Warning: This piece contains spoilers for this week’s episode Mr Robot as well as the entire second season of the show.
Angela is right. We can’t beat them, but we don’t have to lose to them either. Maybe there’s a way to keep them from winning.’
Last week, Mr RobotThe two-part finale of Season Two (S2) began with this monologue from series hero Eliot. At the time, it seemed to refer to the FBI (close to fsociety with Agent Dom DiPierro following Angela like a hawk) or E-Corp (about to unleash its digital currency on the US to fill the void in the financial sector). fill those through the 5/9 hack). But based on how the finale went, Elliot looks like he’s on a quest to quit herself of winning.
It took 11 episodes, but fsociety’s follow-up to S1’s 5/9 hack has finally come into focus. The mysterious phase two turns out to be a culmination of previous work. The idea of using temperature to disrupt data storage was born during a Steel Mountain data center attack in S1. The planting of a femtocell at the temporary FBI installation stations at E-Corp happened in episode six of this season. And blowing up junk was a dark desire of Mr. Robot from the beginning of S1 before Elliot fought to include “don’t kill” as part of the hacking moral code.
Phase two builds on this. With Mr. Robot at the wheel, Elliot devises an attack with Tyrell and the Dark Army in which E-Corp’s paper records will disappear in a massive explosion. As it turns out, the femtocell Elliot programmed for Darlene earlier this season wasn’t supposed to capture evidence of FBI snooping (although Tyrell called that result a nice distraction), but was meant to hack into E-Corp. And now believe Mr. Robot/Elliot/Tyrell/the Dark Army that they can fill a skyscraper with hydrogen and cause the transformers inside to light the fuse.
(Aside: when show tech consultant Ryan Kazanciyan said his favorite hack took more than a week to figure out with lead tech writer Kor Adana, was he referring to this attack on batteries and UPS autotransformers or last week’s police location spoofing?) Update – he referenced the final and outlines the whole process on the Tanium blog.)
This new fsociety trap has been set all along: our hackers just have to wait for all the remote trucks to bring in the paperwork. Elliot won’t resolve this with viewers until this week, but it’s way too late for him to run the “no” again. kill” mantra. Compared to the Steel Mountain plan which is carried out solely by fsociety, phase two involves unpredictable players such as Tyrell Wellick and the Dark Army. Not only do those entities want to get things done at all costs, now they are in the course of become familiar with Elliot’s tendencies for two seasons. So when Elliot’s benefactor shows up, everyone knows the plan. Tyrell follows clear instructions that Mr Robot? Elliot (and probably the Dark Army) have in place, “When you gave me this, yYou said stop anyone who gets in the way of our plans.’ Chekov’s gun in the arcade popcorn machine has finally been delivered.
It’s all Elliot
Yes, other things happen at the end of Mr Robot S2. Darlene survived the heart-pounding shootout of Episode 10 and has been in an FBI facility with Dom ever since. Joanna Wellick discovered that Scott Knowles planted the gifts and ghost calls (“I wanted you to feel what I felt,” he says. “I wanted to give you hope I could step on it”), and she now has the pieces ready to charge him with murdering his wife after a brilliant long-term incarceration (after all, Joanna Wellick isn’t dating DJ just because of the possibility of a trip to Ibiza). Whiterose and Phillip Price don’t appear once, but they’ve had an ubiquitous influence on things this season, eventually ending up on opposite sides heading into S3.
But this finale and this season in general really revealed one thing: on Mr Robot, everyone and no one is Elliot. Tyrell shares in the daddy issues. Darlene wants to be the same type of vital leader. Whiterose seems equally enigmatic (and tech-savvy). Dom cannot relate to other people in any aspect of life outside of one (work for her, computers for Elliot). Phillip Price also craves control. And Angela has mirrored him all along – going from grieving child to E-Corp employee (or contractor via AllSafe, anyway) working to bring down the behemoth from the inside to wildcard partner of the Dark Army.
But none of those characters matter to this show as much as Elliot. He remains the sole center of it Mr Robot. His internal struggles with mental illness and social anxiety – the “standard bearer” for such depictions on TV – continues to set in motion the overall plot and the individual journeys of other main characters. The whole reason we care about any of the people mentioned above is because the show spent more time with them while Elliot was in prison fighting for control of his psyche. And the whole reason we’re wondering if stage two will go ahead — or if Elliot himself can — is because Elliot the persona isn’t always in charge of Elliot the person. Even seemingly unrelated sagas, like Joanna’s revenge tour and search for Tyrell or Phillip Price’s quest to become the most powerful person in every room, stem from something to do with Elliot (the 5/9 hack caused both Tyrell to go into hiding as Price scrambling).
So while many of S2’s top moments didn’t involve Elliot – Darlene and Angela’s hack heist at E-Corp (or Darlene and Whiterose playing adventure games on a Commodore), the plot payoff for Leon’s adoration of Jason Alexander and Paul Reiser was , the last sequence of the penultimate episode leading up to the gunfight at the diner, the increased theorizing and easter eggs – it always had to end that way. Fortunately, even Elliot’s deepest moments (searching for Adderall pills among the vomit, berating a religious support group, hallucinating about Full house during a beatdown) tend to be spectacular.
The clear goal of Season 3
Elliot centrism aside, the success of S2 is likely to be a heated debate. Looking ahead, Tyrell, Elliot, Whiterose and Angela have all lined up against Phillip Price and E-Corp. Darlene is able to join them when Dom’s Hail Mary interrogation technique—revealing the entire investigation board in an attempt to shock Darlene or portray her as vital—fails to get her to comply with the authorities. And Trenton and Mobley can also join in if Leon didn’t show up outside a Fry’s to take them out (remember Romero died from a stray bullet and not a Cisco-esque Dark Army hit. Leon could only be Shepherd).
More importantly, S3 has a clear purpose. This alliance will execute phase two, or it will fail and deal with the consequences. This essentially mirrors S1 where Elliot and his rag-tag fsociety friends would either take down E-Corp with their massive coding scheme or die trying. If it can capture that same kinetic sense of action, the show has undoubtedly landed in a better place. (An aside: S1 mirrored Break bad at its pace, S2 did so with its thematic flashback pre-title sequences. Fingers crossed Mr Robot gets his Gus next year.)
Alternatively, complaints about S2 will center on its sometimes icy pace (with Elliot separated from the overall story for the first eight episodes) or its tendency to raise questions rather than provide answers. But with 12 episodes under way, fans may have more information than we ever expected. We know what stage two is, we know if Tyrell is alive or not, we know what happened to Romero, Trenton and Mobley, we know who knocked at the door in S1 and who called Joanna Wellick, etc. Besides finding out how Tyrell managed to disappear and lay low, the unknowns hanging over S3 are new and propulsive rather than persistent and annoying.
Creator Sam Esmail never hid that Mr Robot started out as a screenplay, which means it will probably play better as a binge-watch in the end rather than a weekly spread story over several seasons. S2 is perhaps the best proof of that. As an independent entity? Aside from individual flashes of brilliance, frustration mounted when plot threads from S1 went unaddressed. (Could anyone have predicted that this year we would spend more time with Whiterose than with Tyrell, arguably S1’s biggest opponent?) come. So like Angela telling Tyrell this before the screen goes black, we’ll be sure to see what happens when Elliot wakes up.
For more discussion on S2 this week, check out Decrypted, Ars Technica’s Mr Robot podcast. Listen or subscribe below, and let us know what you think – thoughts, questions, criticisms or your S3 dreams – in the comments section, on iTunes or via email.
List image by NBC Universal / USA