To paraphrase The Shawshank Redemption, Mr. Robot is like geology: the study of time and pressure. It took Elliot (Rami Malek), a boy clearly distraught over the loss of his father and furious with the system that led to his demise, some 20 years to finally do something about it. Twenty years to hone his hacking skills and finally get back at Evil Corp. It took time and some self-inflicted pressure, in the form of schizophrenic visions, to push Elliot to, “save the world”. As we have been learning more and more this season — as opposed to the first — Elliot isn’t the only one facing pressure, and he surely isn’t the only one risking it all for something he believes in. “succ3ss0r.p12” shows us just how much pressure is changing every character, and how Elliot might not be the only one succumbing to its power.
Episode eight continues this season’s trend of flashing back to a time right before FSociety first came together, showing the first meeting between Trenton (Sunita Mani) and Mobley (Azhar Khan) in, of all place, Ron’s Coffee Shop (where the series opener kicked off). The two trade some semi-flirtatious, innocent banter before Darlene (Carly Chaikin) arrives in her usual cranky yet somehow endearing mood with a message from the unseen Elliot. In short, they seem young, honest, and eager to make a difference in the best they know how. From there, we jump to the present, where these same three characters, plus Cisco (Michael Drayer), are in a much different place, with a much different mindset.
The success of their FBI hack succeeds in only illuminating just how much trouble they’re really in. When they sit in on a conference call, they soon learn that not only is the government monitoring countless innocent civilians, but they’ve focused their target to 16 specific suspects, one of whom is already dead. Mobley, the most nervous and least hardcore revolutionary of the group, predictably freaks out, acknowledging more readily than his associates that maybe they made a mistake on 5/9, a mistake that seems poised to be wholly dire. Just as their circumstances can’t seem any more perilous, in walks Susan Jacobs (Sandrine Holt), finally returning to her smart home and current FSociety headquarters.
Here’s where the episode takes a turn into the familiar realm of “what to do with the person tied up in the basement” scenario that’ll be familiar to most television audiences. They can’t let her go, at least not until they are sure she won’t talk, and we all know there’s really only one surefire way to make sure someone doesn’t talk. This brings up once again just how ill-prepared this group of hacker revolutionaries really are. Mosely and Trenton aren’t the same people that met in that coffee shop in the episode’s opening scene, but they also aren’t so different as to be okay with everything that’s going on. Time and pressure has made them paranoid and hypersensitive, but it hasn’t made them killers.
The important thing to remember, though, is that the majority of pressure they’ve been facing is the outside world slowly but surely closing in, which isn’t the same situation for Darlene. Darlene didn’t develop this plan by herself; she didn’t start coming up with it in her mid-twenties when she realized that the one percent was out to screw her. No, her motivation began, just like Elliot’s, the moment their father was diagnosed with cancer, and has been building ever since.
Darlene all but walks Susan Jacobs through the twists and turns of this long-term hate, explaining just how badly Evil Corp has screwed up her life. We see none of the wise-cracking, sarcastic Darlene here; instead, we see a determined, single-minded woman on a mission, a mission that ends when she shocks Jacobs to death with a Taser gun. It’s clear this is the first life she’s taken, as she shudders and stumbles a bit before composing herself enough to lie to the rest of the group about her intentions. There’s no doubt, however, that she’s taken a step from which she can’t come back. The revolution has officially turned bloody.
The episode ends with the group fractured, scared, and seemingly on the run. Both Mobley and Trenton return home, only to enter a world of paranoia that eventually ends with Mobley being picked up by the FBI.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t once again acknowledging Grace Gummer’s superb performance this week as she interrogates Mobley about his connection to FSociety and the 5/9 hacks. She doesn’t have much in the way of hard evidence, but watching her confidently shoot questions at him while sucking on a lollipop is enough to intimidate suspects much more hardened than Mobley. She’s not all that close to finding out the truth about 5/9, but she’s damn sure on the right track, and I anticipate similar interrogations with the likes of Elliot or Darlene moving forward.
Wherever the narrative turns from here, one thing is certain: Darlene isn’t only the leader of FSociety moving forward, but has made the decision, consciously or unconsciously, to fight to the bitter end for what she believes in. There’s no going back from here, and as the walls continue to close in on her and the rest of the gang, it’ll be fascinating to how time and pressure will continue to shape just how far she’ll go.