Wednesday, August 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Elliot and Darlene Need Angela's Help While Dom Goes to China in 'eps2.3_logic.b0mb.hc'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 2.05 "eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc"

Elliot can't quit the game. Dom and the FBI go to China to investigate Five/Nine. Joanna is haunted. Darlene calls on Angela for help.

In the beginning, Mr. Robot worked as well as it did because of Rami Malek's phenomenal performance. The show was inside of Elliot's head for the majority of the time. The audience was seeing this world through Elliot's eyes. We were experiencing it all with him. The shocking twists of the first season were so strong because Elliot is an unreliable narrator trapped in a world where he needs to question everything. But with some of these big twists revealed - Darlene is Elliot's sister, Mr. Robot is all in Elliot's head - the rest of the ensemble has been allowed to have a more active role on the series. The show has stepped back with Elliot's importance this season. It has become more of an ensemble series with many different parts all working together or in competition. Meanwhile, Elliot's story has forced him into a more reactive headspace. He's tried to find a way to control his life again. He has failed in that endeavor. So now, he's becoming more active once again. But that doesn't get in the way of the rest of the ensemble continuing to be awesome and the true drivers of action this season.

Even though Elliot is becoming more active, he still feels restrictive in a number of ways. That makes it pretty apparent that some big twist is about to happen that may help explain everything that is going on with him as well as the open-ended mysteries from last season. Tyrell still hasn't been seen since the Five/Nine hack occurred. Elliot still doesn't know what happened during those three days when Mr. Robot was in control. Nor does the audience know who was knocking at Elliot's door at the close of the season. Those mysteries still persist. Elliot is slowly getting back into this world. He's doing so by focusing on small-time coding. He's helping Ray get his site up and running again. He's not leading fsociety and handling the aftermath of Five/Nine. He's not able to just ignore the demands of what he started last season. But he's actively choosing to stay away from that. That's the world that Mr. Robot wants him to be a part of. Instead, he's drawn to Ray and the comfort of hacking an individual in order to form a personal attachment.

Of course, it's still curious that Elliot doesn't go to actually meet anyone. Everyone comes to him. There is talk about him needing to visit Angela in order to get her help with hacking the FBI. But when the two of them have their first scene of the season, it's at the same table at Elliot's mother's house where he has had so many sit-down conversations with his friends this season. Both Gideon and Darlene met him there in a similar fashion. Sure, Elliot does leave to go to the basketball court and Ray's computer. But those scenes also carry with them the suspicion that there is more than meets the eye. How did Ray know that Elliot could help him with his IT problems - especially considering he had another guy who could fix them? It's all building up the moral quandary that Elliot now faces. He learns that Ray's site is for a number of criminal activities. He was warned not to look. And now, he's going to be punished for doing so. Ray's men break into Elliot's bedroom and beat him up. That's a shocking final moment. But again, those questions about Elliot's reality still persist that do keep the bulk of this story from landing as effectively as the rest of the episode.

Elsewhere, Dom travels all the way to China to investigate what happened to Evil Corp's Chinese backup servers during Five/Nine. She's just one member of a team. She's not the person leading the charge even though she's not afraid to be forceful to get answers. But her scenes carry so much importance because they provide an additional insight into Whiterose. That's a character still shrouded in so much mystery. What is their master plan with Price? In their public male identity, Whiterose is Minister Zhang, the head of Chinese security. That's ironic given Whiterose's role in the Five/Nine hack. But it's also significant to see this small peek behind the curtain. Dom isn't enjoying the party that Zhang throws for the visiting agents from the FBI. Instead she's curious about this world and discovers Whiterose's penchant for time. Those two characters share such powerful scenes throughout this episode. They trade stories and it's absolutely fascinating to watch. Zhang weaves a tale for Dom where she could easily uncover his lies. He takes pride in showing off the clocks and clothes. He says that the beautiful garments belong to his sister. He knows that Dom is a smart and capable agent. He cracks that veneer to see the tragic backstory of this woman. And yet, he opens up to her as well. That's what makes it so shocking - but also inevitable - when Dom's story ends with the FBI being ambushed by terrorists. It's a marvelous one-shot sequence where it looks like Dom is the only agent left to fend off against these armed men. She's likely to survive because of her series regular status but this could mark a significant change for her this season.

Angela makes a significant decision as well. Darlene and Elliot need to involve her in order to hack into the FBI and stay one step ahead of their investigation of Five/Nine. Elliot doesn't want to include her in all of this while Darlene says it's the only possibility they have. Things have changed so much between Angela and Darlene as well. Last season, they were two childhood friends who enjoyed each other's company - even though the audience didn't always understand their bond during most of their interactions. But now, Angela has embraced a new world and lifestyle at Evil Corp. Yes, she's still pursuing her desire to take down the corrupt individuals in charge. But she's also far removed from the life she was living last season. When Darlene surprisingly shows up in her apartment, Angela doesn't welcome her in. In fact, she's taken aback and wants to understand what Darlene wants. Angela isn't ready to do this for her either. She's risked too much to be at Evil Corp for it to all unravel now because of whatever Darlene and Elliot are up to. And yet, she ultimately decides to compile after meeting with Ollie and learning just how easily things can track back to her and the CD. She becomes a part of fsociety in order to protect herself. It's a precarious alliance but an exciting character shift for the future.

And lastly, Joanna's story is quite indicative of everything that is going on this season. She's aloof and disconnected from the rest of the show. She's operating with knowledge that the audience isn't completely privy to at the moment. She's desperate for Tyrell to return to her. But she's being taunted by mysterious phone calls with only breathing on the other end of the line. And yet, her story is so powerful because she's protecting Elliot as well. Why? Who knows! That's part of the mystery of the story right now. It also wonderfully boils down to the scene where she is feeding her baby and asking her new bodyguard to go into detail about how he just killed the parking lot attendant who knows about Elliot. She knows exactly what happened but needs to hear it out loud. She purposefully had her henchman drug this man so that he knew he was going to die before it actually happened. She needed him to die knowing why he was being killed. She gave him answers so that they weren't just ruthless and cold killers. That's the strongest indicator yet that this season has a grand master plan that will all connect together soon. In that moment, Joanna is channeling Sam Esmail's vision for the show. He wouldn't have set up all of these mysteries without providing some kind of answers to Elliot and the audience. It's just a matter of when those reveals will come. The season won't end without the audience "dying" with the knowledge of why it happened. But five episodes into the season, the show is forging ahead with its new stories while still just abstractly teasing what happened during Elliot's missing time at the end of the first season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc" was written by Kyle Bradstreet and directed by Sam Esmail.
  • Elliot's monologue at the top of the episode about why he writes all of his own code is basically a commentary on Sam Esmail choosing to write the majority of the season's episodes and direct all of them. Surprisingly enough, this is the first episode of the season not to be written by Esmail.
  • This episode also works because it's shorter than the last few episodes have been. This is a show that can play with its running time to interesting effect. But it needs to be done with purpose. The last few episodes have dragged a little too much and have kept the season from totally taking off.
  • When Angela finally sits down with Elliot, it's basically the reopening of their friendship. He didn't want to see her until Mr. Robot was gone. But now, he's open to just having a friend in his life again who genuinely cares about him.
  • Of course, Angela is also fully welcomed into the fsociety fold which could pull Elliot back in as well. She meets the original members just as Darlene is plotting something big to happen in Washington, D.C. very soon.
  • The FBI has also uncovered how fsociety was able to attack Steel Mountain last season. But like most of their leads, it's a dead end because Elliot and company did a great job of covering up their tracks.
Fan Speculation Theories:
  • If you haven't heard about the big fan theory going around right now, please stop reading if you don't what to be spoiled about the potential plot twist.......
  • It is looking increasingly likely that Elliot is institutionalized in some way. The fact that everyone comes to see him in the same room is a very telling detail. Of course, Ray has to play a part in it as well. But his admin username is "Caretaker" and he is somehow able to snatch Elliot out of his bed in the middle of the night. So, he needs to have some kind of access to get to Elliot so easily while also knowing that he can help with his IT problems.