Hot damn! After a couple of weeks of dull slogs and tedious jaunts into the waaaaacky world of Elliot and friends, Mr. Robot is back on track. This shit just got real good.
The founders of modern American spycraft, the Dulles brothers, are probably going to be remembered as monsters for the way they callously manipulated world history for the sake of a few rich men. But they were really damn good at their job, and one of their favorite tools for seducing Nazis and rooting out communists were queer people—people forced to hide in plain sight to avoid arrest, imprisonment, or mandatory stays at dangerous and humiliating hospitals. Queer people of the time (and even today) had another talent honed from years of required double speak—they could read subtext like a mother fucker—inferring the whole history of a person from a few carefully placed words.
These are all skills at play in last night’s Mr. Robot, when Dom confesses to Whiterose—dressed as a man and revealed to be China’s Minister of State Security, that she was in love once, but ran away to the FBI because she was scared. In her confession she sticks to the singular use of the ‘they’ pronoun. Straight folks won’t notice, but that’s a signal as clear as Holtzmann’s two finger salute in Ghostbusters to a queer person. And Whiterose, being queer, sees the signal and responds. They guide Dom away from the mysterious room of many clocks and the room with art highlighting Chinese revolutionaries to show them a closet full of woman’s clothes. “My sister’s,” they admit.
As Dom notes the next morning, Whiterose has no sister. This is, instead, two people with a lot of secrets and savvy having as honest a conversation as either could ever manage with the enemy. They’re dancing around the truth and taking stock of one another—enemies pretending to be friends, a fact driven home when gunmen assault the FBI stronghold in Beijing and murder all of Dom’s coworkers. Probably just because she’s needled Whiterose too neatly. Dom’s story this week is an exhilarating highlight in an episode that finally moves the plot forward, digs deep into the myriad of unraveling conspiracies, and notably, spends as little time with Elliot’s demons as possible.
Mr. Robot himself is more cameo than character this week, a furious Jiminy Cricket whispering in Elliot’s ear, and it’s so damn refreshing. I love Christian Slater as much as the next gal weaned on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but his character can’t really interact with anyone but Elliot right now, and he can only interact with Elliot when they’re doing their monotonous battle of the brains. So please enjoy all those half days of shooting, Slater, because Mr. Robot’s audience is reaping the benefits.
With Mr. Robot consigned to the corner, Elliot gets to figure out what we all knew for a while—Craig Robinson’s Ray is totally the architect of a new Silk Road. The only one shocked by this revelation is Elliot. Like, even Mr. Robot, the angry ghost of your dead father, knew better on this one, man. Stop being all thoughtful and get your head in the game.
Be like your sister, Elliot. Because Darlene is a woman of action this week, decked out in a military style jacket Janet and Michael would be proud of, and commanding the main troops of F Society off to a distant battleground so she can wage her own war against the FBI with the core group and special guest hacker, Angela.
Girl suffered a major blow last week. She tried to call the bluff of one of the most powerful men in the world, and fell flat on her face. This week Darlene begs for her help so both Angela and Elliot can be protected. She tells Angela she’s going to want to refuse what Darlene asks of her. “Curb the impulse.”
Angela does, but it takes the entire episode for her to do so. First she’s got to reach out to her sleazy, cheating ex. And just in case you forgot he’s sleazy he orders Angela a Bud Light and then gives her his resume. In case, you know, she can hook him up with a job after helping to destroy her last one.
He also admits to trying to record their conversation so he and his lawyer will have a bargaining chip should the FBI come to call about the initial All Safe hack that led to the downfall of the modern financial system. Let’s all agree that Angela is better off without the guy.
And let’s also agree that if Elliot ever gets his brain in order than he and Angela are perfect for each other. That’s who Angela visits next. Its the first time the characters have shared the same screen since late last season, and it’s a heartbreaking little moment, because they’ve been apart due to Elliot’s love for Angela. He wants to fix himself. For her. The subtle reminder in Elliot’s dream sequence last week is all we need to remember that this guy is in love with Angela, so his admission this week doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere.
But what’s really wonderful about the moment is that it’s the first time in a while that we could sort of, maybe, trust what we were seeing when it comes to Elliot. The guy’s an unreliable narrator and the show has leaned into that the past few weeks, playing with reality as it takes time to sort through his damaged psyche. Yet, for just a moment, this week, we get to see Elliot how the rest of the world—and Angela—see him. Tired and scared.
For the audience it’s a reminder that Elliot is human. For Angela he’s a call to action. Which leads her back to Darlene and F Society’s war room. It’s a moment that feels a lot like when the girlfriend get’s let in on the superhero’s secret. The Elliot’s many carefully parceled worlds are converging. Let’s just hope the latest world, full of Silk Road bad guys, doesn’t converge with his friends and family anytime soon.
- When they were talking about Ray’s super secret, exclusive, invite-only site did anyone else briefly worry he was just a very intimidating fan of torrents?
- Seriously, Darlene’s jacket was on point.
- So what we can infer from the revelation that Whiterose is leader of the Dark Army, leader of China’s spy agency, and in collusion with the head of Evil Corp is that they are the Putin to Phillip Price’s Trump. Only Price is way more charismatic.
- Also can we assume Whiterose/the Dark Army are behind the assault on the FBI that kills all of Dom’s friends and co-workers and leaves her cowering behind a desk with a pistol about to face off against a guy with an automatic weapon?
- It was not discussed above, but holy crap that shooting sequence was intense. Mr. Robot does violence so rarely that it’s always shocking.
- Joanna Wellick, searching for her missing husband, continues to be the creepiest character on a show full of psychological ghosts, black market murderers, despotic billionaires, and nefarious Chinese spymasters. Good on you girl.