I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
Unless we share with each other
We gotta start making changes
Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers
And that’s how it’s supposed to be
How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?
I’d love to go back to when we played as kids
But things change
And that’s just the way it is.
Irving loves BBQ. He’s a sucker for ribs, even in the morning. Hell, he doesn’t even care if the ribs are real meat or made in a lab somewhere. As long as it tastes good, he’s a happy man. It’s the beauty of technology, he asserts, that such deliciousness can be attained. Ribs like the ones the Red Wheelbarrow serves weren’t possible 100 years ago, that’s for sure.
Sure, all that fancy technology makes for some delicious pork, but it’s not like the tech revolution is all roses and BBQ sauce. “We go on September 29th. Ten days from now.” That’s what Irving tells Angela. The timeline for Stage 2 is moving, and considering Whiterose’s relationship with time, you don’t challenge that. None of this would be possible without technology. There were simpler times. Childhood was much easier, to an extent. But as 2Pac notes, there were still plenty of challenges for certain people — still are, no matter what the Dark Army manages to pull off. Who benefits from this revolution? It’s a big question without an easy answer.
“Eps3.3_metadata.par2” is filled with people just trying to return to simpler times. Tyrell just wants to go back to when he loved Elliot and considered him a god. Elliot wants to take back everything that came after the 5/9 hack. Darlene, who, at the top of the episode, tells someone on the subway about all the horrible things she’s done, desperately wants to get back to a normal relationship with her brother. The Polaroid family picture is evidence of that.
“I’d love to go back to when we played as kids.”
That’s the simple refrain from 2Pac on “Changes,” but it’s the song he samples — Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s “The Way It Is” — that plays while Irving chows down on his Friday morning order of ribs. He gives Angela instructions to manage Elliot/Mr. Robot so that Stage 2 will be ready to go in just a few days. Easier said than done, but Angela is seemingly all in at this point. Why? Because, however hesitantly, she believes in whatever Whiterose has promised. “Have you seen it?” she asks Irving. He has, and he believes anything is possible.
As Darlene rides the subway and contemplates her own choices and the moral consequences, a single ad stands out. “Still on your side,” it says, but there’s no real sense of what the ad is for. It’s certainly a way into the changing nature of Darlene and Elliot’s relationship though. Is she still on his side? What side is Elliot even on? If Mr. Robot is dedicated to Stage 2, doesn’t that mean that some part of Elliot is as well? Elliot’s struggling with those questions too. As Darlene points out, he could have easily handed over everything he knows about the Dark Army and Stage 2 to the FBI, but he hasn’t. Something is holding him back. Some part of him can’t abandon his plan for revolution, even as the doubts continue to creep in.
The decisions are complicated. Can’t he just return to simpler times, before the 5/9 hack, before Mr. Robot learned to adapt and take over, and before Darlene was hacking him? “We don’t do that to each other,” he says, brokenhearted.
But things change, and that’s just the way it is.
So far, season three of Mr. Robot has been a fair amount of setup, barring a murder or two. Depending on your tastes, you’re either loving the focus on atmosphere and the more clear-eyed plot, or you’re waiting for more things to happen, itching for a little more action. I, for one, could live in this tech-noir atmosphere that Esmail has created. It’s intoxicating.
Take, for instance, the scene where Elliot discusses Stage 2 with Darlene. It’s a scene tense with emotion. Elliot is angry that she’s been hacking him, but he’s also struggling with the knowledge that he’s not always himself, and that he’s hurt Darlene as Mr. Robot. There’s this push and pull that’s excruciating to witness, and the score underlines that. The music is electronic, all buzzes and whirs, until a single knocking sound, intermittently applied, comes to the forefront. It’s a stunning touch that amps up the tension while also suggesting that Mr. Robot is trying to get out.
“I guess we passed weird a long f—ing time ago.” Indeed, Darlene and Elliot aren’t exactly the picture of domestic normalcy, despite what that Polaroid might suggest. Those days are gone. Then again, those days included Elliot’s dad pushing him out a window, so who knows if he’s truly longing for the good old days of childhood. Remember, even his heartwarming snowman story ends in violence. Do all the stories here end that way?
While atmosphere is certainly key to this season of Mr. Robot, “Eps3.3_metadata.par2” feels like the episode where everything really starts moving. With Whiterose instructing Irving to get the ball moving on Stage 2, everybody is suddenly scrambling. Tyrell is pissed that the timeline has shifted, especially now that he knows Elliot has been actively rerouting E Corps paper documents in an attempt to sabotage Stage 2. He smashes everything in sight while Angela tries to calm him down, and while Mr. Robot assures him that he’s in control of this, not Elliot.
But that’s not true, is it? In yet another stirring sequence, as Tyrell is manic about the pressures of Stage 2, Elliot breaks through the shield of Mr. Robot. For the first time in ages he’s “awake” at night. He’s confused, as if stumbling out of a dream, or a nightmare. He sees Tyrell and Angela together, but he doesn’t understand why. He still thinks Angela is on his side, like the advertisement above Darlene’s head in the cold open. She knocks him out with something in a needle. The noir atmosphere persists.
That’s all we see of Elliot for the rest of the episode. In that moment, that fleeting bit of recognition amongst the chaos, Elliot starts to see what’s happening. Will it be enough though? Will he be able to put all the pieces together? It’s certainly not looking likely. The odds are stacked against him. Tyrell is done with him, becoming ever more forceful. Angela is actively using him now that Whiterose has convinced her of the Dark Army’s plan, and she calls in a favor to Phillip Price, asking him to fire Elliot. Then there’s Darlene, perhaps his last hope of stopping Stage 2, but can she truly help?
Darlene is asking herself that question. When Dom meets her at a bar late at night, urging her to hand over any information she has because the FBI knows something big is happening soon, she needs alcohol and small talk to help convince her to do so. As Darlene drinks her bourbon and stares at the red walls of the bar, hardly ever making eye contact with Dom, she conveys that in all of this, it’s her skin in the game. She’s the one who will lose a brother should she give up what she knows. She’s the one the Dark Army could come after once it’s all said and done. The red walls are creeping in, and there’s nothing she can do about it.
Seemingly everyone is powerless outside the Dark Army. Whiterose and Irving seem to have everything under their control, and everyone else, even the ones who assume they hold some power, are just pawns. The Dark Army is a few steps ahead. They give up a fake fsociety member in order to distract from their role in Stage 2. Irving tells Tyrell that he has no choice but to make the tight weekend deadline for the delivery of the paper documents work. Even Angela, who’s seemed more in control than ever this season, gets a message from Irving about the deadline. The look on her face is pure terror, either because it’s a tight deadline, or because she’s suddenly unsure of the path she’s chosen. Irving tells her that the E Corp building will be empty when they blow it up, but it’s hard to trust a man who eats ribs for breakfast.
Everything means nothing to me. Everything means nothing to me. Everything means nothing to me.
Elliott Smith repeats that over and over in the track with the same name. Would someone truly need to repeat that time and again if the words were true, if everything meant nothing? Like a glitch or a loop, the phrase just keeps repeating, perhaps more a mantra, a steadying force, than any sort of philosophical statement.
A mantra for Elliott Smith, but what about the other Elliot? The song, which scores the final scene of the episode — Darlene packs up after following Mr. Robot and discovering that he’s meeting with Angela, then leaves the meaningful Polaroid in Elliot’s apartment before taking off to who knows where — could signal that Elliot has truly lost control. After all, it’s the next morning and Mr. Robot is still present. Usually the daytime is when he disappears, but as of now, Angela and Mr. Robot are the only two present when they receive the Monday deadline from Irving.
Perhaps Elliot losing control is an obvious statement though: As outlined above, everybody but the Dark Army has lost control. Tyrell is demanding that he, along with his wife and child, be given passage to Ukraine after Stage 2 is complete. He’s still blissfully unaware of Joanna’s fate. Even Mr. Robot, the “man” who’s been keeping Elliot at bay all season long, is slipping.
That’s the beauty of “Eps3.3_metadata.par2”; after three episodes of building toward Stage 2, this is the episode that starts to show the cracks in the foundation. The final scene, with Darlene leaving the Polaroid behind, isn’t exactly a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, but more than any episode this season, “Eps3.3_metadata.par2” suggests that we’re on the verge of something big. Stage 2 is coming, and there’s seemingly nothing anyone can do about it. It’s fate, and perhaps that’s exactly what Whiterose is looking to have control over.