‘Mr. Robot’ Season 3 Episodes 8 & 9: Back to the Future

In the latest episodes of “Mr. Robot,” we got a much-needed breather before ramping up to the big finale next week. Given how intense much of this season has been, which has seen several major supporting characters fall by the wayside, followed by no less than the biggest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, one can certainly forgive writer/director/creator Sam Esmail for wanting to rein things in a bit before unleashing whatever he has in store for us next week.

Episode 8 saw both Elliot (Rami Malek) and Angela (Portia Doubleday) reeling from the events of said terrorist attack, which we know to have been perpetrated by the Dark Army, led by Whiterose (BD Wong), who used the two to help pull it off, albeit somewhat unknowingly.

Sure, it was essentially Elliot’s idea, but Whiterose took what was once intended to be the demolition of one building and made it into over seventy- though that part of it was largely due to Elliot trying to stop the attack by spreading out the E(vil) Corp. paper files that were essentially the main target in the first place.

Well, that and Whiterose’s premature decision to go ahead with the bombings, even though they could have waited a while to get the files in one place. But Whiterose wanted to teach Phillip Price (Michael Cristopher) a hard lesson, so Phase 2 proceeded in spite of all that. Mission accomplished, but at what cost?

As we eventually see in episode 9, the move also somewhat backfires for Whiterose, who allows herself to become vulnerable, albeit somewhat unwittingly, via lover and assistant Grant (Grant Chang), after Elliot demands a meeting through Irving (Bobby Cannavale) and uses said occasion to plant a bug into the Dark Army’s computers to give him access to their files.

He does so under the guise of a “Phase 3,” but there is no such thing, really- unless you want to call the act of dismantling the Dark Army itself as such. Either way, the gambit succeeds, but at a potential cost to Elliot as well, as Whiterose gives Grant permission to take Elliot out. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll succeed.

Lest we forget, though, Elliot was on the verge of killing himself anyway, as seen in episode 8, a contemplative endeavor, which saw him getting his affairs in order, only to essentially be undone by a little kid: Mohammed (Elisha Henig), Trenton’s younger brother, who overhears Elliot telling his father that Trenton was not a bad person and that she was set up for her crimes.

After that, Mohammed follows Elliot to the beach, where he plans to kill himself by taking an overdose of morphine. However, he can’t well do it in front of the kid, so he puts it off for the time being, as Mohammed browbeats him into taking him to the movies. Turns out the day has some significance for geeks everywhere: it’s “Back to the Future” day, October 21st, 2015.

Accordingly, Elliot insists on going to see it, as Mohammed has never seen the film, but he gets bored and bails instead. (Amusingly, Mohammed actually wanted to see “The Martian” instead, which, little did he know, would likely have bored the pants out of him.) Elliot catches a ride with a mysterious Ice Cream Man (Richard Masur, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” remake), who helps him track the boy down at a local mosque.

Elliot finally admits to the boy that he wishes he was dead, but the encounter changes his mind, and he instead, after taking the boy back home, opts to pay Mobley’s brother, Sandesh Markesh (Dileep Rao, “Inception,” Avatar”) a second visit. In their first encounter, Sandesh grumbled that he had disowned his brother for his terrorist acts, and wasn’t even planning to give him a proper burial.

Elliot, reverting to his blackmailing ways, tosses him the morphine he bought and tells Sandesh to cash it in and throw Mobley the funeral he deserves or else he would make his life a living hell, pointing out that he’ll be watching and attending said funeral to make sure Sandesh follows through. While I can’t say I entirely blame the guy- after all, he thinks his brother was partially responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil ever- I also get Elliot’s side of things, for obvious reasons.

After that, he pays fellow sufferer Angela a visit, who is quickly spiraling out of control her own damn self. She’s installed multiple locks on her door, and by the next episode, she’s completely remodeled the place to look like a lunatic’s home, with all sorts of plastic wrapping and oddly placed stuff everywhere, as she talks to someone who may or may not even be there.

Angela refuses to let Elliot in, but the two do share a touching moment back-to-back at her front door, as they reminiscence about better times in the past. The encounter may well keep Angela from doing something similar to what Elliot had planned, but it hardly keeps her from going more than a little bit mental, as she continues to try and convince herself that what has been done can be undone, down to the death of her and Elliot’s mother and father, respectively.

Episode 8 was filled with amusing in-joke references, from all the “Back to the Future” stuff to the fact that Elliot buys his drugs from a guy named “Hard Andy” (Christopher Halladay, “Gotham”), which is a nod to a similar character called “Easy Andy” in Martin Scorsese’s classic downer “Taxi Driver.” In addition, a song from another time-traveling epic of sorts, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” plays at the end of the episode.

While as much of an exercise in nostalgia as, say, the “ALF” episode from last season, this one was distinguished by being less of an indulgence- albeit a fun one- than that episode, as there is more of a method to the madness here, as the pop culture touchstones serve as a way forward for Elliot by looking back. I guess, to a certain extent you could say the same about the “ALF” episode, but this is much-more straight-forward and less cryptic.

As we see in the opening moments- which take place in the past, after Elliot’s dad (Christian Slater) assaulted him, as he tried to make it up to Elliot by taking him to the movies, then subsequently passed out in the lobby- movies are of significant value to Elliot. Note also that the faux slasher movie, “The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoise” that Elliot loved was the source of inspiration for the masks that FSociety sported.

Movies and TV (see also the nod to “Knight Rider” earlier in the season, in addition to the “ALF” thing) are an escape for Elliot, and a place he retreats to time and again on the show, just as we the viewer likewise see fit to do as well in watching this show. Remember, everything we’re seeing on the show, we are seeing through the filter of Elliot, who knows we are watching, and, in a way, complicit to what we see, as we continue to watch, in spite of how ugly things have gotten over the three seasons. Lest we forget it, Elliot conveniently reminds us of the fact from time to time by addressing us directly.

Episode 9 sees Elliot back on his game, as he gets a message from Mr. Robot- whose jacket, by the way, mysteriously made its way back to Elliot after he attempted to discard it in the last episode- letting him know that the FBI is in on things. Elliot confronts his sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) about it, and she claims she has an idea which can help them undo what has been done, as per Elliot’s desire.

Elliot wants her to get him access to the Sentinel, which is sort of cyber-storage place where the FBI keeps their files. In the final scene of episode 8, Elliot finally found the email that Trenton sent him upon her death, which pointed a way forward that might allow him to undo the 5/9 hack and get things back to square one. The key to it is getting a hold of the FBI files about Romero, who kept the encryption keys after the initial hack.

But how to get to some of the most heavily guarded files in the world? Darlene opts to use her feminine wiles to seduce Agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) and hopefully gain access to the Sentinel by stealing her security badge and using it to help break Elliot into said files. Unfortunately, it backfires at the last possible minute when Dominique, no fool she, catches Darlene in the act of doing it.

Dominique arrests Darlene and takes her down to FBI headquarters for questioning, where she confesses much of what she knows. Even worse, she does it in front of Agent Santiago (Omar Metwally), who we already know to be in the pocket of the Dark Army. Naturally, he panics and calls Irving for advice on how to proceed, convinced he is about to be burned.

Meanwhile, in a flashback, we see Elliot, as Mr. Robot, paying Tyrell (Martin Wallström) a visit, who promptly tries to kill him after he declares that Tyrell is just the puppet of the Dark Army and is only alive as long as he can be of use to them. Then Phillip Price unexpectedly shows up and announces that Tyrell has been essentially promoted to CTO of E(vil) Corp. However, as he tells him, it will merely be as a figurehead, and he will wield no real power.

Thus confirming Mr. Robot’s claim that he is just a puppet- technically, they both are- the two commiserate over what to do next. Tyrell recalls that the Dark Army do have a weakness of sorts in Agent Santiago, who he knows to work for the FBI. This is what leads Mr. Robot to leave the message for Elliot in the mirror we saw at the beginning of the episode, and sets the rest of the episode into motion.

As Darlene tries to make a deal with the FBI, Elliot does the same with the Dark Army, but with a hidden agenda: to plant a bug that will allow him access to all of their files. The notion of a heretofore unmentioned Phase 3, though, also sets in motion Whiterose’s plans to kill Elliot, however, so the plan may backfire if Elliot doesn’t watch himself. Of course, then again, Elliot was prepared to die anyway, so…

Also worth a mention is the fact that Angela showed up at Elliot’s to talk and the two of them came upon Leon (Joey Bada$$), who was there to take Elliot to supposedly meet with Whiterose, though it ultimately proves to be Grant. This sets off Angela’s inner paranoia and she is now convinced that Elliot can no longer be trusted, which is rich coming from her, after what she did.

Either way, after gathering together her most-cherished belongings, some of which tie into her meet with Whiterose, she goes on the lamb, posing as a bag lady type. She has a run-in with a CD Hawker (Ed Squires), recalling a similar such encounter in Season 1 that started the whole ball rolling with Angela, or rather her boyfriend, who in turn roped her into everything else when he was blackmailed. Shortly thereafter, a group of men roll up in a van and take her away to who knows where. Are they Dark Army? FBI? Hard to say.

We also got an extended cameo from old-school cast members Terry Colby (Bruce Altman) and Gideon Goddard (Michel Gill), as we saw how Phillip Price got into business with All Safe in the first place, likewise setting into motion events that would lead to his own downfall. As such, it may well be Phillip Price that had Angela kidnapped to be brought to him- perhaps he is plotting some sort of revenge against the Dark Army and plans to use Angela to execute it.

Either way, lots of good stuff happening on the show, leading in to what should surely be a memorable finale. I’m not completely sure where all this is headed, not in the least with so many parts in motion, and all of them at odds with one another, but I’m sure that it will be interesting. All Esmail has to do is stick the landing, and this could well prove to be the best season of the show to date, IMHO.

I am interested to see if the whole quantum physics/manipulating of time thing that Angela is convinced can happen will, in fact, be set into motion, or if that was something that Whiterose simply told her in order to better manipulate her. Still, the fact that he discussed it with Grant may mean that there is something to it after all. You never know. Either way, we shall see next week, when whatever happens happens.

Until then, lots to savor. I’m halfway tempted to re-watch the entire season to date again, I’ve liked it so much. I might just wait until the season’s over and re-watch the entire series. A lot will depend on what happens next, I imagine. I, for one, can’t wait to find out next week.

Join me next Thursday for my final review of the season, and be sure to make with the predictions down below!