Mr. Robot has officially turned the corner, steering headlong into the final stretch of season two, but even as we speed toward the end of this installment, there remains an alarming amount of moving parts, parts that “h1dden-pr0cess.axx” begins to bring together in a crushing fashion.
Last week ended by bringing together two characters are very opposite sides of the Mr. Robot spectrum: Elliot (Rami Malek) and Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen). For much of this season, Joanna’s been okay with waiting on the sidelines for the return of her dastardly husband, not wanting to risk blowing his cover by trying too hard to find out his whereabouts. Elliot, trusting Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), believes that he himself killed Tyrell (Martin Wellstrom), making Joanna’s assignment to find her husband less than ideal. As is often the case, however, Elliot is physically intimidated into using his hacking skilled to do just that, leading him down a rabbit hole that we don’t yet emerge from by episode end.
Yes, this sequence does serve as an excuse for an Elliot-hacking montage, of which the show has been lacking this season, as compared to its first, but what these moments really bring us is a unique sense of disorientation. Going into the mission, Elliot’s assured of his failure. He knows, because Mr. Robot knows, that Tyrell’s dead, and that whomever is breathing on the other end of that phone call, it probably isn’t a friendly ally.
The turn comes as he gets deeper and deeper into the hack, which takes place back at his apartment from season one. In a situation rife with tension, Mr. Robot is nowhere to be found. He isn’t in Elliot’s ear, he isn’t threatening him, and he isn’t telling him what to do; he’s simply vanished, a development that isn’t lost on Elliot. For Elliot, and in turn for us, the absence of the friend in his head puts into question the truth about Tyrell, whom we can’t help but believe is still out there. Why Mr. Robot would lie is unclear, but the question of where he would lie is a no brainer.
Joanna and Elliot is an intriguing collision, but ultimately one that seems intent on making us wait at least a week for the final payoff. In contrast, the other driving plot of “h1dden-pr0cess.axx” holds nothing back, speeding with early unprecedented rapidity toward one of the most stunning sequences of the series’ run. For most of the second season now, the three forces of FSociety (now headed by Darlene (Carly Chaikin), Agent Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer), and the Dark Army have been hovering around one another without much interaction, playing off what one another is doing without ever getting close enough to come into direct conflict. That all changes this week, beginning when the FBI stumbles upon Susan Jacobs’ (Sandrine Holt) abandoned apartment and giving them a lead on Cisco’s (Michael Drayer) whereabouts.
When Dom, with little to no help from her frustrating bosses as the bureau, tracks down Darlene and Cisco, she’s either just in time or just a little too late, depending on the fate you’d like to imagine for the duo. It’s when the two are sharing a meal at a diner that, unbeknownst to them, the FBI releases a BOLO (Be On The Lookout) with an eerily accurate sketch of Cisco, effectively giving him a death sentence. Even Dom knows that as soon as the Dark Army finds out their man is blown, he’s as good as dead, so when it’s her and not them that finds the two in the diner, she’s in a frantic panic to get them to safety.
This whole sequence — the meal, the BOLO, the search — all play out with a frenzied pace, with Esmail constantly heightening the tension. All of which makes the final scene, which has the camera remain almost maddeningly removed as Dom enter the restaurants, only to be rudely interrupted by the spraying bullets of the Dark Army, both frustrating and brilliant. The only one we see come out alive, and covered in a copious amount of blood, is Dom, leaving it unclear whether the Dark Army truly succeeded in their mission. I tend to think not, as Darlene’s death here doesn’t really serve to propel the plot, but either way, her cover is blown and she’s firmly in the hands of the FBI, pushing Elliot once again to the forefront of FSociety.
With all the questions hanging in the air at the conclusion of “h1dden-pr0cess.axx” it may be weird to stress the satisfactory nature of this week’s installment, but seeing the frayed pieces of the series begin to come together felt like a reward for the sometimes trudging pace of the season up to this point. We may not have gotten any substantial answers, but at least the questions are coming into clearer focus.