Mr. Robot recap: Season 2, Episode 11
Angela has a surreal meeting with Whiterose while Elliot runs into an old friend/foe
Let’s get something out of the way: No, you weren’t high on some illicit substance when you watched tonight’s Mr. Robot. To be fair, much like Elliot and his relationship with Mr. Robot, I can’t guarantee that because I don’t really know that, but here’s the point: “eps2.9pyth0n-pt1.p7z” is perhaps, for lack of a better word, the trippiest episode of season 2. After last week’s gut-punch of a thriller, tonight’s episode is more muted in its delivery, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth. In fact, this one might hit just as hard, but the shot goes for the brain instead of the gut.
We open on Elliot wondering if the mind can really do its own thing while the body sleeps. Well, we know it can — it’s called dreaming, dummies — but he wants to know whether the process can be reversed. He remembers an old college roommate of his used to induce lucid dreaming by lying in bed and reciting the phrase “mind awake, body asleep.” He gives it a try and wants us to join in. It’ll only work if we all do it. Remember that. Our participation, as always, could be important — or baloney. So it goes.
Elliot fades away — do we do the same? — and we’re brought back to Joanna. Sutherland has shown her what he knows about the location of the phone Elliot hacked, the one perhaps belonging to Tyrell. She only has one response: “You know all those gifts he’s sent? This is the greatest we’ve ever received.” And that’s it. No more Joanna or Sutherland for the rest of the episode. Beguiling, indeed…
We’re caught up with Elliot and Joanna, but what about Angela? Well, she was captured at the end of last week’s episode, and now she’s being hauled off in the back of a van while “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” plays on the radio. It’s a super-racist song that’s also about some guy making his way to the top of the government. I’m not going to say Phillip Price is basically Davy Crockett, but he’s not not Davy Crockett.
Early on, “eps2.9pyth0n-pt1.p7z” establishes that this season of Mr. Robot is about much more than Elliot. Sure, he’s a big player in the game, and his role in Stage 2 — whatever it may be — is perhaps even more integral than we know, but there’s a more complex struggle taking place between Whiterose and Phillip Price. Price seems convinced he’s got the upper hand with China, but he’s also not aware of Zhang’s real identity as Whiterose. He could be in for a big surprise sometime soon.
Some of that opening stuff is pretty out there, but that’s nothing compared to what happens when Angela shows up at some suburban home. Buckle up, because this is going to get good/Lynchian.
NEXT: We are the authority
Upon her arrival, Angela’s brought into a house decorated in all black and white, quite the interior design statement for a show that trades in grey areas. Typical family pictures adorn the walls, until we notice all the faces are covered by little colorful squares. Then, she’s brought into a dark room. It’s barely lit by the backlight of an aquarium containing one large fish.
Everything is dream-like at this point. (Mind awake, body asleep?)
The focus shifts to the desk. Our eyes scan the surface for clues like we did last week in Elliot’s apartment. A beat-up old copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (a book that deals heavily with dream imagery and contains an unreliable, self-deceptive narrator who did some despicable things, FYI); a floppy disk; an old Commodore computer; and a red telephone, because of course. Then things get weirder. That’s right, I said weirder.
A little girl, looking a lot like a miniature version of Angela, comes into the room. She sits behind the desk and situates herself in front of the computer screen. “We should get started,” she says, inserting the floppy disk into the drive. She punches in command codes to get it started, the dated technology contrasting with DiPierro’s use of Alexa and her augmented reality glasses — or even every little bit of tech Mr. Robot/Elliot uses in his still-mysterious plans.
The title of a text-based game pops up: Land of Ecodelia. Ecodelia? Some thoughts: like psychedelia, and in specific relation to psychedelic plants. There’s a clear invocation of hallucinations, which makes sense given the surreal scene. Or perhaps Ecodelia is something more cosmic and spiritual, a fascination with the Earth, the cosmos, the connection of things. How does technology change that connection, our relationship to the world? How do we know what’s real? Is this scene with Angela real? Is it really happening? Is all this part of Elliot’s sleep? Probably not, but maybe. Always maybe.
Anyways, while Price convinces the U.S. government to allow E Corp to issue loans in E Coin, essentially changing the entire financial system, Angela’s mystery deepens. She’s asked if “the key is in the room.” She has no idea what the girl is talking about. The phone rings. An automated voice leads her through a scenario determining how the key might be in the room. So she answers yes, it was in her hand, as the camera focuses on the hand adorning the cover of Lolita. This whole sequence is misleading, but damn if it isn’t thrilling. We talk every week about how Mr. Robot continues to push itself into new areas in terms of character, visuals, and creativity, and this episode’s centerpiece does this once again.
That’s right, Whiterose has brought Angela in for testing. For what exactly? We’re not sure, and neither is Angela. Either way, Whiterose has allotted 28 generous minutes for a chat. She talks about empathy and gullibility, and she wants to know why Phillip Price, who’s trying to ruin — perhaps unknowingly, perhaps not — Whiterose’s larger plan, thinks she’s so important.
Whiterose digs deeper. She mentions maybe Angela’s parents were killed for a reason, that they gave their lives “to take humanity to the next level.” She also says such a statement doesn’t matter. She tells Angela she doesn’t want her information, nor does she want the drive containing the documents related to the Washington Township leak. No, she “wants her belief.”
NEXT: The definition of real
Is this a recruitment interview? Is Whiterose actively courting Angela, bringing her into whatever her larger plans are? Could she be the piece that finally allows Whiterose to get one over on Price? Angela wants to believe she can make a difference through sheer force of imagination, but “that’s not how the real world works.”
Whiterose: “I guess it all depends on what your definition of real is.” Don’t forget about the show’s focus on augmented reality, or Elliot’s lucid dreaming. The show is playing with a lot of perceptions of reality here, and it could be awhile before any of it becomes clearer.
Anyway, it seems like Angela’s in. What the hell else was said during that 28-minute conversation?
She shows up at her lawyer’s house near the episode’s end. She tells her to forget the voicemail and to never call her again. Then she gets into a black SUV and is taken away. Is Angela in the Dark Army now? And what would that suggest about the importance of the Washington Township scandal? These are big questions that might not be answered any time soon.
Oh, but there’s more questions, because Elliot is back. He’s not awake, though. Well, he is awake, but Mr. Robot isn’t aware of that.
Wait, let’s be clearer: All season long we’ve seen Mr. Robot operating independently of Elliot, or rather without Elliot knowing he’s doing anything. Elliot knows Mr. Robot wanted to come back to the apartment for something, but he can’t figure out what it might be, so he gives the lucid-dreaming trick a try and it works. Mr. Robot takes over his body and Elliot becomes the “silent observer,” like us. Now, he watches and listens, just like Mr. Robot would.
He watches as Mr. Robot tries to decipher a code left on a BBQ invitation. He watches as Mr. Robot — remember, he’s also Elliot, so Elliot knows all this stuff but technically can’t remember it — turns the code into an algorithm, the algorithm into a statement, the statement into a phone number, and the phone number into an actual call that gives him an address. Coding isn’t sexy or exhilarating, but man, does Mr. Robot make sure each coding scene is full of tension.
Elliot grabs the front door before Mr. Robot can close it on him, a great little shot that left me giddy with expectation. Here was Elliot finally confronting his other side and maybe learning to distrust it. Maybe we’d finally see what Mr. Robot was up to when Elliot was hiding the truth from us in prison. What else has he/Mr. Robot been hiding?
Elliot gets in a cab left for him at the mysterious address. He’s not sure where to go, though. Luckily, someone else does. That’s right, he’s baaaacckkk: Tyrell Wellick gets in the cab.
Or does he? As Elliot states, we know this isn’t about what Elliot’s seeing anymore — “we know that’s not reliable.” It’s about what he isn’t seeing, whatever that means.
So Tyrell is maybe alive, or maybe he isn’t. The cab ride confirms nothing, as show creator Sam Esmail perfectly disguises Tyrell’s existence. There’s doubt everywhere. But there’s no doubt Elliot’s plan is about to go down: Tyrell and Elliot get out of the cab, and Tyrell says the Dark Army has informed him Stage 2 is ready to go. He can’t wait to show it to him, because it’s going to be magnificent. Everything they dreamed of is finally happening.
But what is that, exactly?
We’ll have to wait for next week’s season 2 finale to find out. “Earth Angel,” a song about “visions” and “fools” takes us to the credits as Tyrell quotes Casablanca. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship? And what does that mean for everybody else? Something big is coming, folks… I hope you’re ready.