BY VIKRAM MURTHI
Last week, after stopping an attack on E Corp’s New York storage facility, Elliot witnessed on television that the Dark Army has blown up 71 storage facilities across the country. Thousands are dead. The world has been shaken to its core. Everyone, including those in the Dark Army’s orbit, will struggle to pick up the pieces and figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.
“eps3.6_frederick&tanya.chk” covers the fallout from last week’s shocking conclusion. While these episodes of Mr. Robot are oftentimes mere plot-delivery systems, carrying the unfortunate burden of tying narrative threads together and establishing the next part of the macro story, this one is decidedly different. Written by Adam Penn, “eps3.6_frederick&tanya.chk” stews in the depressive atmosphere created by the Dark Army. It captures brief glimpses of shock and despair, people lashing out or receding inward after experiencing a trauma. When it does tie up loose ends, in the form of two beloved returning characters, it’s given the proper emotional weight. Mr. Robot emphasizes that these are unique, distressing times, and there’s no guarantee that the good guys will ever win again.
Elliot, burdened by the guilt of inadvertently contributing to the attack, makes a beeline to Krista’s house to confess his sins. Unfortunately, Mr. Robot takes over his mind when Elliot can’t articulate the horrors for which he’s responsible. Krista honestly tries to communicate with Mr. Robot, but he’s already too far gone on a fiery rant. See, his revolution has been coopted by the Dark Army, which only wants to manipulate the people to line their pockets. They’re string pullers, he says, who plan to use Tyrell Wellick like a pawn so that they can pin the attack on Elliot.
“These sound like delusions of grandeur,” Krista calmly replies. She’s not technically correct, but she’s not exactly wrong, either. Sure, fsociety’s Five-Nine hack was designed to return the power to the people, and yes, their cyberterrorism never targeted innocents. But the hack leveled society so much that it became vulnerable to larger, more dangerous fanatical attacks. Elliot clearly understands the implications of his actions, but Mr. Robot is still deep in denial.
It’s only when Irving takes Mr. Robot for a joyride to a wealthy rooftop party that he finally sees how his revolution was doomed from the start. Irving points out that the only reason he was allowed to act at all is because rich people in power gave him permission. The wealthy will always have parties, even while thousands across the nation lie dead, because these things never affect them. Nothing ever quite changes. “Face it, no matter how hard you try, that’s always the end result,” Irving says with a shrug.
Others characters are stuck languishing in homes and in jail cells. Santiago informs Tyrell about his dead wife and orphaned child. He tells him that if he reveals Santiago’s involvement in the Dark Army that he’ll make sure his son “becomes a statistic.” Tyrell, following Irving’s instructions from last week, will likely be set free after his lawyer finagled immunity for the location of those responsible, but he still lives with the pain knowing that he’s partly responsible for his family’s demise.
Meanwhile, Angela has entered a state of shock. She lifelessly stares at the disaster footage on television, often rewinding scenes of destruction to prove that the victims are no longer dead. Angela was a pawn through and through, used and controlled by Whiterose to ultimately further her own self-interest. Elliot and Darlene’s protests were ultimately too late, and now Angela suffers from the guilt that travels like a virus.
But the week’s main tragic story involves Trenton and Mobley, two of the core fsociety members who booked it to the West Coast after feeling the heat from the FBI around the corner. The last we heard from them was at the very end of season two, when they discussed the possibility of undoing the hack and the damage they caused, only for Leon to arrive at their feet asking the time.
It turns out that Leon took Trenton and Mobley hostage and killed Mobley’s roommate. Leon, a mere Dark Army chaperone, takes them to the middle of the desert to bury Mobley’s roommate, but the whole time they’re worried that they’re about to be taken out. The two try to worm their way out of Leon’s grasp to no avail — Trenton frees herself from her shackles and tries to drive away with Leon’s Cadillac, but, since she doesn’t know how to drive, she immediately crashes. But Leon isn’t there to murder them. He’s just there to supervise and get them out of their house while the Dark Army stages something more sinister.
Trenton and Mobley might be former fsociety members, but they were also the first ones to balk at Darlene’s murder of Susan Jacobs. They realized long before Elliot, Darlene, Cisco, and the others that they were a part of something too large that will ultimately consume them. They’re people who got involved for ostensibly the right reasons and realized a little too late that the whole thing was more rotten than they realized.
But they were still doomed from the start because anyone Mr. Robot touches inevitably meets a tragic end. As soon as we learn that Tyrell pinned the attack on Trenton and Mobley, it was only a matter of time before they were killed. Leon returns them to the Dark Army where Whiterose’s second-in-command takes them to the garage in order to stage their suicides. He plants false information about a second attack at their feet and shoots them both in the head. The FBI arrives too late to save them.
In almost any other circumstance, it would be cheap for a show to bring back two old characters just to murder them, but Sunita Mani and Azhar Khan’s performances, along with Penn’s script, more than justify their roles in this episode. It’s genuinely heartbreaking to watch Trenton and Mobley slowly realize they’re about to be killed and beg for their lives. It’s painful to realize that they’re mere collateral damage for an organization that’s on a roll with no end in sight.
The worst part is that it’s all just a pissing match between Whiterose and Phillip Price. Donning her Zhang persona, Whiterose calmly explains to Price at Mar-a-Lago that she was furious that he couldn’t control Angela Moss or her lawsuit against her chemical plant. She installed him into power precisely so he could further her interests, not stymie them. All the chaos and destruction and death was because she simply wanted to teach Price a lesson. “You’re actually gonna get away with this,” Dom sadly remarks to herself as she pins Whiterose’s name on the FBI’s board. It looks like she’s right.
• I assume that the post-credits scene at the end of season two took place just before the terrorist attack because otherwise the timeline is a little fuzzy.
• A small thing, but Mr. Robot is at its worst when it tries to incorporate pop references into dialogue. Exhibit A: Mobley’s rant featuring rapid-fire nods to Sam Kinison, The Shining, and Christian Bale’s hot-mic tirade.
• What are the odds that Santiago’s ailing mother will be used as leverage in the next few weeks?
• Music Corner: The Knight Rider theme song plays over the opening credits. Gang Starr’s “Moment of Truth” plays as Leon takes Trenton and Mobley to the desert. Robert Plant’s “In the Mood,” featuring drum work by Phil Collins, scores the scene when Mr. Robot confronts Irving in the body shop.