Recap

Joanna remembers Tyrell taking her to a corporate party, which happens to be where she met current boyfriend Derek. In the present, a woman in the street throws red paint at her and calls her a “capitalist pig.” Later, Derek demands that Joanna accompany him to a party, or else he’ll break up with her.

Elliot, still in Ray’s basement, demands the truth about Tyrell from Mr. Robot. Mr. Robot admits that they murdered Tyrell with the gun Darlene hid in the popcorn.

Dom shows up at Angela’s desk midway through the FBI hack. She saw Angela on the FBI floor moments earlier. Angela remembers the date she agreed to in order to get one agent off her back, and uses it as a cover story to do the same for Dom. Dom is still suspicious of Angela, and tells her that she’ll bring her in for questioning soon. Later, when the FBI discovers the aftermath of the hack, Dom tells them to investigate Angela’s computer.

Darlene confronts Angela outside her apartment building and offers to tell her the full truth. Angela reveals that she has long since figured out that Darlene and Elliot are behind fsociety, because she recognized their mask from the movie that the three of them watched as kids.

Ray sits Elliot down at his computer and demands that he finish the host migration job. When he does, he asks Ray to play another game of chess with him. During the game, Ray explains that his late wife originally set up the site. The two knew that it had illicit potential, so they decided to turn a blind eye to what the site’s users would sell on it and simply collect the money. Until Elliot looked at the site, Ray didn’t know for sure what it was being used for. His guilt compelled him to let Elliot back on the computer, knowing he would likely contact law enforcement. Indeed, the FBI show up shortly thereafter and take Ray into custody.

Angela gets the lawsuit class to drop the condition requiring E Corp to allow independent inspections of their factories. Philip Price has no choice but to settle with that detail off the table. Angela uses the leverage to request a transfer to E Corp’s risk management division, so that she can oversee internal inspections and make sure that E Corp’s negligence can’t hurt any more people. Her new superior is dismissive of her after she requests to see the files on old lawsuits.

Elliot gets jumped by former customers of Ray who lost money after the site was taken down. He’s rescued by Leon, who reveals that he’s a Dark Army agent sent to look out for him. Elliot explains to his therapist that he and Mr. Robot have come to an understanding, but it’s revealed that they aren’t in her office. They’re in the visitor’s room of a prison. Elliot has actually been in prison since the beginning of the season.

Analysis

Mr. Robot has always played this sort of meta-slight-of-hand game. It proudly hides its secrets in plain sight, but the nature of its medium means that there’s no actual way to see them unless you already know they’re there. It did this masterfully with last season’s big reveals. It staggered them over the course of (if I recall correctly) a single episode — it opened with the reveal that Darlene and Angela knew each other and knew the other’s relationship to Elliot, then it continued with the reveal that Darlene and Elliot were siblings and Mr. Robot their father, and finally culminated with the big whammy that Mr. Robot was a figment of Elliot’s imagination. Each domino topples cleanly into the next, perpetually propelled with such narrative force that you don’t even have time to process whether or not each new twist fits coherently into what you’ve already seen.

It all does, of course, and the reason it’s so satisfying is because the twists mostly play into the potential of truth rather than the truth itself. There’s nothing in season one that contradicts the idea that Darlene and Angela could know each other. But the show gives you no reason to suspect that they might, just as it gives you no reason to suspect that Darlene and Elliot might be related, and so on and so forth. Some twists are great because the clues were subtly seeded leading up to the reveal. Everything you needed to know was staring you in the face, but you didn’t see it. Mr. Robot has twists aplenty, but it’s never played them that way. Jean-Luc Godard once famously said that “cinema is truth 24 times per second.” I think Sam Esmail might counter, “Cinema is 24 opportunites to lie per second.”

I say all this not in reference to the episode’s final scene, though it’s certainly a good example. I bring it up because this episode has the first moment where I think Mr. Robot failed to pull one over on me. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now, but something about a certain scene just isn’t right.

Mr. Robot tells Elliot that they killed Tyrell in self-defense because Tyrell’s ramblings sounded dangerous and threatening. Elliot accepts that this is the truth.

But. BUT. We watched Elliot talk to Tyrell on the phone at the beginning of the season. Does the show really expect us to believe Mr. Robot about this? Sure, it’s possible that that phone call was just Mr. Robot playing tricks with Elliot’s mind, and that’s likely how Elliot himself is rationalizing it. But someone has been calling Joanna and sending her gifts. We even hear her reference Tyrell’s tendency to give her little presents in the flashback that opens the episode. It seems pretty clear that Tyrell isn’t dead. Like I said, I’m going to give the show the benefit of the doubt that it expects the audience to pick up on this. It’s still strange to be in a position where the audience knows something that Elliot doesn’t. He’s almost always either right there with us or ten steps ahead. Dramatic irony is a weird fit on this character.

The final scene is a more straightforward Mr. Robot twist. Everything we’ve seen with Elliot this season has been a lie, turns out. He said in the season premiere that he didn’t trust the audience with his secrets anymore, and he meant it. I admire, if a tad begrudgingly, that Mr. Robot doesn’t pretend to allow its audience into an equal partnership and dialogue. It gleefully withholds the truth and doesn’t even give viewers a fighting chance to see it on their terms. It’s unfair, maybe even mildly sadistic. But weirdly, it always feels like it’s done in good faith. A lot of show and movies feel like they actively despise the people watching them. Mr. Robot isn’t a hateful show, it’s just an introverted one. And it’s a wholly unique experience for it.

Etc.

  • The Five-Nine Hack’s impact on municipal services forced the creation of a “cottage industry of roadside garbage burning.”
  • Ray’s story about never looking at what was being sold on his website is pretty fishy, but I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of him. Especially given that he has to exist within the prison in some way.
  • Derek has a poster for the movie Cocktail on the wall of his room. What a dork.
  • Another John Boehner cameo! I bet Paul Ryan’s just itching for a time-skip.
  • Presumably the knock on the door from the end of last season was someone coming to arrest Elliot, but for what? It couldn’t be the hack, since the whole point of hacking the FBI was to ensure that he, Darlene, and Angela wouldn’t be implicated in it. What other crimes could he have been arrested for?
  • Wait, how the hell was Leon watching Seinfeld in prison? What the fuck.

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