BY JEREMY EGNER
Season 3, Episode 6, ‘eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc’
We all beat ourselves up from time to time. But Elliot took that phenomenon to a brutal new level this week on “Mr. Robot,” throwing himself down stairs and into walls as he worked through the stages of grappling with your alter ego.
Season 3 has been largely about denial, as Elliot and Mr. Robot have each thought he could function independently from, or even thwart, the other. Wednesday brought lots of anger in the form of self-abuse, before moving on to bargaining. Help me, Elliot wrote in a message to Mr. Robot. “You’re being played.”
Of course at that point Elliot didn’t realize that he had been played, too. Or rather in addition to the way he had already been played, but as his other half. (Yeah I agree — this is confusing.)
Because the true goal of Stage 2 turned out to be not the New York recovery building, but at least 71 other E Corp facilities that were targeted in a coordinated Dark Army attack, killing thousands.
Which is to say: Everyone was played, by Whiterose and her minions.
Angela, so concerned about evacuating the New York E Corp employees, now finds herself an accomplice to an even greater slaughter. Tyrell Wellick is in custody, forced to abandon his Ukrainian dreams and godly aspirations and instead play the chump in New York. Phillip Price’s global currency scheme would seem doomed now that E Corp’s vulnerability has been demonstrated on such a grand scale. Whiterose’s slap on the hand turned out to be more of a hammer to the jaw.
For Elliot, the Dark Army blitz is the final confirmation that “your revolution,” as Angela put it, is totally out of his hands. Even after he accepted that Mr. Robot had been working against him, Elliot still believed that he had the ability to counteract the efforts to push it farther, jeopardizing lives. He believed he had forestalled it, in fact, until he realized that he’d been duped.
The outcome was the show’s darkest spin yet on the way power-mad manipulators — corporations, terrorists, political leaders — use others’ values and idealism as fuel for their own agendas. It also called back to the scene at the Washington Township plant, when Whiterose swatted away her assistant’s concerns about Elliot, explaining that his “unadulterated, focused rage” was key to bringing the Dark Army’s plans to fruition.
“After Mr. Alderson completes the great work we need from him, then he can die for us, just like his father,” he said.
So has that time come? Neither Elliot or Mr. Robot will voluntarily help the Dark Army now, but there’s presumably work left to be done. And will the revelation that they’ve both been had bring Elliot and Mr. Robot closer together? (Admittedly an odd thing to wonder about two parts of the same guy.)
“What about Mr. Robot? Does he now understand that Tyrell and Dark Army have corrupted his alleged revolution?” Elliot wondered, even before he knew about the attack. “Does he have any fight left? If so, who’s he gonna fight? Them or me?”
I’m not sure what more the show can do with their opposition, after the Buster Keaton contortions it put Rami Malek and his stuntman through this week. As we’ve seen the barrier between them turn into more of a revolving door, the construct has at once become more bizarre — characters plotting with half of Elliot against the other half — and more relatable. Mr. Robot scans more powerfully as a metaphor for self-destructive impulses when Elliot is battling him in real-time, even when the execution gets objectively nutty. (The body battering scenes were like a dark tribute to Steve Martin’s great, underrated performance in “All of Me.”) It’s a credit to the show — and a measure of the outré parameters it has established for itself — that it’s able to pull off something like that without breaking its spell.
So who is Mr. Robot going to fight next? As Elliot struggles toward something like acceptance of his inner conflict, perhaps the more imminent Dark Army threat will be just thing to unite Jekyll and Hyde in common purpose, if only in self-preservation. If not, time to get Dr. Krista on retainer, stat.
The episode’s other emotional pillar was Angela, who continued to cling to her belief that “no one’s gonna die” in the face of all logic as well as an fsociety-masked robber on the subway.
The opening moments presented her as a girl at a living wake for her mother, and suggested that the information she took in at an emotionally vulnerable time left her especially susceptible to the manipulation that now has her in league with murderers. Her mother spoke of a another world where they will be together again. Elliot’s dad asked her to give Elliot “a little push” when the time comes, a request she clearly thought she was fulfilling when Elliot confronted her. She was even watching the animated version of “Back to the Future,” another story about traversing time and space to affect past events, themes that seem to align with whatever Whiterose’s Washington Township project is. (I wondered if the “anonymous donor” the young Nayar mentioned in the flashback might be Whiterose.)
On a show full of crazy people, at times this season Angela has seemed like the most addled of them all, deranged by her fervent hope into a sort of Dark Army zombie. This week found her again telling Elliot that their parents would be O.K., sealing her commitment to the dream by turning on him one more time.
We’ll see if the E Corp carnage snaps her out of it. Last week I said events had aligned the Aldersons against a coalition of Angela, Wellick and the Dark Army. Now it might be Whiterose against everybody, and it’s still probably not a fair fight.
A Few Thoughts While We Buy Bigger Shorts
• “Another fine choice of venue by Sergey,” Price told Whiterose in the Mar-a-Lago lounge, probably referring to Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the heart of the controversy over the Trump Administration’s ties to the Kremlin. I’ve talked about how the Trump references can be distracting — though perhaps not as much as those snug swim trunks — but I did enjoy the awkward silence between Price and Whiterose at the bar. They don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not pursuing world-altering power.
• Last week I talked about how Elliot is a kind of superhero. Apparently one of his powers is to snatch small I.D. badges in a single swipe — that was quite the convenient lift. With security like that, no wonder E Corp just had most of its complexes blown up.
• Having the E Corp attack announce itself as a flurry of news alerts was an inspired choice. It gave me the same sort of nervous “oh God, what now?” feeling I get too often from my own phone.
• I’m guessing the idea is for Wellick to claim he was held captive by fsociety — note the handcuffs — thus pinning the E Corp attack on it and further promoting the idea that the group is based in Iran, per Whiterose’s plan. Any other theories?
• Do we think Wellick knows yet about Joanna’s murder? Irving’s sympathetic “I’m sorry” seemed to refer to that, and maybe a misfortune to be named later. But I doubt Wellick realizes that — I don’t think Irving would risk losing control of him at a crucial moment by revealing that his family is gone.
• I wonder if Mama Santiago ever got her Ensure.