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THIS ONE IS A DOOZY. This episode, Mr. Robot follows in the footsteps of the film Birdman as well as all those OK Go music videos, as this entire episode was shot without any perceptible cuts. This is incredibly difficult to pull off, and in the past, I’ve really loved the sequences (not even whole episodes) in Breaking Bad and True Detective (season 1) that were shot in this fashion. Filming without cuts can be an incredibly effective storytelling device, and is always, always impressive.
With this impressive feat of production mentioned, let’s go into the episode with the understanding that all of this occurs in an unbroken, fully chronological sequence.
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Elliot Gets a Message, in German, in an Elevator
The episode begins in a crowded E Corp elevator, containing a dazed Elliot, Angela and an unidentified German man, who turns and stares pointedly at Elliot. When Elliot returns his stare, the man quietly speaks in German to Elliot, saying:
“Aller anfang ist schwer. Anfang ist einfach, beharren eine Kunst.”
This is a take on the German proverb “Anfangen ist leicht, beharren eine Kunst.” meaning “To begin is easy, to persist is an art.”
The Mr. Robot dialogue means, as far as I can tell:
“The beginning is hard. To begin is easy, to persist is an art.”
I don’t know what is going on here, but it could easily be a glitch in Elliot’s “main program”.
After this cryptic statement, we hear Philip Glass’ “Knee Play 1” (from the opera titled Einstein on the Beach) begin to play. This song features heavily in this episode, and fits in well with its bizarrely cool, mysterious sound.
Angela is carefully watching Elliot in the elevator, no doubt hoping that he won’t remember that he woke from his Mr. Robot-induced unconsciousness in the last episode to see her and Tyrell together in the warehouse, planning Stage 2.
Elliot then receives a phone call from Darlene, saying that she has been trying to contact him all weekend and that they need to talk in person, but doesn’t say what about. We know where Elliot has been (at Angela’s apartment as Mr. Robot), but Elliot now realizes that he has lost all that time, and he starts trying to figure it out.
Through all this, a news broadcast reporting on the annexation of the Congo plays in the background to the elevator’s passengers.
As Elliot leaves the elevator, Angela tells Elliot she wants to do lunch later, obviously still with the intent of monitoring his Mr. Robot status.
Samar Has Elliot’s Back
Elliot makes his way to his desk, wondering internally to us. What feels wrong? Why is he missing time? Did his “daily program” crash? Does he have a “runtime error” because of “corrupted memory”? Yes. We know that he does. Elliot, however, reaches his desk without revelation.
Samar Swailem (played by Ramy Youssef), Elliot’s co-worker who has been occupying the desk next to Elliot since he started working at E Corp, once again regales Elliot with a tale of his latest sexual exploit.
Elliot has no patience for Samar, and thus far has only completely ignored him, refusing to even look in his direction. This time, Elliot, meaning to speak internally to “us”, accidentally speaks one of his trademark monologues out loud to a frozen Samar:
“Every morning starts like this, graphic sex talk. Thankfully, I’m able to tune most of it out.
When people talk like this, they’re either insecure, or they’re full of shame.
Which one do you think it is?”
Samar is taken aback, then indignant, then thankful to Elliot, revealing that his many conquest stories have been lies all along. Elliot, going back to his previous Samar strategy, doesn’t respond. As Samar talks in the background, spilling all his secrets, Elliot realizes he doesn’t even know what day it is. Elliot refers to “us” again, saying:
“It’s hard what he just did. Opening up face-to-face, which is why I probably talk to you. “
This is starting to get to me. I need a clue as to who “we” are. Now I know that “we” according to Elliot, share all of Elliot’s experiences, but I have nothing else. Someone throw me a bone, please.
Reverie complete, Elliot attempts to log-in to his E Corp account and sees that he has been locked out. Uh oh.
This sends Elliot into panic-mode. FIrst, he calls IT to get his password recovered, mentioning that his employee number is 072391. This is yet another reference to the Mandela Effect, 07 23 1991 being the date of the reported (false) death of Nelson Mandela. What is the shared false memory that Mr. Robot’s creators want us to see? Is it the 5/9 Hack itself? Is that stupid? I don’t know at this point.
Anyway, while Elliot is on hold with the IT Department, he asks Samar for access to Samar’s logged-in machine, of course not telling him that this is to check the E Corp-shipping-hack monitoring server that Elliot has running. Samar, now back to his normal cheerful self, complies, and Elliot sees that his server has an update failure.
“This can’t be happening.”
Upon further checking, Elliot sees that the Dark Army attempted Stage 2 that very morning. Yikes. The good news is that, obviously, the patch Elliot kindly used in Ep. 2 of this season worked in thwarting their first attempt.
In Elliot’s eyes, this is a very temporary success, as he has just determined that the the Dark Army will quickly find a way around it, that he has been fired from E Corp, and that security is presently rolling up on him with orders to remove him from the building.
Without internal E Corp access, Elliot has no way of continuing to stop Stage 2, and he believes that the Dark Army will shortly find a way around his patch and blow up the records building. Elliot now must evade security long enough to get a bead on the Dark Army’s next move from inside E Corp.
Elliot flees, asking Samar to stall security when they arrive. Samar, having no idea what is going on, does so. Our collective respect for Samar goes up 1000% in this moment as his first, and possibly only, redeeming quality is revealed.
Elliot Evades Security
Elliot speaks to us directly again, making eye-contact with the camera, saying:
“####, I can’t leave the building until I get back on a machine and figure out how they’re planning on getting around my patch. Help me figure this out. Do not leave me. Stay focused. “
Elliot, barely evading security, uses social engineering to make his way to another part of the building, where, with some trial and error, he gains access to another employee’s workstation. Somehow, Elliot is able to see log data of the Dark Army’s backdoored machine that they’re using for the Stage 2 Hack.
This reveals more of the Dark Army’s current Stage 2 strategy: They are currently trying to sign their own malicious firmware using a specific E Corp employee’s credentials. Elliot knows now that he must get to the hardware security modules (HSMs) on the 23rd floor to stop this newest malicious gambit.
Security is close on his heels, questioning (very) nearby employees, but Elliot is slippery as an eel. The idea of removing his hoodie to disguise himself never even occurs to him. Can’t lose that trademark, right?
Elliot ducks into the nearest conference room, which is unfortunately full of people ready to start a meeting. Elliot proceeds to stall the heck out of the guy in charge and creating an extremely awkward environment for everyone there, including the viewer.
There is a brief moment of hilarity when Elliot rises to leave the room but sees security is still close by, and, grasping at straws, sits back down and aimlessly tips over a styrofoam bowl containing a donut, saying:
“I should’ve known. We always have chocolate donuts… too.”
This provokes further confrontation with the guy running the meeting (his name is Sean, Head of Sales), and Elliot takes the opportunity to stall yet again by waxing eloquent about what he supposes is going on with Sean right now:
“You know, Sean, sometimes I get a lot like you, where… you have a lot of anxiety, because of a deadline, you know, where you feel pressure, because something has to get done.
And then, all of these damn little unknown variables keep popping up. And when you find yourself at the center of one of those storms, you just gotta breathe.
Just let go.
Get it done.”
Okay, I’m sure Sean is under a lot of pressure to get sales up and all that, but I don’t think his situation is incredibly comparable to Elliot’s destroy-and-then-save-the-world life.
Life-changing statement delivered, Elliot rushes out of the conference room and is spotted by security. He gets in an elevator and the doors close, barely in time.
Mr. Robot (Sort of) Makes an Appearance
Elliot is freaking out on the elevator, unsure of what to do next to get him to his destination. He internally monologues some interesting stuff, directed at us:
“What should I do? What would you do?
That’s right, you never answer me.
Is this why I created Mr. Robot? To help me get out of situations like this?
At least he interacts with me.
If Mr. Robot was here, what would he do?”
I really, really don’t think Elliot “created” Mr. Robot, but, moving on.
Mr. Robot then appears, and is typically abrasive. Elliot greets him by saying that he is not the “real” Mr. Robot, and that this Mr. Robot we see now is just in his imagination. Okay, what?
So, Elliot is distinguishing between an imaginary Mr. Robot that he’s (supposedly) just conjuring up to help him out of a sticky situation, and the real Mr. Robot, who he also says he created.
I don’t get it, unless Elliot’s theory of who (or what) the “real” Mr. Robot is involves a creation story that is more tangible than simple imagination or hallucination.
Elliot also imposes a little guilt-trip on us here, complaining that we never answer or interact with him, unlike the friendly and available Mr. Robot. Come on, Elliot, give “us” a break. We don’t even know who “we” are in the context of the story, yet.
Anyway, imaginary Mr. Robot helps Elliot work out his next move. He’s going to get kicked out of the building, and he won’t be able to get back in before the records building, assumed by Elliot to be full of people, explodes.
The elevator doors open and security walks alongside Elliot as he leaves the building without incident.
Elliot then places a phone call to the paper records building to warn them of the bomb, and in an amusingly realistic conversation, has a bit of trouble explaining the nature of the uninterrupted power-supply bomb to the woman who answers the phone. He finally just tells her that there’s a “####ing bomb” in the building, and promptly hangs up.
Darlene comes out of the crowd of protesters and greets Elliot.
Darlene Tells All, and Elliot, Naturally, is Not Pleased
Elliot, upon seeing Darlene, immediately requests her help getting back into the E Corp building, but Darlene interrupts Elliot to tell him that she’s been working with the FBI
Elliot is stunned and, obviously, betrayed. He seems disoriented, and demands to know if Darlene is wearing a wire (she isn’t). This is a considerably more gentle reaction than I’d expect from Mr. Robot, who attacked Darlene just for possibly doing something to “his” computer in Season 3 Ep. 2.
Darlene then tells Elliot that she followed Mr. Robot and saw him meet with Angela, which triggers Elliot’s memory of seeing Angela and Tyrell together.
The Dark Army Storms the E Corp Building
The camera, in a very cool and smoothly executed way, leaves Elliot and Darlene, becoming a news camera covering the protest in front of the E Corp building.
The camera then glides through the protest to the police line in front of the building, and, after a few seconds, Dark Army goons posing as protestors attack the police, break the line, and storm inside the building. From now on, the entire building is pure chaos, with many many miscreants pouring in behind the initial Dark Army group of goons.
The goons get on an a elevator going up and watch the news broadcast on the elevator TV covering the Annexation of the Congo vote. Upon arrival at their desired floor, the goons rush out, proceeding to smash and spray paint everything in sight. E Corp employees run around screaming and, thus far, are mostly ignored by the mob.
Angela is On the Move
Watching the chaos from inside her office, we see Angela speaking on the phone with Irving. At the start of their conversation, they identify each other by exchanging codewords “Blankenship” and “Mentor”, referring to well-known hacker Loyd Blankenship who went by the name “The Mentor”.
Angela lets Irving know that something is going on (the mob in the building), and he informs her that this is “their distraction”. Angela, apparently uninformed, was not aware of this plan, and when asked for clarification, Irving says simply that they “ran into a bit of a snag”. This is probably in reference to Elliot’s patch blocking the first attempt at Stage 2.
Irving tells Angela to pick up a package from the reception desk on her floor of the building and then get it to Elliot to “implement their contingency plan” for them. Irving says instructions are in the package, and that Elliot is meant to go to the HSMs in the building and create a backup of the files on them.
This is a little confusing. Remember, last we saw, Elliot was outside the building, trying to figure out a way to destroy the HSMs to stop the Dark Army from signing their own firmware which would enable them to over-write his patch and blow up the records building. Does the Dark Army not know who stopped their first Stage 2 attempt?
Does Irving think Elliot is still in Mr. Robot mode or something? I feel like I missed something here. I don’t understand why Angela has been indicating to Irving that Elliot is complicit in the Stage 2 planning. How this helps her, I don’t know, but Irving thinks that Elliot can fix the Dark Army’s problem that Elliot actually caused, and Angela indicates that Elliot’s cooperation will not be a problem saying
“He’ll get it done.”
Angela hangs up and quickly makes her way toward the HSMs on the 23rd floor via the elevator, thus far avoiding the maniacal smashers running around everywhere.
Angela Runs the Dark Army Obstacle Course
On the way to the 23rd floor, the elevator doors open and an E Corp security guard steps on. He initially wants to help Angela get to a safe place, but sees the E Corp special access badge meant for Elliot and decides he needs to detain her for further questioning. Angela tries to get out of it, but the guard is determined.
Upon arrival on the 23rd floor, the guard is smashed and bashed to the floor by goons and Angela slips away, successfully making it to the HSMs. Oddly, the mob starts to chase her at this point, but she slams a door in their collective face and gets away.
There is a super-cool shot here, reminiscent of a video-game, where the camera floats above Angela and the building she is in. We see no roof on the building, as well as a cross-section of the room’s wall, as if we are spectating a 3D digital environment in a way that enables us to pass, and see, through objects in a way that the players cannot. This is either just a cool visual effect or is an incredibly telling statement on the nature of the world we’re seeing in Mr. Robot.
Angela dons gloves and begins, very quickly and adeptly, to follow the instructions included in the Dark Army package, meant for Elliot.
Partway through the process, Angela realizes she’s missing a USB key needed to complete it, so she goes into the adjacent room and begins searching for one.
Why the heck did the Dark Army give her a package without all the necessary components needed to complete the task? Hmm. Seems almost like they didn’t want her/Elliot to succeed. That’s a little intriguing.
Angela finds a USB key in an abandoned bag, no doubt left there by an E Corp employee who fled when the goons stormed the building. Great!
But wait, someone enters the room that Angela is in. An employee named Lydia Riley, who actually has authorization to be in the room that Angela snuck into, quickly becomes suspicious of Angela’s presence there. Before the whole thing can get hashed out, a goon in an fscoiety mask smashes the glass in the door and gets into the room the two women are in. Quick-thinking Lydia immediately pepper-sprays the man, who falls to the floor cursing, and goes running for her life.
Angela, affected by the pepper-spray but very focused, goes back into the HSM room and appears to complete the backup task assigned to Elliot by Irving. Hurray?
Angela grabs a black hoodie hanging in the HSM office and wipes down the discarded, pepper-sprayed, fsociety mask on the ground, donning them as a disguise to aide in her egress from the building. This works, as she passes, without incident, masked members of the mob happily smashing things on her way out
Angela Completes Elliot’s Mission, and Receives Something in Return
Angela calls Irving to tell him the mission is complete, this time using the codewords “Marlinspike” and “Moxie” this time, after Moxie Marlinspike, a well-known IRL computer security researcher. Angela warns Irving that there is a witness to her HSM shenanigans in the form of E Corp employee Lydia Riley. Irving says they’ll “take care of it”, so may Lydia Riley rest in peace.
Irving questions Angela why she completed the task instead of Elliot as planned, to which she responds simply “I couldn’t find him.” Irving, a little concerned, then asks Angela if she did everything on the instructions meant for Elliot, stressing that if she didn’t do it all exactly right, they would have a problem. Angela, seeming a little unsure, assures Irving that she did everything right.
Remember how difficult it was for Darlene to train Angela to do the femtocell hack? Well, Angela seemed much more competent in this episode, despite receiving no training for this mission. Maybe Angela knows more now, somehow, or maybe she did screw it up and Stage 2 will not work because of her error. We’ll see.
Angela, worried, asks Irving again whether the records building has been evacuated. Irving says that it has been, which is most likely true, though only due to Elliot’s warning phone call earlier in this episode.
Sensing Angela’s general anxiety around the events that comprise Stage 2, Irving alludes to the reason Angela is doing this, so “she” (White Rose) will “make it all better” for her. Angela seems emotionally affected by this statement, which no doubt refers to her getting her deceased parent back through the magic of White Rose.
By the way, we can hear the elevator TV in the background announcing that the vote to annex the congo has succeeded, and China now has the green-light to do so at some time, as yet unknown.
That guy from the warehouse who perpetually eats Red Wagon sandwiches while wearing a clean-suit and a baseball cap, is waiting for Angela in the E Corp building. This guy seems like what they would refer to in a video game as a “non-player character” due to his unchanging outfit and the way he just appears, always eating a sandwich.
Angela hands him the package with the HSM backup in it, and receives a package in return. It’s something inside a Red Wagon bag, but Angela starts crying, so I don’t think it’s just a sandwich.
As Angela, dazed, makes her way toward the exit, mission accomplished, she is confronted by Elliot, who asks her:
“Angela. Is there something you wanna tell me?”
What’s going on with Tyrell?
We have no update on Tyrell, including on how he managed to pull off the paper-records shipment so quickly.
I’m still eagerly waiting to see how the Dark Army deals with the fact that Tyrell thinks Joanna is still alive. Either they will have to kill Tyrell, or they will have to make a new Joanna using White Rose tech,. I suspect the latter, but whatever happens, Tyrell has already been dealt with, as his request was to escape with his family on the day of the Stage 2 Hack, which is the day this episode takes place.
Elliot Reveals a Little More of His Perspective on Us and Mr. Robot
In this episode, Elliot says that he created Mr. Robot to help him deal with tough situations, but that he isn’t imaginary. He also re-iterates that he misses Mr. Robot.
Elliot talks to “us” a lot in this episode, saying that we never respond, do not interact with him at all, experience everything he experiences.
Elliot also says:
“I wish I could see myself through your eyes. Don’t you wish you could see yourself through mine?
As we step through our code, line by line, debugging it to find the cause of our runtime error.”
This is very thought-provoking. How does Elliot see “us”? Yes, Elliot, we do want to see what “we” look like to you. Also, I’m assuming that he’s being metaphorical when referring to our (apparently shared!) code, but you never know.
Maybe Elliot has some tech in his head. Maybe that tech is “us”, and/or Mr. Robot, implanted to counteract the brain damage he incurred when he was pushed from the window as a child.
Okay okay, I’m just throwing out ideas here. I’m at a loss, but there are five episodes left in this season, so I very much look forward to hopefully having at least some of my guesses proven right or wrong by the end of the season.
Let’s Not Forget…
As I previously mentioned, the Annexation of the Congo, heavily featured in this episode, already happened IRL in 1908, so something’s not right in the Mr. Robot reality…