MR. ROBOT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 7: eps3.6_fredrick+tanya.chk
You’re actually going to get away with this. – Dominique DiPierro
We’ve now seen Mr. Robot pull its own Breaking Bad card, because as I watched Leon, Fred, and Tanya in that empty wilderness, I instantly thought of Albuquerque and whether Walt and Jesse would have gotten away from their kidnapper, or as he called it, “babysitter.” That’s a compliment by the way, but I imagine you recognized it as such without my confirmation.
For the fourth consecutive week, Mr. Robot hasn’t just been good, it’s been great. This was yet another fast-paced, almost unthinkably tense episode, ending in a very sobering, saddening climax that also made me think of Arlington Road. Unless he’s going to get got at the bitter end of the series, Dom DiPierro may well be right about Whiterose’s future. It seems he’s not just in control of everything, but he’s somewhere in the vicinity of five steps in front of everyone else.
This guy is far ahead not just of Elliot Alderson, but also of Mr. Robot himself, a fact that nearly brings the latter to his breaking point as Irving points out the swanky penthouse party and seeks to lay the blame for the widespread attacks on people like them, who buy and sell lives and futures. The series has always gone after capitalism, so this isn’t a surprise, but Sam Esmail has also, whether by intent or by accident, has shown that the anti-corporatists, the anti-free marketeers, and the anti-capitalists are filled with evil in their own right.
If anything, Mr. Robot seems to rely on a specialized version of nihilism, where all values merely appear to matter, and where none generally do in the end. There’s an anarchistic tenet to it, but there is a soul behind it, which is why calling it nuanced nihilism might fit. The characters do try and behave in ways that reveal a heart, but the writers find ways to soak this show in dull charcoals and occasionally pure blacks, eliminating the vibrant colors from the universe’s spectrum.
Elliot warps Krista’s mind and nearly sends her running to the authorities to tell them he was involved in the E Corp attacks, thereby breaking doctor/patient confidentiality. Her mentor doesn’t buy it, saying Alderson is just another crazy person that wants to believe he’s responsible for things he’s not, for attention or other reasons. What’s interesting here is he’s not entirely wrong, which is what Irving tells Mr. Robot outside the party. “You see, kid, that’s your problem. Thinking this was all about your silly little plan.”
Here, we get more of the nihilism of the show, as Mr. Robot discovers his own relative insignificance. Elliot actually helped those 71 buildings to their demise through his shipping hack, as the papers he redirected were all destroyed across the country, rather than centrally located in one place. It does make me question whether Whiterose is similarly of the belief he’s more important than he is, because there’s always somebody above us in this world.
One of my favorite analogies as I attempt to analyze fiction is that of the Russian nesting doll, because many shows continue to unspool themselves like the layers of an onion, but the dolls have faces, so the representation to people is undeniable. Eventually, there is a final tiny doll at the center of everything, but to get there, we have to endure many false prophets and many teases designed to keep us off-balance and in a pseudo-security that fails under the weight of continual twists.
Everyone on Mr. Robot, with the exception of Darlene, thinks they’re smarter than they are. Actually, Dom might actually be as intelligent as she thinks, but she’s got a supervisor above her bought and paid for by the Dark Army. That’s the single piece of information she needs, and in classic storytelling form, we know it and have to endure watching her struggle to overcome a force of which she’s unaware. But, Elliot and Mr. Robot both believe themselves to be in control, with the only obstacle being each other, and often not looking deeply enough at larger concerns.
They forgot their own famous phrase. The entire second season was built around one tag line: “CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.”
Angela has pledged herself to Whiterose, but she rarely if ever hesitated, and often moved as if she were the queen of the world. What goes up eventually does descend, however, and as she incessantly rewinds the news footage of one of the explosions, she uses it to show that everything goes back into place and no one dies. She’s trying to tell herself that what she’s seeing is temporary, but that her personal savior is permanent. Elliot tells her Whiterose is a liar and a terrorist, but she’s converted. It will be fun to watch how Esmail plays it, and whether Zhang indeed can reverse time, or if it’s really all about the Washington Township plant.
I pray we continue to get scenes featuring Michael Cristofer and B.D. Wong, because these Price vs. Zhang confrontations have been epic. This may have been the best ever, as the E Corp CEO comes to terms, courtesy of his Chinese adversary, with his own relative insignificance. As powerful as Phillip Price was, someone was more powerful, originally installed him in the position, and has now purposefully destroyed him. Why? “Because I had to ask you twice.” He had one responsibility. He needed to control and manipulate Angela Moss and burn down her lawsuit, but it continued.
Thus, 71 E Corp plants had to explode, thousands had to die, and Price had to be sacrificed just before China signed the accord that made ECoin the dominant global currency. Oh, and the annexation of Congo was largely to make it possible to relocate the plant, and it’s all falling into place, at least for now.
But, the episode’s largest role was to shatter Dom’s spirit as she helplessly watched “a story” from her New York FBI command center. We didn’t expect “Trenton” and “Mobley” to make it, and even though Leon didn’t pull the trigger, he still managed to slit the throat of Fredrick’s roommate and friend to encourage their submission. Those two were chosen by the Dark Army to play patsy and take the fall for the E Corp attacks. Everything was laid out to frame them, and I was mildly surprised the two didn’t immediately understand their fate when they sat down and saw maps, information on E Corp security vulnerabilities, malware targeting air traffic capability, and a perfect kill room.
Whiterose’s assistant, cold as ice and holier than thou, spoke of how they all believe in self-sacrifice and that suicide is “the highest gift one can offer the cause.” Here’s where the death of Jeff Bridges in Arlington Road fit the scene, as it was virtually the same thing, down to a terrorist attack pinned on an innocent. These two people weren’t quite as innocent of course, but they had no idea what they were involved in, nor did Darlene for that matter. Plus, these two deaths backed up Irving’s assertion that terrible things are bought and paid for by the most powerful, influential, and wealthy of individuals. Zhang is one such man, and I don’t think Irv doesn’t know who signs his paychecks and gives him his orders.
Tyrell Wellick, someone that never thought of himself as a god, but instead believed Elliot Alderson might be his messiah, finally found out that Joanna was killed. He tries to deny it, but grudgingly comes to accept it as we see that Santiago is not a good man. Not only does he threaten that Tyrell might not live to place a flower on her grave should he alter the Dark Army’s plan, he also says Wellick’s son would end up as a mere statistic, moved from foster home to foster home, never able to establish any sort of life.
Once again, control is an illusion. Wellick was more grounded in his place, but he didn’t even have his hands on his own family’s life in the months before his wife’s death. Not to mention, he’s basically insane and a potential Patrick Bateman in training. And, as Santiago wields his power and cuts the camera feed, we also know he’s under Whiterose’s thumb, and it’s driving him slowly out of his gourd.
All of this was laid out beautifully by Sam Esmail, but that’s been the case throughout the entire season. Mr. Robot is right now the most consistent drama on television, which considering how shaky the second campaign was for the show, is a true achievement. It’s can’t miss stuff, and I look so forward to tonight to watch the first of the final three episodes of the third season. Considering how wild the season has been, we can only imagine what’s coming next. I continue to say that I don’t attempt to predict this series, and instead just absorb it as it comes. Sam has earned my trust again, and I’m always excited to see where he takes his vision.
Season 3 has been filled with heavy, powerful moments, interspersed and infused with just enough humorous content and cultural references to make the dread palatable. Speaking of which, how great was Leon dogging Frasier and lauding the quality of Knight Rider? Then, the title sequence brings us more Knight Rider teases. Tremendous. It’s not always the easiest watch, because of the ramifications of virtually every second, but it doesn’t have to be bubblegum to taste good. There’s so much substance now, which along with the always-prevalent, stellar style of the series, makes it a glorious experience.
I’m loving the heck out of this season. What say you? Also, tomorrow, I’ll have my review of tonight’s episode. We’re back on track! Thanks for bearing with me through the last few weeks. Hopefully it was worth the wait.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Oh baby, I hear that KITT is callin’, tossed salad and scrambled eggs.