BY EMMA DIBDIN
Just about anything can happen on Mr. Robot—imaginary characters, the technological apocalypse, an extended ‘90s sitcom homage complete with an ALF cameo—but up until now, the death toll has been relatively low. Sure, Elliot’s vigilante hacking scheme has had its casualties (RIP, Gideon), and death is always a looming presence in the background thanks to Mr. Robot himself, who takes the form of Elliot’s dead father. But this week’s episode brings the show’s first truly major character death, as the formidable Joanna Wellick took a fatal bullet to the head—at the hands of an idiot, to add insult to (fatal) injury.
Joanna’s been playing Russian roulette with her scheming for long enough that this felt earned (Scott Knowles could easily have killed her when she goaded him last season), and at least her long, strange relationship with the besotted barman was building up to something. Her last public act before her death is to reaffirm her loyalty to Tyrell, who’s now been cleared of murder but is still wanted for orchestrating the 5/9 hack. Judging by what very, very little we’ve seen of Tyrell since Season one, he’s already right on the edge, so the sudden, violent loss of Joanna is going to make things… interesting.
Meanwhile, Elliot’s come full circle back to his early-Season 1 self, complete with a corporate gig and a crushing loneliness that leads to uncontrollable crying jags on the floor of his apartment. The montage of his life as an E-Corp employee, signing up for Trunk Club, and enduring his colleague’s douche-y bro banter calls back to one of the first season’s most delightful narrative jaunts, when Elliot briefly tried to embrace a normal life and learn to love Starbucks. He’s still determined to undo the 5/9 hack and prevent Stage Two (essentially a terrorist plot to blow up an E-Corp storage facility) from happening, but he realizes that in doing so, he’s just taking himself right back to square one, and had “forgotten to take into account how shitty he felt before”.
Compounding Elliot’s loneliness is the absence of Mr. Robot (whom he clearly misses, despite himself), and the fact that he and Darlene have never been further apart. Though it’s revealed that she sold him out by giving the FBI access to remotely monitor his computer, Elliot—or Mr. Robot—flips the script right back on her and the feds by the episode’s end. He knows they’re watching him, and he knows where Darlene’s safe house is, which would be a lot less scary if Mr. Robot weren’t such a loose cannon.
Our sympathy for Elliot rests on the understanding that he’s a flawed idealist who genuinely means well; an anti-hero for sure, but not a fundamentally bad guy. But as his scenes with Angela, Darlene, and especially Krista have made clear, Mr. Robot is a very bad guy, and he’s taking more and more control over Elliot’s body. Given the news landscape in which Season 2 is airing, every day bringing new evidence of the silent, pervasive epidemic of sexual violence in our society, Mr. Robot’s treatment of Krista has a particularly sinister ring. First he’s being quote-unquote flattering (“For a shrink, you’re pretty foxy”), and then he gets nasty () before finally leaning over her in a deeply threatening way to tell her he’s done talking to her. This has always been a show about a guy whose alter ego is a ruthless hacker—but now it may also be a show about a guy whose alter ego is an abusive creep.
- FLIPPER. The return of sweet little Flipper is truly the only glimmer of hope in this bleak episode. I honestly teared up because Elliot loved that dog and he is so lonely and now he has her back and if anything happens to Flipper I am done with this show forever. Thank you. That is all.
- Um, okay, I was not prepared for the close-ups of Joanna’s brain being autopsied, complete with her scalp hanging halfway over her face. Since Dom was there, I’m going to go ahead and assume that was all just standard procedure to establish the cause of death, but I honestly wouldn’t put it past Joanna to have some kind of living will dictating that her brain be preserved in a jar or something.
- Was the Trunk Club shout-out product placement? I’m all for it, if so, but I just wonder if they’d be into the show basically saying “Did you just get a new gig at an evil corporation? Consider Trunk Club!”
- Speaking of which... Elliot is still hearing “E-Corp” as “Evil Corp,” even in their orientation videos, which most definitely would not refer to it as the latter.
- I definitely watch Mr. Robot for the characters rather than the big-picture plot, and I’m finding it extremely hard to care about the political maneuvering between Price and Whiterose and the UN. However, BD Wong’s delivery of “I don’t give a fuck about your accord” made it all worth it.