Elliot goes on the offensive in an attempt to reverse the 5/9 hack and take down the Dark Army
For all the different players that have come and gone in this game, it’s always been about Elliot and the Dark Army. Their history is a shared one that stretches back years. Mr. Robot apparently died for the Dark Army — presumably he didn’t have much say in the matter — and now Elliot may be next. The Aldersons and the Dark Army are seemingly forever intertwined, and that state of constant chaos and dependence is infecting everyone around them.
“Eps3.8_stage3.torrent” begins by taking us back, but not all the way back to when Elliot was a kid like last week’s episode. Rather, we’re transported back to a time before the 5/9 hack, when Allsafe was pitching its cyber-security bonafides to E Corp. Gideon is making his best case for the contract, but then-CTO Terry Colby is having none of it. It seems like Allsafe doesn’t have all that much to offer, which makes it all the more surprising when Phillip Price instructs Terry to make the deal and hire Allsafe.
Tyrell Wellick, still a young up-and-comer at that point, expresses his hesitancy about the deal as well. “I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us,” he says before Price shuts him down, humiliating him into silence. It’s not the only time Price will do that this episode. So why does “Eps3.8_stage3.torrent” flash back? Why take us to this moment? To illustrate what I mentioned above: that the Dark Army has had a plan in place for a long time. There’s seemingly no reason for E Corp to hire Allsafe, except for the fact that Angela and Elliot work there. Price catches a glimpse of Angela in the office and his eyes momentarily light up, the look of a man who knows a plan is falling into place.
That flashback also acts as a way of summarizing just how far everyone has come. Or rather, how far everyone has fallen. Wellick, enthusiastic and ambitious in that opening scene, is nothing but an empty shell now. He’s back at home after being cleared of all charges by the FBI, but there’s nothing to go back to. He clutches Joanna’s purse, runs his hand across a blanket, and stares at the empty bassinet in the corner. He’s lost everything, and for what? For some vague sense of revolution?
So much of this season has been about exploring the fallout of the 5/9 hack and then Stage 2, and at the heart of that exploration is the emotional, human toll it’s taken on many of these characters. Mr. Robot isn’t telling you who to feel bad for, but rather poking at the various motivations of each character. Angela did what she did because she’s never recovered after losing her mom. Tyrell did what he did because he wanted some semblance of power. Now though? They each have nothing. They can only drift.
Angela in particular is a mess. She’s talking to herself, and a late-episode trip to her apartment provides a shattering look at her current state. Garbage and dishes are piled up in the apartment, and photos of what we can assume are the cyber bombing victims are plastered all over the walls. She mutters to herself that Whiterose will surely protect her, that she’ll be picking her up soon.
Wellick and Mr. Robot are coming to the understanding that they’re pawns in this game, and that Whiterose has been using them since the beginning. Angela, on the other hand, can’t accept that reality. She still thinks there’s some sort of noble end that will justify the horrific means. It’s her coping mechanism, and it sends her out into the streets. She runs into a man who reminds her of Cisco — she refuses his CD this time around — underlining her delusions. Then, two men in suits pick her up in a van. Angela wants to believe this is the Dark Army sent to protect her. We know better. We should be worried. Angela should be worried.
Most of “Eps3.8_stage3.torrent” fluctuates between two different times. There’s the current day, with Elliot scrambling to figure out a plan for getting ahold of the keys that Romero built into the 5/9 hack as a failsafe. Then there’s the night before, when Mr. Robot, in his own panic after realizing he’s hasn’t been the revolutionary leader he assumed he was, meets with Tyrell to talk about what they can do now.
Splitting the episode up in this way offers some interesting parallels. We watch as both Elliot and Mr. Robot look for different ways to expose the Dark Army and get back at them. The effect is that it underlines just how much Elliot and Mr. Robot rely on one another. They’ve been at odds plenty of times, and especially throughout this season, but they’re ultimately on the same side (and within the same person, of course). They’ve both been used and discarded, and now they need to find a way back to controlling their destiny.
For Mr. Robot that means approaching Tyrell and making sure he understands just what has happened. It’s no easy sell. When he first shows up at the apartment, Tyrell is hostile, thinking that Elliot/Mr. Robot is the one who’s screwed him over. He believes everything that’s happened is because of Elliot’s sabotaging of the plan, so he attacks him.
Then, Phillip Price shows up at the apartment as well, also to make sure that Tyrell understands what has happened. He tells him that E Corp is bringing him back as CTO, but that it’s simply a title. “Obedience will be your role at my company,” says Price. Tyrell fires back, saying that he’s needed and that clearly Price is just desperate to make a move, to which Price scoffs and walks out of the apartment.
It’s in that moment that Tyrell truly starts to see the big picture, and that he’s not really a part of it. Mr. Robot tells him he’s being added to the Dark Army’s “collection of puppets,” and while Tyrell is initially resistant to that idea, he eventually comes around. He throws back shot after shot of booze while Mr. Robot tries to formulate a plan and find some sort of vulnerability within the Dark Army.
That’s when Tyrell opens up and plays the one card that he still has. He tells Mr. Robot about Santiago and how he’s a Dark Army operative working within the FBI. It’s a bombshell, and Mr. Robot knows it. That’s how Elliot eventually gets the message the next morning, written in soap on his bathroom mirror: “They own the FBI.”
That’s how Elliot’s day begins, but it ends in a much more interesting way. After meeting with Darlene at the arcade to discuss the keys and reversing the hack, which would involve Darlene getting access to the FBI’s evidence storage called “The Sentinel,” he puts the rest of his plan in motion. He tracks down Irving, who’s just trying to go for a pleasant test drive with a client, and demands a meeting with Whiterose. He says it’s time for “Stage 3,” and that’s enough to get Irving’s attention.
So, he sets the meet. Leon shows up at Elliot’s apartment and brings him out in the middle of the night. He’s taken to some sort of secluded park; a table and two chairs sit in the middle of a grassy expanse, barely lit by the night sky and the buildings in the distance. Whiterose isn’t there though. Instead, it’s her right-hand man, Grant, and two masked Dark Army operatives. They take Elliot’s computer and extract all of its files, saying they don’t need Elliot for Stage 3 if they have his plans.
Still, Elliot explains that Stage 3 involves attacking E Coin, the one thing that’s keeping E Corp afloat. He says that if the Dark Army truly wants to destroy the company, this is the only way to do so. The man hears Elliot out, but he has no interest in working with him. Again, Elliot is a pawn and his time as a useful piece is up.
Elliot is cool and collected in the moment though, and that’s because he still has a trick up his sleeve.
While Elliot’s night plays out, so too does Darlene’s part of the plan. She meets up with Dom under the guise of giving her some more information, even though she’s technically not an informant anymore, and then proceeds to flirt with her while they both get drunk, eventually making a move on her back at Dom’s apartment. Once Dom is asleep, Darlene goes for her safe. She opens it up and snags her FBI badge. If only things were that easy though.
Whether she suspected something all along or not, Dom catches Darlene in the moment. She brings her into the FBI headquarters for questioning, assuming she’s doing the right thing. Of course, she’s playing right into the Dark Army’s hands. Darlene, given no other option, tells them all about Romero’s keys and the potential to reverse the 5/9 hack, information that Dom is incredibly excited about. Undoing everything is exactly what the FBI wants, which is why she’s suspicious when Santiago is hesitant to let Darlene do her thing. Despite Dom’s attempts at reason, she’s taken off the case for sleeping with Darlene, and then Santiago immediately calls Irving to report everything.
“Eps3.8_stage3.torrent” isn’t as action packed as some of the other episodes this season, but it’s an atmospheric hour that perfectly sets up next week’s season finale. In essence, it’s an episode that begins to question who’s in control here. Whiterose usually is, but back at her home she’s throwing glasses and screaming about the diplomatic issues that have led to her “project” not being shipped to the Congo. The way BD Wong shifts Whiterose from angry to composed is haunting.
But is Whiterose really in control? Is her ironclad grip on everything starting to weaken? Tyrell and Mr. Robot are ready to expose the Dark Army’s mole in the FBI; they just need to wait for the right time. Then there’s Elliot, who loaded his laptop with an exploit that would, when copied to the Dark Army servers, give him access to their whole system.
At the end of the episode he’s in, but as always, there’s the lingering question: Is this exactly what the Dark Army wants? With Angela in an unknown place, Darlene and Dom unwittingly giving the Dark Army a heads up about the keys, and Tyrell and Mr. Robot biding their time, is this truly the breakthrough Elliot thinks it is? Grant and Whiterose share a kiss. They don’t seem worried.
This season of Mr. Robot has provided more answers than any other. Next week we’ll see if they roll out just a few more.