‘Mr. Robot’ Slows Down as Intensity Rises (TV Review)

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The mystery continues as to what’s really going on in Mr.Robot this week with Elliot and co. using their resources to exploit the human condition. After the last episode’s spectacular showing, this one felt a little…well meh. However that’s not to say that the episode was bad. On the contrary; this week we were given insight into character flaws that made everything feel a bit more human.

The opening sequence took us inside prison where Shayla’s old connect (and rapist) Fernando is dealing with the repercussions of putting his business on social media. Apparently he thought there would be no issue in it, making the whole process safer in fact, because of the (easily cracked) code he and his cohorts were using. There’s no way for him to get a deal, and while he’s pouring over evidence with his lawyer, he comes across a bit of information that would later prove essential to his continued dealings outside of prison.

Over near “Steel Mountain,” or the impenetrable fortress of data that Elliot and friends are on a mission to destroy, the rag tag team of hackers makes their way from stealing card reader info in a coffee shop to walking right in the front door. With a little help from internet magic and hacked server information, they create a plan that easily moves them towards their ultimate goal. It’s almost too easy really; with a faked Wikipedia page and the “hacking” of employees through unwarranted exploits, Elliot almost gets to where he needs to be when he runs into Wellick. It’s a strange coincidence considering all the planning that’s gone into the operation. Wellick never explicitly states his business at Steel Mountain, and he and Elliot come to a head before either one can question one another with too many details.

Back at home base, Darlene is having a hell of a time getting China’s “Dark Army” to comply with the plan. Originally, they were all set to destroy the similar data center keeping all the back-ups stored for the mountain. Now they’re sending back ancient sayings and keeping in the dark. Without them, the plan is finished. After last week we know that her ex-boyfriend is a liaison for the DA, and the “rapper” who gave Ollie the infected CD. Since they’re already in the Allsafe system, it seems intuitive that they’ve got something big planned, fsociety be damned. Darlene begins an emotional spiral, threatening the remainder of the operation.

This Steel Mountain trip was integral to the storyline for a few reasons. For one it was the first time Elliot really let Robot get into his head. He dismantles Bill (the worker taking him on the tour of the Mountain) piece by piece with blatant disregard for his overall sense of self. Though Elliot immediately regrets the whole interaction, the damage is done. Bill will forever stew in the words Elliot has callously flung his direction, and Elliot will dwell on this both consciously and subconsciously until it drives him crazy.

Second, Steel Mountain was too easy to penetrate. During Elliot’s lunch with Wellick he runs to the bathroom to compose himself, only to find a temperature control on the exact level he needed in a utility closet off shooting from the men’s room. What was once chalked up to convenience is not incredibly contrived. Because of Wellick’s sudden appearance once has to wonder, is Elliot simply a pawn in something bigger? There’s plenty of evidence lending to that idea, the heaviest being the fact that Elliot rebuffed Wellick’s initial attempt to get him to work for Evil Corp. Wouldn’t it make sense that he set this all up to make Elliot comply whether he wants to or not?

The exploitation theme continued throughout the episode with Angela exploiting her father (not purposefully) to be able to get away from her damaged home. She’s broken up with Ollie after using his computer and badge to allow a hack into the Allsafe system. She has no regard for the consequences, because she acted on an emotional whim to “save” her father’s information and as revenge towards her former lover. Additionally after our first run in with Wellick we see him attending a dinner with the new potential CTO of Evil Corp. Both he and his wife explore the weaknesses exposed during the intimate setting, saving their exploitation for a rainy day.

The one person who doesn’t seem to be affected by the severe using of one another is Shayla. She’s gotten out of the drug game and is now waiting tables in an effort to clean up her act. With Elliot away and Fernando is prison she’s almost certainly safe from all things that go bump in the night yes? C’mon, it’s never that easy. The close of the episode sees Shayla gone, her phone ringing on her kitchen floor. On the other end of the phone line is Fernando, gloating. Elliot’s slip up (i.e., ignoring her phone call while Darlene has a break down) could cost Shayla her life.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned slowing down on my “Tyler Durden-esque” rants regarding Robot. This episode he engaged in conversations, movements, and planning that all point towards him being real, and me being wrong. However, (and I promise after this I’ll let it be unless new evidence surfaces) please remember that during Robot’s exploits Elliot is always sitting down or not engaging with anyone. Rather, he’s always observing the movements of Robot. Edward Norton didn’t think he was participating in the mess, until reality bit back. So, basically, I am Jack’s unending skepticism. Just saying.

Now in the upcoming episodes pay close attention, they’re starting to throw a lot at us and if you blink you’ll miss something important. Robot may be a little ahead of its time, or it may be the tech show we’ve been waiting for. Either way, shit’s about to hit the fan, and it’s going to be either really fun or incredibly hard to watch.

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