This was a good one. I’m just saying that straight out of the blocks. Even in the better episodes of this season, such as “eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes”, there has been something fundamentally off about this season; it just hasn’t felt like the show we had last year. But this episode returned us to that feeling.
We opened with Elliot walking us through what happened between the last moment of Season 1 and the opening of this season, with Elliot even saying, “That’s it. That’s all you missed.” And after ten minutes of explaining why he was in there – the hack on Krista’s boyfriend and stealing his dog – the way he distorted everything to appear like he wasn’t in prison at all, and why he was being released early (apparently something to do with Dark Army), Elliot returns to the world. But this episode deals heavily with how Elliot adjusts to that life, as this is the first time that Elliot is fully functioning with all of the other characters after his, and our, discovery of his mental state.
Elliot greets Darlene outside the prison right after explaining to us that Init 5 is a command that is supposed to return a system to its normal functions, bringing sound and colour, but to him the world is quiet and grey.
One of the first things Elliot does is visit his mother, and it’s a truly fascinating scene: it’s the first time when Elliot is the more talkative character – the roles are reversed. This speaks to the abuse that he attributes to his mother because he feels like he needs to say something but, whatever is wrong with his mother, who is clearly in some sort of care, she refuses to respond in any way, barely acknowledging her child who is finally stepping out and saying something.
Throughout the episode, Elliot continues to step out, but not quite the way he wants. He steps outside of himself a couple of times and experiences some sort of glitch with his consciousness. Everything has not returned to normal for Elliot who is literally shutting down, and later Mr. Robot straight up tells him, “Something is wrong with us.” And I think that us is vital.
Now, one of my problems with the episode does actually stem from their whole plan of talking to Cisco’s Dark Army contact. The very fact of working with Cisco kind of negates the point of Darlene’s baseball bat smash at the end of the last episode. And so that development fell flat for me.
Elsewhere this week, Angela carried out her own hack to retrieve some files on the Washington Township Scandal. But later, when trying to bring down E Corp with the evidence of the still contaminated site, she is met by someone who isn’t very good at hiding her allegiance to the huge conglomerate. And so Angela leaves without being able to outwork her plan.
The other plot line for this episode was fascinating. As White Rose and Price meet we find out that White Rose’s project has been going since at least 1995, when the previous CEO of E Corp was killed in a plane crash, surely killing many innocents in the process, for not complying with this plan. And Price is threatened with the same fate. This is intriguing because it shows that their relationship is much more hostile than we first thought. Price stands up to White Rose, apparently unfazed by death threats, and actually gets White Rose to get the Chinese government to give E Corp the bailout money that the US wouldn’t give, so that the project can stay on track and the Washington Township site doesn’t fall under federal jurisdiction. And Price exits with a mockery of White Rose’s obsession with time: “That’s all the time I have.” This truly does cement Price’s power and creates an image of White Rose as not being as powerful as we thought, or as they would like everyone else to think. And what this also does is reinforce E Corps power after they were severely damaged at the end of last season.
And White Rose knows about Angela, who was apparently part of a “project” for Price. Interesting.
Then there is Dom’s visit to Angela. Now, this is scene is great, I really enjoy any scene where the main characters, who for most of this season have been apart, cross paths. And who doesn’t love Dom’s socially awkward over friendliness? But there was just something about her telling Angela of her dream that didn’t quite work for me. Sure, it revealed something about Dom, possibly confirming her as a lesbian or bisexual. But the point of it in the scene, to equate Angela’s situation to drowning and needing to cooperate with Dom in order to survive, felt kind of on the nose and a bit forced. But, hey, that might be just me.
We find out that Angela has been followed ever since the 5/9 hack and Ollie gave her up straight away, which obviously makes us hate him more. (What was she even doing with such a moron?) And then Dom says that she is the only hand Angela has left to play.
Then we head into the end of the episode. Elliot’s storyline in this episode, like I said, really felt like a return to last season’s storytelling and it is fundamentally based in Elliot interacting with the other characters again. Not to mention the fact that we finally might be getting answers to some of the questions posed last season that many expected to already have by now. I mean, there’s no way Tyrell is dead. No way. So we’re going to find out about him. And this episode finally gave us the answer to who was at the door at the end of last season.
But, man, the end of this episode really did ratchet up the tension. The Dark Army have Trenton and Mobley? Who did Cisco find wheezing in the house? (My bet is Mobley – a warning from the Dark Army.) Who’s at the door? Why is Joanna at Elliot’s? And, the big shock, the one that, for me, was even bigger than the one of two weeks ago. STAGE 2 WAS ELLIOT’S PLAN? It looks like we didn’t know everything, but then again, how could Elliot tell us something he didn’t know himself?
It’s interesting that this episode begins with Elliot telling us that he’s now told us everything and it ends with us discovering that nope, there are still more secrets, still more things we don’t know about Elliot.
“init_5” really does deal with the idea of normalcy and returning to it. We end the episode with Elliot saying, “Normal. I have no normal.” But, in a way, isn’t that his normal? And that’s what is so exciting to me about this episode. Elliot doesn’t have a typical normal, and that’s what Season 1 felt like. But this season has felt like normal, with Elliot’s constant routine only broken in this episode. Let’s hope that even if Elliot has no normal to return to, the show can return to the standards of its first season in its final few episodes.
Best Scene – Mr. Robot bursting onto the other side of the screens during Elliot’s video appearance in court was really quite funny, but at the same time I think it suggested something about the even more unhinged state of Elliot in this episode, setting up Mr. Robot in situations where Elliot isn’t.
Best Line – This one is difficult this week. I loved Leon’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ reference, and Elliot’s response of “Great” to the officer, but I’m actually going to give it to the final line of the night: Joanna’s, “Hello, Ollie.” I like the way they harkened back to that conversation in Season 1, and also it’s link to the show’s very first words, “Hello, Friend,” and also the fact that Elliot decided to disguise himself as Ollie. It really draws connections across the shows own mythology.
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 type of storytelling is what we need more of. This is what Mr. Robot became known for last season: it’s complex plotting that was constantly underlined by Elliot’s own emotional and psychological state (even before we knew about his dissociative personality) and added on top of that a deeply unpredictable nature to the storytelling.
Fan Opinion: Just tell me what’s up with Tyrell already! And hurry up and get Angela and Elliot in a room together again. But, this episode. Dom was not here enough, but the fact that the only time we saw her was opposite Angela was probably worth it and Elliot finally taking the lead (despite not wanting to be a leader) was really great.