Mr. Robot recap: Elliot recruits an old foe in his fight against Whiterose
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It’s a rush of information at the top of tonight’s Mr. Robot, as we’re swept away to 1989. That’s when the Berlin Wall came down and it felt like the world was about to change. What came was a power vacuum, and Whiterose knew it. So, as Zhi Zhang, she began to consolidate and cultivate power and wealth. Leaders falling on her side or under her thumb, money flowing from one front to another. The creation of an evil, powerful, all-seeing entity: the Deus Group. They ran the world, and it was pretty easy to do. As Phillip’s voiceover puts it, it was “the biggest coup in human civilization,” to own everything like that, especially once the internet came around and everyone decided it was totally okay to share all of their information there.
Whiterose always had a goal: to build her machine. She’s done it, and now just needs to ship it. That’s why Elliot only has eight days to stop her, and that’s why he takes a long shot: he asks Phillip for help. Phillip didn’t turn him into the Dark Army, and clearly he’s conflicted about working for Whiterose at this point, so Elliot uses that to his advantage. He needs to find Susan Jacobs, who went missing months ago — we all know what happened to her, but Elliot doesn’t, and that makes the build in this episode truly excruciating — because she’s the connection to the Cyprus bank. Phillip doesn’t believe the heist can be done, but Elliot presses him, saying that he needs to get the entire Deus Group in the same room at the same time to complete the hack.
Phillip gets it done, too. In a stirring scene of confrontation, Phillip tells Whiterose that he’s resigning as CEO of Ecorp. Whiterose says that’s not possible, that his end will come soon enough. Phillip, with nothing left to lose, does what nobody ever does: he refuses Whiterose. He says he’s stepping down immediately, and that means she must gather the entire Deus Group together to select a new CEO. At least there’s some sense of democracy amongst the powerful, right?
“402 Payment Required” does a masterful job of fluctuating between dread and optimism, between shades of the paranoid thriller and more emotional family drama. The catalyst for the family drama is Elliot and Darlene’s mother passing away. It’s not a big deal for them; she treated them horribly. They coldly pack up the stuff left behind in her care home, and Darlene tries to get access to a safety deposit box. No luck there though, as the payments lapsed and the bank discarded the stuff. Darlene breaks down, and Elliot is confused. That’s because he doesn’t realize this is really about Angela. Darlene is starting to accept that she’s dead, and her grief is consuming her.
In one of the series’s most beautiful moments, Elliot and Darlene share headphones as they listen to the tape in a Walkman they found among their mother’s belongings. It was Elliot’s when he was younger, and the tape inside says “Happy Mother’s Day” on it. Elliot doesn’t want to listen, but Darlene needs to. As Darlene listens in by herself, Elliot eventually leans in and lifts one earpiece to hear for himself. The voices: him, Darlene, and Angela as kids, recording a radio show for Angela’s mother. It’s a great moment, this ode to Angela, to their friendship, and to Elliot and Darlene still finding their way together in this world.
“This world” is one where every person you encounter might be working against you, or be looking to do you harm. That’s what Dom is feeling right now, and it’s a feeling that’s exacerbated by her interview with the FBI about the Santiago case. She does exactly as Janice told her to do: tells the FBI that she suspected Santiago of being a double agent and working for a drug cartel. When Janice calls to see how the interview went, Dom says she’s 99.9 percent sure the agent bought it. Later, that agent ends up dead after “jumping to his death.” 99.9 percent isn’t good enough for Janice.
For the most part, this is an episode that isn’t packed with action but still contains quite a few twists and turns. There’s Phillip’s bold move, the threat of Janice, and then the moment when Elliot realizes that he’s not going to find Susan Jacobs because Susan Jacobs is dead, and his sister killed her. When the two of them go to drop off their mother’s ashes at a church, Elliot constantly framed next to a cross as if his sacrifice is imminent, Darlene starts to question him about what he’s up to after seeing his phone and his attempt to get into Jacobs’s Ecoin wallet. “I’m going after Whiterose,” he says, and Darlene puts all the pieces together, about how Whiterose will eventually come for all of them. She admits to killing Susan Jacobs, and after some immediate shock, Elliot seems to forgive her because of the terrible things Jacobs was a part of.
But the twists just keep on coming. Darlene casually mentions that Vera isn’t a part of all this, and that throws Elliot for a loop. Why would Vera have anything to do with this? That’s when she tells him about Vera showing up at her apartment all those months ago, reminding him that she told him about it right after it happened. Darlene leaves, and Elliot explodes, accusing Mr. Robot of keeping this information from him. Mr. Robot swears that he had no idea. So who did Darlene tell?
A trippy final scene doesn’t offer up any specific answers, but it gives us a big old general one that acts as a cliffhanger. Elliot, as a boy, sits in an office, the one we’ve seen before in visions, swiveling in a chair. His mother walks into the room and scolds him for sitting where he doesn’t belong. “They’re not ready yet. We need to wait,” she says. “For what?” he asks.
“You mean Mr. Robot?”
“No. The other one.”
Another voice, another personality, another something keeping secrets from Elliot and seemingly working against him. This season just dropped a massive bomb.