The penultimate episode of MR. ROBOT channels David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Back to the Future leaving us to wonder what’s real and what’s imaginary in this lucid dream of an episode.
The opening shows Elliot in bed, thinking about Mr. Robot and why he’s disappeared. Elliot knows he’s one step ahead of him all the time, silently watching everything Elliot does, so he uses a technique his friend Sam taught him in middle school to lucid dream. Clearly this is a shout out to the creator of the show Sam Esmail, but Elliot also invites us to do it with him. Soon the mantra “mind awake, body asleep” repeats over and over in a chorus of voices that’s intended to include ours as well. It continues until Elliot drifts off to sleep. The real question is about everything that follows afterwards. Is it real, or is it all a lucid dream of Elliot’s? This is only part one of a two part finale, so we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
Joanna Wellick’s stooge has brought her the information he got out of Elliot about where the calls are coming from, and instead of it all being inside Joanna’s head, there seems to be a legit explanation for the gifts and the calls. Is Tyrell really alive still, or is someone play acting as him to mess with her? She seems convinced it really is him, but last episode her bodyguard told Elliot there’s no way Tyrell could be at the location the calls were supposed to be coming from, so what does it mean?
One thing the episode does is leave us completely hanging when it comes to what happened to Darlene and Cisco in the aftermath of last week’s shooting. Are they alive, or are they dead? We never find out. We do see Dom though, and she’s covered in blood in a hospital being interrogated by her boss. She blames everything that happened on his stupid decision to release Cisco’s picture to the media, leading The Dark Army right to him. She’s convinced The Dark Army is connected to the Chinese government, and her boss agrees with her. The problem is the US government will do nothing about The Dark Army’s ties to China after China just lend E-Corp $2 trillion dollars at a zero percent interest rate. If she can prove the connection, will it even matter anymore, or will she be screaming out truth in a vacuum?
Price is a Machiavellian character through and through. He has the ability to manipulate the Federal Government, and now with the Chinese money he has even more leverage to do whatever the hell he wants. In this case he wants government approval of the e-coin E-Corp has come up with as a digital currency to rival bitcoin. Since China can manipulate bitcoin and the mining of it, he wants his rival currency authenticated and tied to the US dollar so it becomes the standard of alternative currency. Then E-Corp can begin lending it to people instead of US currency, and with government approval. He wants to use the Chinese loan money against China, but what’s his goal? Price tells the government regulator “defeats can still be profitable.”
We spend a lot of time with Angela this episode, and it’s as if Mr. Robot has stepped into David Lynch land when it comes to her scenes. The two people who confronted her on the subway after Elliot left her last episode have abducted her, and they have her in the back of a van. She’s locked in, they won’t talk to her, and they are playing songs from the Back to the Future soundtrack while they drive her somewhere. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be symbolic in anyway, or if Esmail is just having a little fun with a classic movie of his youth, but it definitely sets a mood. When her captors finally arrive at their destination, it’s a suburban home decked out all in whites and blacks. She’s led to a room and locked in, and the absurd nature of the room and what’s in it channels the red room in Twin Peaks. The room is dark, the only light comes from a large fish tank in the wall that’s slowly losing water. There’s a desk with an ancient computer on it, a red rotary phone, and a copy of Lolita by Nabakov on the table. The only other decoration is a poster of a cat hanging onto a branch with one paw that reads “hang in there”.
When someone finally enters the room, Angela is confronted by a young creepy version of herself. It’s like a child doppelganger dressed up just like Angela with her hair done the same way. She boots up a game on the old computer, and begins asking Angela bizarre questions like “Have you ever cried during sex” and “Have you ever fantasized about killing your father?” She doesn’t want to answer the questions, but the little girl tells her they’ll beat her if Angela doesn’t answer. There’s bruises on her back to prove she’s telling the truth, and when Angela doesn’t answer a question the red phone rings and the silent menace of whatever the little girl is being told is enough to get Angela to answer. It feels like she’s playing an old text based computer game when she’s told, “you’re standing in a room, in front of the door, where is the key to open the door?” Is it all just a psychological mind fuck, or is there a purpose behind all of this?
After hours of waiting around, White Rose finally comes into the room. She’s been manipulating Angela to test her for some reason. White Rose tells her she should have been dead ninety days ago, but for some reason Price keeps her around. It’s because of this that White Rose is going to let her live, but she needs Angela to drop her attempts to prove the negligence of her mother’s death because it will endanger the project White Rose has going. Angela also learns that White Rose knows Elliot. At the end of the meeting Angela is driven to her lawyer’s house where she tells her lawyer to forget everything said in the phone message she left, and to never contact her again. Has Angela been brainwashed, or is she doing this out of fear?
When Elliot finally wakes at the end of the episode, he finds Mr. Robot in his room searching for something. Mr. Robot can’t see him, Elliot has become the silent observer now, but is he awake or dreaming? When he finally finds what he’s looking for, Mr. Robot works out a cipher written on a restaurant take out menu. It leads to a phone number and the directions to find a cab. Elliot follows Mr. Robot, but he soon disappears, and Elliot finds the cab himself. The cab driver has been waiting for Elliot, but soon another person gets in the cab … Tyrell Wellick. Elliot freaks out and screams at the cab driver asking if he sees Tyrell or not, and soon they’re both kicked out of the cab. Tyrell wants to show him that phase two is ready to go, but is any of this even real? Elliot tells us his own perception is unreliable, which is why he freaks out when Tyrell enters. He can’t trust himself since his delusions are so strong at times. Earth Angel plays out as the credits roll, nodding once again to Back to the Future.
It was an interesting episode, but leaves a lot of loose ends dangling that need to be tied up in the finale to make the season work. Will Esmail and crew pull it off? I sure hope so, I mean, after one of the most absorbing episodes of the season it would be devastating to drop the ball at the last minute. Here’s hoping they carry it past the goal line in style.
Season 2, Episode 11 (S02E011)
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 9PM on USA
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Jeff Iblings | Contributor