Mr. Robot “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx”: Suspense. That is all.

Well, not quite all. Because this episode was incredible – easily the best of the season and one of the best of the show. I know I’ve said each of the past two weeks episodes have been great, but this one took it to a whole new level.

And I feel somewhat smug about the fact that Mr. Robot does now truly feel like it’s returned to the show that it was a year ago, reaching the heights of its opening season.

The episode came right out and started with an incredible scene – Price and Colby discussing why Price does what he does, in this case wanting the US to abstain from a UN vote in order to allow China to annex the Congo. And he wants Colby to talk to someone to talk to the President to make it happen. And then there’s the political talk and the smack down on Trump. (“The things I have on him…” If only.)

“It’s a little out there,” Colby remarks of the posed annexation. And he’s right. Apparently this show might be going on a full on world domination story arc. Price is claiming he is the most powerful man in the world, except for two people (and I’m really hoping one of those is White Rose, despite last week’s discussion probably implying otherwise), and this annexation of the Congo is part of his path to becoming the most powerful man in the world, and he is going to leave a legacy that is on par with God Himself. It’s a fantastic opening sequence that leaves me intrigued for where the show’s overarching story is going, but also slightly anxious that it will just end up as a mere world domination storyline.

Then the heavy metal music kicks in with the title. And we see Joanna getting ready to meet Elliot from the last episode; I really loved the way we saw that very last scene from a different perspective. Also, Stephanie Corneliussen’s portrayal of Joanna is superb. She’s so brilliant that even Mr. Robot – aware of his own limited existence inside Elliot’s mind – thinks she can see him. She’s convinced Tyrell’s alive. Elliot still thinks he’s dead, but that idea soon loses credibility when Mr. Robot disappears just as the argument over Tyrell’s breathing was about to begin.

It feels like we’re finally getting somewhere with this Tyrell arc that I think should have been resolved a long time ago.

Turns out Cisco was at Darlene’s door last week, and he had found an fsociety member (seen in some previous episodes this year) beaten behind that sofa. Then he convinces her that this is serious now and she can’t let the guy die. It’s a shame that in trying to save someone Cisco might have just killed himself. But more on that later.

Cisco also tells Darlene that she’s not special, not a leader, and without a plan. These are all things Darlene associates with Elliot. Later, at the hospital, we are treated to a monologue delivered brilliantly from Carly Chaikin about how she was kidnapped as a child and actually didn’t want to be found. She was kinda pissed when the police came arrested her captor, but she was happy that that meant she had Elliot. Even if she wants to feel it, Darlene might not be special, she’s telling us, but Elliot is, and she’s happy with that.

What’s actually interesting about this is that Darlene can be seen to be both simultaneously short-changing herself and also not recognising the areas where she is flawed. She is a competent leader, she is ruthless and probably what fsociety needs in some cases, and definitely what Elliot needs at times. Without her, he couldn’t be who he is. However, the fact that she was actually OK with being kidnapped, and apparently not changing her opinion on that (except for when it comes to Elliot), speaks to her somewhat naïve mindset. It’s kind of a hidden process in Darlene’s head – she’s still struggling with her own identity, with where she fits in the world, much the same way that the rest of our characters do, though in a more subtle and ambiguous way.

Then Cisco and Darlene decide to go and get something to eat while they wait for the fsociety foot soldier to recover, missing the news report of Cisco’s face.

Dom is getting closer to answers she’s been searching for all season: she now has two sketches of Cisco (one from Ollie and one from a neighbour of Susan Jacobs). But the boss says they’re going to the media with it, even though Dom says the Dark Army will kill him. And she’s both right and wrong – speaking to a long list of contrasts in this episode – as the media outlet helps her find Cisco, but it does most likely lead to his death as well

Elliot also has a moment where he directly addresses the new society he created, asking, “Is this the future I was fighting for?” as we see the rundown state of New York since 5/9. “Did we lose the fight?” he asks.

Elliot has decided to help Joanna find Tyrell, despite thinking he is dead. He creates a “cantenna” to direct his signal to a stronger Wi-Fi in order to phone the police to find out where Tyrell’s creepy breathing calls are coming from. The Wellick’s security guard claims he wouldn’t be calling from there. But if he’s near death, I don’t think he’d care where he’s calling from.

There’s another interesting part of this scene though: the camera breaks from Elliot’s point of view as he asks us to scan his apartment to find something that he thinks Mr. Robot, who he is now beginning to doubt, wants. It’s a cool directorial feature, but feels like it would be more at home in a virtual reality game than in a TV show.

And then the climax of the episode begins. With ten minutes left of the episode, as Elliot finds the location of Tyrell’s phone, the foreboding and dark soundtrack begins, with the security guard saying Tyrell “wouldn’t be calling from that house.”

Dom breaks into Cisco’s place and finds an ID with his picture and the name Francis Shaw.

Then a nurse at the hospital recognises Cisco’s face on the news.

But Cisco and Darlene are chilling, eating out somewhere.

Dom is at the hospital and is putting the pieces together, working out that Darlene and Cisco didn’t see the announcement on the news and she knows they’re still close, and she goes to find them.

Angela has been messaging Elliot, telling them they need to meet. And they do meet on the subway, in a scene that is brilliantly framed with them sitting opposite each other and a pole in between, dividing them. And the scene is one of my favourites of this show ever. They talk about a time Elliot can’t remember, when Angela found him in public screaming at someone who wasn’t there. Angela asks if it was his dad then, but he doesn’t remember. Seems there are more and more hints of Elliot harbouring a potential third personality. But I hope the show doesn’t go there. Unless it somehow does it really, really well.

Angela questions him about why he started fsociety and for a moment I’m worried she’s going to turn him in, that she’s in some Sting operation right now. It wouldn’t have been completely out of left field with her story arc. But that arc hasn’t been in relation to the people she loves. And she would never turn Elliot in. She’s going to confess, but keep him out of it. Even though she warns him that it will all catch up to him, that, “We can’t beat them.”

We see Darlene and Cisco almost happily in love, mithering about sharing food.

“How am I supposed to help the ones I care about when every step I take puts them in greater danger?” Elliot asks himself, asks us. “This was my plan, and I hid in a cage while everyone else took all the risk.” Yep. That’s about right, Elliot.

Then we get a brilliant moment. One that’s been building from the pilot episode. “I don’t wanna leave her,” Elliot says as he and Angela embrace, before they pull away and Elliot kisses her. I wonder if maybe it would have been more powerful under different circumstances, with a bit more tension building up it. But it works here, and I like it. I love it. Because I love Elliot and I love Angela and some people deserve some real moments of human happiness in this show, and this is one of the first we’ve really got, even if it ends on the sad note of their separation (right before Angela is confronted by two mysterious people).

And that also happens to be when we head into the final shot of the night. One of the best shots I’ve ever seen. It’s a wide shot of the restaurant Cisco and Darlene are eating in. Dom walks into the frame. She calls for backup. She enters the restaurant, but we stay outside, just able to look at her talking to them at their table. But then we are diverted by the arrival of a motorcycle carrying two people. The passenger gets off, pulls out his machine gun, approaches the restaurant and sprays bullets through the window and wall where Darlene and Cisco are sitting. My bet is that Cisco is dead and Darlene merely injured. Dom gets a shot at the shooter. The motorcycle leaves as police approach. The shooter shoots himself. Dom got sprayed with somebody’s blood and she exits the restaurant. Police arrive. Sirens scream.

And we cut to black.

 

Other Thoughts:

Best Line – “Maybe wars aren’t meant to be won.” – Elliot, both talking about his external and internal fight, and yet contradicting himself in this episode with his later victory in kissing Angela. Even if that could be argued to have been lost after he immediately stepped off the train. Who knows?

Best Scene – There’s no question on this one. That final intercutting sequence was incredible, especially that final long wide shot.

 

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 had some really terrific moments as well as a constant feeling of escalation. Although I’m still a little bit iffy about that scene in Elliot’s apartment, the concluding shot more than makes up for it. The suspense built in this episode was truly outstanding. I’ve seen some compare it to Hitchcock. But to put it in my own words: Sam Esmail, Kor Adana and Randolph Leon you are all geniuses.

Fan Opinion: This episode was insane. We got another conversation between Elliot and Joanna, it looks like what shall henceforth and forevermore be known as the “Tyrell Question” is going to be solved, we got a scene between Elliot and Angela, which I asked for last week, and then there’s the suspenseful ending, which you cannot help but be sucked right in to. A really, really great episode.

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