Recap

As with almost every episode this season, we begin in a flashback, this time to Mobley and Trenton’s first meeting. What appears to be a chance encounter in a coffee shop turns out to be their initial fsociety recruitment by Darlene.

In the present, the three of them along with Cisco discover that the FBI will soon hold a conference call regarding their ongoing investigations. They tap in and record evidence of widespread privacy violations, before releasing their findings in a video. Despite this seeming victory, Mobley is paranoid over a part of the call where they referenced a suspect list for the Nine/Five Hack, which he assumes they are all on due to the reference to one dead suspect (Romero). Mobley and Darlene get into an argument over this just as Susan Jacobs returns to her home.

Angela is on a date, drunk and getting drunker. She runs into a friend of her dad, who makes some nasty comments about her betrayal of him by working for E Corp. Angela retorts that she is proud of her successes as she gets another drink.

The fsociety four tie up Susan in her pool room and leave her there to formulate a plan. Trenton goes in to check on her, and cuts her binds to take her to the bathroom. Susan tries to make a break for it, but Trenton’s reaction causes Susan to slam her head on the wall and get knocked out. Meanwhile, Angela sings “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” at karaoke and leaves her date to go home with an older businessman.

Fsociety frantically hunts through Susan’s digital information for something to use as blackmail before she wakes up. Darlene discovers that she once had slept with a judge who was presiding over one of her cases. Darlene confronts Susan about this, but reveals that she’s actually got a history with her. She remembers Susan laughing in the back of the courtroom when the judge ruled in E Corp’s favor and ruined her family’s life all those years ago. Darlene shocks Susan with a taser, causing her to fall into her pool and drown.

Mobley and Trenton, not buying that Susan’s death was self-defense, prepare to skip town while Darlene and Cisco wipe down the location and deal with the body. They take it to the furnace disposal place they visited last season. Later, Darlene ruminates on her newfound capacity for murder, as well as the fact that she doesn’t feel remorseful.

The FBI spies on Trenton’s house, and then busts Mobley. Dom interrogates him, thinking he’s a low-level fsociety member, but Mobley quickly lawyers up. Dom’s colleague convinces her to let him go, given that the conference call leak has given them more than enough trouble to deal with. Mobley contacts Trenton and tells her to meet him at the cafe where they first met.

Darlene discovers that Cisco has been spying on her for the Dark Army, double-crossing fsociety. She knocks him out with a baseball bat.

Analysis

Sometimes the boldest move you can make is to not make any bold moves at all. A week after dropping its wildest twist ever, Mr. Robot seems content to pretend that it never even happened. Explanations of Elliot’s time in prison will have to wait. This hour is all about fsociety.

This is the first episode of the show where Elliot doesn’t appear at all (a fact foreshadowed in the cold open by Darlene remarking that Elliot couldn’t make it to meet Mobley and Trenton), and it’s a testament to Mr. Robot’s writing that it can focus entirely on its secondary cast for a week and remain compelling. Often the loss of a core stabilizing element can cause a show to spiral out into meandering meaninglessness – the death of Ned Stark burdened the second season of Game of Thrones like this, leaving the show to wander aimlessly in search of a central rallying point to replace him. As it turns out, Mr. Robot without the title character (or the character whose brain the title character resides in) is still very much Mr. Robot. It retains the heady paranoia even as it loses the added layer of loopiness that Elliot brought to it.

In some ways, it’s even more fun to watch the world operate without that layer. There’s tension in Elliot’s mental instability, but it often functions as an easy way out of bad situations. Mr. Robot isn’t coming to save the rest of fsociety if the FBI comes to break down their door. They have to go up against the same villains, but they can only fight them in reality. Their hacking, in turn, is presented much differently than Elliot’s. Elliot’s hacking is often depicted as something beyond the limits of ordinary humans, as we saw most recently in the amped-up split-screen scene a few episodes ago. The show loves making hacking out to be something approaching a superhuman endeavor.

Thing is, that superhumanity is Elliot’s sole provence. When the rest of fsociety, it’s not granted that same formal elevation. We see it in this episode, as the four remaining members desperately dig through Susan Jacobs’ online life in search of blackmail material. There’s still a power in their ability, but they’re never shown to cross the line into hacking divinity as Elliot so often is. Their hacking is methodical, technical, deliberate. In the case of this episode, their final stroke of luck doesn’t come from hacking at all – Trenton finds Susan’s Yahoo login information on a sticky note. In the season premiere, their follow-up E Corp hack succeeds in no small part because Mobley works as an IT guy in their bank office, and can prevent the issue from getting fixed. Two episodes ago, Angela had to physically plug the femtocell box into an FBI router to facilitate the hack. Fsociety has always been about the grunt work, the unglamorous side of the business.

To an extent, this episode underscores that Mr. Robot has a fundamental – and you’ll just have to indulge me here – split personality. The Elliot show is not the fsociety show, at least not this season. Elliot’s is trippy and strange where fsociety’s is grounded and gritty. Normally, this split is negated by the intersection of the two worlds, whether literally within the narrative or within the cinematic meta-narrative created by editing them together into one hour of television. I expect that a lot of people will find that Mr. Robot just doesn’t work as well without that balance, but I was enthralled by this episode. Spending time with Darlene and the rest of the team is always a joy, and all the more so as the show keeps turning up the heat on them. It’s also great to see a greater focus on Trenton, an intriguing character who was a complete cipher for a very long time. I’m excited to catch up with Elliot next season. Knowing this show, I can be confident that these side-characters won’t be shoved entirely to the side when he’s back. There aren’t many shows capable of that.

Etc.

  • I couldn’t tell what movie Trenton’s family was watching, but knowing Sam Esmail I bet it’s symbolic in a kind of heavy-handed way.
  • I loved the detail that the dogs Darlene freed last season from the furnace guy were all returned to their cages. It’s the worst possible moment for Darlene to see the uselessness of what she thought was a righteous act.
  • I’m kinda shocked that “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” hasn’t appeared on the show before now. It’s like the platonic ideal of Mr. Robot needle drops.
  • Real World Cameo Watch: A brief appearance from Edward Snowden on TV, though it seems to just be file footage. Hillary Clinton also has a corner-of-the-screen cameo.
  • They must be saving the Tyrell reveal for the season finale, but that’s way too long to leave such a great actor hanging.

Featured Image: USA Network