***Spoilers: Spoilers for Mr. Robot through “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt1.p7z“ follow. Spoilers***
It’s a widely known rule of TV that if you don’t see a character die on camera, you’re allowed to assume they’re alive somewhere — unless you see a body, of course. A slightly lesser known rule is that if a movie or an episode starts with a character waking up or falling to sleep, you’re allowed to question everything that follows as a possible dream. Mr. Robot’s eleventh and penultimate episode of Season 2 takes all of those rules and your brain, puts it all in a blender, and cranks the dial to eleven. Brace yourselves, true believers.
We open on Elliot talking to us about Mr. Robot and Angela’s advice that some things can’t be beaten, only joined. He ponders the fact that Robot is always there; always one step ahead because he silently observes everything Elliot does, because he is Elliot. This statement has been the heart of much of Elliot’s journey this season: this idea he and Robot are one and the same. It’s curious how hard Elliot has to fight to keep reminding himself of that.
Elliot talks about his friend from middle school, Sam. Sam taught himself to lucid dream so he could study in his sleep and, sorry, but is anyone else just assuming this is part of Esmail’s biography?
Sam’s mantra was simple: “body asleep, mind awake.” Elliot whispers the mantra over and over and over as the credits appear. This is about when you can start second guessing everything.
In Small But Important Appearances of the Week, we start with Joanna, who appears once. She is putting the baby down for a nap while her stony-faced henchman asks her what she wants to do about the address Elliot recovered. She asks to see it again and confirms with him that it’s accurate as he hands over his phone and the picture he took of Elliot’s screen.
Joanna mentions all the gifts “he” sent and cryptically tells the henchman that this “is the greatest gift we’ve ever received.”
And we’ll find out next week. Oh, my God. This show. Can you imagine us letting any other TV show get away with this?
Meanwhile, in his only scene of the week, Price is meeting back up with Jack, the guy who wouldn’t help with the bailout bid. Though he’s calling it loans and other things Price is, in essence, trying to make the U.S. use E-coin as formal currency, an idea from which Jack physically recoils and calls unconstitutional.
Price lays out the pretty solid argument that digital currency really is the future and hard cash is fading rapidly. 5/9 accelerated progress already unfolding and scaremongers about how Bitcoin is rapidly spreading and growing; unregulated and controlled by the Chinese.
“The same ones you accepted $2 trillion from?” Jack claps back. Price says yes, the same ones he now intends to use the money against. He promises total visibility; he promises the government can regulate it and points out it’ll save the government from having to hand out those oh-so-unpalatable bailouts. Jack wonders aloud how long Price has been “plotting against him” and Price laughs in his face and says, “You know full well I don’t give a shit about you. Don’t hold a grudge because you lost. Defeat can still be profitable.”
I just pictured Price turning up in Westeros and nearly fainted.
Dom is alive at the hospital, unharmed, soaked in blood that’s not hers, and desperate to get back to work, rightly concerned about their security. Santiago ultra-suspiciously throws everyone out, including an agent whose job is clearly to make notes of what Dom is saying, but Santiago just calmly sends him away. He seems to be trying some low-key gaslighting but Dom lays out a pretty valid theory about Dark Army and the Chinese government. She outright calls the shootings an act of war and wants military aid, as well as to tell their superiors and others in the government. She’s even finally worked out that there’s a mole in the FBI, but she’s not gone so far as to suspect anyone specific yet.
Santiago agrees with her that “something” is going on, especially with the “loan” the Chinese have given E Corp happening the same day as the shootings. She calls the money a trap and Santiago points out how hard it’ll be to make anyone care because $2 trillion is $2 trillion. He assures her he’s on her side while making it obvious that he won’t actually do anything to help her. He tells her to get some rest and she asks to be allowed to do “the interview,” which is the first and only time the show acknowledges that someone we care about survived the shootings. Whether it’s Cisco or Darlene will have to wait.
Later, at home, Dom has a sad existential chat with her AI Alexa, the one she asks about the end of the world when she can’t sleep. At first, Alexa’s programmed answers about her favourite colours or her lack of interest in dating make her seem almost real. But when Dom asks about loneliness or love, Alexa’s silicon brain doesn’t have an answer.
Looking like she feels immensely alone, Dom tries to get some sleep.
Angela’s scenes are the ones that feel the most dreamlike to me. She’s in the back of a van with the strange, nameless couple who picked her up on the subway, and finally realizes she might be in trouble. She asks for her phone back, insisting that other people have copies of the files and documents. Her final plea is that people will notice if she goes missing. Even she says it like she doesn’t believe it.
She gets no answer and is driven through the night to a pristine suburban home, the photos of the presumed residents carefully covered with scraps of paper. It’s exactly as creepy as you think it is.
Angela is led into a room with a fish tank built into the wall and an ancient Commodore computer set up on a table, alongside a rotary phone and a copy of Lolita, and is quickly joined by “Young Angela,” a little girl who resembles Angela down to her tiny business suit and blonde ponytail.
The girl fires up the old computer and inserts a dinner plate-sized floppy disk and boots an old text-based game called Land of Ecodelia.
The girl explains that there is water leaking from the fish tank and they don’t have much time and then reads from her game and asks Angela if she has ever cried during sex.
Angela’s shock prompts the girl to reveal that she’ll be beaten if Angela doesn’t answer and, out of concern for the child, Angela submits to the curious interview, her answers entered into the game. It’s not entirely clear how long she’s there and how many questions she’s asked before the questions become a sort of guided scenario. Using the Lolita book cover, Angela talks about having a key in her fist, hidden in her pocket, and the girl promises to return with the results.
But it’s Whiterose who arrives at the room, after enough time has passed that the tank has drained and the fish is dead. Whiterose and Angela have the most curious conversation, in which we learn Angela should have been killed 90 days ago (what was 90 days ago? Elliot’s arrest? His sentencing? Angela taking the job at E Corp?), but, somehow, here she is. Philip Price seems willing to abandon his partnership with Whiterose for Angela, and Whiterose needs to know why.
Whiterose reveals she knows Elliot, too, and that the three of them share the Washington Township in their respective histories, but Angela continues to be utterly lost. Whiterose gets … dreamy — that’s the word — and ponders if it would make a difference to Angela to learn that her mother died for a reason; that the deaths in the townships were sacrifices that would help take humanity to “the next level.”
Angela has become an intersection of all the things at work, so Whiterose won’t kill her, but needs her to drop her little mission. Angela is like, “Yep, sure, just let me go at once,” but this isn’t enough for Whiterose, who knows Angela will someday go back to digging around and trying to shut down the project. Whiterose doesn’t want Angela’s proof: she wants her belief.
Angela asks, “In what?” and Whiterose asks if she ever thought that if she imagined or believed something, it could come true, simply by will. Angela did believe that, but has to admit it’s not the real world. Whiterose explains that it depends on your definition of “real.”
We don’t get to find out what that means. Instead, Angela visits the lawyer lady who was worried enough about Angela to mention it, but I guess not so much she did anything about it. Angela, smiling calmly, tells her to forget Angela’s earlier voicemail, then, over the lawyer’s concern and while the lights disconcertingly flicker, Angela hugs her and whispers, “Don’t call me anymore.” And, with that, leaves in a mysterious black SUV.
Back with Elliot, he’s talked himself into that lucid dream he mentioned. Elliot “wakes up” in his bed to see himself digging on the piles of junk mail on the floor by the door, which were at the bottom right of one frame, as promised. Elliot, serving as the silent observer to Mr. Robot, watches Robot find and figure out a cipher hidden in a takeout menu that directs him to a phone number. The number is answered by a recording that tells Robot to meet a cab somewhere nearby.
Elliot follows Robot through the streets, but loses him, then remembers again that he is Robot and can figure out where to go. He finds the promised cab, gets yelled at by the cab driver (in Egyptian Arabic for those wondering, a nod to Rami Malek’s background) and gets in, only to realize he doesn’t know what address to give the man …
… which is when the other door opens and Tyrell Wellick gets in and tells the driver where to go.
Elliot pauses just long enough to remind himself and us that he can’t trust what he sees and he has to focus on what he can’t see (or is missing because he’s focused on Tyrell). But then he joins all of us in MELTDOWN TOWN and starts shrieking at the cabbie to please acknowledge he can see and hear Tyrell.
Tyrell apologises and tries to make good with the cabbie, but the man is over Elliot’s manic state and just throws them out. Tyrell is mad that they’re out in the open now and chides Elliot, pointing out he’s not the only one under quite a bit of stress. He wants off the street as they’re “close” and Elliot wants to know: “Close to what?” According to Tyrell, via Dark Army, Stage 2 is ready and, when Elliot sees it, he’ll be so pleased. He seems pretty calm about the fact Elliot has forgotten “everything” but grabs his shoulders in a near embrace and says, “It worked! It’s up to us now!”
Believe me when I say that the audience noticed the affectionate way Tyrell rubs Elliot’s shoulder; Elliot did, too, and I have to wonder whether he’s just being Elliot or if he’s trying to work out whether the hand he can feel is real or not.
Tyrell throws an arm around Elliot and walks them off into the night quoting Casablanca in the worst accent you ever heard as the Back to the Future version of “Earth Angel” plays us into the credits.
- So … how much of that was a dream? All? None?
- Is Whiterose trying to create her own reality? Perhaps in the form of some ultra high power VR simulation that’s identical to real life but lets you live your best, perfect life? That lets you go back and undo the “wrong” decisions you made, then get to see how your life would have played out differently?
- Or is Mr. Robot about to dive nose-first into pure Sci-Fi territory and delve into parallel universes, or even time travel, as the Back To The Future musical clues would suggest?
- Was Whiterose trying to imply that Elliot and Angela’s lives since their parents died have been part of some larger conspiracy? Or was she just caught up in the fact that she didn’t account for people like Angela or Elliot to come along 20 years later and throw a spanner into all her careful works?
- And what was that entire weird situation at the house? Is Angela a Pod Person now??
- Will Dom ever figure out how blatantly evil Santiago is? He may as well have a Snidley Whiplash mustache or horns or something.
- When she does, what will she do? She’s lonely and wants acceptance and I think she’s a lot more likely to find an ally in fsociety than she is in the FBI. Here’s hoping.
- Who died? Who will she interview? If anyone might convince Dom to cross over to the darkside, God knows it’s Darlene.
- And, okay, holy shit, is Tyrell dead or not? The cab driver was so well presented, with his irritation easily explained by one or two crazy dudes in the back of his cab. He never really acknowledged Tyrell’s presence, but we’ve all had cab rides with a driver like that.
- Tyrell is almost exactly the same as we last saw him, down to his flawless suit and his hair, which suggests he’s one of Elliot’s splinters. There might be some subtle differences from how he last appeared, but could that just be because the actor gained or dropped a few pounds. Or it could be because Tyrell really is alive.
- And if he is alive, where has he been this whole time? Under some kind of Dark Army protection? It would explain so much about his absence; about why he was able to drop off the map. Considering the casual displays of power Whiterose throws around on a regular basis, suddenly, the idea that she’s had Tyrell tucked away somewhere seems pretty valid.
- At the same time, what if Tyrell is, in fact, dead? And Elliot has created a new splinter? And is just getting crazier and crazier?
- What do the Back To The Future musical choices mean, exactly? Was it a conscious choice to use the version of “Earth Angel” that has the melodies of the film’s original score woven into the final few seconds? That ties it pretty directly to a film about time travel and being able to change or undo decisions made in the past … What is this show about to become?
- What is Stage 2? How does Tyrell’s reappearance connect to that, because it feels like it does?
All this and more in next week’s exciting installment of Mr. Robot!