Previously on Mr. Robot;
Dom is being crushed under the weight of her double life and trauma and met a face tattoo wearing Irish mobster who we are shown in the Previouslies, so will come back to haunt us. Meanwhile, her Dark Army minder, Janice, continues to be a living nightmare … who honestly, we all sort of adore. She’s now the third incredibly weird but incredibly interesting Whiterose devotee/assassin/interdimensional traveller(?!?!) who is so strange, terrifying and yet, oddly likable. On that note, have you ever tried imagining any of the three named as like, children? I can’t do it. I don’t think they ever were.
Meanwhile, Vera is stalking Elliot for his world-building project and has zeroed in on Elliot’s therapist Krista as a means by which to get Elliot onside.
And speaking of the boy; Elliot and Darlene each managed to have their own emotional journeys exploring their strained relationship and mutual frustration with/desire to protect each other. Elliot finally realised that whatever has happened before, his goal now is to fix things to protect Darlene, and for that reason alone he cannot stop. Darlene learned that she needs to put herself first, and can still be there for Elliot while doing so. Where this leaves them remains to be seen. On that same journey of self-discovery Elliot was accompanied (… probably) by a far less hopeful Tyrell, who after losing his wife and child and facing yet another setback to their attempts to save the world, basically gave up hope. Conveniently for his decision, he was shot, seemingly mortally (in the exact same spot he previously shot Elliot) and walked off into the wilderness to … die, I guess? Except he didn’t die, at least not on camera. We last saw him kneeling in front of something glowing, enraptured by it.
Because Sam Esmail is an emotional terrorist, we open on a shot of Tyrell’s phone, Joanna and their infant son still saved as his wallpaper. Excuse me, there’s something in my eye.
Oh. It’s just all these tears. Elliot and Robot burn the van as Tyrell instructed and we cut to Darlene finally reaching the gas station and spotting the van smoke nearby. As she arrives, the soundtrack is deep cello tones that are almost self-consciously echoing The Shining’s soundtrack but as she spots the smoke, the music picks up pace and morphs into the familiar bars of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, arguably most famously used on the soundtrack to Die Hard, everyone’s favourite Christmas heist movie.
Did I mention this week they rob the bank? On Christmas Day? Sam Esmail is also a gift. It’s even the exact same thirty or so seconds that plays over the safe opening in Die Hard. Darlene stares in horror at the van for a second before Elliot knocks on the door and slips into the car. He’s clearly exhausted, shoots her a wary look. and Darlene tells him they don’t have to talk. He drops back in the seat, settling in for a well-earned sleep. We still haven’t seen Tyrell’s dead body, so …
The soundtrack becomes diegetic, pouring out of Krista’s radio as she readies to leave her house for Christmas, taking her new boyfriend Jason to meet her parents. They text back and forth and for unclear reasons, she decides to blow off her folks and have a Christmas for two at home. Jason, who is adorable is delighted.
Back at the apartment, Darlene is printing their fake IDs for the heist while Elliot cleans up. He has a moment, sinking to the floor in a state of shock, vacillating silently between panic and catatonia before he hears Darlene approach and rights himself, pretending like nothing is wrong.
I understand if you need an hour or several days to process those five seconds of Rami Malek quietly acting his fucking heart out. Cutover to Dom, who is also heading home for the holidays. She gets a text from Janice wishing a happy Christmas, tries to ignore it only to get the perkiest text ever about how Dom will, immediately, go and investigate the burned van in Pike’s Hollow and make sure she’s the only one getting any information about it. With ‘thx!’ at the end. Oooh my god, I love Janice sooo much. She’s going to be demonic when she goes off, isn’t she? Dom grabs a box of Christmas cookies and slumps out.
At a restaurant Price is getting the text that Tyrell won’t be at the meeting (… won’t he?) and is silently fuming over it before he’s distracted by a nearby family enjoying their morning. A waiter whose face we don’t see walks by Price and pointedly slams the bill on the table, making it clear Price is taking up a seat. Price grabs it, opens it but sees the receipt is actually a message, directing him to go to E-Corp and give money to ‘the trombone player’. I’m sure there’s more to notice in this scene but all I can focus on is the fact Price, right, guys, Price is wearing … grandpa clothes. He’s wearing a comfortable flannel shirt and a cozy-looking cardigan, and looks like he’s about to take a rambling walk around the park to see the lights. He’s also having Christmas day breakfast alone in a fancy restaurant because his ghoulishness has left him a lonely, bitter old man. Merry Christmas, Phil!
We cut to Darlene, in a short bobbed wig we’ve seen before, approaching the ‘Virtual Realty’ building — home of the Cyprus Bank they need to hack — and waiting for exactly 11 am when a guard leaves his desk before she signals Elliot to slip inside.
Have you noticed yet?
Darlene passes a guard, Dolph Lawler, who is, hehe, watching Die Hard just in case anyone missed ALL THAT from the beginning. Her code card keeps failing but it’s part of the plan as she goes over to the guard to get help, carefully timing a drop of her bag to allow Elliot a second to run through the lobby, vault the barrier and get inside, unseen. He sprints through maintenance corridors, hacks a security door to get into the security office for the building, logging and creating a user identity for Darlene as ‘Dolores Haze’ so that the security guard can just wave her through. Darlene pointedly leaves her phone on his desk and we get a nice long shot of his thumb leaving a juicy print on the case as he holds it out to hand it to her.
Darlene boards an elevator as Elliot sets the CCTV firmware to upgrade, killing the cameras and giving them the freedom to run around inside. Elliot sets a timer on his phone for forty minutes and then he and Darlene really get to work. For the FIRST TIME IN THE SHOW THEY ACTUALLY DON RUBBER GLOVES, THANK YOU SAM, and Darlene retrieves the thumb print from the phone case. Dolph the Guard will not be caught sitting down though and grabs his giant green water bottle to investigate the sudden loss of CCTV.
In the Kraftwerk offices, Darlene uses superglue and heat to lift Dolph’s print (thank you, CSI for creating a generation of criminals) while the man himself reaches the security office and learns of the firmware update. Back with the Aldersons the Foley dudes are having a field day with their sound effects because have you noticed yet? And we see how well prepared the kids are; the office they’ve chosen is for some sort of graphic design company and the Aldersons are using their high res scanners and iMacs as part of the heist. With nineteen minutes left on Elliot’s clock, the kids use a 3D printer to create a false fingertip with Dolph’s print on it. That’s … these are the same Aldersons, right? This is advanced. Did we ever see them discuss this? Where did this knowledge and skillset come from? It’s almost like they just download it …
Price is outside his old place of work and I’m taking it as a conscious choice by the sound guys that the effects are just a smidgen off. Price actually touches the E-Corp sculpture like a faithful man might touch the feet of Christ on the cross before he notices the mentioned trombone player. He pays him off and gets a laundry ticket and with an already-over-it eyeroll, huffs off. Heheheee.
Dom is at the van and we don’t get a clear shot of the burned body inside so it could be the Dark Army guy, but it could be Tyrell (or … could it?). We pan across forensics people and deputies marking out evidence before Dom gets in her car and leaves the scene. She reaches an intersection that’s on red but totally empty and decides to just drive right through, as a lot of people would. But as she does there’s a flash and she stops, looking back to realise there are cameras above the traffic lights to capture people doing exactly this. Oh. Curious.
The Aldersons go deeper into the building and split up. Elliot breaks into the IT director’s office and prints himself a security pass card.
Over at the sheriff’s station, an anxious-looking Dom passes one of the deputy’s desks, stealing her phone and planting it elsewhere so the ring draws the woman away, enabling Dom to plug in a gadget that gives her remote access to the desktop from her laptop outside. She obediently reports in to Janice by text that they have access to the sheriff’s network, and in a roundabout way asks Janice to erase the CCTV of her red light. Dom throws her phone down, disgusted by herself but then gets another email telling her of the release of Deegan McGuire, Tattoo Face from a few weeks ago. This seems to give her an idea.
In a very nice deli type store, Krista shops for dinner and a kid in a red, hooded coat very conspicuously passes and eyeballs her. When she approaches the counter, we see Red Hood outside, waiting for her to leave so she can keep following her.
Back with the Aldersons, they reach a huge server room in this Tardis-like building of apparently infinite capacity. They make a point to delete the Dolores Haze account from the servers and check their timers to see six minutes remaining before the cameras come back on. Dolph the guard, returning from his sojourn around the building, notices a maintenance door on the elevator left open and is savvy enough to head up to the server room to check on things. From outside, things look normal but oh wouldn’t you know, Dolph is on his shit in a major way. He checks an app on his phone which tells him that he accessed the server room only moments ago, a fact he knows to be entirely untrue. Back in the lobby the other guard is back and has unpaused Die Hard. He watches John McClane sliding out of the air vent until Dolph texts him, warning of the intrusion and ordering him to call the cops.
Have you noticed yet?
With only two minutes to go before the cameras come back on, the Aldersons are mid-hack and Dolph just entered the server room. Dolph carries a giant bottle of water as I do, and I keep noticing. He even swings it from his fingers the same way. Dolph takes a long, slow walk through the server room but just by blind luck, he turns away before he reaches the Aldersons. Darlene doesn’t waste a second and keeps on hacking and as the cameras are seconds from turning back on, Elliot pulls up his hoodie. Darlene has no such disguise but they’re sort of fucked either way. Elliot glances around and notices something, pulls out his laptop and just as the CCTV comes back on, he activates the tester fire alarm. The room goes dark and a klaxon blares, but since it’s a test the servers stay live so Darlene can carry on hacking. Dolph is still searching for them between the server cabinets and just as Darlene finishes the hack, he rounds the corner and finds their abandoned workspace. MY HEART. JESUS.
The Aldersons bolt out of the room and we see they expected at least some trouble as Elliot zip ties the doors closed in Dolph’s face. He drags Darlene into a dizzying, Kubrickian staircase and back out into the lobby, but the cops are already outside and the kids are trapped. They duck into a maintenance room that has no other way out and Dolph, who is earning his goddamned paycheque appears at the door and tries to bust in. He gets a good long look at Elliot’s face and Elliot leaves his Bag Full’o’Incriminating Evidence with the as yet unnoticed Darlene, and just goes for it.
He sprints out of the lobby, past the cops, leading them on a mad dash through the city during which he appears to be relying almost entirely on the fact he’s twenty years younger and a good deal fitter than either cop. Like, that might be his whole plan.
Back in the building, Darlene’s still trapped and now the cameras are on and she is fuuucked. She hides behind a pillar and notices water bottles and some fitness gear someone appears to have forgotten. Cut to Darlene, her wig gone, changed into the leggings and a sporty jacket, swigging water and leaving a spin class from within the building. Dolph isn’t on the lobby desk, which, holy shit, thank god.
Somewhere in Central Park, Elliot leads the cops across the Christmas ice rink, clearly trying to make the chase as difficult as possible in the hopes they’ll just give up. He tumbles down a hill, injuring himself in the process but just as he runs out of steam he spots and boards a bus, making the escape at the last minute. Darlene safely gets outside and Elliot has texted the location for them to meet. She gets in their car.
Elliot runs and runs and sprints and isn’t looking when he’s hit directly by an entire fucking goddamned car. He has earned a lie-down but despite, just, everything, he struggles back to his feet and hobbles off. Realising he’s trapped on both sides on a bridge he just — he leaps the fuck off. It’s a … not quite but close to sheer drop down a cliff and he falls/rolls/tumbles probably a good thirty feet, right to where he said he’d meet Darlene and she is there, waiting for him. He dives into the car and they speed off, Elliot gasping for breath and shaking. He grabs her hand and god these kids. Kill me. Kill me.
At his palatial mansion, Price has collected the dry cleaning and it’s his suit and invitation for the ‘Retirement party’. He fumes that he had to run around for it like a headless chicken and texts Elliot the news that the meeting is on, ‘Wellick or not’. Hmm.
Dom has finally made it to her family for Christmas and she takes the dog out for a walk so she can eyeball the Dark Army vans following her and note down their licence plates and street locations because Dom isn’t done fighting. She notices something in the news about chase at the park and almost at once gets a text from Janice, ordering her to find … the Aldersons. Oh. Oh shit.
Krista reaches home and notices Red Jacket cross the street. She begins to approach as Krista struggles to open the door in time, dropping her groceries all over the ground. Red Jacket picks up and hands Krista her ice cream (…) which is where Vera finds her, uttering the episode’s second spoken line ‘It’s time we talk’.
Well. I loved that. I loved that so much.
By the episode’s end, Dom is finally starting to fight back and though she’s taking small and cautious steps, the fluttering signs of life are a huge improvement over the bottomless despair she’s been wearing these last few weeks. I’m cautiously excited about her being sent after the Aldersons. It feels like a good opportunity for her to reach out, team up with them. That said, she hates and blames Darlene for everything that happened to her, so it’s hard to know what will happen. Dom is like a trapped animal right now, caught between giving up or chewing off a limb to escape. If the Aldersons offer freedom she may well jump at it, but like any trapped creature, she may snap at anyone who comes near. This episode put me in mind of a conversation Cindy and I had last week. We were wondering why and how Dom seemed to get so … dumb somewhere between her introduction to the show and now. Think about it; when she arrived, she was presented as a real intellectual foil to the Alderson siblings. She was intelligent, shrewd, observant in a way most people aren’t. The season two finale even presents her theory wall as a huge revelation, and it is when you look back. She had, offscreen, unseen by the audience, quietly figured out e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. She had named everyone except Elliot and Whiterose, herself. Dom had Darlene, she was one more person away from the supervillain of the whole damned thing. And then … she changed. She just seemed to get dumber and a little clueless. It happened subtly and somewhat organically so it didn’t leap out at first but now I look back and can’t believe the difference. Something’s up. If anything is going on, I’d argue that Dom has suspected Santiago since China, and was playing him to get closer to Whiterose. I go back and forth on this one, but, we’ll see.
Speaking of the Aldersons, things are in place now for them to hack and rob the Deus group at the meeting to decide Price’s replacement. I am repeating myself but once again, Esmail played very pointedly, keep away with Tyrell’s fate. Janice asking for the ID of the body, the face of the burned corpse being partly hidden by the body bag, no mention, visual or otherwise to suggest anyone missing Wellick or noticing an absence. He appears in an ad on Elliot’s bus beside the words ‘Change Your Experience’ but that’s because Sam Esmail can be sort of a genius troll when he wants. We didn’t even see Tyrell’s phone again after Elliot (or, who I assume was Elliot …) picked it up out of the snow. Price pointedly mentioned his possible absence right at the end so once again, we are left to wonder; is Tyrell alive? Is Tyrell dead? Will he turn up at a key moment (again). Was Tyrell even in the woods with Elliot? Will the other, real Tyrell turn up? At this point, I don’t know what to expect. Or what to trust.
Poor, poor Krista. I trust that Sam knows better than to fridge Krista so I won’t even consider the possibility. But Vera, and, you know, Esmail, killed Shayla. So. I’m afraid.
As for the rest of it, Robot was conspicuously absent from the entire evening’s proceedings. He’s done that before, disappeared right after Tyrell does under weird circumstances. Tell me all you want that Elliot was just focussed on the job, something is HINKY at the fairground.
The knowing, meta introduction of the idea of Die Hard building up to the actual in-show acknowledgment of the film, then the use of moments from the film to highlight the tense nature of the scene taking place in the show? I mean. Who … how … what … ?I’m going to miss this show so much when it’s gone. So much. The heist its self was brilliantly exciting. So many moving parts, such clever use of every single space inside the building. The Aldersons have never been slouches but seeing them so completely in their element, working together as a team, was genuinely thrilling. I’m not sure we’ve seen them pull a heist together, certainly not one of this magnitude and complexity and while it was a joy to see them work as a unit, it’s a little heartbreaking to think of what they could have been achieving if they’d been able to coordinate like this the entire time.
When did you notice no one was speaking? I’ll admit it took me a minute to realise that since Darlene told Elliot he didn’t need to speak absolutely nobody did. Once I did notice, this episode became an immediate, all-time favourite, before I’d even finished screaming about how awesome it was.
The whole episode felt like a digital, Smart Age love letter to the days of silent film and in particular, stars like Charlie Chaplin, an anti-authoritarian rebel, and Buster Keaton, a choreographer of beautiful controlled chaos. It takes a lot of trust and deep, abiding respect for your audience to take the gamble that they have followed so closely and understood you and your story so well that they can follow the events. To anyone who doesn’t watch the show, a lot of the episode would be meaningless, but what I found interesting was that if you only watched the Aldersons story, it works absolutely perfectly as a silent short movie. A … call them a layman, could watch that short film and have a complete experience, without even knowing exactly what the siblings were doing, just that it was some kind of heist and just barely made it out at the end. That takes some brilliance.
While the kids’ anti-authoritarian mission was something Charlie Chaplin would write, their complex, gadget driven robbery was so deeply Buster Keaton that I got sort of giddy about it. In particular, Elliot’s lengthy sprint away from a growing number of police, complete with pratfalls, worsening, terrible injuries and mad dives over high ledges, seemed to echo Buster Keaton’s legendary police chase in Cops from 1922.
Esmail has developed a habit of making heist episodes as interesting as he can, an understandable choice given that there are only so many times we can watch the wide-eyed Aldersons break into a building, hack the planet and then narrowly avoid capture before it gets a little repetitive. In Esmail’s hands, these episodes never feel samey and this is no exception. The use of texts, standing in for silent film subtitles to further the story was so simple and yet so clever, and probably why it took my anti-social ass so long to realise no one was speaking. Cranking up the Foley sound effects was a brilliant way to inject more tension, particularly the fractionally off-time footsteps or the almost uncomfortably loud rustling of clothing. It hit the ears just a bit wrong and drove the urgency of the heist where words couldn’t.
But perhaps my favourite thing was that the Aldersons didn’t get the last line of dialogue. They got a huge emotional resolution in total silence, completely fitting for a pair of people so chronically incapable of speaking their true words. They were a perfect, flawless team, they backed each other up, Elliot came through for Darlene every way he could, ensuring she wouldn’t be seen or caught on camera, even at the cost of showing his face to the security guard. Darlene nailed the hack and came back for her brother. Last week Elliot told Tyrell what he showed us last night; everything he does is for Darlene. And Darlene made her choice. She came for her brother when it mattered most.
Sam. If you hurt these kids before this is through, we’re having a conversation. Mostly, it’ll be me crying and asking ‘Why? Why?!’ but you’re gonna feel so guilty. Next week, Vera terrorises Krista (oh, Sam), Whiterose wants Elliot brought in, and Dom reunites with Darlene by way of pulling a gun on her.
Shit’s about to go off.