'Mr. Robot' - The 5 People We Care About In "Successor"

We've had a week now to come to terms with the big reveal in the last Mr. Robot. I will admit even I have continued to feel trepidation over the twist we got—not that I didn't think it was well handled, but it might've been one stone throw too far. I've seen some propose that it might've been better had Sam Esmail eschewed the twist and revealed Elliot's true state of mind right away, or at least much earlier. That thought is difficult to dismiss. Esmail effectively put us, as viewers, in an adversarial relationship with his main character. It's part of the character's current psychological journey, but it's not exactly friendly to the viewer. The strength, then, of the twist's impact can only be felt in its aftermath, but we've been deprived of that, too.

This week, in a first for the series, we got no Elliot at all. Not a single scene. Instead of picking up right where last week's dizzying entry left off, we got a bit of a reprieve. A bit of mercy. Some time to collect ourselves. Only, Mr. Robot's version of mercy is amping up the tension to an unbearable degree. There's no question we're in the home stretch of the season, now, and while Elliot may be the main character, he's also one main character among many. As it turns out, not only are those other characters fully capable of carrying the show on their own, their trials are the heart of the show this season. While Elliot has been off in fantasy land, dealing with his internal problems, his family and friends are off dealing with the very external consequences of their actions.

Mr. Robot - Season 2 - Carly Chaikin as Darlene

"Successor" also happens to be one of the best episode the series has produced, which is no knock on Elliot, really. Over the course of the series so far, Esmail has managed to build a stable of characters who feel real. They may have been sidelined relative to the attention Elliot has received, but small moments of character have bled through, and now is when that pays off. Their plight feels immediate. Dangerous. We've already lost one of the fsociety team. To lose another would be painful, and it's a testament to the show that we would feel that way. Meanwhile, Darlene and Angela continue to get fleshed out, revealing layers as interesting as those we've gotten from Elliot. That's a feature, not a bug. As the world of Mr. Robot continues to expand, the characters we can focus on grows, and the stakes only get higher.

Given the tighter focus of this week's episode, I think it'd be a good idea to tighten our focus as well. Let's examine the people we care about on Mr. Robot, and how this episode showed it to us. As always, BEWARE SPOILERS!

Mr. Robot - Season 2


I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Angela may well be my favorite character on the show. She's perhaps the most inscrutable of our protagonists—a mystery, whose motivation is as compelling as it is unclear. One thing that's becoming more and more evident, though, is the way Angela thrives off a certain kind of validation. It's not so much that she wants to be told she's doing a good job, as that the job she's doing is important. This may be why she can so easily straddle the various lines of trying to take down E Corp legally, helping fsociety, and trying to climb the corporate ladder all at the same time. It's not compartmentalizing, really. It's more that each action brings her similar validation of her own strength and importance in the world. The allure is undeniable for most, but Angela's will to go out and get it is clearly pushing her further ahead than most would dare.

Mr. Robot - Season 2

We get to see this quality in Angela come to the fore in a scene at a karaoke bar. There she is, on a date with the guy she met at the bar last episode. But she's distracted—we'll get to the cause of her distraction a bit later—and she ends up walking away from the table to grab a drink from the bar. There, she bumps into a friend of the family who comments on how her father must be taking it that she's now working for the corporation that killed her mother. He throws in some crass vulgarity toward her as well. After initially turning to leave, Angela turns back around and gives him a piece of her mind. Demeaning his career as "just" a plumber, and talking about her six-figure salary at the world's largest conglomerate. "And I'm just getting started," she says.

On the one hand, this is Angela in full badass mode, taking down a condescending, sexist prick. Then again, she can't seem to deny to herself that he has a point. Crudely delivered, of course, but a point nonetheless. While the extent of her desire for subterfuge at E Corp isn't known to us, it's clear that she's uneasy with her position inside the beast. One point of validation bumps up against the other, and she finds herself split in two. We see this play out in the cross-cut hacking scene later on, where she pulls a Carey Mulligan and sings Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" in a striking close-up. Later she propositions an older gentleman played by Mark Moses—Duck Phillips from Mad Men! As we later learn, the original date she was on was an FBI plant, and he was actually a little hurt that Angela didn't seem to fall for him. He guesses she's into older men. Whatever her relationship with ol' Duck, we'll likely find out. The casting alone suggests that much.

Mr. Robot - Season 2

Mobley and Trenton

Perhaps the two most underdeveloped characters on the show, but this is where "Successor" reveals the strength in Mr. Robot's careful construction. The few deeper scenes we've gotten with both Trenton and Mobley over the course of two seasons have perfectly set us up to feel the urgency of their dilemma. In fact, it's their peripheral nature that makes the tension so acute. They got into all of this for righteous reasons, thinking they were part of a ragtag hacker crew taking down a corporation. They sure did that, but they got themselves involved in far more nefarious dealings as well. Never mind the FBI, or the Dark Army coming after them. Forget for a moment the direct ramifications of the hack on the world. The biggest thing they got themselves involved with is the Alderson family. Elliot is obviously unhinged, severely so, and it turns out Darlene is capable of murder.

Every step they take with Elliot and Darlene puts them more and more in danger, and in a way they never properly anticipated. It's a fact the should have seen even in each other. This season has given us all kinds of flashbacks to the beginnings of fsociety. This time, we get the meeting of Mobley and Trenton at Ron's Coffee. They don't realize that they're both there to meet with the elusive Elliot. Instead, they get into a techie argument over Android vs. iPhone, which gives Trenton the perfect opportunity to trick Mobley into letting her hack him. Already, in their first interaction, before they've even joined forces, they're already untrustworthy. Little did they know that trusting Elliot and Darlene would be a far scarier proposition. Now they're really feeling it, and they're on the run. Mobley, after getting interrogated by Dom at the FBI offices, messaged Trenton to meet him at Ron's Coffee. There she waits. At the last second the door opens and we see her reacting to somebody. But who? To be continued...

Mr. Robot - Season 2


Darlene wasn't exactly the mastermind behind the 5/9 hack, but it's safe to say she was the engine. She was there, pushing Elliot and the mission along the whole time. It was her dad that died, too, after all. What we see this week is just how deep that scar is—how far it allows her to go. Things start off fairly par for the course, picking up from the scene last week where she walks into the fsociety house to find the crew at a computer, having discovered something big. What they've found, we learn, is the time and access code for an inter-departmental FBI conference call about Operation Berenstain. They access and record the call, and then put it out to the world in another masked man video, revealing to the public that the FBI has been illegally spying on over 3 million Americans.

Things are already a problem, though. Mobley points out that in the recording, the FBI are talking about 16 suspects—15, now that one is dead. He assumes, maybe correctly, that the FBI are talking about them, and decides he wants out. In the middle of being threatened by Cisco, the group gets a surprise visitor. Susan Jacobs, lawyer for E Corp and owner of the house they're squatting in, has returned to find the criminals in action. They proceed to tie her up next to the pool in the basement.

Mr. Robot - Season 2 - Carly Chaikin as Darlene

At some point, Trenton, falling for the oldest trick in the book, clips Susan's ties so she can go to the washroom. Susan tries to get free, but slams her head on the wall, knocking her out. In a bravura sequence cross-cut with Angela singing, as I mentioned earlier, the team hacks into Susan's information to find something they can blackmail her with. They find some good stuff about her carrying on an affair with a judge on some of her cases, but Darlene doesn't seem to believe that'll be effective. She goes down to talk to Susan directly and reveals that she remembers Susan from when she was four years old. Susan was at the E Corp trial, in the back, behind the other men in suits. When the judgement came in, Susan laughed. All of a sudden, Darlene tases Susan, who falls into the pool, dead. She tries to pass it off as self-defense, but she clearly knew that Susan had a heart condition.

It's a step too far, but one that Darlene owns. She and Cisco take the body to the pet incinerator and get rid of the body. On the way home, looking almost catatonic, Darlene talks about how she always wanted to do that, but she assumed when the time came, she would stop herself. But she didn't. She's a murderer now. The hack was always too personal, and much like Elliot, she has let herself get lost in it. Meanwhile, her relative powerlessness reveals itself later, at Cisco's apartment, when she discovers he's been taking pictures of her in her sleep, and alerting the Dark Army to the fact that he has her. "Stage 2 is about to begin," the Dark Army associate writes back. What the hell is Stage 2? When Cisco gets out of the shower he finds Darlene standing there, with his laptop smashed on the floor. He turns back around only for Darlene to take him out with a baseball bat.

Mr Robot Season 2 - Elliot 1


Our "hero" wasn't in the episode at all, but doesn't mean his presence wasn't felt. Elliot is the prism through which the entire show operates. He is the one that set everything in motion. With Darlene in a precarious situation, and the rest of the fsociety on the run, Elliot's separation from the group is starting to feel like a serious liability. Even if he can't save them, he should at least be in it with them, as opposed to sitting off in a cell on his own. One of these interesting factors in this new episode is just how much it leaves the space open for Elliot's return to fsociety. Of course, it can't be that simple. I suspect the next episode will find us learning why he has been put in jail, and what exactly is going to get him back. As much as I've been an apologist for this season, I fully admit to being anxious for the big return of Elliot to the real world.

Mr Robot 3

Stray Thoughts

  • Thank God for Tears for Fears.
  • We got to see an E Coin transfer this week. Seems pretty simple, and more importantly, it seems like the E Corp takeover of global currency is work pretty well.
  • Dom is proving quite the detective, finding Mobley's old Angelfire page to track him down. She's also very close to Darlene, having traced the bullet casing from the arcade back to her rich finance guy fling from last season. It's only a matter of time before the two come face to face, I believe.
  • While interrogating Mobley, Dom says she's not after him, but the guy he works for. Tyrell Wellick. That's a little weird, right? So they must really be off Elliot's scent. Either that or Esmail is adding fuel to the theory that Elliot and Wellick are one and the same. There's no way that's true, but I'm sure there's some kind of shoe to drop in terms of understanding Wellick's involvement in everything that's gone down.
  • A running visual this season that I just picked up on is whenever we see someone's parents, they're sitting on a sofa, watching the news. A curious motif.