One of the questions lingering from the season one finale of Mr. Robot has been who was knocking on Elliot’s door at the very end of the episode. Chances are it was Tyrell Wellick on the other side of that door. But we don’t know for sure.
Sam Esmail had a little bit of fun with that at the very beginning of episode three, “init_1.asec,” directing a very similar scene with Elliot in his apartment at his computer and turning to a hard knock on his door. Elliot opens the door to reveal… Darlene? Is that who was knocking on his door at the end of season one? Was what seemed like a threatening presence outside his door actually a friendly one?
It soon becomes clear, however, that this flashback goes back even further. This is an origin story of sorts, before Elliot started working at Allsafe. He was fired from his job (also in the InfoSec industry) for destroying a bunch of servers after he “fell asleep.” Or when what would eventually become Mr. Robot took over Elliot. The judge ordered Elliot to begin seeing a psychiatrist, confirming his fears that he might be crazy. But this isn’t a moment of resignation or defeat for Elliot. Far from it. It’s when his purpose becomes clear in his mind.
Elliot says his friend Angela can get him a job at Allsafe. He and Darlene are watching a terrible 1970s slasher film titled “The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie” in which the killers wear the masks we have come to associate with fsociety. Darlene picked one up in Chinatown and Elliot puts it on, along with their father’s old work jacket, the one with the “Mr. Robot” patch on the left chest. Darlene thinks it’s funny, but Elliot becomes perhaps a bit too comfortable in this outfit.
Taking the job at Allsafe is a way into Evil Corp’s system — a “Trojan horse,” as Elliot puts it. The plan starts to come together in his mind. Install malware. Trash backups. Corrupt data. Has the Mr. Robot persona taken Elliot over in this moment? But the plan may never have been clearer in Elliot’s mind than when it developed. He sees that the real problem won’t be the hack or erasing all consumer debt. The true danger will occur in the aftermath. How will the public react? How will fsociety cover its tracks and get away? How will these anarchists destroy trust in Evil Corp, the conglomerate who people depend upon for virtually everything? And with that, Elliot (and Esmail) has essentially explained the premise for season two.
Deep down, perhaps Elliot really knew how destructive this plan would be, despite Mr. Robot egging him on to “change the world.” Is that why he’s gone into hiding, exiling himself to his mother’s house in Queens with his outside interaction largely restricted to meals at the diner with Leon and chess games with his new acquaintance Ray? Is he running away from the mess he created and now afraid to finish the job? Darlene does come to visit him, but doesn’t interact with her mother. That continues to feed the theory that Elliot isn’t really at his mother’s house, but in prison, a psych ward or halfway house.
In the meantime, the FBI is picking up fsociety’s trail. After the murder of fsociety hacker Romero, Agent Dom DiPierro began investigating the list of FBI agents that he had printed out. That led her to the Coney Island arcade where the group set up its headquarters. DiPierro explains that Romero had only a part of the list that was released into public from the 5/9 Attacks, focusing on agents that were in New York — and more specifically, agents who had interviewed Gideon Goddard, the Allsafe CEO who was left as the scapegoat for the Evil Corp hack and killed in season two’s opener. What was Romero’s suspicion?
Though Darlene hasn’t encountered Agent DiPierro or anyone else from the FBI directly, she can feel the feds beginning to close in. She thinks she’s being followed, which is a very real possibility. But is the FBI following her or operatives of Chinese hacking group The Dark Army, who partnered up with fsociety on the 5/9 Attacks? After Romero was killed, Mobley expressed his suspicion to Darlene that The Dark Army was behind the murder.
Darlene meets up with her ex-boyfriend Cisco who says that, as far as he can tell based on communications, The Dark Army isn’t after fsociety. But after the two have a bathroom quickie, Cisco mentions that Romero had been looking into the FBI’s “Operation Berenstain,” which was an illegal surveillance program. Does The Dark Army think fsociety was involved, and that’s why Romero was killed? Or is the FBI somehow involved in something sinister?
The one person who can probably get some answers and help Darlene and fsociety is dealing with his own issues. Namely, Elliot is still fighting for control of his own mind with Mr. Robot. Picking up chess again by playing with Ray, Elliot believes that if he can beat Mr. Robot in a game, he’ll win control. Those are the stakes he establishes. But when Elliot and Mr. Robot meet for their fateful match, neither side can gain an advantage. Three straight games end in a stalemate. This is getting nowhere, and Mr. Robot chastises Elliot for wasting time by avoiding what really needs to be done. He can take control of the situation, regardless of whether or not Mr. Robot is hanging over his shoulder. By the end of the episode, it appears Elliot has finally come to that realization. It took his sister’s life being in danger to wake him up, apparently.
But is the Dark Army really after fsociety? Their leader, Whiterose, is having clandestine conversations with Evil Corp CEO Philip Price. Price had something to do with the 5/9 Attacks, yet we still don’t know what his involvement was. Did he give The Dark Army the necessary access to hack the Evil Corp system and somehow create footprints that would ultimately pin the crime on fsociety? And is Angela somehow the key to this whole scheme, and that’s why Price has been so cozy with her? Upon reviewing court documents, Angela realizes that she can negate the class-action lawsuit related to the toxic waste dump that killed her mother and Elliot’s father. She uses that to try and gain leverage for a better position at Evil Corp. But Price doesn’t bite for some reason. Angela is a piece, but apparently there’s a larger game being played.
Finally, where, oh where is Tyrell Wellick? This episode provided no further clues as to his whereabouts, though we do know that his wife Joanna knows more than she’s letting on. Why else would she be paying off the parking lot attendant watching over Tyrell’s SUV? Does he know where Tyrell is? Does he know what Elliot did during the three days he can’t remember following the 5/9 Attacks? And what happens if Joanna can’t pay the attendant anymore because she’s run out of money, which seems like a very real possibility with Evil Corp blocking Tyrell’s severance package?
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