for broke and make something that speaks to them, and for them. It’s ambition paid off, and it’s not even the final episode of the season. In fact, the episode is a perfect encapsulation of the tricky problem that is judging TV in this new era. The episodes themselves stand on their own as works to be digested and critiqued, but the nature of serialized storytelling withholds the satisfaction we get from a single, complete story, as in a movie. Instead we’re forced to trust the creators, trust that they are taking us somewhere worthwhile. Of course, it’s still hard to say whether Mr. Robot’s ultimate payoff will be satisfying, but episodes like “Hidden Process” make the journey more than worth sticking around to find out.
So yeah. I loved this episode. And of course, as with any episode of Mr. Robot, I’ve got questions. So let’s dive in. And remember, BEWARE SPOILERS!
Why the Congo?
So let’s start with the first scene, and the most enigmatic, in a way. Price meets with our old friend Terry Colby, who presents him with a copy of his new book and talks about Donald Trump. Of course, as with any Price scene, there’s an important motive behind the meeting. Colby is supposed to be meeting with a friend whom he must convince to… give the Congo to China. What? WAIT WHAT? It’s a plan so wacky I thought I had misheard, so I rewound and watched it again. Yup. The Congo. Price wants a vote at the UN to let China essentially annex the Congo as some kind of subsidiary for investment, and he wants the US to abstain from the vote to let it happen.
So once more. Price is planning to let China annex the Congo. I knew the show was heading down the path of a ’70s paranoid thriller, but I didn’t anticipate just how broad that ambition would be. We’re talking global domination stuff here. Colby can’t help but laugh at how maniacal and outrageous the plan sounds. He asks Price why he’s doing all this, and Price responds with a very clear intent. His goal is to always be the most powerful person in any room, except maybe God. Once again with the God talk. The show is laying it on thick and ridiculous, and I’m loving it.