‘Mr. Robot’ Season 3 Episodes 4 & 5: The Walls Close In

“Every beginning is hard. Starting is easy, persistence is an art.” (Translated from German)

On the latest two episodes of “Mr. Robot,” things get tense as the UN vote looms and efforts to both stop Phase 2 and make sure it happens go head-to-head, but which side will win out in the end, and which side are the players really on? Meanwhile, Elliot (Rami Malek) seeks to find out what Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is up to behind his back, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) weighs her options, both Dominique (Grace Gummer) and Angela (Portia Doubleday) scramble to keep their respective operations afloat and Tyrell (Martin Wallström) wonders if partnering up with Elliot is all that it’s cracked up to be.

When we last left Elliot, it seemed that he had discovered Darlene’s role as an FBI informant, but, as it turned out, he had merely figured out where she was living. Realizing that her cover might not quite be blown yet, Dominique manages to alert Darlene at the last minute that Elliot’s in her apartment, aka the FBI safehouse, but it’s clear Elliot knows something is going on, as evidenced by his using a device to keep the FBI from listening in when he subsequently talks to Darlene.

In addition, he also knows that Darlene was bugging his computer and wants to know why. Thinking fast, she tells Elliot of Mr. Robot’s attack on her and admits she is scared of him, and nearly left town because of it, which isn’t entirely untrue. Elliot buys it and takes her to his apartment and clues her in on the fact that the adjacent apartment in his building, the one formerly occupied by girlfriend Shayla (Frankie Shaw), is his secret getaway, as it is still vacant.

Elliot concocts a plan to get to the bottom of what Mr. Robot is up to: Darlene will lay low in Shayla’s old apartment and keep an eye on Elliot after hours. If he leaves his apartment and doesn’t alert her that it’s him, it must be Mr. Robot instead, up to no good, and she should follow him accordingly, at a safe distance, if possible. She does, and is shocked to see Mr. Robot meet with Angela, meaning that Angela is fully aware of who Mr. Robot is and is somehow in cahoots with him.

This rocks Darlene’s world, as it now means she literally has no one she can really trust anymore, so she sets up a meet with Dominique, desperately trying to bond with her. The wary Dom plays things close to the vest, but opens up a little, probably recognizing that she and Darlene aren’t that dissimilar in the process- both are leading lonely, isolated lives that essentially revolve around their work and nothing else. Darlene says she has a solid lead, but needs some leeway to keep investigating things, and that wearing a wire is absolutely out of the question.

Dom reluctantly agrees, but a paranoid Darlene, not entirely satisfied Dom- and by extension, the FBI- won’t betray her, has a heart-to-heart with Elliot, in which the two agree to seek vengeance for the other one, should anything happen to either one of them. One gets the sense that it might not be too long before that comes to pass. Making matters worse, Elliot emerged during that meet with Angela, spotting both her and Tyrell in the secret loft that the two are using to finish up plans for Phase 2.

Angela, thinking fast, immediately drugs Elliot, hoping that he won’t be able to make sense of what he saw. She subsequently stashes him at her place over the weekend to keep him out of trouble and to keep an eye on him personally to make sure Elliot doesn’t emerge and thwart the Phase 2 plans in any way. This does not calm Tyrell, who is convinced Elliot is too far gone, which isn’t exactly helped by the fact that his Mr. Robot side attacks him, threatening to kill him.

Making matters worse, Angela and Tyrell get word from Irving (Bobby Cannavale) that Whiterose (BD Wong) has moved up the time-table for Phase 2 to that Monday, the day of the UN vote to determine whether China should be allowed to annex the Congo. This comes just as Angela has discovered what Elliot has been up to at E(vil) Corp: making sure that the paper files are being sent to the wrong locations, so that they never make it to the building that Phase 2 entails blowing up, thus killing potentially thousands of innocent people- hence Elliot trying to stop it.

Angela tells Irving she will take care of it, but makes him promise that the building will be clear at the time of the bombing, which he claims has already been taken care of. Tyrell, on the other hand, isn’t so convinced that they can get everything in order in such a short amount of time, and is clearly coming somewhat unglued. To ease his fears, Angela reassures Tyrell she will make sure Elliot no longer has access to E-Corp and, to that end, calls in a favor to Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) to get Elliot fired immediately, no questions asked.

He agrees, but she will owe him one, which can’t be good. Tyrell is unconvinced, and makes a side deal with Irving to arrange safe haven for him, his wife and child in the Ukraine, where he and his family can’t be extradited for his crimes. Irving says he will look into it, but as we already know, Tyrell’s wife is dead, and his baby has been sent to social services- but Tyrell doesn’t know that.

Count on Tyrell being eliminated as soon as Phase 2 is completed, mark my words, given that the alternative is that he will likely try and expose the Dark Army in retaliation. But it remains to be seen whether Phase 2 will be completed in the first place, however. The FBI does capture a suspect thought to have made the latest FSociety video, but Dom is dubious of the man, Sasan Nouri (Nuah Ozryel, “Madam Secretary”), thinking he allowed himself to be captured way too easily, and that he is likely a plant made by the Dark Army, who she suspects know that the FBI are closing in somehow. Given that her immediate superior is working for them, she’s not wrong.

In the following episode, Elliot returns to work on Monday, the day of the UN vote, with no memory of what transpired over the weekend. He further freaks out when he realizes that he’s been locked out of his computer and fired, thinking that E-Corp must be onto him somehow. He scrambles to try and finish what he started in stopping Phase 2, but keeps having to evade building security, and doesn’t quite get there before they finally catch up to him and escort him out of the building.

Outside, he meets up with a frantic Darlene, who finally comes clean about her being an FBI informant, which goes over with Elliot just about as well as one thinks it might. Unsure of what to do next, but knowing he has to stop Phase 2 at all costs, Elliot takes advantage of an unhinged protest outside the building to sneak back in, where he eventually finds and confronts Angela about her role in all this, after Darlene also told him that Mr. Robot had met with Angela behind his back, and thus, must be directly involved with the Dark Army somehow.

Before that happens, though, we get a bravura sequence where the protest turns into a riot and Angela, after Elliot has already been thrown out of the building, gets a call from Irving telling her to have Elliot take care of something for them, in terms of Phase 2. He has a detailed list of things he wants Elliot to do for them, which he has delivered by courier, and tells her to get the list to Elliot and to call him when it’s done. Irving says the riot was arranged and was intended as a distraction in order for Elliot to get the job done.

Unfortunately for Angela, Elliot is nowhere to be found, so she has to take matters into her own hands. Not sure when Angela became a bad-ass hacker type, but she manages to get the job done, despite the riot spiraling out of control, endangering lives in the process, and even seemingly getting some E-Corp employees killed. Along the way, someone catches her, though, thus blowing her cover, but she informs Irving of this and he says he’ll take care of it.

Angela also claims to have successfully done everything on the list, but I’ll be damned if I know if she actually pulled it off. Either way, Irving seems satisfied- and a little impressed, given that it was actually Angela who did it, not Elliot. One thing, though: doesn’t Irving know that Elliot and Mr. Robot are one and the same, and that his Elliot side was actively trying to thwart the Mr. Robot side? If so, and I’m quite sure it is, then why would he think that Elliot would help the Dark Army when he’s been the one trying to Deep Six Phase 2 for some time now?

Could it have been a test of Angela’s loyalty instead? Surely the Dark Army knew that Elliot had been fired. I can buy that they didn’t just yet- after all, it just happened. But why would they think that Elliot would help them? Or did they simply think that Angela was able to bring Mr. Robot out to do his thing at will? Not sure, but all of this raises a lot of questions, not in the least whether or not Angela helped to make Phase 2 happen or not.

I do think that the reason Angela had to do whatever she did was because the Dark Army hit a roadblock on being able to bypass the firewalls that Elliot set up to stop them. Elliot confirms as much when he is on that computer and sees that the Dark Army are actively trying to do just that, but haven’t succeeded as of yet. But he knows that the firewall won’t hold forever, which is why he was trying to get somewhere to stop the Dark Army before he was thrown out of the building. Now that he’s back in, courtesy of the distraction of the riot, will he still be able to?

What’s more, will Angela help him? Or will she try and drug him and stop him again? Or will she try and convince him to join the Dark Army side? After all, they promised to clear the building before setting off the bomb, right? But did they actually do it, or were they telling Angela what she wanted to hear to get her to go along with it? All of that remains to be seen, but I have my doubts about Whiterose’s intentions or the lengths she’s willing to go to, in order to achieve her goals.

These two episodes certainly ratcheted up the suspense of the season considerably, after a bit of a slow burn of a start. Don’t get me wrong, I liked those early episodes just fine, especially the third one, which focused in on Tyrell and filled in some blanks that some of us may not have realized needed filling in a clever way, but these two episodes, particularly the fifth one, were next level stuff.

Freed from his writing duties on the two episodes, creator Sam Esmail was able to concentrate solely on his directing, to great effect. The fifth episode featured an awe-inspiring sequence which looked to be shot in one continuous take, even if some computer trickery might have been used in key places. Kudos to him and director of photography Tod Campbell. It’s the most jaw-dropping thing I’ve seen on TV since that famed scene in the first season of “True Detective,” which, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely was shot in one take.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this one was as well, but even if it wasn’t, it was mighty impressive and filled with nail-biting tension and nerve-jangling suspense. It was sort of like that one heist-like episode “Mr. Robot” did in the first season- I believe it was episode 5 as well- only amped up even further by virtue of the one-take gambit. Yes, the sequence was a bit on the show-off-y side, but so what if it worked? And this totally did, giving the sequence a you-are-there immediacy that was like the hacker equivalent of a similar action-packed one-take scene in the excellent “Children of Men.”

One of the biggest strengths of the show is its disconcerting camera angles and oddball framing, which make the viewer feel like a voyeur, spying on the lives of people you shouldn’t be. I’ve no doubt that that’s precisely what Esmail is going for, especially when it’s combined with Elliot’s paranoid asides and rambling, mumbling inner voice. You often feel like you’re watching things from the perspective of Elliot himself, or how he sees them, at least when his character (or Mr. Robot) is in the driver’s seat. Even when it isn’t, it’s like you’re eavesdropping in on a conversation from afar, which can be a disquieting experience.

I’m loving this season so far. In many ways, it’s already better than the last one, although I did enjoy the last one for what it was, particularly the “stunt” bits like the “ALF” thing and the faux slasher movie footage. At its most inventive, there’s no other show like “Mr. Robot” on television, but even at its most self-indulgent, it’s still pretty engrossing. Episode five certainly falls into the former category, thanks to that astonishing final sequence.

What did you think of the latest episodes of “Mr. Robot”? Were you, too, impressed by that non-stop shot in episode five? Or was it a case of style over substance? Do you think that Elliot’s firewall will hold, or will it be foiled by Angela’s actions? Is Angela more skilled in the art of hacking than we thought? Or does she know just enough to squeak by in the clutch?

Now that Elliot knows that Darlene is working with the FBI and Angela is working with the Dark Army, how will he handle things moving forward? Whose side will he be on? Or will he play both sides against each other from the middle? No doubt he feels betrayed by both women- how will that affect his relationship with them? What does Darlene telling Elliot about the FBI do for her deal with them moving forward? Or will she be able to still save herself and Elliot both? Will Dom ever figure out her boss is a card-carrying member of the Dark Army? How will she react when and if she does?

A whole lot of questions to be answered, to be sure, and with five more episodes to go, we’re only halfway home, so there’s plenty of time for twists ahead of us. Any predictions on what will happen? With Elliot now knowing that both Darlene and Angela have essentially been compromised, all bets are off, as far as I’m concerned. It could go any number of ways from here, and I wouldn’t be surprised. But I can’t wait to find out.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave your comments down below. Join me in a few weeks for another look at the show!