Mr. Robot Review: Episode 11

SEASON 2, EPISODE 11: eps2.9 pyth0n-pt1.p7z

Mind awake. Body asleep. – Elliot Alderson

So let’s get real about Wednesday’s episode. I’m not on board with going in such an obtuse direction on the penultimate installment of the season. Sam Esmail defies expectation, and while his show has certainly gone off the rails in a traditional sense, within the constructs he’s created in the world of Mr. Robot, it’s very much in its element. That’s a positive, because we’ve been conditioned as viewers to see this show and accept just about anything it provides us as an audience.

With that said, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the hell this week’s story was attempting to accomplish, other than confusing us and dropping some random answers in a larger mystery that is still extremely murky and uncertain. The title reveals the idea that this hour was part one of a two-part finale, even though that’s not explicitly stated. It’s a very Mr. Robot device; because this is never a show that spoon-feeds its audience anything.

What we learned on Wednesday is that there are two opinions on the Washington Township water scenario that led to the deaths of Elliot’s father, Angela’s mother, and many others. There’s the obvious side, and then there’s White Rose, Phillip Price, and others, who are trying to sell the reality that there was a larger plan in motion. When Angela is asked whether it would make a difference if she knew that the deaths were for a greater, more important purpose, we at least begin to see some nuance to that portion of the plot. I’m still waiting for it to fully seal, but am much more interested in it now than at other times, when it was presented with holes on top of holes.

Dom’s arc was intriguing this week, as we saw her human side finally emerge in the scene where she conversed with her artificial intelligence, Alexa. Occasionally, the human side becomes the focus, and with Grace Gummer’s character in particular, it’s been the job and the lack of sleep. When we see the tears begin to well up in her eyes as she asks Alexa if she loves her, or if she’s lonely, or if she’s happy, we get our first true insight into the emptiness that defines this woman’s life. She’s so driven, but she’s also unapproachable as a result. Gummer has been exceptional playing the role, and it’s become a more captivating part of the Mr. Robot saga with each passing week.

The gunfight at the diner, coupled with the two trillion dollar Chinese bailout of E Corp, incenses Dom, who rightfully assumes the influence of the Dark Army and a potential trap laid against the United States. Though it’s been cryptic, we’re starting to understand just how deep the tentacles of Phillip Price reach into the federal government. He all but forces an Ecoin loan, designed to prop up his company and also to potentially destroy Bitcoin. Price is the villain of Mr. Robot, but he’s never alone. This is a story, on both the good and bad spectrums, of collusion and illusion.

Collusion is all over Mr. Robot, between governments and corporations, between hackers and terrorist organizations, and even between one man and his own psyche. Illusion comes in the form of power, respective to who wields it, who believes they have it, and how dangerous a false sense of authority can be. Last week, Price told Colby why he continues to do what he does. He knows how power works, and his obsession is with manipulating the mechanisms to ensure his chair is the highest, most comfortable, and most threatening on the planet. Elliot wavers from being in control of Mr. Robot, to wondering if there’s anything left inside of him that bears any resemblance to the young man he once was.

As long as you never forget what the themes of Mr. Robot are, all the WTF boxes can be checked off, even the one that immediately brought to mind fond memories of Back to the Future, as we were transported to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance courtesy of the jazz music in the van, and Earth Angel with Tyrell Wellick in the New York streets.

In the annals of Mr. Robot’s ridiculousness was Angela’s trip to the suburbs, left to answer insane questions from a stoic girl, who was reading them off a Commodore 64 computer. Here again, it seems clear the show wants us to make a leap to the conclusion that new technology is always connected, both to the right and the wrong people. We’ve seen air-gapped computers pop up in various suspense and action shows and movies in recent years, but without saying so, my take on the rudimentary electronics in that room was that THIS machine, unlike virtually any other, was 100 percent safe from intrusion or monitoring.

When White Rose walked into the room and engaged in the vague, overreaching conversation with Angela, I thought of The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded. Whether or not you liked that film, I was a big fan of that sequence, almost entirely because I had no idea of its purpose or relevance. Wednesday’s chat in the room with the dead fish was similar. It felt hugely important, but a lot of the big words and the imagery were Faulknerish in their sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The only thing that really came from that scene was White Rose’s insistence (or attempted brainwashing) to get Angela to drop her interest in Washington Township, and it succeeds. She ends up at her attorney’s doorstep, telling the woman never again to contact her and that the subject is closed. Whether it’s Moss’ legit emotion or she’s in terror is yet to be determined. It seems hard to buy that being the end of the line for that arc, but again, Mr. Robot is all in on things that aren’t easy to buy. This show is the American Girl doll of television. It’s pristine, you shouldn’t let kids play with it, and its creators are not concerned about impressions or traditions.

In contrast to the American Girl dolls, however, I’m a fan of the sheer chutzpah it takes to be Sam Esmail and to write and craft a show that is almost designed to alienate its own audience with each passing week. It’s a marvel, even if certain moments work better than others.

Back to the Future, The Matrix Reloaded, and also a little Vanilla Sky in this episode, even to the point we see Elliot and Tyrell walking in the street in similar fashion to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. I do believe BTTF was intentional, but not the other two, though I’m still attempting to decipher why Back to the Future was used in the way it was. I won’t complain though, as it’s one of those things from my childhood that helped define me from a pop culture perspective.

The lucid dream idea left me perplexed, even when the credits rolled. Mr. Robot has done such a good job of screwing with us that I have a hard time determining what’s real or not. I’m sitting there asking myself if that’s ACTUALLY Tyrell Wellick, or if we’re in a dream sequence. But, when he says, “Dark Army told me Stage 2 is ready, you’ll be pleased,” now we’re getting somewhere. It’s almost the end of the season, and I am so amped to find out where they’re going to stop the plot this time, and what, if anything, is going to be resolved.

A state of disarray can sometimes be of value to a show. This was not at all one of my favorite episodes of the season, but it was the very opposite of boring. Sometimes that’s enough. I’ll admit to asking, “What the f-ck was that,” a few times, but that’s not always a bad thing. I need the substance to return in the finale, but for the most part, Esmail pulled off some kind of magic act on Wednesday and turned a pile of the strange into something utterly fascinating. That’s to be commended.

I’m @JMartOutkick on the Tweets. Follow me there, and no…I’ve never cried during sex. I mean…she might have (whoever she is or was), but not me. No sir. No tears mid-coitus.

Written by Jason Martin