'Mr. Robot' - The 10 Biggest Questions From "Init5"

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?

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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Will Price make it through the season?

Whiterose, aka Mr. Zhang, aka the person you'd invite last to your funeral, had a meeting with Price to discuss their ongoing plans for global domination. It seems that Price is fully willing to turn over control of the global economy to the Chinese government in exchange for his own financial ends. It's a plan that would also get Whiterose her Washington Township Plant. But for why? What does she need with a nuclear power plant? The two have a bit of a rivalry going, though, with Whiterose threatening to have Price killed if he fails to help put her plans into action, and Price threatening to burn everything to the ground just to watch his opponent lose.

Oh, and by the way, Whiterose's death threat? It ain't idle. In the scene directly before their meeting, Whiterose pisses on the grave of one Lester Moore, former CEO of E Corp, who was also privy to Whiterose's "project." When scandals hit, and Moore decided to put the project on hold, he ended up getting killed in a plane crash. Price also implicate Whiterose in the attack on the FBI in Beijing. This is clearly an incredibly dangerous person, and what he might want with a nuclear facility is terrifying. It doesn't help when Price outright says that her machinations could easily go wrong and cause World War 3. The forces Elliot is facing off against are well beyond his imagination. Or are they?

Mr Robot

Did Elliot get released a little too early?

Look, obviously, for the purposes of drama, Elliot couldn't have been released soon enough. But one drama begets another, and now we see the results of Elliot's attempts to wrestle Mr. Robot into submission. That is to say, he has failed. And the scary part is how aware he is of that failure. He's barely been at Darlene's place an hour and already he's finding himself in the bathroom while Mr. Robot has conversations with Darlene and Cisco. It's a problem. Also a problem? Elliot referring to himself as Mr. Robot, even if it was just by accident. In fact, the accident is what makes it a bigger problem than anything. He may have made Mr. Robot less confrontational, but he certainly hasn't taken full control of himself from the apparition of his father. Maybe they should have wrestled a little more.

Mr Robot

Does Elliot have the upper hand?

One of the best things about Mr. Robot is that nobody ever fully seems to have the upper hand, or to be in complete control. Elliot is somewhere in the middle. He doesn't have any upper hand over his own mind, but he seems to think he has an upper hand over the Dark Army. It's hard to say at first whether he's right, but when he taps into the mic on Cisco's contact's phone and then goes to meet with him, he definitely isn't getting syringe needles broken off in his finger. Instead he's actually in a position to demand things of Whiterose. Specifically, he wants to know what "Stage 2" is. So he's got that going for him. But when it comes to Whiterose, it's hard to imagine Elliot is anything but a pawn. Then again, maybe Elliot has his own plans that even we aren't aware of...

Dear Angela, don’t you know you’re inside a ‘70s thriller?

Come on, Angela. Edward Snowden didn't bother going to any government agencies. He went straight to the press! But I suppose Angela thought she could get an agency as innocuous as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hear her complaint. But after being left in an office for hours, she's finally met by a very creepy, stilted woman who claims to be the Deputy Director. She leads Angela down a creepy hallway, and the '70s thriller vibe goes off the charts. Even Angela starts to feel it. She gets herself out of that situation as fast as possible, but it leads to the question: does Angela understand how far down the rabbit hole she's gone? Hell, do we?

Mr Robot

Why, oh why, did you forget that tape, Darlene?

Look, Darlene, you're super clever making those fsociety videos on VHS tape. It ain't digital, so it can't be hacked. Nice. Just one problem. Not only can everything be hacked at the end of the day, there's also no cure for forgetfulness. You're making a tape? Great. Don't keep it. Burn it! Definitely don't leave it on any lamps in somebody else's house and then forget to pick it up on the way out. And while we're at it, even when you flub a take, you've got to stay in character. Don't remove that mask! Ah well, the mistake has been made. It's too late. Now Cisco's gotta go back to Susan Jacobs' home to find the tape. Well, he finds it, and he finds something else, too. A man, breathing like he's dying. Only we don't see the man. The show cuts away before we get a chance. I guess we'll have to find out what that's all about next week, but I assure you it's nothing good.

Mr Robot

Can Dom be trusted?

I love Dom. I love the way she randomly pops up at Angela's door with what is apparently Angela's favorite food. I love the way that she barges in, confident that because she's not arresting anybody, it's totally cool. I love the way she sits down at Angela's table, after assessing the beautiful condo apartment, and starts eating her dinner. I love the way she begins talking about the sexy woman in her dreams. I love Dom. I also trust Dom, but maybe trust is a mistake with anybody on Mr. Robot. Dom basically offers Angela a deal. She's been on to her ever since interviewing her idiot ex, and she knows that Angela's been taking meetings with federal nuclear regulators. Most importantly, she knows Angela is way in over her head. The terms of Dom's deal aren't clear, but after Angela's showdown with the deputy director of the NRC, she should probably seriously consider it, whatever it is.

Mr Robot

What the hell is Stage 2?

It's the question on Elliot's lips, but maybe it shouldn't be. After Elliot's meeting with the Dark Army contact, Darlene is still listening in on his phone. She overhears him meeting with somebody—maybe Whiterose?—and telling him that Elliot demanded to know what Stage 2 is. But that doesn't make any sense, the other person says. Stage 2 is Elliot's idea... WHAAAAAAT? Remember way back in the early part of the season, when we got a flashback with Elliot saying that the follow through is the most important part of their mission? Looks like he had the follow through all planned out from the start. Too bad he can't remember that it even exists!

In the meantime, Elliot is walking home, and oh, goodness, it's Tyrell Wellick's SUV. Yikes. Is this when we finally find Tyrell alive? Alas, no. The window rolls down to reveal Joanna. "Hello, Olly," she says, using the name Elliot gave her that day on the street in the Season One finale. This will be interesting.

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Stray Thoughts

  • Gotta love Leon. Before watching Seinfeld, he went through the complete series of Mad About You. Turns about he's a huge Paul Reiser fan.
  • In Price's meeting with Whiterose, they refer to Angela. It seems Price is fully aware of everything she's doing, and it's all a part of the plan. That can't be good. How that all connects with the NRC and Dom's investigation is unclear, but one thing is for sure: Angela and Whiterose's converging interest in the Washington Township Plant is going to be important.
  • We got a "nice" scene of Elliot going to see his mother, who's sitting, catatonic, in a nursing home. Elliot thanks her for helping him survive the last few months. A funny way of putting it, but sweet, in its own twisted way.
  • Pro-tip: a homeless man on the subway wailing on an electronic keyboard is a great way to build tension.