Being free of Rami Malek and Christian Slater for a week of Mr. Robot was not something I was expecting, but it was something we got, and it was also something surprisingly good. For a while I told myself that one of the main reasons that I watched Mr. Robot was because of it’s genius portrayal of Elliot and his dissociative personality – every scene that Malek and Slater share together is completely riveting – but I can’t say that anymore.
This episode was entitled “Successor” and, after last week’s revelation of Elliot’s true whereabouts, it is the first time we understand that Darlene has truly taken over as the leader of fsociety (at least for the time being). She stars in the group’s newest video, outing the FBI’s Operation Berenstain, and after Mobley gets cold feet on this whole hacking-to-free-the-world thing, an argument breaks out and they barely notice Susan Jacobs enter her own home. You would’ve thought they had some camera or detection software or something, anything, watching out for someone entering the building. I mean, come on. They’re hackers.
After subduing Susan, right next to her indoor swimming pool, the group discusses what to do with her. They decide to hack everything she owns in an attempt to blackmail her. Little do we know that Darlene has no intention of merely stopping her from turning them in. She wants to stop her from doing anything ever, because Madam Executioner was involved in the victorious Evil Corp case in the Washington Township Scandal. And so we see a dark side of Darlene – she tasers Susan, killing her as a result of her heart condition, and leaves her dead body to float along in the pool. Darlene feigns innocence to Mobley, Trenton and Cisco, and she also claims later that she always thought she wouldn’t end up doing it, but this is a glimpse of how Darlene has also been significantly damaged by growing up as a child in the Alderson home. It’s pushing the show’s exploration of morality further along, and its truly captivating.
In the aftermath of this incident, Darlene and Cisco go to get rid of the body – a trip back to the dogs they freed in Season 1, who have now returned – and then Darlene stays over, presumably, at Cisco’s.
While this is going on, Mobley and Trenton discuss skipping town, and although Trenton claims she can’t because of her family, she later goes to meet Mobley at Ron’s Coffee, bringing the episode full circle in light of the opening meeting with Darlene. But Mobley doesn’t show up. He got taken in by the FBI before leaving the city, but it turns out that the only evidence they had on him was that he attended the End of the World party we saw in Season 1’s finale, and so they release him, leaving us all to speculate on why he is two hours late meeting Trenton.
Angela, meanwhile, has been at a 4th of July party, singing Tears for Fears’ “End of the World”, and on a date with the apparently not-so-random guy she slept with a few episodes back, who is also apparently an FBI agent. She meets one of her dad’s friends, who ridicules her for working at E Corp. She retorts with the fact that she earns way more than him and that his life is effectively useless. But something makes me think that she is really just thinking that about her own life.
The episode ends with Darlene discovering that the Dark Army wanted Cisco to get to Darlene, possibly indicating that fsociety are merely pawns in a larger play. But then Darlene whacks Cisco with a baseball bat. And we cut to black. And I’m left to wonder if there’s ever been a more appropriate time for someone to use the words “it’s complicated” to describe a relationship than Darlene and Cisco.
The title of the episode, “Successor”, could be seen to link to many aspects of this hour and not just the Darlene centred nature of it. Angela has been attempting to succeed her old self all season as a more confident and controlling woman. Mobley appears to have gone the other way, succeeding his former self by wanting out of this one thing that you never get out of, as Mr. Robot tells all of the members of fsociety. Trenton, of the little we know of her, succeeds herself in this episode alone, at first being adamant about not leaving her family and then meeting Mobley in what I can only see as her deciding to leave town, especially after the freak scare she had after the FBI appeared to turn up at her house. Cisco moves on in this episode, too, appearing to bow down to the Dark Army’s commands rather than face their wrath, and essentially giving up on Darlene – who, last season, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. And who knows, maybe he’ll get that wish, if his life isn’t going to last much longer. I hope not though; I like Cisco, his treachery is further evidence that his character is becoming increasingly interesting.
It could also be read as symbolic of the show as a whole: many have complained of the show not living up to its opening season, but really this show has always been about Elliot and his own journey, and although we took a break from Elliot this week, the title of this episode reinforces the overall trajectory of Mr. Robot – this story is fundamentally about Elliot, not destroying Evil Corp; this show is about more than the mere plot, it is first and foremost about character.
Last week’s reveal may have been seen way in advance but nothing was certain until we saw Elliot in those orange overalls behind bars. And this week, for the first time this season, we are actually on the same plane as the rest of fsociety: they have been living in a world without Elliot for the whole season, but we’ve only just realised that now. And I think that it’s telling that the first time we know Elliot isn’t in a position to help is also the first time that something goes drastically wrong for them. fsociety needs Elliot. And, to be honest, Elliot needs fsociety.
Best Scene – The intercutting of Angela’s singing and fosciety’s attempts to hack Susan was really eye catching.
Best Line – “I think she’s just into old guys.” – Angela’s secret FBI agent boyfriend.
Just a note before coming to the final opinions: In no way am I making a claim to understanding anything remotely to do with criticism of television or movies, I am merely delineating between my pure enjoyment of the story (Fan Opinion) and my appreciation of the filmmaking and narrative achievements of the story (Critical Opinion).
Critical Opinion: This episode was a much more conventional episode of television from Mr. Robot. And that might be to do with the fact that there was no Elliot, one of the more unconventional characters we come into contact with. There was a clear throughline to the episode, and that is something I would argue has been missing from this season as a whole, so it was nice to have an episode that was clear and cohesive as a whole.
Fan Opinion: A wonderful Darlene centred episode. I love all of these characters, and any extra time spent with any of them is a delight, but Darlene is one of the more prominent characters and also one who has hints of much deeper levels of complexity than she first appeared to show when we first saw her, and so it’s exciting to delve into that. Now all we need is an Angela centred episode.