After last week’s focus on Darlene and the rest of fsociety, Mr. Robot tried to return to normal in episode nine, “init_5.fve.” Or whatever passes for normal in this mind trip of a season.
Elliot re-enters the real world after serving 86 days in prison, getting out early because of the 5/9 Hack affecting the records of non-violent offenders, according to the guard who signs off on his release. However, Elliot suspects that The Dark Army had something to do with getting him out of prison early. Given that his buddy Leon said he was assigned to protect Elliot, that’s not an outlandish suspicion.
Prior to Elliot leaving prison (which seems to be a theme on TV this week, with Naz being released from Rikers in The Night Of finale), he takes us on a tour of events leading up to his sentence and what his life was really like in jail, rather than the delusion we’d seen during the first seven episodes of season two. First of all, the question of who was knocking on Elliot’s door at the very end of season one is finally answered. It wasn’t Tyrell Wellick, and it wasn’t Darlene; it was the police.
As many likely suspected (especially when his therapist, Krista, mentioned that he was being released soon), Elliot wasn’t arrested for the 5/9 Attack or anything in connection with Tyrell Wellick’s disappearance. He was clipped for hacking Krista’s boyfriend, who was using a fake identity with her, and stealing his dog. The public defender could probably get the charges reduced, but Elliot isn’t interested. He wants to go to prison, hoping (believing?) being restricted from the internet and fsociety will help him focus on himself and get rid of Mr. Robot.
From there, we learn more of the reality behind Elliot’s elaborate delusion. Ray’s thug henchman was a prison guard. Ray himself is the warden of the prison, which was something of an unexpected twist. Maybe he really was running an online black market site with some of the inmates then. Leon quickly introduced himself as someone who could befriend and protect Elliot, provide anything he needed (including grandma porn, which is apparently a thing), and also developed an affection for 1990s sitcoms, since that’s all the prison had available to watch.
Paul Reiser, you have at least one fan out there in Leon. (Actually, I was a fan of Mad About You in its day as well. Someday, maybe I’ll go back and watch. Maybe we can do a running diary here at The Comeback. For Leon. It’s the least we could do for saving our favorite hacker from prison rape and dispatching one white supremacist by stabbing him up the ass.)
But with Elliot now out of prison, he can get back to finishing what he started with Evil Corp, while trying to help fsociety elude justice from the FBI and retribution from The Dark Army. However, a big problem quickly becomes apparent. Elliot hoped to gain more control over Mr. Robot while in prison, especially after he completely took over for two days after the 5/9 Attack and either murdered Tyrell Wellick or helped him hide. Yet Mr. Robot ended up helping him maintain his sanity during that time, especially after Ray and his thugs beat him up badly following his discovery of that black market site. As a result, it’s not completely clear who’s in control as Elliot attempts to integrate himself back into the world and fsociety.
Mr. Robot is having conversations with Darlene and Cisco without Elliot’s awareness. And when he discovers those interactions taking place, it becomes apparent to those dealing with Elliot that his grasp on reality is slippery. Who are they talking to at any particular time, Elliot or Mr. Robot? And when Mr. Robot is in control, what sorts of plans is he putting in motion without Elliot’s knowledge? What is the “Phase 2” that the Dark Army is referring to in online chatter?
That question becomes even more important once Elliot asks Cisco’s Dark Army contact about it. Darlene hacked the contact’s phone and is able to eavesdrop on his conversations. Through that, she learns that “Phase 2” was Elliot’s idea to begin with. Mr. Robot has been up to something, and has kept the rest of fsociety (including Elliot) in the dark regarding those plans.
The other main storyline of this episode follows Angela, who’s apparently becoming quite good at this hacking thing. She swipes documents regarding the Washington Township toxic waste dump from her boss in Evil Corp’s risk management department and gets what she was previously denied access to, finding proof of the conglomerate’s knowledge and culpability, along with evidence that the plant still operating at levels of toxicity above normal. Angela then turns that information over to the nuclear regulatory commission, but doesn’t receive the anonymous whistle-blower treatment she was hoping for.
Instead, someone who claims to be the deputy director invites Angela to meet with “the commission” and review the documents she turned over. But Angela gets a bad vibe (probably because of the deputy director knowing too much of her personal information or the foreboding dark hallway they’re walking down) and gets out of there before being confronted by government executives in bed with Evil Corp or Evil Corp operatives who will surely want her to keep quiet. Is it possible that Agent DiPierro is the ally Angela really needs? At the very least, she’ll bring over sandwiches when the situation truly becomes dangerous for Angela.
But cameras have been recording Angela’s appearance at that office. Will that somehow get back to Evil Corp CEO Philip Price, especially since he and Whiterose want to keep that Washington Township plant open for whatever nefarious reasons that their partnership has been scheming? Whiterose definitely doesn’t like hearing that the government will take over the plant in some corporate belt-tightening, since the company didn’t receive any government bailout money.
If Whiterose wants to keep the government from discovering whatever’s been going on, he’ll have to get the necessary cash from the Chinese government so Evil Corp can maintain control of the plant. He doesn’t like being threatened by Price, but Price knows he has the leverage here and isn’t fazed by the possibility of being killed off, as his predecessor was in a plane crash (don’t call it an accident). A new Evil Corp CEO could actually complicate matters for the Chinese government and The Dark Army (presuming that the two are working in tandem with Whiterose in common). King Kong ain’t got shit on Philip Price, Whiterose!
This episode might have seemed a bit frustrating after last week, when it seemed like the story was finally kicking into gear. For one thing, Darlene hasn’t appeared to suffer any consequences from murdering Susan Jacobs, nor whacking Cisco across the head with a baseball bat. (Cisco is amazingly forgiving of this, perhaps because he knows he betrayed Darlene and ultimately wants to unlock those Dark Army handcuffs on him.) Maybe that’s still to come, though. Darlene left the VHS tape with fsociety’s latest video exposing the FBI’s “Operation Berenstain” at Jacobs’ home.
But didn’t she and Cisco wipe down everything before leaving? That seems like a strange oversight. Cisco goes back to retrieve the tape only to find that someone else has been there, and might be on the verge of death. Who’s lying behind that sofa? Is it Mobley? Is The Dark Army indeed attempting to cover up its tracks, as fsociety feared?
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