Mr. Robot: Control Is An Illusion

Courtesy of USA Network
Courtesy of USA Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Today we start with something new. The sense of something big coming. I know that sounds like nothing new. This show is full of plot twists and compelling moments. I talking about going into a show fully anticipating them to drop a bomb on us the viewers. This may have been unfounded, but it’s just a sense I have in the pit of my stomach. Is it Angela? Is Elliot vs Inner Elliot vs Dad? Last week began weird but was loaded with moments. It feels like they are building to something bigger. As I watch the cold open, I am reminded of the opening scene for this season. Was Elliot reaching for a gun in the popcorn? If so, what happened to that. Too meaningful to drop and ignore.

Mrs. Wellick walks by her kitchen clearly dressed up and stops short when she notices something on the counter. They are earrings that she immediately puts on. She’s wearing white, sitting in her white kitchen next to a white sitting room when Tyrell walks down their white stairs wearing a white suit.
The music and behavior of Price and Knowles at the function Tyrell scooped up Mrs. Wellick for suggests a dream sequence or a flashback as they mentioned Terry Colby. Yes, clearly a flashback at best. Mrs. Wellick now finds herself near home pushing the baby stroller. A random woman walks up, abruptly refers to Mrs. Wellick as a Capitalist pig and tosses a bucket of red paint at her. Mrs. Wellick screams in silence as the title screen arrives. Not the image I need, Mrs. Wellick screaming in anger. She was scary enough before this point.

The package found on the kitchen counter apparently was not the earrings. Those she already had precipitating the flashback. Mrs. Wellick stands at the kitchen counter much later, a glass of wine in hand. She looks down to see a framed ultrasound picture. Inner Elliot monologues transitioning from the Wellick ultrasound to Elliot curled up in a ball in Ray’s basement being consoled by Dad. This is where we begin to understand the title, h4shake.sme. The ‘handshake’ in the computing world relates to the first time one device is introduced to another. Computer -> Server, laptop -> router, switch -> firewall. Like the first time to people shake hands, the computing relationship begins from there.

We get a little more explanation on “Dad protecting Elliot”. When Ray’s goons went to ‘discipline’ Elliot, we never see that. We find Elliot in some sort of suspended state of realism in the 1980’s style sitcom world. When he comes out of it, Elliot is in the hospital. Dad essentially conveys that he, part of Elliot’s subconscious, only wanted to take the punches for Elliot. To protect him. The logic is that Dad was able to mentally turn the real Elliot off so he wouldn’t feel the punishment he was about to endure.

Now Elliot’s mind is starting to take inventory of itself. Has Elliot’s mind be trying to hide Tyrell this whole time? Dad wants him just to move past it. Dad caves. The last thing Elliot remembers is the popcorn. Dun, dun, duuuunnnnnnn. There is a theory floating around the fandom that no one can find Tyrell Wellick because Elliot killed him. It ties things up. Why was Tyrell at FSociety? Why did Elliot reach into the popcorn? Why have we not heard anything from Tyrell directly? Then the one contradictory issue, who is communicating with Mrs. Wellick with tokens and phone calls that seem could only come from Tyrell?

Elliot: I did it, didn’t I?
Dad: It was either him or us.
Elliot: How did I do it?

Dad paints the picture of rationalizing the death of Tyrell Wellick. He was crazy. Rambling about killing a woman. Then the popcorn. Darlene always kept a gun hidden in the popcorn. Then Dad tells the rest of the story in first person. “I didn’t want to, but I shot him”. Elliot corrects him, “No, I shot him”.

Last we saw Dom, she was back in the United States looking eye to eye with Angela. Who had just come from the restricted floor of Evil Corp where the feds had opened up shop. Angela quickly blames her suspicious behavior with ‘making plans with agent Thomas’. Dom keeps pushing. While it feels on the surface like any other woman to woman standoff for information, this one feels different. This is high noon at the OK Corral. Dom changes directions to Angela’s back story. Leaving All Safe before the hack to get a significant career bump to Evil Corp. Angela’s body language is relatively in check, but her eyes are screaming, and Dom knows it. Dom departs and Angela finishes the configuration to restore the wireless connection.

Darlene: There it is.
Angela: What?
Darlene: We own the FBI.

Dom stands over some lackey’s shoulders instructing him to pull up surveillance footage, tracking Angela’s movements one must imagine. Every time they try to pull up is corrupted data. The lackey is confused but Dom isn’t. “You just got hacked”. She instructs them to check everything including Angela’s computer, even though she knows they won’t find anything.

Elliot sits in a familiar place, at Ray’s terminal. Ray sits across from him and basically asks if Elliot has learned his lesson. Elliot confirms with a head nod and a quiet ‘yes’. Ray in no uncertain terms expresses to Elliot that he will sit there and do his work, then Elliot will go back in his hole until they are confident everything is working as it should. Side note. Maybe I’m just a fan, but I’ll be a little disappointed if Craig Robinson doesn’t at least get nominated for the John Lithgow in Dexter guest star villain award.

While this arrangement is not ideal, the status quo is unchanged as long as Ray needs Elliot’s services. Side note. Someone on Reddit is actually chronicling Elliot’s coding on the show and has created a script. This script will notify anyone interested by email if and when the static ip block used on this show ever changes from a placeholder site to anything else.

Mrs. Wellick has been pulling her little boy around with no sense of any sort of push back. Derrick wants to take things public, which she can’t and won’t do. He demands she accompany him as his girlfriend at a party or its over. She does not show. When Derrick confronts her about it, she hands him a rolled up piece of paper with a red ribbon. Its documentation showing she has begun the process to divorce Tyrell Wellick.

Meanwhile, Ray’s site of debauchery is getting more traffic than ever. The goon is about to take Elliot back down to his ‘cage’ when Elliot asks Ray for a game (of chess) for old times sake. Ray excuses his goon. For at least a moment, the friendly Ray has returned. Even lets Elliot in on his wife’s back story. The site was her idea. The subject matter wasn’t but the site idea was. Then coming back around, it was Ray’s wife that decided to take the don’t look, don’t ask approach. Let the market dictate what is sold. Ray actually never looked at what was on the site until Elliot came along. Elliot is Ray’s answer, not the other way around.

Ray: How much time do I have?
(Elliot just looks slightly confused)
Ray: Come on man, we both knew exactly what you were going to do when I let you go back on that computer.
Elliot: With their response time, I’m sure they have us surrounded by now.
(Long pause)
Ray: You better get out before they get up here then…
Inner Elliot: World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker once said, when you see a good move, look for a better one.
Ray: Elliot…Be careful.
(Ray knocks over his king)

Elliot slowly makes his way out of Ray’s home. The faint sound of sirens can be heard. Elliot did exactly what Ray suspected he would have. But Elliot didn’t just turn him in, he opened up the traffic to anyone with the right keywords. Then sent an anonymous tip email to the FBI. In this moment, Elliot accepts that he created Mr. Robot and maybe now it can be used for other things. Good things. Or so this new ‘handshake’ might suggest.

We return from the commercial break to find the US House of Representatives preparing to vote on an Evil Corp bailout proposal. Before they can, the nuts that once belongs to the Bull of Wall Street fall from the ceiling on the House Chamber.

Angela meets with her father to explain just how she can get Evil Corp to settle. He wants no part of this conversation. She believes she has the upper hand and can get them to settle. Her father thinks they’re just using her. Even resorts to laughing in her face when she says they value her. He even goes so far to say that he doesn’t trust them or her. In the 120 second it took, this meeting of father and daughter has transitioned into Evil Corp representative and Plaintiff. Just as a courtesy of course.

Elliot sits at the playground watching a pick up game with Leon. Leon informs him that whether involved or not, everyone in the neighborhood has their eye on him. Half love him half want him dead. A group of out-of-place half frat boys, half military rejects looking fellas walk up on Elliot and suggest Leon get lost. That’s not going to happen. The leader of this rag-tag group explains how there is now a bitcoin access problem putting Elliot on the hook. Then Leon drops a ‘Sword of Damocles’ reference.

Angela walks into Price’s office proud of her accomplishment. Price speaks as if dropping the contingency is a bad thing. Angela comes back with the notion that Price asking for it was bad, but getting it is exactly what he wanted. Angela pivots to ask for a lateral move to risk management to create change from within.

Elliot returns to the church group to apologize for his outburst. The group leader is glad to hear this and goes in for a hug. It lasts longer than it should making Elliot uncomfortable. She understands, or so she thinks she does. She’s seen him “speaking to him”. She thinks he’s trying to speak to Jesus. Now unless there’s a crazy plot twist that I’m not anticipating, I’m pretty sure Dad is not going to manifest himself as Jesus. Yes, Elliot talks to him, but the him in question is not the him she thinks he is.

The woman leaves him to have a moment alone. Elliot walks up to a crucifix on the wall. Then turns to walk away stopping in the middle of the ‘trust circle’ now vacant. He begins to speak. Elliot needs to finish what he’s started with Evil Corp. Dad appears and seems legitimately shocked at this revelation. Elliot is speaking and Dad is listening. Might not be the Jesus scenario the woman envisioned, but it’s not that far off considering Elliot’s circumstances. So where do Elliot, Dad, and FSociety go from here? Elliot has to do the one thing he’s not wired to do. Lead.

Elliot goes back to the park (not smart) burns his diary in a trashcan and monologues about the destination vs the journey. Walking alone, Elliot gets scooped up by the frat boys complaining about their bitcoin access. Despite referring to Leon as something I’m not ok with, realism be damned, the group begin pounding on Elliot. They turn him around and to keep this family friendly we’ll walk away from that little detail. Then a slicing sound is heard. Then another one. One by one assailants start falling. Elliot turns to find Leon standing alone with Elliot in the alley. What follows makes this maybe the best scene by a secondary level character I’ve ever seen, all things considered.

Elliot says nothing but Leon continues to speak. His hood is up and his words carry with them a more matter of fact or business like manner. (By the way, what’s about to be revealed I just got. Like an avalanche of ‘how did you not see it earlier’ sort of way. Like watching the Sixth Sense the second time. Everything just became clear. As if the show runners just peeled back the filter translating everything we’ve seen to this point). Leon’s tone is quiet but informative. Leon tells Elliot he will receive a letter on Tuesday and to do what it says. Ominous but not crazy. What is crazy is Leon telling Elliot about White Rose.

Leon: When you see White Rose, tell him I did you solid.

Elliot did receive a letter and without ruining the reveal I’ll leave that alone except to say, the letter somehow signifies something. He doesn’t know whether to be excited about its contents or not. Even if Krista thinks it is something to be celebrated. Elliot acknowledges that Krista was right about his inner conflict. Can’t destroy a part of yourself. He did mention, when he was at his mom’s which prompts Krista to ask question.

Krista: Elliot, I need to ask you a question. Where do you think you are right now?
Elliot: What do you mean?
Krista: You know you haven’t been staying with your mother, right?
Elliot (short pause, then): I know
(Prison door alert sound is heard as Elliot looks up-the veil is removed and reality finally sets in)

Elliot sits at a table across from Krista. We are no longer in Krista’s office or Elliot’s mother’s home. Elliot is wearing an orange jumpsuit. Now take a quick journey of reflection with me. Elliot lives at his mother’s home. Yet his mother’s home is dark and simple. In his bedroom there is literally nothing but a basic bed with no frills, a desk with his journal. Every time he entertains a visitor in his mother’s home it’s at the same table. Angela, Darlene, Dad and now even Krista, the same table. That table is the visitor’s room like in a prison. His bedroom looks a lot like that of a prison cell. One is the one activity he watches every day? A pickup basketball game involving the same people at the same court. Like a prison yard. His new best friend, Leon. They eat every meal together at the same diner. Leon is cool, a little off and basically steps in any and every time Elliot is about to be confronted. Like someone put there to protect Elliot…while he’s in prison. The group of white guys complaining about bitcoins, wait until Elliot is not with Leon and jump him with the intent to sexually assault him. Yet while that is happening, Leon is not far away. When it goes down, Leon slices them all with an easily concealed knife probably not 4 inches long tip to hilt. It was a prison. The entire time, Elliot was in a prison. Whether it was his own mind protecting itself, a projection from the Dad lobe of his brain, or Elliot refusing to accept reality, he was in prison the entire time. In plain sight.

Control is an illusion, but sometimes you need the illusion to get by. Here’s the bad news. I really felt like I had a moment of realization. I unloaded all of those connections hoping you were seeing it to. Now the show runners have taken the wind out of my sails as they are literally showing the differences and truth that I just mentioned moments ago. Regardless of my experience watching this or your interpretation of it, this was probably one of my top 10 most enjoyed single episode experiences of my tv watching life. I don’t mean to oversell it. This show does a remarkable job presenting itself. This reveal was brilliant and executed exactly how it was supposed to.

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