Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2016 by Corey Atad
We got there, folks. Finally, things are happening on Mr. Robot. The definition of “happening” can be a little loose in this case, but if it was incident you were looking for, this is the episode that finally delivered—and with the promise of more to come! Personally, I was happy with the pace Sam Esmail was taking this season. It let us delve directly into Elliot’s psychology, and the psychology of the other characters, without letting the forward momentum of “plot” or “action” distracting us. It was a bold, patience-testing choice for many, but it fit right into what I’ve felt the show needs to do going forward: ignore TV convention.
TV is built on incident. It always has been. Whether it’s the episodic format requiring fully rounded and easily solved plots each week, or the longer serialized, soap operatic structure full of big moments and cliffhangers that keep us invested in hours upon hours of labyrinthine story, TV has always demanded THINGS! HAPPENING! Mr. Robot has never been that kind of show. Not exactly. In Season 1, things sure did happen, and with frequency. But it was also a show that devoted much of its fourth episode—fourth!—to a wild drug withdrawal trip through our protagonist’s subconscious.
In Season 2, Esmail has effectively doubled down on the idea that his series owes no allegiance to standard TV construction, instead mimicking a structure more familiar from film, only elongated. The effectiveness of this can be debated, but I believe this episode, the fifth hour of the second season, proves Esmail canny at the very least. The slow build toward Elliot asserting and gaining some level of control over his own psyche makes the confluence of consequences at the end of the episode that much more dramatic. Control, so hard earned; so easily shattered.
But what exactly happened in Season 2, Episode 5, “Logic Bomb”? What questions were answered, and what mysteries lay open for us to lose ourselves in? Follow along for more, and, as always, spoilers abound, folks.
Is this what control looks like?
After last week’s literal stalemate—good going on the direct metaphors, Esmail—we now find Elliot in a state of accepted equilibrium. The hallucination of his father still stands over his shoulder, but does not do more than offer advice. Mr. Robot has become an advisor of sorts, though not at all a trusted one. Two halves of Elliot’s mind, his thought process, now work in concert. Mr. Robot is Elliot’s way of positing alternative courses of action, and Elliot can reject them if he chooses. The idea of control as illusion has emerged—or been forced—as the season’s central theme. That theme manifests differently with different characters, but in Elliot we see its most direct manifestation.
Elliots has understand that control is only what you make of it. It’s a compromise. A balancing act. So here he is, balancing two opposing sides of himself. The center of gravity is his moral sense. The trouble is Elliot’s morality carries with it a savior complex. He sees himself as exceptionally positioned to “save” the world and the people he loves. It clouds his judgement, if not in terms of doing the right thing, then in doing things the right way. As the episode opens, we find Elliot ill-advisedly using access to Ray’s computer to plan a hack of the FBI. Maybe not the smartest way to protect his friends, and certainly not the smartest way to protect himself, what with Ray’s henchman standing guard over him. Elliot is too zoned out to register the guard most of the time, but when he does, he asks if he can get the old IT guy to get him access to Ray’s servers so he can migrate them.
What is Darlene cooking up?
We’ll get to the FBI hack soon enough, but first I want to tackle something else. Darlene is still squatting at the E Corp lawyer’s house, running it as a base of operations for the expanded fsociety. She’s got minions doing her bidding. Apparently they’ve got plans in Washington DC. We’ve already seen this new version of fsociety is prone to theatrics over direct impact. Is this another such plan? Are we looking at a bigger, more explosive version of setting a pile of cash on fire? More importantly, what is Darlene’s endgame with all this? She must know that stunts are not going to bring E Corp to its knees any more than the 5/9 hack did. She’s spoken before about the value in eroding confidence, but there needs to be more than that. Does she have designs on something greater? She certainly seems more gung-ho on the follow-through than Elliot is these days. Whatever the “DC Op” is, I anticipate we’ll see it come to fruition soon.
Is Angela playing all sides?
Angela has quickly emerged as the season’s more uniquely enigmatic figure. She’s hardly a mystery, but her motivation, her drive, leaves us wondering all the time. In the episode she comes home to find Darlene sitting on her couch, snooping through her computer. Darlene asks her to plant a device on the 23rd floor of the FBI building so they can initiate their hack. It’s a bold play, and Angela is hesitant. At the same, time, that she actually entertains the thought is a little surprising given her apparent goal of breaking E Corp from within. If that really is her goal. It’s difficult to know at this point what or who Angela is working for. The easy answer would be “herself,” but I think that’s a little too simple. Angela is nothing if not extremely intelligent. Her problem has only ever been her utter lack of control in every environment. Watching her navigate the new post-hack waters, searching for her point of control, has so far been fascinating, but at some point we’ll need to see where all these plays have gotten her. That is, if they’ve gotten her anywhere at all. Control, after all, is only an–oh, you get the idea.
Who is Joanna Wellick?
Joanna, we thought we knew you. We had no idea. None. Sure, we always understood Joanna to be a full partner in Tyrell’s grand plans. We knew she was ruthless. What we didn’t realize is that she may be a greater villain than Tyrell ever even came close to being. In Tyrell’s absence, Joanna has been trying to track him down and clean up his tracks. She’s been threatening the parking attendant, Kareem. He’s still skittish, understandably, so she has him killed. In a remarkable sequence, we see her bodyguard break into Kareem’s place, inject him with a paralytic, trash everything to make it look like a burglary, and then shoot him. “Tell me about his death,” Joanna says. The paralytic, it seems, was her idea. “Killing a man instantly, robs him of explanation.” So instead of doing that, better to keep him awake, alert if immobile. “You let him die with answers. Otherwise, we’re nothing but ruthless murderers.” Ruthless is right. And cold. Tyrell killed a woman last year and immediately started to lose his cool. Joanna, it turns out, is perfectly alright being a killer.
Is Elliot ready to open up to others?
Angela, after meeting with her POS ex-boyfriend and discovering he’s had conversations with the FBI and is now trying to record her saying incriminating things, heads off to see Elliot. It’s the first time they’ve been reunited since that day in the cemetery back in Season 1. As it turns out, she has tried to get in touch with Elliot, but he’s refused. The reason, he says, is he had wanted to rid himself of his hallucinations before seeing her again. It hasn’t exactly worked. There, standing over her shoulder as she offers to help him with the FBI hack, is Mr. Robot, egging him on to accept her offer. When Elliot tells her about Mr. Robot being in the room, her tone shifts. She offers something he hasn’t received in quite a while. “I can be a friend. Someone to talk to. Someone who cares about you. Who knows, maybe that will help.” Maybe. It’s certainly appealing. Elliot instantly starts to lighten up. A cure for loneliness has been his greatest desire all along. What greater cure than friendship?