BY JEREMY EGNER
Season 3, Episode 4, ‘eps3.3.metadata.par2’
It’s never been easy being Elliot, what with the shattered family and history of depression, anxiety and addiction, not to mention the caustic alter ego battling him for control of his own mind and body.
But in this third season of “Mr. Robot,” Elliot’s persecution has reached a new intensity. Because as we saw in Wednesday’s busy setup for the long-promised Stage 2 — or its undoing — now that the secret about Elliot’s dual nature is all the way out, pretty much everyone in this story is using his Hyde against him.
Angela and the rest of Team Whiterose are riding Mr. Robot’s rage and capabilities toward Stage 2 as well as perhaps some reality manipulating cyber-feat to be named later. Wellick, Elliot’s erstwhile adorer, now has absolutely no use for “this [expletive]” and has declared their partnership over. (Last week we wondered how he would handle dealing with Elliot’s duality, and we now have our answer: Not well!)
Darlene is using Mr. Robot as a patsy for her own self-preservation, wielding his recent abuses — “I’m not gonna let you hurt me again” — as a cudgel against Elliot. It had the desired effect, stopping his inquisition into her actions and obfuscating, for another week at least, the fact that she’s betraying her brother. (Which, right, that’s another thing that stinks for Elliot.)
As for Elliot himself: He’s accepted that Mr. Robot is definitely still around and plotting to blow up E Corp’s records building, but he’s still playing the chess game, trying to thwart Stage 2 himself rather than tip off the F.B.I. The reason is he needs “to see where this leads,” he tells Darlene, and also seems related to his previously stated desire to be part of something more significant than office parties and his co-worker’s overshares.
“There’s something inside me that can’t let go of what we started,” Elliot says.
In other words there are signs that Elliot, too, may be subconsciously using Mr. Robot in a way that is harmful to himself along with however many people work in the E Corp facility his alter ego hopes to blow up. “Now he’s trying to wage a terrorist attack and that excites me,” Elliot says. “Why?”
Perhaps answers will arrive Sept. 29. That’s when Stage 2 is set to go down, per Irving’s instructions to Angela over breakfast ribs. With Elliot’s shipping counter-maneuvers and new tendency to randomly “show up” threatening the plan, Irving has either handed the keys to Wellick or set him up to take the fall. (Perhaps both.) We talked last week about Irving’s manipulative skill and here he reeled in Wellick like a rageful Swedish fish, using the man’s destiny-and-gods rhetoric against him. “This is the moment you were born for,” he says.
I want my family sent to Ukraine, Wellick says. Tell my wife about the plan.
“Of course,” Irving replies softly, Bobby Cannavale managing to convey both pity and pragmatism in one pregnant pause. (Remember Agent Santiago is one of the few people who knows Joanna is dead, which means that Irving does, too.)
Speaking of tragic families, the episode’s other major thread involved the beginning of a possible reconciliation between Darlene and Elliot, as we returned — after last week’s detour into the life and times of Tyrell Wellick, lumberjack fugitive — to the tense reunion at the FBI safe house.
Darlene blamed her hacking of Elliot’s computer on the fact that Mr. Robot was not to be trusted, a cagey diversion that also happens to be true. Soon they were walking Flipper and planning a sibling project, which in the Alderson clan means one of you staking out the other in case his sinister alter ego sneaks off to smash the world’s economy. (“It’s weird but I guess we passed weird a long time ago,” Darlene notes.) The gambit reveals that Angela is in league with Mr. Robot.
A theme this season has been the slow but steady revelation of how badly Darlene, too, has been scarred by the disintegration of her family. Her trauma lacks the Gothic edge of Elliot’s certainly, but it was devastating enough to drive her to murder.
The episode opened with her confessing her sins to a subway pickpocket, requesting the return of only a Polaroid of the Aldersons in happier times. “Metadata is story behind the data,” Elliot tells us later. When people post pictures to on social media, they don’t realize they’ve handed over a wealth of private information “all hidden inside the photograph’s metadata,” he said.
So what story is hidden within Darlene’s analog photo, or at least in its surpassing meaningfulness to her? That the only thing that Darlene cares about is her memory of a time when her family was intact, at least, and perhaps even happy. A time before her father’s death or Elliot’s mental break, before cellphone photos or cataclysmic hacks.
Perhaps it’s that while she’s telling Dom that her cooperation with the F.B.I. means that “I’m gonna lose my brother,” when the time comes to effectively sever that tie, she won’t be able to go through with it.
A Few Thoughts While We Turn In Our I.D. Badge
• Angela confirmed that she got Elliot the E Corp job because “it was the best way to manage him.” We all saw how that worked out, so now she’s having him banned from the building. I know this random employee doesn’t matter to you, she told Pryce, but while Angela may believe think that, it’s not really true, is it? Pryce told Whiterose he knows who was behind the 5/9 hack back in Season 1.
• By the way how is Elliot not collapsing, working with Wellick every night and at E Corp during the day? Or Angela either, for that matter? Probably best not to ponder this aspect too deeply.
• So what’s in Angela’s hypodermic, anyway? One shot and Dr. Jekyll reverts to Hyde.
• What was your read on the fsociety wannabe taken in by the F.B.I.? A Dark Army patsy offered up to distract law enforcement from Stage 2? Or a sign that the movement is still out there, inspiring Fruity Pebbles-munching malcontents?