Recap

We open yet again with a flashback, this time to Tyrell’s meeting with Mr. Robot from last season. This time, we see it as it truly happened, with Elliot in Mr. Robot’s place. The scene continues to show Tyrell begging for Elliot to let him in on the plan. Back in the present, Tyrell brings Elliot to a secret warehouse out of which he’s been operating.

Joanna visits the location where Elliot traced the mysterious phone calls. It turns out to be the home of Scott Knowles, who admits to being behind the calls as well as the gifts. He wanted revenge against her for the death of his wife, who was pregnant when Tyrell killed her. Joanna goads him into beating her up, which she uses as pretense to convince her boyfriend to frame Scott for his wife’s murder.

Darlene, in FBI custody, is interviewed by Dom and her superior. It’s revealed that Cisco was killed in the shootout. Dom tries to play good cop, but Darlene sees through the act and refuses to talk. To try and persuade her otherwise, Dom shows her the camera and fsociety mask found at Cisco’s apartment. Darlene refuses to break. Knowing that this is her last bite at the apple, Dom brings Darlene to the room where the FBI has collected all the evidence in the fsociety case. As it turns out, they’ve put most of the pieces together already.

Elliot figures out what Stage 2 is all about. In a desperate bid to counteract cyberattacks, E Corp is collecting all of its paper documents in one office building. The plan is to blow up the building, destroying all the records of E Corp’s mortgages, loans, etc. Knowing that people will be killed in the blast, Elliot tries to delete the malware which makes the plan possible. Tyrell pulls out the gun Darlene stole. Elliot doesn’t believe that Tyrell is really there, thinking that this is all another mind trick by Mr. Robot. But Tyrell shoots Elliot in the stomach, and it’s very real.

Panicked, Tyrell calls Angela, who was apparently expecting him. She heads over to meet them, saying that she should be the first person Elliot sees when he wakes up.

In a post-credits scene, Trenton and Mobley are shown to be working at a Fry’s Electronics store out west under assumed names. Mobley wants to put everything behind them, but Trenton has apparently discovered something which could put everything back the way it was. As they discuss this, they’re approached by Leon.

Analysis

With the implicit promise that they’re finally going to stop jerking the audience around next week, Mr. Robot takes the opportunity to get as weird as it ever has.

— Josh Rosenfield, September 14, 2016

I expect I’ll have more to say about this next week, when we find out what he’s been up to all this time.

— Josh Rosenfield, September 14, 2016

I am going to crush Sam Esmail’s head between my powerful thighs.

— Josh Rosenfield, September 21, 2016

Part of me thinks I should put off writing this recap until the heat wears off. And man am I heated.

Mr. Robot, ever the boundary-pusher, ended its second season with every single character left in limbo. It promised to reveal what all of this has been leading to, and in retrospect I guess it kept that promise. We learned what Stage 2 is all about. The show is really leaning into that whole “ripping off the ending of Fight Club” thing, I guess. What we didn’t learn is any of the surrounding information. You know, the really interesting stuff.

I want to believe that I’m overreacting, that I’ll wake up tomorrow with a clear head and a fuller appreciation for this episode. But right now, I just can’t help but feel fleeced. I don’t want to feel that way, like some insufferable fan who feels entitled to all the answers. I’m going to do my best to break this thing down without succumbing to those instincts.

But therein lies the second problem with discussing this episode. What exactly is there to break down? There is, genuinely, not a lot going on here. Every single episode this season has run beyond a typical 60-minute time slot, but this one was actually under an hour. USA sneakily shoehorned the premiere of their new show Falling Water immediately afterwards, to make sure everyone’s DVR caught it. I made sure my DVR recorded ten extra minutes, just in case the post-credits scene got cut off. God damnit Sam Esmail.

Okay. Sorry. I’m good. Let’s continue.

That’s not entirely fair, anyway. Things “happen” in this episode. The climax in Tyrell’s secret warehouse is one of the best scenes of the series to date, a true-blue payoff. It calls back to the season premiere, which saw Mr. Robot shoot Elliot in the head only for Elliot to shake the bullet off. When Tyrell pulls the gun, Elliot assumes it’s all a trick, that he’s not really there. And why shouldn’t he? Everything about this episode is misdirection, intending to lead the audience to the same conclusion.

Elliot questions early on why Tyrell, the most wanted man in the country, is willing to walk down the street in broad daylight as if no one will recognize him. Then it’s revealed that Scott, not Tyrell, has been the one contacting Joanna, removing that detail from the “he’s alive” case. Then the visuals get really heavy-handed about it, showing Tyrell literally appearing from within Elliot’s head (well, behind his head, but the imagery is the image). In those final moments, Mr. Robot and Tyrell are standing next to each other, both positioned opposite Elliot, both on the same side. I predicted several episodes ago that Tyrell would turn out to be a part of Elliot’s imagination, just like Mr. Robot. It didn’t make sense, but it made potential sense, in the way that so many things on this show do.

And then Elliot gets shot, and his vision fades to black.

I’ve seemed pretty critical of this episode so far, but make no mistake, I love this development. The show is taking its central concern (what is real?) to its fullest extent. Elliot’s arc this season has been all about trying to take back control. He thought he found a way to do that in acceptance. He embraced Mr. Robot. He thought that coming to an understanding of his situation would grant him a modicum of control over it. But the assumption that nothing is real comes with a heavy cost: The certainty that one day you’re going to get it wrong. It’s almost funny, in a tragic way, that such a loudly atheistic show would take the time to rebuke agnosticism. Throwing up your hands and saying that you don’t know anything isn’t a tenable position, says Mr. Robot. Eventually, you’ve just gotta get your shit straight.

In turn, I hope that Mr. Robot eventually takes its own advice. I’m willing to let this show string me along, because it’s nutty in a compelling way and I like spending time with its characters. But that goodwill won’t burn forever. God willing, the series ends, for better or worse, before it does.

Etc.

  • Tyrell recites a bit of William Carlos Williams’ classic poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” in the cold open. He talks about how the poem reminds him of his father. In the next scene, we see a Dark Army lackey eating lunch from a place called Red Wheelbarrow BBQ. Nothing escapes commodification and corporatization in Mr. Robot.
  • The convergence of Darlene and Dom’s arcs is really cool. It feels like one of only a few times that Mr. Robot has ever had an endgame in mind as it went along. *extremely quiet voice* I’m shipping them.
  • Rami Malek won an Emmy for Best Lead Actor last Sunday. Well-deserved!
  • RIP Cisco. I forgot your name a lot and your best scene was when Darlene brained you with a baseball bat. You were also dead for an episode before anyone mentioned it. You will be missed (?)
  • A while ago it was reported that Aasif Mandvi was going to be in this season. Am I just making that up? Did that just not end up happening? Is this what Elliot feels like?
  • Thanks for reading these recaps! Hopefully I’ll be back to cover the show next season. See you then!

Featured Image: USA Network