Mr. Robot: Season 2, Episode 4 – “eps2.2_init1.asec”

Many of Mr. Robot's characters remain in a stalemate in an episode meant mostly to set up future battles.

All’s well with the world. Elliot (Rami Malek) finally overcomes both his schizophrenic tendencies and his social anxiety and reenters the world a changed man. Slowly, he reunites with those he loves, and makes things right with those he’s wronged. They all comes together to share a feast as they watch Evil Corp fall from international giant to a pile of rubble and finally, for once in his life, Elliot is happy and content. We know that this is a pipe dream, but watching Elliot lie in his bed and vividly imagine this future is enough to remind us that, despite the wild ride he has brought us on, he is just a guy trying to be happy, making his reality all the more heartbreaking.

“eps2.2_init1.asec” could, and arguably should, have been called “stalemate”, not only for the running theme of chess and the ultimate game’s foreseeable result, but because of the stasis of many of our main characters. Elliot, still seemingly on the verge of once again entering the big game, is still toiling away in the far corners of New York with the likes of Ray (Craig Robinson), Leon (Joey Bada$$), and, of course, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Still battling with his own psyche, Elliot eventually, at the behest of both of his new friends, decides it’s time to decide a winner once and for all.

For this, he agrees to a game of chess with his dead father, the winner of which will take over for good, leaving the loser to become extinct forever. Of course, as always, there’s a catch: you can’t possibly beat yourself unless one side is willing to concede. Mr. Robot seems to know this, but just getting Elliot to agree to the game shows that he’s wearing Elliot down. It shows him that Elliot is willing to risk being lost forever to his insanity just to end this ceaseless battle. In getting him to agree to the game, he’s also able to show Elliot how absurd, and ultimately pointless, it is for him to fight so fervently against his own will. The game may result in endless stalemates, but it’s clear that, for all intents and purposes, Mr. Robot takes the victory.

Along those lines, we’re also given more examples, like last week’s outburst at the church group, of Elliot allowing his alter ego to take over. “eps2.2_init1.asec” opens prior to last week’s events, with Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and Elliot first formulating the idea that became the takedown of Evil Corp. It’s when Elliot first slips on the now infamous mask and first starts muttering the foundations of the plan that we see his demeanor change and his eyes light up in ways that are far more Mr. Robot than Elliot. He even admits to Darlene later in the episode — in the current timeline — that the man who first told her about AllSafe and his plan was not Elliot but the every mysterious, “him”, meaning that Mr. Robot has clearly been in the driver’s seat since the beginning.

Just as Elliot is locked in endless standoff with his own visions, Darlene is stuck dealing with the repercussions of the hack, which are becoming more dire by the day. At first Darlene played Romero (Ron Cephas Jones) and Gideon’s (Michel Gill) death coolly, assuring the rest of FSociety that their deaths were not part of some larger extermination. As the episode progresses, however, the walls continue to close in on the increasingly anxious Darlene, who even gets a stern warning from her long lost Dark Army contact — and lover — Cisco (Michael Drayer). With the FBI finding the arcade and the Dark Army possibly moving to cover their tracks, Darlene desperately needs Elliot’s help, but not until the waning moments of the episode does he seem at all interested in giving assistance.

Speaking of that darkest of armies, this week we’re finally reunited with the cross-dressing, ever-mysterious Whiterose (BD Wong). The fact that she and Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) are in some kind of cahoots was revealed toward the end of last season, but now we see them working specifically on some plan to help both of their self-interests. Although they speak in riddles and are steadfast in their desire to reveal nothing concrete, whatever the plan is two things are clear: Whiterose is becoming increasingly impatient, and Angela (Portia Doubleday) is a key piece to their elaborate strategy.

While the episode bogs down a bit the more time we spend with Tyrell’s wife, Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), whose story seems so inconsequential it seems unnecessary to go into detail, “eps2.2_init1.asec” works pretty well as a whole. This week marks the fourth of 12 episodes in this season’s arc, so hopefully we’re beginning to move into the meat and bones of the season, which seem poised to put the FBI, led by Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer), The Dark Army, and FSociety all at odds, with Elliot as the unpredictable center of the equation. There are times which the long runtimes of the episodes and endless stalemates can become a little tiresome, but if Mr. Robot is able to pay off on all the exquisite build-up, than it’ll surely be worthwhile.

RATING 6 / 10