Mr Robot

So we’ve officially come to it. The home stretch. The final run of Mr. Robot’s second season. After last week’s “break,” Esmail and co. have thrust us into the end game for this second act. Usually this would be the time for scene setting, for laying the table with all the pieces that will come into play during the finale. And certainly, those elements are all in this episode. The small details. The bits of mysterious, oblique exposition that only leaves more questions. These have become tropes in the age of “prestige TV.” Mr. Robot obliges, as it should, but it has a different feeling that most.

I’m going to chalk it up to the labor the show took in the first half of the season, re-building Elliot’s fractured mental state and getting a glimpse at the other characters’ lives without him in action. Now we’re out of that initial stage—Stage 1, as it were—even an episode devoted to setting up an ending feels like a massive step forward. The show had been in a self-imposed stasis for several episodes, with its characters doing little more than protect their own position in the post-5/9 world. That protection has finally hit a wall, and the characters have been forced into making some serious decisions. 
One of the more surprising factors this season has been the degree to which the supporting characters have taken charge of the show. In this episode we get to see Elliot’s show come into conflict with this newer show. There’s a tension in it that’s unsettling, but also thrilling, and very different from the general expectation once the show got back to its Season One mode, everything would start flying like normal. What Mr. Robot shows us—and its second season in particular—is that there is no normal, especially not after major, life altering events. These changes stick with us, and all that’s left is dealing with the new reality. Adjusting. That’s what these characters have been doing all season, and finally they are ready to try taking control of their direction. The big question, then, is whether that control is at all possible, given how illusory the concept is to begin with.

That isn’t the only question, of course. So let’s take a look at some of those questions, and remember, BEWARE SPOILERS!

Mr Robot

Was jail worth it?

So this week we found out why Elliot went to jail. As it turns out, there are two answers. The first is that he was arrested for hacking his psychiatrist’s boyfriend and stealing his dog. Many people had already anticipated this, and given the lightness of his sentence, it did seem like the only reasonable possibility. But it wasn’t the only reason, as it were. Elliot’s lawyer was ready to defend him, if only to get his sentence taken down to almost nothing. All Elliot had to do was let him fight it out in court by pleading “not guilty.” But Elliot had other plans. When asked by the judge how he pleads, Elliot replied, “guilty.” A surprising turn, maybe, but then we see Mr. Robot appear, losing his mind, trying to stop Elliot.

It makes sense, of course. Elliot put himself in jail. He did it to take a breather. To disappear into his own mind. To rid himself of Mr. Robot’s destructiveness. Imagining himself at his mother’s house makes sense, as well. More than just his coping mechanism, the fantasy he created allowed him to detach from the rest of the world in order to have his own mental battle to overcome Mr. Robot’s influence. The only problem is, Mr. Robot hasn’t left him, and once again Elliot finds himself losing time and losing control, only unlike Season One, he’s acutely aware of the situation, and it’s incredibly disturbing.

Mr Robot

What did Darlene whisper in Elliot’s ear?

Lest we think Esmail’s stable of references is limited to Fincher, Kubrick, and a bunch of ’70s paranoid thrillers, here he is to surprise us with a Sofia Coppola nod. It was a little cheesy, but also a little intriguing that Mr. Robot would pull a Lost in Translation, having Darlene whisper into Elliot’s ear. It was an oddly intimate moment for a show often devoid of intimacy. I have to imagine that much like Lost in Translation, we won’t ever find out what was whispered, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to find out. The reason it piqued my curiosity so much isn’t just the moment itself, but the context. Here Elliot is, out of prison, ready to acclimate to life in the real world, and there is his sister, comforting him with food, and telling him something important. Was she giving him a warning about their predicament? Was she offering him advice? Or maybe she was letting him know that she’ll always be there for him, now that he’s back?

Mr. Robot Init5 recap

Is Angela our new favorite hacker now, too?

As if generally being a mysterious badass, taking down grown men in bars, and hacking into the FBI weren’t enough, now Angela is going out on her own, hacking into her boss’s computer and stealing documents about the Washington Township Plant. She’s gone full Snowden! It’s a good look, I’ve got to say. Meanwhile, if there was ever any doubt about Angela’s intent to take down the people who killed her family, this episode cleared that all right up. She’s put everything learned over the last few months to good use, getting the necessary information, and finally feeling like she’s holding all the cards.

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