Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord? eps 2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc + pt2.tc
Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord?
Welcome back #MrRobot fans! Finally, we are back for Season 2.
A few of you know this is my second season of Mr. Robot recaps as I was one of the early adopters of the show. In fact, Mr. Robot was the first show I actually committed to doing weekly recaps for (my other shows are Halt and Catch Fire, GoT, the recently canceled Vinyl, and an occasional Better Call Saul).
Anyway, let's get to the episode. If you have not seen Season 1 or the first two episodes of Season 2 stop reading *SPOILER ALERT*
"I'm Late 4 My Church Group"...."Peace"
So #MrRobot works on many levels and for many people.
For Hackers, they actually have experts who actually work the hacks on the show and they even check the screen shots to make sure everything is accurate. In a television universe where hacking usually means a computer "expert" extracts a magical solution drawn from a computer by typing for about fourteen seconds of screen time Mr. Robot has to be very satisfying for actual coders.
If there were such a group of folks who self-identified as "mental illness fans" they would have to be impressed with how Elliot (Rami Malek) is written. A bit of self-disclosure, I suffer from generalized depression and panic disorder (so I feel somewhat qualified to comment on this).
Season 2 starts with Elliot remembering the very last thing that he can from the night of the 5/9 E-Corp hack. As you may recall in episode 9 of season 1, Tyrell Wellick confronted Elliot at fsociety's Coney Island headquarters with the knowledge that he knew Elliot is behind the attacks. Much of the season finale of Season 1 is Elliot trying to remember what happened after Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) confronted him.
So, in season 2 we find out that the last thing Elliot remembers is showing Wellick the 5/9 hack running as he slinks over to the popcorn machine and starts reaching for the gun he left behind in the popcorn machine before.
But, that is all he can remember. All he lets himself remember.
This sets up his central conflict in the first two episodes, just like in Fight Club, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) the phantom incarnation/personality of Elliot's Father Edward Alderson protects good + nice Elliot from the horrible things that need to be done to start the revolution.
Mr. Robot functions for Elliot just like Brad Pitt functioned to protect Edward Norton from all the bad things he needed to do to bring down the major banks through his worldwide networks of Fight Clubs.
Several critics of Mr. Robot consider it as nothing more than a flashy rip-off of Fincher's Fight Club movie. I think this is profoundly unfair. I believe that Esmail loves Fight Club and found himself haunted by the question of what would have happened after the bank buildings were blown up at the end of the movie.
Where Fight Club was a movie about what it took to turn a consumer with a split-personality from an Ikea-loving capitalist into a revolutionary Mr. Robot is a show about the ethics of capitalism and revolution and the true consequences of both.
By the way, the show Mr. Robot is very aware of it's debt to Fight Club (hence the cover version of the Pixies "Where Is My Mind" in Season 1) but Fight Club was clearly just a jumping off point.
Okay, enough of that.
When People See You, "They See Me!"
Remember those rose-colored glasses that Elliot used to view his Father through for the first half of Season 1? We were shown that his Mom was the abusive vicious parent and his Father was the sweet cancer-stricken and fired E-Corps systems engineer.
That kind version of Edward Alderson was revealed to be a mirage, more about Elliot's best memories of Edward when we found out that Edward pushed Elliot out of his second story window for telling his Mom about Edward's illness when he was a kid. In other words, the violent side of Edward still lives inside Elliot (and sometimes Edward even wears Elliot's face).
In fact, we see the aftereffects of his fall from the window as a Doctor has to question him separately as his parents fight about if they can afford to put a cast on young Elliot's arm. The implication here is that the Doctor is going to ask Elliot if his parents were responsible for his broken arm (which they were, and is an early example of how dissociation happens).
So, now as the season begins, Elliot is living off the grid with his Mother at her house, and he has invested in an entirely analog routine. Elliot gets up, goes to lunch with his friend Leon (Joey Bada$$), watches basketball (despite hating sports) with Leon, eats dinner with Leon, goes home to journal, and goes to church meetings.
Some might say he was using his analog routine to end Mr. Robot's power over him. To bore him literally to death. This is clearly not entirely true. The truth is clearly much more complicated. Elliot and Edward are fighting a war for information, not for total personality domination. Elliot and Edward enable each other in doing what each needs to do to be successful and to survive emotionally.
Elliot has decided that he needs to know the things that Edward keeps secret from him (for his own good). He wants to know where Tyrell Wellick went (or what happened to him). Really, deep-down, Elliot is unplugged because he wants to know if he murdered Tyrell Wellick.
To put it a little bit more clearly, Elliot is pretty sure (or at least pretty worried) that he killed Tyrell Wellick and disposed of the body (The Wellick question is also a stand-in for the larger social consequences of the hack on the large numbers of people who were hurt).
Throughout the entire episode, the battle rages on between the two personalities going so far that Edward (apparently on a semi-regular basis) shoots Elliot in the head. Edward's part of the personality is the killer and parasite, but that is not what Elliot is fighting, Elliot still needs Edward or at least understands that he still needs to be able to use the "Edwardian" parts of his personality to in order to survive.
But what Elliot really thinks he needs to know is who his unified whole really is. Is he a murderer? Is he the kind of guy who would let other people burn to save his own skin? In a sense, Edward exists only so that he can disassociate from the bad things he does. What Elliot is doing would be like if you (or me) blamed the crimes we decided to commit on genetic characteristics we inherited from our Fathers. Elliot still does all the things Edward allows him to forget that he does. Edward's purpose is to allow Elliot to see himself as innocent.
Elliot Alderson is the director, the personalities are the players. He is all the good and all the bad things he has done. Mr. Robot exists to help him do the things he feels bad about wanting to do.
This is what dissociative disorder actually is. It is tempting to think of them as separate personalities fighting for control, but they are negotiating blame and information sharing. Think of it like there is one "person" named Elliot Alderson who has urges - when those urges are pro-social they get sent to good-Elliot to implement and when those urges are anti-social they get sent to bad-Edward to implement (and keep from good-Elliot). Elliot wants to see himself as the hero and when he has to do "bad" things he creates ways to dissociate responsibility.
Gideon, his former boss, who has apparently been fitted as a fall-guy suit by E-Corps, visits and threatens Elliot with telling the FBI everything he knows about Elliot's meddling with E-Corps. in a dramatic moment, Edward appears to slit Gideon's throat but mere seconds later, like when he shot Elliot in the head, we find out it didn't really happen. But, as much as we don't want to think of Elliot this way, Edward is really Elliot. The things Edward does are the things Elliot does, the only difference is which aspect of his personality takes responsibility for those things he does.
We all have a lot invested in "good" Elliot. We have seen what a kind but also broken person he is. There is a part of him that is occasionally even sweet. But there is also massive rage. So much rage. In Season 1, Elliot says he wants to save the world. In a sense, this seems like part of a justification sequence more than the truth.
Elliot is the sweet guy and the rage-monster, Shayla's lover and the guy who won't help Gideon Goddard. The guy who loved his Dad enough to start a revolution against Evil Corps and who hates his Dad enough to lite the fuse that set the world on fire.
There are two more snippets of battles from the episode that reveal more about the ongoing negotiation between Edward and Elliot:
1) Edward (Mr. Robot) is able to hack Elliot's analog plan when necessary. During the basketball games he watches, he is approached by Ray (Craig Robinson) who needs a computer hacker for some reason and who we find out later knows who Elliot is.
Edward is able to call Ray at times when Elliot loses control/consciousness). Elliot shuts Ray off twice only to find out Edward has been talking to him on the phone at night.
2) Elliot is able to wear down Edward occasionally. Elliot's only question for Edward is what happened to Tyrell Wellick and at the end of the episode Elliot finds himself on the phone (given control by Edward) and we hear "Bonsoir Elliot" (Wellick's line to Elliot in the second episode of season 1 when he offers him a job at E-Corps). Elliot asked Edward to let him know what happened to Wellick (the last scene signals the beginnings of more information sharing between the two sides of Elliot's personality for better or for worse).
As Elliot starts to integrate the truth of what he has done and who he is into one personality he becomes "unm4sked." But what is really being "unm4sked" is who Elliot really is (the good, the bad, and the ugly). The entire reason he has created the Edward personality is so he doesn't have to integrate so this could be the start of fireworks.
The very first thing that happened on the entire episode was Wellick, back at Coney Island right before the hack, trying on a fsociety mask and remarking, "why this mask, it's kind of silly really?"
We know that Elliot wears his masks to protect himself from the truth of his childhood, from the parts of his personality that live entirely in anger, and from the disturbing things that he does, has done, or is involved in now.
As Edward puts it, "You add up to one thing, me."
His organization, fsociety, wears "silly" masks to protect themselves too but also. perhaps, so that, to Elliot, they all look like he feels (masked), Silly, and angry.
Last but not least, Elliot has two great moments where he speaks to the camera (us) before panning to the person that he is actually talking to on the show. The first is a commentary on how most of us outside of the show get through our days by establishing often boring routines that help us avoid our own pain and nightmares. The second is when he is watching the basketball game and asks "what mask are you wearing" to the camera.
This is a device Esmail uses to talk directly to us to comment on us.
I would tell him to go fuck himself, but he might shoot me in the head.
Oh, and Joey Bada$$ likes Seinfeld, can't leave that out, it's a show about nothing.
"We Are In A War, and We Are On The Losing Side"
One cool thing about Season Two apparently is that most of the characters have gotten their own independent story arcs divorced from Elliot's.
In a pretty cool sequence, we are introduced to E-Corps General Counsel Susan Jacobs (Sandrine Holt) as she jogs around Central Park until returning to her apartment which turns out to be a smart home. As she tries to use all of the functions they start backfiring on her. Her home alarm keeps going on no matter how many times she enters her code, her shower burns her, the television won't turn off, and the temperature keeps dropping.
It gets her so frustrated that she calls the service that installed everything and says she is leaving for her second home upstate. Obviously, her "smart home" was hacked and it turns out it was hacked by...
Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is now the unquestioned leader of fsociety and is sending her minions out on missions (like removing the testicles from the Wall Street bull). When they get back from their mischief they take over Jacobs house.
But right before we see her giving an impressive dressing-down speech to fsociety, in which we find out Jacobs is known as "Madam Executioner," we see Darlene on the floor of the bathroom crying.
Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
Darlene feels fsociety is losing the war they started, that E-Corp seems to be stronger not weaker, and that they have betrayed the people who supported the revolution.
She tells her chief lieutenant that they have to let everyone know that they haven't given up.
Next thing we see is that fsociety has gummed up E-Corps electronic systems with a ransomware scheme. threatening to cut off all accounts unless E-Corps delivers them 5.9 million dollars (get it, 5/9).
E-Corps agrees to the demand and Wellick's old boss Scott Knowles (Brian Stokes Mitchell) agrees to deliver the money. When he arrives at the drop spot a bike messenger delivers a backpack and he pulls out a mask and some gasoline and matches. He is ordered to put on the mask, dump all the money on the street, and start a bonfire.
Adios, 5.9 million buckaroos. All to the sweet sounds of Phil Collins. Not really sure why Phil Collins was one of the three songs on this episode but welcome back Phil.
Darlene is large and in charge but in charge of what? Right after the money is burned we see E-Corps CEO Phillip Price (Micheal Cristofer) tell the council of economic advisors and the Fed to fuck off when they tell him that he needs to resign. He laughs and tells them to get back to him when they have his new bailout money (they already gave him 900 Billion that he has burned through) and he gives a speech about how the economy has always been and will always be a con.
Just E-Corps being E-Corps.
"I Have Value and They See It"
Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) is now fully ensconced as a mid-level PR person at E-Corps, and as we started to see at the end of Season One, she is changing into a true Lord of the Realm.
She is faced with the pressure of a particular interview everyone in her office seems to think is very important. She gives the producer at Bloomberg News an ultimatum he doesn't like and instead of continuing the negotiations she hangs up on him. When one of the other ladies in the office starts dressing her down, Angela coldly looks at her and tells her to go "tell whoever she is going to tell whatever she is going to say" but that she should "get out of her cubicle right now."
Angela puts her headphones on and starts listening to Sonic Youth! One of my favorite shows meets one of my favorite bands. Good times!
Her phone rings again, and just as her office mate is coming with a "boss" to punish her, Bloomberg News calls back and accedes to most all of her earlier ultimatums. This immediately gets her out of trouble with the "boss" and probably will allow her to make her snitching co-worker's life miserable.
Cut to Angela sitting at the bar with one of her old friends who had been working with her on the cancer lawsuit against E-Corps. She basically tells her to "fuck off" too and that she wants to continue to work at E-Corps. That she feels valued there.
Her old friend tells her a joke with the punchline about once you agree to sex for money everything else is just negotiating over price. The facade drops a little bit and we see Angela in her apartment in the aftermath of sex with a stranger she picked up at the bar. She leaves the bed and heads to her television area to start repeating affirmations from self-help DVDs about finding success and money.
She has become a shark but it is taking all of her strength not to revert to a minnow. Angela makes winning look a little bit like losing.
That is too bad.
Inside The Glamorous Wardrobe of Tyrell Wellick's Wife
Why is it that Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) scares me more than any other character on the show.
It is very disturbing to see she has hired someone to have some "beat her up" sex, but even more disturbing to realize that she was in much more control than the milquetoast guy that she hired to do the work.
I think she just appears to be one of the least knowable characters on the show. She seems to be a force of nature and not a nature you would want to be around if you could help it.
Well, aside from the tryst, when Joanna gets home she gets a present of a music box and on the bottom of the music box is a smartphone.
At the very end of the episode, the phone rings, but she is busy putting the baby away. I believe the implication is that it is her husband because in the very next scene Elliot answers the phone and hears "Bonsoir."
Did I mention Joanna, the character, terrifies me?
"For Our Country"
Esmail takes several shots across America's bow in this episode. I already mentioned the two times Elliot breaks the fourth wall to lecture us about our own consumerism. But Esmail also purposely includes three other such pop-culture critical moments as well:
1) A quick snippet of Nancy Grace deriding the government for not finding the hackers quickly enough for her liking.
2) A quick bit of the show Vanderpump Rules in that Joanna Wellick scene with the hired sex guy.
3) The sad death of Gideon Goddard (Michel Gill). Goddard was always a character who seemed hopelessly sweet and in way over his head. He had no business being in charge of computer security, he was just too nice and normal for the gig.
As I mentioned earlier, Gideon knows he is being set up as the patsy and is being investigated by the FBI. He begs Elliot to save him and then threatens to tell the FBI everything he knows about Elliot's behaviors on 5/9.
We also learn that poor Gideon has lost his husband (ostensibly over the collapse of his company after 5/9) as he shares this information with a barfly. It turns out that this barfly is actually just another American looking to get famous by using a gun. He mentions that while Gideon is just a patsy that he is a really important patsy and a patsy that will make the barfly a "hero." And then that barfly pulls out a gun and shoots poor Gideon dead.
Amurica (or is that Murica?).
RIP Gideon. But the remaining question is what did Gideon tell the FBI about Elliot.
Before his untimely demise, Gideon is seen walking into an interrogation with FBI agent Dominique "Dom" DiPierro (Grace Gummer).
Dom was introduced to the show mere seconds before this scene getting a lollipop in a bodega. During this short scene, she is snapped at by someone behind her in line who, it turns out, was actually one of the founding members of Anonymous.
Lost of interesting people really love Mr. Robot.
Well okay, hope you are happy to have Mr. Robot back. I know that I am!
What did you think of Mr. Robot? What did you think of Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord? Let me know, leave a comment!