Well that was harrowing!
After a series of episodes in which Mr. Robot seemed to be going nowhere fast (a chess match with only stalemates, to use last week’s metaphor), this episode sees everyone making moves — and suffering the consequences. Elliot‘s back in the hacking business, Dominique is in deep shit with the Dark Army, and Angela is about to be privy to fsociety’s secrets. Oh yeah, and everyone is in a buttload of trouble.
We’ve seen our (anti)hero hooked on many substances, but his drug of choice will always be pulling off the perfect hack. With remote help from Darlene (handle: D0loresH4ze — hello, Lolita!), he uses his time behind Ray‘s PC to begin his infiltration of no less a target than the FBI. He’s giddy with it, waxing poetic about programming languages, manic face glowing white-blue in the screen light.
But there’s another player the Aldersons will need if they’re going to make this work: their old buddy Angela. Darlene wants to use her E Corp access to leave a device in the FBI’s floor of the building — the fewer questions asked, the better. Angela’s still in the dark about their involvement in fsociety. But she does know that the malware she and her ex-boyfriend Ollie introduced into Allsafe’s systems in Season One turned out to be instrumental in the hack — and could be traced back to her if she doesn’t help erase the tracks.
Dom the insomniac FBI field agent has become the fourth protagonist this season; and like so many characters on Mr. Robot, she’s a fascinatingly screwed-up outsider who’s very good at her job. This week she’s off to Beijing with a team of fellow agents to meet with China’s Minister of State Security to discuss E Corp’s storage facilities there — and investigate the Dark Army’s potential involvement in the Five/Nine hack. And who is the minister? It’s … dun dun dunnhhh … Whiterose, the head of the Dark Army, in disguise! Wheels within wheels.
This week’s moody, elegant centrepiece is a late-night tête–à–tête between Whiterose and Dom. There’s some seriously clunky dialogue here: “You’ve surrounded yourself with a constant reminder of mortality,” Dom observes meta-textually of her host’s creepy clock collection. But the cringe factor is mitigated by the sumptuous visual appeal of the environs, and by B.D. Wong and Grace Gummer’s mesmerising performances.
As her law-abiding male alter ego, Whiterose leads the unsuspecting agent deeper and deeper into the maze of her mansion, a spider toying with the fly she’s about to suck dry. Their wanderings lead them finally to a closet full of intricate dresses, whose embroidery the Powers Behind the Powers That Be describes so tenderly that you’d almost forget she’s a supervillain. “Whose room is this?” Dom asks, which is like asking Bruce Wayne whom the Batcave belongs to. This room belongs to Whiterose, not the suit-wearing, law-abiding Mr. Jung; and yet, they are one in the same.
Last night’s episode is chiefly concerned with such questions of double lives and divided selves. Both Whiterose and Elliot monologue about parallel identities, dark sides and light sides, the tightropes we all walk between the better angels of our nature and the sinister thing lurking on the other side of the divide.
Elliot’s got his own choices to make after he discovers that the seemingly kind-hearted Ray is the proprietor of an online black market that sells such items as illicit drugs, rocket launchers and teenage sex slaves. He’s tempted to don his old hacker vigilante cowl and bring the man to justice (Whiterose isn’t the only one with a Batcave), but Mr. Robot warns against getting involved. Sure enough, Ray gets wise and dispatches some goons to beat the crap out of Elliot, and the hour ends with them landing blow after blow on our hero’s tiny body.
Also in mortal peril: Dom, who wakes up from her strange evening and walks straight into a brutal shooting. Whiterose has wasted no time in bringing the Dark Army’s wrath down on the FBI before they dig any deeper. Given recent events in the world, it’s painful — and affecting — to watch as masked men with semi-automatics gun down a roomful of people in cold blood. Sam Esmail films this scene in a remarkable tracking shot, closing in tight on Dom as she leaps into panicked action amidst sprays of blood.
Elsewhere: After a disastrous drink with bro-airhead Ollie and a sweet (well, as sweet as this show gets, anyway) reunion with Elliot, Angela decides she’ll go along with Darlene’s plan after all. “No bullshit from here on. Understand?” the fsociety leader promises her old friend before introducing her to the core members of the collective. We hope that’s a promise that she — and the show — will stick to.
– Tech vocabulary word of the week: logic bomb, a scrap of code that triggers a malevolent event when certain conditions are met.
– Joanna, Tyrell Wellick’s Lady Macbeth-esque wife, has been on a journey of her own this season as she searches for evidence of her husband’s whereabouts and figures out how to stay afloat. This week: sending her bodyguard to kill a parking attendant who knew too much.
– There’s something interesting hanging on the wall in the “dining room” where Elliot meets visitors: Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows,” a late painting commonly thought to be the disturbed artist’s visual suicide note. Wherever Elliot really is, we’re guessing this doesn’t bode well.
– “Josh Groban Night! Looks like we’re reliving our glory days,” the terrible Ollie enthuses at the bar where he and Angela used to meet, while secretly recording their conversation for the FBI. Oh, honey. Thank God you dumped his ass.
Previously: Winner Take All