Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord? eps 2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx

Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord?

Welcome to my weekly recap of Mr. Robot. The name is a reference to the relationship between us (the audience, Elliot's invisible friend) and the relationship between Elliot, Edward, the Alter Mr. Robot, and a computer repair shop with that cool iconic logo.

If you have not seen eps 2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx stop reading, in other words, *Spoiler Alert*

A Legacy The Size of God

Haven't seen Terry Colby (Bruce Altman), E-Corps former head of Security, in quite a while. Apparently, he has been called back to meet with Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) so that Price can leverage him to gain a political favor for China (and perhaps also for Zhang/Whiterose). As you may remember from last week, we know that Price used the Washington Township Facility (WTF) which the Dark Army has taken over (in some sense) from E-Corps as leverage in order to get China to bail E-Corps out after the 5/9 hack.

My guess is that Zhang/Whiterose (B.D. Wong) needed Price to gain a concession for the Chinese Government in order to ensure China would pony up the dollars. The concession that China is asking for is US abstention in a vote allowing the Chinese Government to annex (or take control of) the Congo in Central Africa. This is actually how UN Security Council votes go down. Any member of the Security Council can veto a proposal, but no member has to register a vote. In other words, by not using the veto power, the United States could allow the UN resolution allowing China to take over the Congo to pass, even if the US chose not to vote at all. In fact, the US could, I believe, vote against the Resolution but not use their veto and the measure could still pass (it has been over 20 years since I did my Masters thesis work which included deep dives into UN Voting procedures and records).

So, geopolitically, we now know:

* The Dark Army has control of a Nuclear Power Facility (WTF) which means they could potentially be working on modifications that would allow them to process and refine nuclear weapons grade materials or that the plant itself could be used as a bomb (Chernobyl-style). It is also possible the site or its waste could be used to create dirty bombs (it has been a bit since I did Security Studies research but I seem to remember that this would be possible).

* China wants control of the Congo which is actually two countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. I feel like this is probably a bit of a red herring. My guess is that it was simply the quid pro quo which cemented the deal between Zhang and Price to keep the WTF open. However, there is a real geostrategic reason behind this and the US and China really are currently competing for influence in the Congo. Why? The answer is Cobalt.

The Congo is rich in Cobalt which is necessary to the production of next wave technologies like electric cars and electric batteries. The Congo is also seen by China as an important part of their "One Belt One Road" policy. China is also helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo build a dam that could, theoretically, provide for 30% of all of Africa's electricity needs.   Anyway, the Congo holds 50% of the world's Cobalt which is probably all you need to know.

As one source put it:

"The Congo possesses an astounding $24 trillion in mineral reserves, including gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, tungsten, zinc, manganese, magnesium, uranium, niobium, gold, diamonds, and silver.  These minerals are needed to make jet engines, cars, missiles, computers, cell-phones, electronic components, iron and steel, as well as required in fibre optics and in other military and high-tech production."

One thing that would suggest that Obama might never agree to Price's wild plan is that the Congo is also the source of most of the world's Coltan. What is Coltan you ask, here is some more information on that:

“Tantalum derived from coltan is essential in powering a new trend of military applications made by the U.S. Yet the U.S. has no domestic source of coltan… and its tantalum stocks have been depleted in recent years. In order to sustain a continued flow of coltan, the U.S. depends entirely on imports. Tantalum capacitors are important for aerospace and military technologies, which rely on them for running applications that reach very high temperatures. 

“This extends to smart bombs, on-board navigation in drones and robots, and a variety of weapons systems, such as the capacitors in anti-tank systems. If it were not for tantalum’s amazing heat-resistant properties, these systems would otherwise overheat. Tantalum capacitors can tolerate operating environments of up to 200°C.”

So, yes, this might have seemed like a throw-away scene. But competition between China and the US over the Congo and it's natural resources is a real thing.

As for the rest of the scene. I have often engaged in defending how all of the characters on Mr. Robot are complex combinations of good and evil but Price is an exception. He is pretty much everything bad about corporatism distilled into one almost cartoonish supervillain. 

At the end of this sequence, Price is asked by Colby about why he does what he does, and Price answers that it is very important to him to be the "most powerful person on Earth." He says that he wants to leave a legacy that "Only God" could compete with and that anything else would not even be "worth mentioning."

Nothing subtle or complex about Phillip Price, he is an insane megalomaniac.

Oh, he also says that "Politics is for Puppets."

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is a book by Chinua Achebe about how paternalism and acting in the interest of others can often quickly turn into brutality and horror. It uses Colonialism in Africa, much like The Wire used crime in Baltimore, to demonstrate the cruelty and indifference that can come with our plans to make the world a better place.

Elliot (Rami Malek) and E-Corps are similar in one way, they both had plans for instigating radical social engineering. E-Corps wants to reduce people into fuel to continually generate growing profitability and Elliot wanted to bring down E-Corps to "free" humanity. Regardless of intent, Elliot's mission is still colonial, it is still at the base, a desire to remake the world in his own more benign image. 

As the USFG learned in Egypt, the problem with fostering Democracy is the creation of all that damn choice. Elliot, if successful, is forcibly robbing all of the people in the world from choosing the Blue Pill. Just like, by backing Sisi, the USFG decided that maybe Democracy was no longer the best solution for the Egyptian people. E-Corps, evil as it may be, is supported by choice. When Linkedin tracks me it is because I opted in. There is an element of fascism, of choosing for others, in Elliot's project.

Often, the best-laid plans of even the very best social engineers run into unforeseen consequences. In Elliot's case, over the last few weeks, the chickens that have been coming home to roost seem to be targeting the people most important to him. As he puts it himself, "I hid in a cage while they (his friends and family) took all the risks." 

Personally, I think it might end up being worse than that. Despite all of my research on DID, I am starting to think that Esmail is writing Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and Elliot as adversaries working at cross purposes, even purposely misleading each other. I hope that this is not the case. It would be a great disappointment to find out that Sam Esmail wrote Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) just like every other Hollywood director has written DID throughout history.

There is one ray of hope, however, last week on the Verge's Mr. Robot aftershow (much superior to the USA Network's Hacking Robot aftershow IMO) B.D Wong explicitly stated that he worked hard to avoid making his separate personalities unique, that he tied them together in several ways. I am going to keep hoping that Elliot and Mr. Robot are fragmented parts of a unified whole and not two separate people fighting for control of one body.

Anyway, I am afraid that Stage 2 (which we now know was created by Elliot) was designed to get rid of many of Elliot's compatriots. So far we have lost or misplaced Mobley and Trenton, lost Romero, and Cisco, Darlene, and Angela are all in dire straits.

Episode 2.8 starts for Elliot being confronted by Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) who is back in her most terrifying guise. She picks Elliot up and takes him to her apartment. She and 

At first, Joanna wants to know where Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom) is.  Once she is satisfied that Elliot doesn't know she convinces him, through a seductively terrifying stare-down to help her hack the phone that Tyrell (or someone sent her) to find out who her mystery caller really is.

By the way, before the episode really gets going they show Joanna getting dressed for the encounter with Elliot. The song playing is this great screamer by the now-defunct Japanese trio Bleach (if you enjoy Bleach I would recommend La Misma as well).

Joanna sends her erstwhile driver/bodyguard/muscle to monitor Elliot as he tries to locate the mysterious caller. Elliot and the driver's excellent adventure starts at the Mr. Robot version of a Best Buy where all of the products are offered at a special deep discount for users of the new E-Corps crypto-currency. I suppose I can take a bow here since I have argued throughout the season that the E-Currency would be an attempt by E-Corps to corner the market on the form of new currency after 5/9 (many people said it was a Dark Army plot).

In the middle of getting all of the goodies that he needs to crack the phone, the phone rings, Elliot picks up the phone and, on the other end, is someone breathing heavily and ominously but saying nothing. Elliot looks up across the aisle at the store and sees what looks like the word NO in big letters on the wall. 

At this precise time, Mr. Robot disappears and does not return for the rest of the episode. As much as it pains me to say this (because I do not think it is typical of DID to exhibit personalities working at cross-purposes) Mr. Robot apparently has not been entirely honest with Elliot about Tyrell. Or at least that is what this leads us to beleive.

I should probably mention here that I have a wild, only half-serious,  theory that Tyrell has become a version of "The Gentleman" the psycho-killer in "Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie," I have not decided if I mean this literally or metaphorically, but I have an odd feeling that he has been taking revenge on the members of fsociety from hiding (behind a mask). 

There is a moment at the end of the parody slasher movie where the killer rips off this girls shirt as she tears away, the last thing you see is him smelling the fabric, which is a very Tyrell thing to do. Anyway, probably way off here.

Next time we see Elliot he is back at his place setting up everything he needs to do in order to geolocate the owner of the mystery phone. And then something truly unprecedented happens, the driver starts to talk to him, Elliot starts to tune him out turns to look at us (his imaginary friend) and tells us to search his apartment for any important clues. The camera then scans the apartment and for about 20 seconds the screen becomes this interactive game between the audience and the show's main character.

Now I have certainly seen characters break the 4th wall, but never to get assistance from the audience as part of the plot. Even more amazing, Redittors did the hard work and uncovered the following:

So, it is at least possible that Elliot will be using a particular page of the book "Mastering Microsoft Lync Server" as part of Stage 2. Whenever I think this show can't be any more different, something like that happens. 

As grumpy as I am about the Hacking Robot aftershow, that is a really cool interactive design and a really interesting way to change television. I wrote a long piece on Reddit about how Whiterose's discussion of alternative realities could be read as an acknowledgement of the fan-fiction being written around the show Mr. Robot. I become more and more convinced that Esmail intends a kind of Open Universe that is often independent of the show's timeline.

Anyway, that was pretty cool and innovative television.

Elliot completes the hack, which reveals a particular location, the driver tells Elliot that it couldn't be Tyrell because he would never go to that house. 

Okay, I am going to go ahead and say it is Tyrell, and he is at that house. We will most certainly learn more about this in the next few episodes. Now that he has his location, he gets up and leaves. 

You Must Remember This, A Kiss Is Just A Kiss

Okay, I did leave one thing out, throughout the rest of Elliot's part of the episode he has been getting text messages from Claudia Kincaid who is a character in a book that I have not read called "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."  It turns out that this is Angela (Portia Doubleday) who is sending him the code to meet her on a particular subway car.

Elliot shows up and sits across from her, she tells him that she is turning herself in for the femtocell hack, that the FBI visited her, and that she is going to see her lawyer right after they finish talking to each other. She then asks Elliot why he started fsociety. This is when Elliot starts saying that he never intended to get her involved and that he sat in a cage while all of his friends put everything at risk.

Angela tells him that he cannot trust Mr. Robot and that there is no way they can beat E-Corps because she knows, "she has tried." Please remember that what she is referring to here is, in my humble opinion, the most disappointing part of what has actually been an amazing season so far. She is referring to her decision to settle the lawsuit over the WTF in order to move up in E-Corps far enough to get something on E-Corps, and then use it to become a Whistleblower against the WTF.

Why not just help the lawsuit parties take down the WTF? Why not send your story to the press instead of to the NRC? Why not have a plan for releasing the WTF report anonymously using hackers so that it couldn't be traced back to her? She does know a few decent hackers, right?

I just do not get this part of her arc. It is very frustrating to me. I truly hope there are some details that Esmail will fill in that make this part of the story work.

Anyway, Angela says they should probably separate and Elliot gets up to get off the train and they both, for the first time, kiss (not a stretch since they are dating in real life I believe). 

Elliot gets off the train, and Angela turns around to come face-to-face with the outlines of two unknown people. I am going to assume they are the two underlings of Cisco's Dark Army contact Xun (Lyman Chun). * update * more likely it is the two people who have been following Angela all season (credited as Inconspicuous Man and Inconspicuous Woman).

Angela will most likely not be seeing her lawyer anytime soon.

One other note, behind Angela's head throughout the train ride was a picture (advertisement) of a listening ear. Not a good sign.

The Magical Dominique "Dom" DiPierro

I don't have too many criticisms of Mr. Robot.

One that I have had throughout this season is that Dom (Grace Gummer) is a little bit too good at her job (and that the rest of the FBI is portrayed almost as bumbling idiots). 

Dom is invited to the party when the FBI finally finds Susan's apartment but the reason is because they captured all of the members of fsociety's B-Team except one (who were in Washington dropping testicles on the floor of Congress) and found out that they were all headed to Susan's apartment. They also have evidence that Cisco was seen near the house as well carrying someone who appeared to be injured (from when he returned to get the VHS tape).

Dom is dumbfounded that the FBI lit up the location instead of keeping it on the down low and using it as a honeypot to catch other returning suspects. The other agent tells her that they are following Director Comey's more aggressive tactics (whatever that means, did aggressive become a code-word for idiotic recently?). 

So they burned that site.

Next, Dom goes to talk to her boss Santiago (Omar Metwally) about how to proceed with the search for Cisco. He tells her that they are releasing a BOLO (Be On The Lookout) for Cisco's whereabouts across all media. And, Dom, of course, suggests that that will  likely make him a target for execution by the Dark Army and reduce the changes they can apprehend him. Santiago, because apparently, the FBI is brain dead, says they are going ahead with the BOLO and that she is being paranoid. Gee, I wonder what will happen next?

Vincent, Darlene, and Francis Shaw

So, the body at Susan's house was Vincent, the one-legged guy Darlene put in charge of fsociety's B-Team for the Washington mission. He is beaten half to death. Cisco (Michael Drayer) wants Darlene(Carly Chaikin) to take Vincent to the hospital. 

At first, Darlene tries to play it tough, mentioning that he knows her face and way too much information about her. Darlene says that he knew what he was getting into and many other excuses for not trying to save his life.

Finally, Cisco reminds her that she is not really all that tough, that she is not special, and that she doesn't really have a plan. This wakes her up and she agrees to take Vincent to the hospital.

Of course, Darlene and Cisco have no idea that the FBI is about to put out a BOLO for Francis Shaw, which it turns out is Cisco's real name, because based on the earlier information and interrogating cab drivers around Susan's apartment they found his apartment, raided it, and have all of his information. I will guess that this is why they just sit in the waiting room waiting for information about Vincent's condition.

While they are waiting, Darlene admits that she is not special, that the entire time Elliot has been in jail she had mostly been terrified and that Elliot has always been the leader and the man with the plan. It makes you feel deeply for how hard it must have been for her to try to keep everything running when the group was under constant threat of arrest or worse.

She tells Cisco a heartbreaking story of how she was kidnapped as a kid during a family trip to Coney Island. The heartbreaking part is that she wanted to stay with the kidnappers. If you saw the "Word up Wednesday" episode you know how tough life with her Mother was. You could almost feel the sadness as she admits that she was almost sad to be rescued by the police from the kidnappers. She suggests that the only thing that made her family, and her participation in fsociety worthwhile was Elliot.

She really loves her Brother.

Anyway, a Nurse comes out and tells them it will be about an hour before they have any definitive results on Vincent's progress so Darlene and Cisco go down the street to a cafe called "Lupe's" where Darlene starts talking to him about leaving town. Oh no, this is not going to end well, way too much Darlene exposition happening here.

So the BOLO goes out and the nurse at the hospital sees it and calls the FBI. Dom shows up and figures out that Darlene and Cisco are probably still in the area (as usual she just uses her smarter than the rest of the FBI powers to figure it out). 

She walks around the neighborhood until finally, she sees them through the window at Lupe's. She calls for all units to converge on her location and walks in. Just as she walks in a motorcycle comes around the corner, a man in black with a helmet gets off the bike runs to the window and opens fire with an automatic weapon. 

Dom returns fire and wounds one of the motorcycle riders just as the cavalry arrives. The wounded rider shoots himself in the head and the other rider tears off. She comes out to the street covered in blood which is not a good sign for Darlene and Cisco (since she appears uninjured).

And that is it.

I suspect Darlene is RIP. If so, parting is sweet sorrow, what a great character and performance by Carly Chaikin. If not, I would be a bit surprised, if only because losing Darlene would really force Elliot into a very strong reaction of rage and grief. It seems unlikely that everyone is safe. At the very least both Darlene and Cisco will be in FBI custody.

Postscript: Just saw the enhanced final scene, CISCO is 100% toast, Darlene probably okay but in FBI custody. Ketchup bottle RIP.

Anyway, that is it for this week, two episodes left.

Who is the mysterious caller?

What is Stage 2?

Are Darlene and Cisco alive or dead?

Let me know what you think, leave a comment!