Wednesday, September 7, 2016

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Darlene and Angela Face the Consequences of Elliot's Actions in 'eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 2.10 "eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx"

Elliot starts to wonder if Mr. Robot has been lying to him. Darlene tries to do the right thing. Dom and the FBI get closer.

Mr. Robot amplifies the dread and the tension a ton in "eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx." It's really such a masterfully crafted episode. The stakes keep on escalating. The audience feels the tension and pressure rising. Something big is about to happen. Dom is getting closer and closer to catching the people running fsociety. Meanwhile, Elliot is realizing just how much he messed up by going to prison and abandoning all of his friends. Answers and resolution don't come either. This hour is about the big events and confrontations between the characters. Everyone is left questioning how they got to this point in their lives. Do they still have control over themselves? Or should they instead play into the fantasy and dream of how their lives could be different? And yet, that's a hopeless venture. The walls are closing in on them. Some more quickly than others as the climatic final moment points out in devastating effect.

Darlene had to take over fsociety in Elliot's absence. The hackers changed the world at the end of the first season. And now, they are living in the new world order. It's not fundamentally better at all. In fact, everyone's lives are worse off because of the hack. Elliot is able to see that now after his release from prison. He takes in the devastation and chaos that roams the streets. Evil Corp has emerged with even more power. Philip Price is still sitting high in his office boasting about being the most powerful person in the entire world. Ecoin is the only form of currency that truly matters. The Five/Nine hack changed the world. But it did not make it better. In fact, it has only fostered even more paranoia. This season has become an even more tense thriller because fsociety was successful with the hack. Now, the FBI is actually hunting them down while the Dark Army's true agenda is shrouded in mystery. This episode can't even properly deal with the revelation that Stage 2 was Elliot's idea. There's too much happening right now that demands the characters' full attentions.

Elliot gets into the SUV with Joanna. She's desperate to know what happened to Tyrell and where he is. The entire world is looking for him. He has taken the blame for the Five/Nine hack. She knows he's still out there. He's contacted her but refusing to say anything. Mr. Robot told Elliot that he killed Tyrell the night of the hack. And yet, that doesn't track particularly well with the story that Joanna is telling. Whenever Elliot gets a hunch that Mr. Robot is lying to him, it's most likely true. Elliot has a right to be suspicious of Mr. Robot right now too. He desperately wants to return to the apartment for something. Something that the police missed. And yet, Elliot has no idea what. He lets the audience become a literal fly on the wall to help him search. But it produces no meaningful leads. Mr. Robot's motives are still shrouded in mystery. He essentially disappears after the phone Joanna gave Elliot rings and there's only breathing on the other side of the line. Mr. Robot is scared. But what is he scared about?

All of this is certainly a mystery that the show has really propped up this season. It's become a bit of a problematic story as well. There needs to be purpose for keeping the truth about Tyrell a secret to the audience. If Mr. Robot is in fact telling the truth and Tyrell is dead, it would feel like a waste to spend so much time just teasing the story out. There are more pressing concerns in this world that could use the additional attention. It would be an anti-climatic end to a pretty memorable character from the first season. So, it does seem likely that he will be revealed to be alive at some point relatively soon. Elliot is definitely closing in on his search for answers. He is able to get a location on the phone much quicker than any of Joanna's guys. But the ultimate reveal needs to have purpose. If Tyrell is indeed alive, then there needs to be a reason why it was dragged out for so long this season. So far, he has just appeared in a handful of flashbacks and a cool fantasy sequence. He hasn't been particularly missed this season either. He was great in Season 1 but the other characters of the ensemble have more than stepped up in his absence in Season 2. So, his return better be a game changer. If not, then this will all feel incredibly pointless. Mr. Robot does everything for a reason. So, the audience should still feel confident that Sam Esmail has a vision for this story.

Meanwhile, the knock at the door that Darlene answered last week was Cisco carrying the frat guy who joined fsociety after the hack and executed the plan in Washington, D.C. with the brass balls. He returned to Susan Jacobs' house. He didn't know that he couldn't return to the house. He has sustained some serious injuries as well. He will die if he doesn't go to a hospital right away. That creates a huge dilemma for Darlene. He knows what she looks like and her role in the hack. If he should say anything to the wrong person, then it could be the end for all of this. She has proven she's capable of killing now. She showed absolutely no remorse in killing Susan. That was a necessity for the cause. She felt nothing afterwards. That was because of the dark and twisted deeds Evil Corp has done to her over the years. She's not just a cold-hearted killer now though. So, she ultimately takes the guy to the hospital. She's not an unreasonable person. She's just coming to accept that she doesn't know how to lead fsociety. This has been a really challenging experience. She was there from the very beginning. She helped execute the Five/Nine hack. But Elliot was always the person with the vision. He's the one in charge. She's learning just how out of the loop she has always been with his plans. He doesn't know any more than her but it still feels like a massive betrayal. It's enough to get her to question this life that she has had. She breaks down and tells Cisco this story about being kidnapped during a family trip to Coney Island. It allowed her to break free from her existence. It's a dark point in her backstory. But it's also a point in time she returns to frequently because it could have drastically changed her life. She never would have had Elliot in her life. That could either be a good or bad thing.

And now, Darlene is especially dealing with the consequences of what Elliot started. Dom and the FBI have already figured out so much. She found the hangout from last season and knows that Angela is connected to all of this through her connections at Allsafe and Evil Corp. And now, Dom has discovered Susan Jacobs' smart home. A suspect seen leaving the place is enough to put her hot on Cisco's trail. She knows his connection to the Dark Army and doesn't want him to escape this time. She knows the Dark Army isn't afraid to kill to protect their secrets. She saw it firsthand in China. Now, it's playing out all over again. It's so intense watching her slowly put the pieces together of what happened after Darlene and Cisco left the hospital. They left because the doctors wouldn't know anything for an hour and they were hungry. It was that simple. They didn't know that they needed to run. They didn't see the report. The hospital staff and the Dark Army did though. So everyone is converging on the diner where Darlene and Cisco are enjoying a simple meal and not making any rash decisions about their futures. But of course, everything comes crashing down for them. It's a brutal final sequence as Dom walks into the diner right before a Dark Army member shoots up the place before killing himself. It's such a phenomenal sequence because the audience doesn't know what's happening in the diner. It's shot from the vantage point of across the street. We don't know what Dom said to Darlene and Cisco in the brief moments before the bullets started flying. We don't know if Darlene and Cisco survived the shootout. All we know is that Dom has blood-soaked clothes as she takes note of the scene just outside the establishment.

Perhaps the best sequence throughout this episode though is Elliot and Angela's conversation in the subway. This is the first time they've meet since he's been released. Angela really needs him right now. Dom visited her in her apartment knowing everything that she has done. The future is looking bleak for her. She needs to meet Elliot now in order to get some semblance of answers about why all of this happened in the first place. Elliot started fsociety because he wanted to change the world. But he can't tell Angela that now because it's not true. He realizes the error of his ways. But it's too late. Everyone is dealing with the consequences of his mistakes. He's still able to hack and plot the future of fsociety without fear of detection. The same cannot be said of the people closest to him. Elliot loves Angela and Darlene. They have been there for him through all of the tough times. Angela knows of prior times he was talking out of his mind to someone who wasn't there. She wants to know if he always sees his father. He's not sure about that. Mr. Robot is largely missing throughout the back half of this episode. Elliot is left all alone to deal with the carnage of his actions. He doesn't even know what's happening with Darlene. He realizes just how fleeting his freedom really is now. He takes that opportunity to finally kiss Angela. It's a moment where they both realize it could be their last time together. They are acting on something they've always wanted but never acted on. It comes as the end is seemingly near for everyone associated with fsociety.

Some more thoughts:
  • "eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx" was written by Kor Adana & Randolph Leon and directed by Sam Esmail.
  • It's hilarious that Elliot starts a conversation with the audience in order to drown out the small talk Joanna's driver is trying to make. He's complaining about the various clients he's had to drive around before. Elliot is successful in tracking the phone which gets this guy to let his guard down. But Elliot couldn't care in the slightest.
  • It really is so mesmerizing to watch Joanna be so cold and so intimidating and threatening at the same time. She's appreciative when Elliot is telling her the truth. But she makes sure he doesn't leave that meeting without promising to do what she wants right away.
  • Philip Price meets with Terry Colby because he needs to make a deal that essentially trades Africa to China. It's a pretty ridiculous statement to make. But again, it works so well because of how powerful and demanding Price always is.
  • Elliot needs Darlene in his life. She is the only family he has left. He has risked all of that for his foolish pursuit to change the world. She listened to him and was a loyal follower. But then, he abandoned her when she needed him the most.
  • If Darlene survives the diner shootout, Dom isn't going to let her go so easily. And if both Darlene and Angela are in FBI custody being forced to talk about the hack, then it could be very dangerous to Elliot. And yet, he often pulls off his best work when working alone.
  • Elliot didn't want Angela to get involved with fsociety. But now, she has been. She helped them hack the FBI. She's a willing participant who can be arrested for these crimes. And yet, she's still so curious about Elliot and whether he always listens to the vision of his father he always sees.