Mr. Robot’s kept things from us. It began much sooner than we thought. Signs were missed, clues ignored, all because we were too distracted by what was in front of us, never bothering to lift our eyes a little higher. Are you ready for Stage 2?
So much depends upon
A red wheelbarrow
Glazed with rain water
Beside the white chickens
William Carlos Williams
To make sense of what’s happening now, Elliot goes back to “eps1.7_wh1ter0se.m4v”.
Tyrell’s conversation with Mr. Robot is shown as it actually occurred, with Elliot trying to push the company man away from fsociety. Walking away isn’t something Tyrell is willing to do, not when he saw something important in Elliot, something dramatically transformative. He needs to understand Elliot, the reason why fate had brought them together. Elliot tells Tyrell to turn his eyes skyward, to see what is above them, but the meaning flies right over his head. It reminds Tyrell of his childhood, of a father who’d memorized a pointless little poem, a man he swore never to grow in to.
Back in the present, Tyrell ushers Elliot past Evil Corp trucks into a neighboring building. A Chinese man in familiar CSI-white coveralls takes them up to Tyrell’s secluded workshop set up by the Dark Army. It’s time for Elliot to see all they’ve set into motion now that they’re ready to execute.
Elliot’s cell trace led Joanna to the Knowles’ house. He’s been the one tormenting her with the calls and the gifts. On the day of her murder, Sharon told Scott she was pregnant just hours after learning he’d become Evil Corp’s CTO. Tyrell took all that away, and that same pain was something he wanted to inflict upon Joanna. Mrs. Wellick remains unimpressed and insults a drunken Scott until he beats her bloody on his living room carpet. After getting cleaned up she meets up with Derek, her bartender boyfriend who swears to do anything to Scott in retaliation. Joanna wants but one thing from him: confess to the police that he saw Scott flee the scene of Sharon’s murder.
Darlene, bloody but alive, tries to outmaneuver Santiago and Dom with some cable-cop-show legal defense, but invoking the 5th Amendment isn’t enough to ward away the Patriot Act and her new status as a terrorist in the eyes of the FBI. Yet Darlene remains solid in this corner she’s been backed into, and Santiago is losing patience, but Dom isn’t giving up. She knows this Jersey girl, knows how to break her and flip her to get the people at the center of the 5/9 hack, her way to bringing down the Dark Army.
Dom makes her case clear to Darlene. In the late Cisco’s apartment the FBI found fsociety’s camera and a mask from The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie. No tape, but it’s a start. When that fails to impress Darlene, a shell casing connected to an illegal gun owned by a banker fuck-buddy is enough to communicate just how much the FBI has on her.
Having impressed Darlene, Dom is able to coax her out of the interview room, past gawking agents, to a room with a sprawling web connecting every player in the 5/9 hack, every Allsafe employee, every fsociety foot soldier, even the Alderson kids.
Dom had applied the Python Approach to her investigation, sitting on all her information until it was the right moment to strike. But a stray shot from a neighbor’s gun killed Romero, and sent everyone scurrying. Darlene couldn’t care less about the agent’s difficulty with her investigation, not when she’s staring at a map that puts Elliot and Tyrell at the center of 5/9, working together in secret, putting her on the outside of this intimate loop she thought she shared with her brother.
71 facilities are dumping all paper backups of Evil Corp’s records to one location in New York, across the street from where Elliot and Tyrell have set up shop. 17 facilities have been transferred, the rest will arrive within the month. Evil Corp has unknowingly made their work easier than expected.
Stage 2 relies on the backdoor Elliot opened at the start of all this. Malware they’ve been working on will be pushed through it, overloading Evil Corp’s transformer, exploding the batteries powering their new network, causing an explosion large enough to destroy the building where every title, deed, and deal Evil Corp has cataloged on paper is housed. Demolition will do away with the conglomerate for good.
This moment of confusion, gawking at what he set into motion, distracts Elliot long enough for Mr. Robot to reappear unannounced.
Mr. Robot tries to talk his way out of taking responsibility for lying to Elliot, for keeping things from him. They both work different parts of their plan, it’s the only way to get Elliot out of the way so the more extremist parts of their work can be realized. Elliot wouldn’t stop him if he was aware, and he proves this when, just like when it proposed to him the first time, he refuses to kill innocent people with a demolition.
Elliot assumes control of Tyrell’s terminal and sets out to delete the malware. He doesn’t type but before Tyrell menaces him with the gun Darlene stole. Mr. Robot warns Elliot to listen for his own sake, but Elliot’s not buying his lies anymore. Mr. Robot can never be trusted; whenever he’s present reality as a whole is subject to manipulation. To Elliot, Tyrell isn’t even there to shoot him even if he sees him.
It’s bad calculus on Elliot’s part; Tyrell pulls the trigger and shoots him in the gut. Collapsed on the ground, watching Mr. Robot glitch in and out of existence, Tyrell sobbingly explains that this, too, was part of Elliot’s plan. Elliot made him swear to stop anyone who would stop their work, even him.
Angela receives the call she’s been waiting for. Tyrell has been watching over Elliot, and their friend is close to waking. Angela tries to reassure him by telling him that shooting Elliot was the right move, that they can’t afford to be stopped now, and instructs him to stay put and wait for her. She ought to be the first person Elliot sees when he wakes up. He agrees, but can’t end the conversation without confessing his love for Elliot, a love Angela shares. As she rushes out of her apartment, New York goes dark.
On the other side of the country, in a hot, mostly empty Arizona parking lot, Mobley and Trenton take a break from their fast food job. Arizona sucks, but things aren’t so bad. They’re in the clear, living with new identities, in no time they’ll be able to move out of Mobley’s friend’s place–why mess it up by looking at what’s going on in New York? But Trenton sees an opportunity to reverse what they did on 5/9 and set everything back so they can go home to New York. Before Mobley can shut that idea down they’re interrupted by Leon, asking for the time.
That little dip back in time scratched part of my brain that made me wonder a bit about Tyrell and Elliot’s relationship.
At first pass it seemed to be a difference between the ladder-climbing capitalist and the cunning anarchist, but it seems that at the tail end of season one there was a meeting of the minds that unified Elliot and Tyrell in an way that didn’t fully make sense until now.
Just a handful of lines tells us that Tyrell, like Elliot, had a father who was a weak, insignificant man that somehow failed to live up to what his son needed. In the case of Tyrell it seemed that his father was the catalyst that pushed him to leave Sweden, come to the US, climb the ladder of the world’s largest conglomerate, and shoot for (and come close to) one of the tops positions of power in the world. How could such a petty man, moved by an insignificant poem, be enough to satisfy this ambitious child? In the case of Elliot, he needed a father that was willing to protect him from an abusive mother and fight back against the employers that caused and hid his death. How could Edward live up to a boy who idolized him?
Two men with unfit fathers drawn together by circumstance at a point where both would have a hand in changing the course of history. Not the meeting of pro and antagonist that was first presented, but the bond that ties them Elliot to Tyrell is the doing of Mr. Robot. It’s the relationship with this other persona that has made Tyrell feel complete, given him access to a project that can allow him to ascend to this godhood he feels would finally sever the ties to a father unworthy of his love by giving that love to another man more deserving.
Their relationship status now is much more amicable that it was first presented, and it’s entered this weird, almost disturbing space where Tyrell is seemingly devoted to Elliot, an almost religious connection now that they’re together on the other side of 5/9. It’s only now that Tyrell is a complete person, given the thing he’s searched for his whole life. As Esmail has said, “Because ultimately this is a show about a bunch of lonely people struggling to connect.” In the case of Tyrell, that’s a message that might have gotten lost in the delivery of this season for some, unfortunately.
USA has been kind of generous with their restrictions when it’s come to Sam Esmail this season, letting him run with episode lengths, leading to some 90+ minutes some nights. This made the decision to split the finale a bit of a head-scratcher. The way Mr. Robot has been setup, how Esmail has written and directed the show lends itself more to binge-watching than sticking to a traditional distribution format. He applies the Python Approach.
It’s almost as if two seasons are written more like two expanded act; these past 12 episodes only make sense as intended when seen as a whole, each installment in close proximity to the next. It’s has much to do with the audience inclusion part of the show, their role as Elliot’s friend. Traveling along with Elliot means we only get fragments, learning what he learns as he learns it, reacting when the other half of his mind admits to lies and lost time is returned. While there are many movies I can think of off the top of my head that use this method of story dissemination it’s not common in television and it doesn’t cooperate too well with it’s format. The only way to “get” what’s going on in Mr. Robot is to binge it, take it in as a long film and embrace the ignorance you’re mired in as you move along with the protagonist. But being asked to watch all this a second time isn’t really a problem.
Mr. Robot Season 2: 10/10