Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord? Eps 2.5_h4ndshake.sme

Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord?

Who Mr. Robot's Landlord is the name of my weekly recap of the show Mr. Robot.

The truth comes out :). I won't lie, I am feeling pretty vindicated on MANY levels tonight. Between the things I have posted here and on Reddit, I got a LOT of things right about Season 2.

If you are ready for me to take a victory lap, read on. Unless, of course, you have not seen eps 2.5 of Mr. Robot yet...If not, quit reading now. * Spoiler Alert *

Hello, I See You, I Recognize You

Hello, Friends. 

Let's get the big stuff out of the way. Elliot (Rami Malek) was in an institution, I and many other people were right from almost the very beginning. I was wrong about it being a mental institution and not a prison, but I was right about a lot of the rest of the details.

Let me say this up front as well, I am not the only person who mentioned this theory, in fact, one Redditor came up with it almost immediately after the first episode of Season 2 (pretty amazing). But, I did originate two things:

1. The "Ray's Computer" theory (more on that in a second).

2. The argument that Elliot and Mr. Robot are not independent fully-formed personalities fighting with each other for control. 

I was right that there was one glaring "tell" in the middle of the entire thing, why did Elliot have to use "Ray's Computer." As I said only two days ago on Reddit, when twists work, it is always because the key evidence is sitting right out in the open. For twists to work, the evidence has to have been in front of the audience's faces the entire time, 

Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) from "The Usual Suspects," right in front of your face the entire time. Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) right there in front of your face. Dil (Jaye Davidson) in the Crying Game right in front of your face (until he is really right in front of your face). 

And it isn't always just people. In the Brian De Palma movie "Body Double," the tell is actually a dog who, if you catch it, barks at the protagonist but not the antagonist at a critical moment. Several weeks ago, I asked Sam Esmail about Mulholland Drive after posting here (and elsewhere) that Ray's computer could serve as the element that connects Elliot's fantasy back to Elliot's reality (I called it a "Silencio" box).

From the very first time Ray (Craig Robinson) talked to Elliot about his computer "needs" I have been pointing out that it makes NO sense, unless something is up, that the only computer available to Elliot was Ray's computer (I even started posting long lists of other computers he should have been able to access). Anyway, I just tweeted Esmail again asking if he thought about the tell in Body Double. Maybe he will respond again.

Anyway, Elliot was in a prison the whole season, most likely for his hack on his therapist Krista's ex-boyfriend (the one that allowed him to get the guys Dog).

So, anyway, you might be wondering how the Ray problem worked out.

Okay, a few weeks ago, as Elliot was getting beaten up, I suggested that it didn't make much sense that Ray would have ever allowed an outsider to fix his site. Elliot being a prisoner solves that part of the riddle. Ray was almost certainly a therapist, unit counselor, social worker, or assistant warden (the inmates were too familiar with him to be a full warden). 

On the other hand, Leon later tells Elliot that half the people (in the prison) wanted to thank him and the other half wanted to kill him. So, I guess Ray could have been the warden. From my own personal experience, I can only tell Esmail that Wardens rarely if ever spend much time with the prisoners.

Next, I suggested that Ray would be unlikely to let Elliot fix the problem because he could never trust what Elliot would actually do with his site or secret information. Turns out, Ray was just a normal prison employee, his now-dead wife was the computer expert and she was the one who set the site up and convinced him to let "the market decide" what people exchanged on the site.

Ray never actually knew what was on the site, he tells Elliot, until Elliot looked.for him.

The reason he lets Elliot back on the computer to fix the site is because he knows that Elliot will turn him in.(which makes sense) 

Ray admits he was wrong to beat him up and then asks how long he has before the authorities show up. He tells Elliot to be careful (another tell, remember that at this point the reveal had not happened yet). As Elliot leaves, and the authorities walk in, they tell him to stay put (which is another tell for anyone who has spent any time in an institutional environment). 

Oh, one other thing, Ray knew Elliot was "good at computers" at the beginning of the season from reading his file. If you watch the "Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie" scene between Darlene and Elliot you will see him tell the story about being arrested for blowing up a bunch of servers in retaliation for getting fired after a hack.

A Mr. Robot Handshake, "Negotiate as Partners"

The episode started with Elliot talking about the relative similarity between handshakes between say computers and servers and the handshakes between people. Later he explains his new relationship with Mr. Robot in similar terms, a handshake is the start of a continual negotiation between two parties or entities. 

For many weeks I have been suggesting that Elliot and Edward are not separate personalities because that is not the way that DID works. A person with DID is one fragmented personality and not several unique personalities (all inhabiting the same body).

As Stephen S. Marmer, M.D. ,Ph.D. put it: 

I see alters as mental constructs which are integral parts of a single person. Frank Putnam affirms this when he states, “Alter personalities are not separate people . . . . They are best conceptualized as examples of a fundamental and discrete unit of consciousness, the behavioral state.” 15 He then compares the presence of alters to the behavioral and affective shifts that occur in bipolar illness.16 Richard Gottlieb makes a similar argument.17

Or as Walter Sinott-Armstrong & Stephen Behkne put it:

This criterion is easy to apply to cases of MPD. Different alters in a case of MPD inhabit the same body completely. That body has a single brain. It is not even split, as in split-brain patients. Some evidence suggests that different alters use different parts of the brain or that the brain displays different patterns of activity when different alters are in control. There are also some differences, however, between the patterns of activity when a single person is in different moods or stages of life, or when asleep or drunk. These normal differences might not be as extreme as in cases of MPD, but they still show that, even if the brain functions differently when different alters are in control, this fact alone cannot undermine the conclusion that these alters must be parts of the same person, as long as brain identity is sufficient for personal identity.

I have been saying that Edward and Elliot are not different personalities fighting but that they have been involved in a negotiation over if Elliot gets to be conscious when his Edward alter is doing "bad" things. It was pretty affirming to have Elliot literally use the negotiation language (and for the episode to be named "handshake") 

Okay here is the last part of my victory lap, I am really only recounting this because it is important but I have also said all season that Elliot is personally responsible for the bad things that he has done (with Edward's help).

In eps 2.5 Elliot finally admits that it was him who did all the bad things and that Edward aka Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) was the part of his personality that helps him accomplish the bad things that he wants to dissociate from. 

This was really cool because it is pretty important to get this stuff right.

There are real human beings that suffer from DID and the only information most of us will ever have about someone with DID is Elliot Alderson on this incredible show Mr. Robot. Congratulations to Sam Esmail for taking the time to understand this disease before writing Elliot's character. 

I myself, who only write about this show here for a relatively small audience, spent hours last week reading scientific articles about DID just so I would not be irresponsible about the things that I was saying. I am really glad Mr. Esmail took it very seriously too.

One of the things that we find out is that Elliot shot Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom). Edward makes it seem like Tyrell is dead, but we don't actually know this yet. I am not sure either way, so I am not going to predict anything except to say that someone is still sending Joanna stuff so there is still a chance he survived being shot by Elliot. The important thing here is that Elliot used the gun that Darlene stashed in the popcorn machine to shoot Tyrell.

So why have I been so insistent on Elliot being morally compromised? Is it because, as some have suggested, that I hate Christmas?

No, I love Christmas, in case you were wondering.

Seriously, I insist on Elliot being a morally compromised and complicated protagonist because I do not believe Sam Esmail does simple characters. And because people with DID are morally responsible for the things that they do, and because it would be a disservice to them to suggest DID absolves them of responsibility for the bad or good things that they do.

Or as Dr. Frank Putnam puts it:

The implicit and mistaken assumption made by many people is that the alter personalities are separate people. This is a serious conceptual error that will lead to therapeutic error. Alter personalities are not separate people!

I am glad Mr. Robot is not part of continuing those mistaken assumptions.

Okay, debate settled, Elliot is morally responsible for his actions and Elliot is one person with fragmented personas that deal with the particular problems that he faces but that he wants to dissociate from. 

As much as you love Elliot, he committed the 5/9 hack, he likely shot and maybe killed Wellick, and he let all those people out of jail (in season one). Elliot did all of that. Even when Edward's the persona acting, Elliot is Edward, Edward is Elliot.

Elliot is also capable of great sweetness, he was amazing with Shayla. He loves Darlene. He loves his dead Father (although he had a conflicted relationship with him it is starting to work its way out).

He is ready to get back to work with fsociety (he tells Edward he is ready). 

How is he supposed to that? Well....

"Make Sure You Say I Did You Good"

Right after Leon (Joey Bada$$) tells Elliot that half the people (in prison) want to kill him and the other half want to thank him the Aryan nation folks walk up (remember the guy who talked about beating up the Indian fella in the support group meeting, turns out he is the head of the local Aryan nation group). 

The Aryan A-Holes tell Leon to leave and Leon tells them to fuck off. They suggest that he has too much courage for his own good. Elliot says he can stay. The Aryans say that they will get him one-on-one later (this might come from some SE  ignorance about prison - you are actually very unlikely to be attacked one-on-one it is almost always a pack attack unless it is sexual).

Later, the Aryans attack Elliot (looks like it happens on the yard). Just about when they are about to kill him (for screwing up Ray and Ray's bitcoin operation) Leon shows up out of nowhere and kills all of them with a knife (probably a shiv).

Turns out Leon is with the Dark Army and working for Whiterose. He tells Elliot that he will be "getting a letter" on Tuesday and that when he next sees Whiterose he should tell him that "I did you good."

Okay, so as we find out after the reveal, Elliot is getting out of prison. He is now ready to get back to work destroying E-Corps. He also burned the infamous trashcan notebook (red wheelbarrow). Full circle.

Oh, there was also a commercial for the new E-Corps messaging app and a commercial for preordering your own copy of Elliot's notebook (when did this show become about product placement?).

A #Mr. Robot Present For Derek?

So it turns out that Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) met her new BF Derek (the bartender) at an E-Corps party (we learn this in a flashback). The flashback is followed immediately by Joanna screaming after getting attacked by some random woman throwing red paint all over her (which makes her scream as the opening credits roll). 

Derek the bartender, after doing his usual auto-erotic-asphyxiation thing with her, asks her to attend a party with his family and friends. She no-shows.and he confronts her about it.

She hands him a present, she has asked the court for a divorce from Tyrell.

Who knows where this is going.

"Your Story Fascinates Me"

When last we saw Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) she was being confronted by Dom (Grace Gummer) at the exact moment she was about to finish the wireless hookup for Darlene.

Dom, in pretty much no uncertain terms, lets Angela know that she knows what is up. She knows she was on the 23rd floor, she knows Angela is hiding something about why she is working at E-Corps, and she pretty much suspects Angela is up to no good. Angela tries to BS her way through the interrogation but is clear that they both know what time it is.

After Dom leaves, Angela finishes the work for Darlene and now fsociety "Owns the FBI."

A few scenes later, Dom is asking a tech agent to look at the tapes from the 23rd-floor and guess what? There are no tape records left.

Dom mentions that they should check Angela's computer immediately but that there would likely be no trace left. Dom is really scary smart.

"Every Halloween You Made Me Watch  That Shitty Movie"

After all the Dom drama, Angela sneaks around until she feels safe to meet with Darlene. Darlene offers to let Angela ask her any questions that she might have. Angela basically lets Darlene know that she has known she was in fsociety and behind the hacks for a long time. She explains that she wasn't so stupid that she couldn't connect the fsociety masks to Darlene and Elliot after all those Halloweens being forced to watch "The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie."

So we know that Angela knew about fsociety which suggests, perhaps, that she has been playing a double game this whole time too. It would make sense that she has to convince herself all the time of her capabilities (with self-help tapes) if she is having to create the confidence to convince E-Corps that she is really working for them and not against them.

Oh, Angela also has decided to resolve the class action lawsuit around all the people who died of cancer (including her parents and Elliot's Dad) because of E-Corps pollution. She visits one of her former allies in the lawsuit (now working at what looks like an E-Corps version of Wall Mart) and tries to get him on board for the new settlement. After he turns her down, she explains that she already has the majority of the class on board.

At one point she says, "that's the thing about money, money makes you care more about money than you do about anything else."

Two funny asides: 

1) In the Wall-Mart style store, they are selling E-Corps survival kits. He says they are selling like hotcakes. The suggestion here is that corporations can make plenty of money from revolution.

2) Right before her meeting with Darlene, Angela hears a news story about people going broke all over the place and having no access to money but also that a new bitcoin style electronic system was being made available. This is clearly another example of either E-Corps or the Dark Army making revolution pay off.

Finally,  because she settled the class action lawsuit, Angela earns some props from Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer). She asks him to be moved into middle management in the risk management division of E-Corps. At first Phillip Price demurs but eventually he comes around and gives her the job.

Price also mentions that it is his birthday and asks her if she wants to "celebrate" with him. She says "No" and he says, "Okay, maybe next year."

Angela starts her new job and starts to insinuate herself in trying to get access to a bunch of information that again seems to suggest that she is potentially on a double mission.  She goes a bit too far with her new boss and he calls her out, making everyone else in the room leave. He tells her that Phillip Price gave him leave to treat her "however he wanted to." 

Sam Esmail can even make risk management seem full of intrigue.

John Boehner's Balls

Darlene (Carly Chaikin) had one moment of glory tonight. 

We find out that right at the moment speaker John Boehner is about to call a vote on the bailout (that E-Corps wants) the brass testicles that fsociety stole from Wall Street drop from the ceiling and fall to the Congress floor.

Those wacky hackers.

Okay, well that is the end of another episode. On the good side, Elliot promised that he will no longer lie to us. He says that from now on that we are negotiating a new relationship.and that he will attempt to be more honest with us.

I think that means we are done with the twists for the rest of the season. Or at least with Elliot being unreliable.

Sorry for all the self-congratulation. I hope you still liked the recap. Let me know what you thought, leave a comment!

Body Double [Blu-ray]
Starring Melanie Griffith, Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd