Mr. Robot: Episode 5 - "3xploit.wmv"

In this Steel Mountain heist episode, much of F Society's plan rests on exploiting the faults in the human mind.

Mr. Robot

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10 PM
Cast: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom
Subtitle: Season 1 - Episode 5 "3xploit.wmv"
Network: USA
Air date: 2015-07-23

“People make the best exploits,” says Elliot in his head, presumably to us, just as he and the F Society team approach the Steel Mountain facility they have been planning on infiltrating for weeks. This is it, the time has finally come for F Society to stop talking about their epic plan and start doing something about it.

It's the Steel Mountain heist that concerns much of episode six, entitled “3xploits.wmv”, and just as the title promises, much of their plan rests on exploiting the faults in the human mind rather than in the facility’s security system. Finding human faults is not a new notion in Mr. Robot. Ever since episode one, Elliot has continuously flexed his hacking muscles, usually finding his way in by picking apart the person rather than the system.

Just in the way that Elliot uses the heist to show his ability to exploit faults, the filmmakers are able to use the premise to fully realize the type of schizophrenic, high-octane direction that has come to characterize much of the first season. Quick cuts coupled with the thumping, driving synth score turn otherwise innocuous scenes into ones rife with tension.

During these scenes in which we see Elliot traverse the halls of Steel Mountain he is in constant contact with those back at the van, namely Mr. Robot himself who is whispering hints at how to best fool the various guards and tour guides in his way. In one especially biting scene, Mr. Robot convinces Elliot the best way to get rid of his tour guide in favor of someone with higher clearance is to break the man down mentally.

“Tear Bill down, wipe that smile off his stupid face,” Mr. Robot chirps into Elliot’s ear. Eventually Elliot does just this, with what can only be described as menacing skill. He is able to tap into this happy-go-lucky man’s biggest insecurities by assuring, among other things, that no one would care if he died. This works to perfection, but it also isn’t lost on the viewer just how twisted this approach is.

The F Society gang’s likability rests on their overall altruistic goals, but when you must breakdown seemingly innocent men to accomplish these goals, is it all worth it? Another interesting point to bring up here is whether these words, which come from Elliot’s mouth, would have been able to escape without the persistent assurance from Mr. Robot that this was the only way. Who is really steering the ship here?

Though Elliot is able to finally get himself free of a chaperone, this freedom is short lived as he then comes face to face with the last man he expects to see, Tyrell Wellick. Wellick is one of the only characters outside of Elliot that have the potential to be more than a support beam for Elliot’s story. This is mostly spurred by Martin Wallstrom’s icy demeanor, which adds a creepy level to his overt suaveness.

The two share a lunch in which Wellick speaks about the waiter in a way that actually mirrors the way Elliot debased his tour guide. This is not for nothing, especially since Tyrell is ostensibly meant to be the antithesis of all the things that the F Society stands for, though it's still unclear whether he will turn out to be the group’s enemy, possible collaborator or something else entirely.

One thing that is for sure is that his character is becoming interesting as hell. After his lunch with Elliot we follow Tyrell and his equally maniacal wife as they attend a dinner party with the man who has been tapped as Evil Corp’s new CTO. The scene leading up to the dinner plays like something straight out of House of Cards, with each side of the relationship unknowingly battling to see who is the most power hungry, with Ms. Wellick actually coming out slightly ahead.

At the party the two continue their Frank and Claire type game of manipulation. Each subject brought up at dinner is no accident, the two are constantly probing for information that will help them eventually take down this couple, and they play it beautifully. It isn’t hard to see how anyone could become lulled into a false sense of security by these two good-looking fast-talking schemers.

As seems the routine of Mr. Robot, we also check in with the two women in Elliot’s life. One is getting a new job, the other seems content with losing hers, and overall they stay in essentially the same place. That is until the end, when Angela is literally at a fork in the road while Shayla faces the consequences of Elliot’s scheme to get rid of the abusive drug dealer from “d3bug.mkv”.

Heists are always exciting. That's why there has been three Ocean’s movies and in a couple of weeks we will have yet another Mission Impossible. While a heist is fairly easy to make thrilling, Mr. Robot does a great job of it. The writers are able to layout an easily-followed plan before entering and throw enough problems and interesting solutions Elliot’s way to keep things from becoming anticlimactic.

The big plus in “3xploits.wmv” is how Tyrell’s character, along with his wife, are evolving into something that rivals, if not surpasses, Elliot’s. A complaint I have had with the show is its relative narrowly focused plot. Sure, Elliot is really intriguing as a character, but if he slips up and becomes even the least bit boring for even a couple episodes, the show could lose much of its audience. But now with Tyrell Wellick to share some of the burden, Mr. Robot has fewer weaknesses to exploit.


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