BY VIKRAM MURTHI
This season, Mr. Robot has undergone some effective, deserved self-interrogation. Much of this has taken place on the macro structural level — narrowing the action, clarifying motives, removing unnecessary subplots and characters — but much of it trickles down to the characters themselves. Elliot and Darlene, especially, have come out the other side of their fsociety scheme skeptical and pessimistic. Neither completely believes that the sacrifices they made were worth the result. The world is in chaos. Economic ruin dominates the landscape. People are dead. For what?
“Eps3.3_metadata.par2” sets the table for the next few episodes, as Whiterose imposes a timetable on Stage 2, forcing Angela and Tyrell to scramble while trying to keep tabs on Elliot/Mr. Robot. Still, it’s a mild cut above because credited writer Kyle Bradstreet takes the time to examine the regret and fear that have taken hold of the Alderson siblings. In the episode’s first scene, Darlene catches a pickpocket on the subway who has taken her wallet. When the pickpocket finally caves and returns the wallet, Darlene only takes a Polaroid from it and tell her to keep the rest. “I stole from all of you,” she calmly replies.
Later, when she meets Agent DiPierro at a bar, she stalls on providing information and forces her to engage in small talk. “Maybe I’m tired of being a traitor,” she says, clearly worn out from the decisions she’s made. “Maybe I just want to be a normal person for once.” It’s a luxury that neither she nor Elliot nor anyone who associates with the Dark Army can afford. At night, she prices trips to Budapest, something Cisco brought up once, and dreams of a life she can’t conceivably lead anymore.
Elliot, however, struggles to keep up with the actions of his split personality. After discovering that Darlene hacked him (but not knowing it was for the benefit of the FBI), he confronts her and she admits that Mr. Robot had attacked her earlier. He knows now that the Dark Army plans to go ahead with Stage 2 and that his actions to impede the plan haven’t worked. So he and Darlene concoct a plan: She’ll stay in Shay’s old apartment, wait until Elliot falls asleep, and when Mr. Robot wakes up, she’ll tail him to find out his location.
Though Elliot and Darlene reconnect, they have very different outlooks on their past efforts. Darlene was an fsociety leader who committed cyberterrorism and murder to further the cause. But she was taking orders from Elliot, who now struggles with his conflicted feelings toward the revolution. On one hand, he’s horrified by the Dark Army’s escalation of violence and feels guilty about sending the world into turmoil, but he also knows that there’s a part of himself that’s excited by this chaos. Mr. Robot might be a separate personality, fully capable of working without Elliot’s knowledge, but he still comes from Elliot. He’s frightened by the part of himself willing to commit acts of wanton destruction and mass murder, but he also knows that he must be the one to take it down. It’s his mess and only he can fix it.
Unfortunately, Angela and Tyrell might already have the drop on Elliot. When Mr. Robot and Angela travel to their underground bunker, she reveals to Tyrell that Elliot had been diverting the paper shipments away from New York. Tyrell throws a tantrum, claiming that Elliot no longer has control over the mission and that he no longer views him as a God. Mr. Robot begins to strangle him, but as soon as he lays a hand on Tyrell, Elliot starts to emerge. He recognizes Angela and Tyrell and begins to panic (“Please tell me you know what’s happening” echoes in voice-over), and Angela quickly injects him with some mysterious serum that knocks him out.
In the previous two seasons, Angela was first an outsider’s outsider, then a citizen struggling to deal with the truth of her mother’s death, then a corporate insider trying to game the system from within while doubling as a reluctant revolutionary. But now? She’s a full-blown Dark Army proxy agent who’s in way over her head. She scrambles to get most of the records into the city after learning of Elliot’s covert operation. She quickly has Elliot fired from E Corp, thanks to some greased wheels courtesy of Phillip Price. She claims to have everything under control, but how much is that a front? It’s hard to say, but she’s still as naïve as Darlene and Elliot were back when they were on the frontline. She falls for Irving’s assurances that there’s an evacuation plan in place so no one will die in the E Corp explosion, but we know the truth: The Dark Army will kill anyone “for the greater good.” Elliot might be in Angela’s custody, but Darlene knows about her involvement now, and Agent DiPierro is still hunting for Whiterose. It might not be a matter of if she takes the fall for this, but when.
• In case you’ve had trouble keeping track of the timeline because of all the Trump references, Mr. Robot is still set in 2015.
• Darlene all but outs DiPierro as gay during their forced small talk. She openly asks her if the FBI frowns on “muff divers.” DiPierro responds that it keeps things simple.
• The interrogation scene between DiPierro, her partner Norm (Rizwan Manji), and the fsociety imposter Sasan Nouri (Nuah Ozryel) features all kinds of bad dialogue, e.g. “What my partner is trying to say is you’re on a path toward Hell, and we’re not talking the ‘thousand virgins’ kind, we’re talking ‘sharing a prison cell with a few Allah-hating Nazis on the daily.’”
• In a funny sight gag, Darlene appears to be torrenting “Shazaam (1996) Sinbad.” For more information, read this Vox article.
• Music Corner: Elliott Smith’s “Everything Means Nothing to Me” opens and closes the episode. Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” can be faintly heard in the Red Wheelbarrow BBQ location. If anyone can ID the song playing in the bar scene with Darlene and DiPierro, sound off in the comments.