'Mr. Robot' - The 6 Biggest Questions From "Hidden Process"

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. 

Mr. Robot

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!

Mr. Robot

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.

Mr. Robot

Is Joanna Wellick a scary person, or the scariest person?

There's something about her. The cool, sexy, closed off exterior with a bubbling ferocity barely contained. Joanna Wellick is scary, but intriguingly so. We've seen her order a man killed in the coldest manner imaginable, but there's something behind that. The single-mindedness of her mission. But then the really scary part is we don't yet know what that mission is. Except that it might be the same as Price's.

Joanna has Elliot in her house. She tells him the story of her first date with Tyrell, in which she wanted a pair of earrings another woman was wearing. She told him to go have sex with her and then bring her the earrings. He came back the next morning with a gift. That's how she knows Tyrell is alive: the gifts he(?) has been leaving all season. Now she wants Elliot to hack into the phone she received, and use it to identify Tyrell's location using the number he's been calling from. He tries to refuse, but she slowly walks up to him, grabs his face, and whispers in his ear, "Do you really want to say no to me?" Yeah, no.

Joanna can see right through Elliot, though she still calls him Ollie. She talks to him in a way that makes him think she can even see Mr. Robot. That's not possible, of course, but it's clear she has a way of reading him and understanding where his mind is at, almost before he can. That only makes her more scary. She desperately wants Tyrell back so she can continue pulling the strings, and she doesn't have any problem making Elliot the means to getting him back.

Mr Robot

Can Elliot trust Mr. Robot?

No. Of course he can't trust Mr. Robot. That's silly. Ish. As we saw last week, Elliot can't really control himself, and thus he cannot control Mr. Robot either, but this week raises the second trust problem: Mr. Robot lies. He told Elliot that he killed Tyrell, but now Elliot begins to doubt it. Not only is Joanna completely sure he's still alive, Elliot himself receives a call on the cellphone from a breathing man. It startles him. Could it really be Tyrell Wellick calling? And what's more, in that moment Mr. Robot disappears. It's like he has something to hide. What is he off doing in whatever corner of Elliot's head he resides?

Joanna's bodyguard takes Elliot to his apartment to do the hack, but Elliot isn't so much hacking computers as he is hacking bureaucracy. He manages to forge a special request form to find the information behind a cell number. While he's doing that, the bodyguard begins to drone on about an old client of his. Elliot uses the opportunity to think about Mr. Robot's potential deceit. He comes to the conclusion that because Mr. Robot wanted so badly to come back to the apartment, there must be something there. Some kind of clue. In one of the weirder shots/conceits this show has done, the camera begins panning around the apartment, outside Elliot's field of vision, with Elliot asking us, the audience, to look around for something. It's like some kind of twisted episode of Blue's Clues for the Reddit age.

Finally Elliot gets the number, and the coordinates where it's located. He looks up the address. The bodyguard recognizes it and appears shocked. "Trust me. He wouldn't be calling from that house," he says. Which house???

Meanwhile, Elliot has been receiving messages from Angela. She needs to meet. Finally he's able to get away and meet her on the subway. But we'll get to that a bit later.

Mr Robot

Is Dom just a regular badass, or the Batman?

Dom, you're so cool. There she is, hot on the trail. She's been called to the scene at Susan Jacobs' house, where FBI agents got a witness rendering of a suspect who matches their earlier rendering. This is the break she needs. Cisco wasn't nearly careful enough. She goes to her boss, who is going to make the portrait public. Dom argues against it because the Dark Army will try to kill Cisco, but she's overruled. Her only option is to piece things together before they get to him. She follows along with a lead of the taxi driver who took Cisco back to Darlene's place. There she finds Cisco's ID tag.

Later, she's called to the hospital where Darlene and Cisco have been all night. A nurse there recognized Cisco from the news. The FBI decides that the two must've high-tailed it, but Dom is able—through some really clever thinking—to piece together the fact that they must not know they've made the news. They are going to come back. More importantly, they must be nearby. She goes out looking for them, and finds the diner they're sitting at. What happens next... well, we'll get to that. But in the meantime, may I just point out that watching Dom quickly piece all these bits together was a pleasure to watch. Some real Batman type stuff, and something I didn't even know I needed out of this show, but clearly do.

Mr. Robot - Season 2

Is Angela out?

The end of Angela's one scene this week indicates otherwise, but let's just take the time to admire what a scene it was. There she is, sitting alone in a subway car, waiting for Elliot to arrive. He does, and sits across from her. Point blank, she asks him why he started fsociety. What follows is typical paranoid thriller stuff, but done oh so well. Here they are. The two would-be lovers, too far down a dangerous path, forced to make decisions that further wall each other off while drawing them closer at the same time. Elliot apologizes for ever involving her. She informs him that she's going to the FBI to confess, though she won't name anyone else. "They" can't be beat, she tells him. She's tried. There's no winning.

Elliot begins feeling the pangs of emotional pain. How could he let this happen to the people he cares about? He put himself in a cage, he says, only to let the rest of them take on the risks. What has he done? Angela asks him if he remembers the time she had to come pick him up from the museum. He was yelling at someone invisible. People there were scared. Elliot doesn't remember the incident at all. Angela then tells Elliot he shouldn't trust Mr. Robot. That he may think that they can have a kind of understanding, and keep things in balance, but it's not possible.

They arrive at the next station, and it's time for Elliot to get off. They stand up. He walks over to her, and he hugs her. It's an intensely intimate moment that recalls the scene from the pilot of the show, when she hugs him, and it makes him uncomfortable. This time it's exactly the comfort both of them need. Then he kisses her, and gets off the train. She turns around to see him go, only to find two people. We only see the backs of their heads, but whoever they are, it's not good.

Mr. Robot - Season 2 - Carly Chaikin as Darlene

Is Darlene special?

She doesn't seem to think so, despite so desperately wanting to be. Personally, I'd disagree. It's not her fault that Elliot has a mental disorder that grabs all the attention. That doesn't make him more special than she is. More troubled, sure, and maybe his crazy need to save the world made him more ambitious with his planning, but that hardly makes him her better. In many ways, she's been the rock. There for Elliot always, but also ignored, and in some cases literally forgotten. It's a tough place to be in, but Darlene does value loneliness. We learn this in the story she tells about how a woman kidnapped her from Coney Island, and her reaction was to be relieved. In fact, she wished that her family would never find her, that she'd wake up in this new home, in this new bed, with a new life.

But then she wouldn't have Elliot, she says. That's the trade-off for caring, I suppose. It's a tough place to be, and one that leads her, at the beginning of the episode, to seriously suggest letting Vincent, the silly fsociety groupie, die from his severe beating at Susan Jacobs' house. We know now that she's capable, but Cisco argues that her plan has gone to hell, and that she should stop pretending otherwise. She relents. It's a moment of strength misdirected, that warps into letting her guard down.

Unfortunately, eating at the diner while waiting to get word of her friend back at the hospital, she has maybe let her guard down a little too much. Dom finds the restaurant and calls in for more units. She walks in, but the shot holds from across the street, watching as she confronts Darlene and Cisco. In the foreground, two men on a motorcycle arrive. One gets off, carrying a gun. He walks over to the window and begins firing. Dom manages to duck. What happens to Darlene and Cisco is not so clear. Outside, the cops arrive at the scene, and the gunman shoots himself in the head. Dom runs out of the diner, and the episode ends.

Mr Robot

Stray Thoughts

  • I don't really have much here, except that the music in this episode was fantastic
  • And... wow.