The hunt for Tyrell Wellick is on, but the FBI is hot on the heels of Darlene and fsociety
Just in case you missed the fact that the second season of Mr. Robot has slowly been morphing into an expertly paced paranoid thriller, “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” announces that shift loud and clear. It’s a relentless hour of television, one that wreaks havoc on your senses. I gasped, perspired, and bit my nails for the duration of the episode, and I’m sure I’m not alone. If “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” teaches us anything, it’s that we’re never alone. There’s always someone, or someones, lurking.
We’ll get to that though. First, let’s start with a little noise.
We check in with Phillip Price at the top of the hour, fresh off of his threat-laden meeting with Whiterose. Price seems to be a man in control, but that doesn’t mean he’s above asking for favors. So here’s Terry Colby sitting before him. Terry’s got a new book coming out — we all guffaw at the title of The Last Honest Man because what else can we do with these people at this point — and apparently he’s got some stories about Donald Trump if he ever felt inclined to tell them.
But Terry isn’t here to promote his book. He’s here because Price needs a favor. He needs him to ask Winston Campbell, someone who’s close to Terry, to convince President Obama to allow his US Ambassador to abstain from voting in some sort of referendum on the sovereignty of the Congo. You see, Price wants China to be able to operate within the Congo with impunity. We don’t know what this means for Price’s overall plan, but it obviously has something to do with Whiterose and perhaps the Washington Township plant that she’s obsessed with.
What we do know is that Price is interested in power. He considers himself the most powerful person in the world — “except 1 or 2” he says, which sends our minds searching for who he might be referring to — but he’s not settling for anything. The harsh sounds and screams of Okinawa-based noise rock band Bleach 03 disrupt the quite scene as the title card flashes. The album the song is pulled from boasts a lengthy title, but of course part of it is “The Head That Controls Both Right And Left Sides…” So, yeah, I think you can draw your own connections there. Tension and release, tension and release, as ever on Mr. Robot.
Meanwhile, Elliot wants to know if Joanna is trying to get inside his head. Hey, Elliot: who isn’t trying to get inside or is already inside your head? But seriously, she wants to know where Tyrell is. She’s been getting calls from him on a phone he sent as a gift, which is something he does. He gets her things that she wants when it’s “necessary.” A creepy story about seducing a woman for her cheap earrings lets us know that Joanna isn’t kidding.
Here’s the thing though: Elliot wouldn’t mind knowing where Tyrell is either. He assumes he’s dead. He doesn’t tell Joanna this because he doesn’t want to end up dead himself, so he just refuses to help. Well, he refuses to help her initially but then is forced to do so anyway. A trip to pick up some computer supplies is all that’s needed.
Of course, with Joanna and Elliot now fully intertwined, there’s the lingering question: What’s up with the “Ollie” business? Well, way back in season 1 that’s how Elliot introduced himself to Joanna when they first met outside her home. “And what did you say your name was?” she says. “I’m Ollie,” he replies. Now, that may not have been when they actually first met, and so maybe she jokes about him giving his fake name to her because they have met before. Either way, Elliot has told her previously that his name is Ollie, but there might be more to it. Rather than continuing to explore my own thoughts on that though, take a minute to read Jeff Jensen’s meticulous dive into the “Ollie” business here.
NEXT: Teabaggers and Toetaggers
One of the biggest cliffhangers from last week was who exactly did Cisco find in Susan Jacob’s apartment, the previous home base of the Darlene-run fsociety? Anyone expecting something HUGE might be disappointed. It turns out that Cisco discovered Vincent, an fsociety operative who worked with the DC crew on the Capitol Hill job. He’s beaten to a pulp and needs to go to the hospital, as he’s close to dying from internal bleeding. Darlene is reluctant at first, but eventually concedes, her and Cisco driving him to the hospital and staying in the waiting room, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.
Something suspicious might be the least of their worries though; things are about to get real. The FBI is closing in on them. They’re at Susan Jacobs’ house combing through evidence after some guys were spotted in the area. It’s all tied in with the Capitol Hill job. The guys escaped but were found in Maryland. After a car chase went south, one of them escaped—Vincent, we presume—and made his way back to Jacobs’ house, which was meant to be the meeting place.
The reason DiPierro is at the house is because one of the descriptions given by a witness in the area matches a suspect in her own case. That suspect? Cisco. He’s been spotted twice now by two different witnesses, and that gives DiPierro all she needs to go after him. She doesn’t like that the FBI immediately release his image to the media — she thinks the Dark Army will kill him before she has a chance to get to him — but there’s nothing she can do except try to get to him before he sees the BOLO or the Dark Army gets rid of him.
Back to Elliot and Joanna.
Elliot buys everything he needs at the store in order to track down Tyrell’s phone, all while Sutherland plays the hacking-based video game Watch Dogs. While he’s buying everything, the phone Joanna gave him, the one from Tyrell, rings. It’s Tyrell, or at least some heavy breathing that everyone keeps assuming is Tyrell. Elliot looks around him, paranoid. Portraits of Einstein and Bill Gates hang in the background, and a carefully placed beam draws attention to the words “NO” alongside them. Hmm.
“Why is Mr. Robot suddenly gone?” Elliot asks. Sure enough, as soon as Tyrell calls, Mr. Robot disappears. Is he hiding something from Elliot? There’s a chasm developing between the two — a chasm that could result in an eventual coming together though — and Tyrell seems to be at the center of it. He’s a link of some sort. So, tracking him down, if he’s still alive, is of the utmost importance. Tyrell has to be alive, but the question is, what’s he been doing this whole time?
NEXT: What do you see?
I mentioned above that “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” is relentless, and that becomes most evident in the episode’s final sequences. I says “sequences,” plural, because there are a lot of them all kind of tied in together. “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” builds to a fever pitch by piling one moment or revelation on top of another, the humming, insistent score guiding us through every stage of anxiety we can imagine. It’s peak Mr. Robot, and it’s delightful.
First, there’s the scene where Elliot tries to track the location of Tyrell’s phone. He’s sitting in his old apartment, the place where he used to live before the cops came knocking and sent him to prison for 86 days, searching for NYPD files to get a tracker on Tyrell’s phone. He finds what he’s looking for: a US Mobile Exigent Circumstance Form. Yeah, I didn’t know what that was either.
Basically, it allows for the NYPD to unblock a blocked number because there’s an emergency situation underway. So, Elliot falsifies the form and calls it in. He poses as a cop and says that there have been suicide threats from the number and that he needs the location. Just like that, he’s in. He has an address, and he brings it up on the screen. Sutherland is blown away, and he also seems to know the address? The details are murky, but perhaps we’re that much closer to getting our first glimpse of current-time Tyrell this season.
During this scene, Sam Esmail deploys a shot that’s nothing short of stunning, another example of the way in which the show’s creator manages to get us inside Elliot’s headspace, for better or worse. While Elliot pauses to allow the hack to do its work, and Sutherland tries to make some small talk with him, Elliot zones out. He focuses on us. He tells us to help him understand why Mr. Robot is absent right now. More than that, he wants to know why Mr. Robot was so eager to get back to this apartment. There must be something important here. If only Elliot could figure out what it is.
That’s when he enlists us to look around the room, and Esmail obliges by shifting to a woozy, swaying camera that pans around the room. It’s a shot that turns us into active viewers, and once again implicates us in Elliot’s actions. We’re part of the story. Our eyes are scanning over everything, looking for clues as to what Mr. Robot might want from the apartment. Nothing, from what I see. But what did you see? What did Elliot see?
Another bit of neat storytelling comes in the form of how Esmail cuts the scene. The visual focus is on Elliot and his hack, but the voice-over is Darlene telling Cisco a story about her childhood. It involves her going to Coney Island with Elliot and their dad, and how she always felt like she was playing second fiddle to her brother. So, when a woman kidnaps her and brings her home to a beautiful bed straight out of a fairy tale, young Darlene goes to sleep feeling like a princess and hoping to wake up in the same spot. She does, but it isn’t long before the cops show up and bring her back home.
It’s a story spurred by Cisco’s insistence that she’s let fsociety and its mission get out of control. She’s reckoning with that now. She knows Elliot is the special one. As her story suggests, he’s always been the special one. She tells the kidnapping story as if it’s a fond memory, but don’t mistake it for hatred of Elliot. As she says, she sometimes wonders how her life would have turned out had she stayed in that house, but if she did, she wouldn’t have Elliot now.
NEXT: Drive by dining
Then, there’s the final stretch. It’s pure, glorious paranoia followed by violent catharsis.
First, Elliot meets Angela on the subway after she texts him with an urgent need to meet up. This is no ordinary meet though. She tells him how she knows about fsociety, how she’s wrapped up in it now, and how there’s no way to beat E Corp. So, she’s going to turn herself in to the FBI. She won’t rat on Elliot or anyone else, but she’s done running.
Elliot doesn’t want to lose her though. He tells us that. Then, he hugs her. Then, he kisses her. When have we ever seen this side of Elliot? Never is the answer. It’s a big moment, one that makes the relationship between Angela and Elliot a little more complex, but also reaffirms that these two are connected in a significant way. Angela barely has time to dry her misty eyes before she turns around and is confronted by two figures: seemingly a man with a shaved head and a woman with longer dark hair. We only see them from the back. Who are these people? Cops? E Corp. muscle? Dark Army? Folks from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which seemed pretty shady? Why do you keep doing this to me, Mr. Robot?
Then, the final breathtaking scene.
At this point we’re used to Esmail busting out long takes, but the one that ends this episode is perhaps the most effecting one yet. It’s not even that it’s particularly flashy, but rather that it serves a purpose. It keeps us at a distance, upping our paranoia before, much like the woozy apartment shot, turning us into an active viewer. We scan the frame for impending doom, and sure enough, we find it.
DiPierro is hot on the trail of Cisco. The FBI busted down the door to his apartment and found his workplace badge. What else did they find? Wasn’t Darlene keeping a bunch of her fsociety materials there? This could be bad news.
So, DiPierro heads to the hospital after a nurse sees the police sketch of Cisco on the news and calls it in. Every other cop is convinced that Cisco and Darlene fled the scene after seeing his face on the television, but DiPierro recognizes that the timeline doesn’t match up. Cisco must have left before the BOLO was on the TV, meaning they’re probably still nearby.
The long, completely still take begins. Esmail frames Lupe’s, the diner where Darlene and Cisco are eating, from across the street. He establishes a distance. We can barely see Darlene and Cisco from this far, but we know where they are. We wait for something to happen.
Then, DiPierro comes into the frame. She’s frantic and out of breath, having just traveled five blocks to get here. She spots Cisco and Darlene. She calls for backup and heads into the restaurant. Things clearly get heated, from what we can see. At this point, we’re just waiting for the catharsis, for the moment that releases us from the unbearable what’s going to happen? tension.
Then, it happens. We see a motorcycle with two riders slide into the frame. They pull up in front of the camera, again, across the street from Lupe’s. The rider on the back dismounts, machine gun in hand. He walks across the street and up to the window. DiPierro seems to just catch a glimpse of him (I guess?) before he fires; she ducks and then pops up to fire back.
The cops show up seconds later. The one biker leaves the other one to die; he’s already been shot, their position compromised. Before DiPierro can come outside and capture the shooter though, he shoots himself, just like the supposed Dark Army agents in China did. DiPierro comes into the frame again, blood spattered on her face. The blood of Darlene or Cisco?
We’ll have to wait and see. Sirens are all we get as the credits take us to next week.