Time. If Sam Esmail were in charge, he’d place a rainy Sunday between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, then show up at your door like a Jehovah’s Witness asking your thoughts on God! Because after last week’s high-octane, beautifully-paced dash to the finale, S02E11 felt like a letdown.
Gone was the tautly-plotted, carefully gift-wrapped and tied neatly with a bow intersection of character, time, geography, conflict, cause and effect and more importantly – tension. All the hard work that took us to Lupe’s Diner and hurtling towards a finale by last week’s two writers was replaced by pondersome, metaphysical chin-scratching, grandiose speeches and cheap parlour tricks.
Leaving the biggest questions unanswered felt like a cheap stunt and I can’t help but feel that the Season Finale might have been better if it aired as a two-parter as originally planned, with S02E11 setting up the questions and S02E12 providing the answers.
A showrunner’s role should be to course-correct the show back on track according to their vision after other writers have perhaps veered slightly off-course. S02E11 seemed, to me, to do the opposite, untying bows and crumpling up all that expensive wrapping paper.
“Mind Awake, Body Asleep” (as I’m going to call S02E11 in my brain-thinker) began promisingly enough with a soporific, floating, zooming camera accompanying Elliot’s voiceover to tempt us viewers into the arms of Morpheus. Elliot’s world of lucid dreaming was an interesting new angle because, while we’ve seen “dream sequences” before, we’ve not yet been asked directly to consider whether what we’re witnessing is a dream.
Joanna Wellick immediately came a step closer to getting her Tyrell back before going AWOL for the rest of the episode and alongside Angela, we found ourselves in the back of the least scary kidnap van ever.
Agent Dom teased us with a line so clunky it must have been bought at Clunky McClunksters Shop of Bad Dialogue – “and not only are several people dead but I almost got killed out there” Jeez! Then, amongst all the exposition, Dom got upset that after getting so close to The Dark Army, her investigation was now all but over due to the Chinese Government bailing out E Corp to the tune of $2 trillion.
Call me cray cray, but I believe a Federal Agent should be fighting for truth, not to protect the American Nightmare, and this, I believe is an important step on Dom’s path to enlightenment.
After pulling into a quiet, suburban cul-de-sac, Angela is escorted to a dark room where she is interrogated by her inner child in a text-based game of riddles for the Commodore 64 entitled “Land of Ecodelia”
Real World Exposition swept aside, we were transported into Angela’s story for the majority of the episode; plot went out of the window (well, fish tank; there were no windows) to be replaced by Lynchian dream logic.
Remember when two VHS tapes of The Muppet Show and Seinfeld got melded together to create Seinfeld Babies? Well, last night the same thing was happening on my TV.
I tried to tune into Mr Robot but somehow Orson Welles’ 1962 incredible adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial had become intertwined with a re-run of Deal or No Deal.
Across town, Phillip Price uttered some confusing, badly-writted (and factually incorrect) speechy-speechiness to the Treasury Secretary as he wants to create his own currency while a desperately alone (and surprisingly inked) Dominique has a deep and meaningful with Alexa, Android’s version of Siri.
All very well, but where was the action? Where are the answers?
With Elliot asleep and lucid dreaming, S02E11 belonged to Angela, proving that there is more to Mr Robot than Elliot’s occasionally repetitive relationship with his father. After answering the question “Is the key in the room?” with an equally Bilbo Baggins riddle answer of her own, she unlocked the next level.
With Whiterose’s talk of doors leading to worlds of possibilities, the show definitely takes on more of a sci-fi feel. It’s one thing entering someone’s dream and the fabric of reality being constantly alluded to one of these days, Mr Robot is going to have come through on some of this pseudo-spiritual science fiction philosophy.
Reaching Lost-like levels of fate, karma and destiny, Whiterose suggests Angela’s mother and Elliot’s father died “to take humanity to the next level” but how could she have known these two children would grow into hacking, whistleblowing vigilantes?
When Whiterose asked Angela “Do you ever think that if you imagined or believed in something it would come true?” I was half expecting her to say that the room was a Magic Box and that she could summon anything she wanted.
Whatever Whiterose said to Angela, it seemed to work as Angela seems to have sold her soul to the devil and is now on Team Dark Army.
Back in the real world (whatever the fuck that means!) Elliot awakes to see Mr Robot leafing through his mail and for the first time ever we see Robot from Elliot’s POV.
Whatever we were meant to be looking for in Elliot’s apartment last week, he’d found – a cypher code written on a Red Wheelbarrow fast-food menu. I paused the show and spent the next 15 minutes trying to decipher the code, number-by-number, letter-by-letter in what I believed the next round of Mr Robot gamification… only to get bored when I didn’t figure out I needed to rotate by 13 letters or find anything on googlemaps at 345 Brockman Street. So I pressed play only to watch Mr Robot do it for me, asshole!
Elliot’s plan worked. Kinda. Now he, like us, was a silent observer and could follow Robot unawares. It was a nice little idea that Elliot forgot he was following himself but we all knew where he was headed.
It was heartwarming to see Tyrell back to his nefarious self but re-introducing him after being told he was dead was the third major reveal that we saw coming – hell, I even wrote the line “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if S02E11 final shot segued into the last exciting episode of the season by revealing a familiar, Swedish face.” earlier this week.
If you’d like to hear some more of Mr Robot Hacks HQ’s thoughts on Tyrell hit this jump
Now, call me crazy, but I’m certain that Tyrell sounded different – when he got into the taxi, to say “Chambers and Church” I was sure that it was Mr Robot. But as his two scenes wore on, I became more convinced Christian Slater and Martin Wallström’s voices had been mixed together.
If I’m not going as crazy as Elliot – that’s surely proof that Robot and Wellick are one and the same – an hallucination. If next week does indeed reveal Tyrell to be Elliot that makes four reveals we’ve seen coming.
The final shot, lightened by Tyrell’s line, borrowed from Casablanca as they walked into the dusk was a chilling portent of what’s to come, but for all the atmosphere generated – Angela trapped in an episode of Twin Peaks while Mac Quayle did his best Hans Zimmer impression, S02E11 spent about 42 of its 46 minutes treading water.
This was Esmail’s chance to reclaim his vision; course correct his ship and shout “Carpe Diem! Seize the day!” but instead, the episode died like that poor coy carp…
Remember that feeling when, even after The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, we all still gave George Lucas one last chance with Revenge of the Sith? I’ll never give up on Mr Robot, but you would be forgiven if you’re feeling a mini version of that again.
Stage 2 wasn’t implemented. The issue of Darlene and Cisco was maddeningly skirted around. Trenton and Mobley are still missing and unless Angela conjures up (from her Lost inspired Magic Box) DJ Mobley at the wheel of a light blue Dharma Initiative camper van to run over the Dark Army, I’m gonna be mighty disappointed!
That said, there was still enough in S02E11 for us to come up with one of our killer crazy theories, but we’ve kinda purposefully steered you away from it so ya’ll stay tuned!
With Sam Esmail as our Grasshopper, we’ve learnt from the best!
See you in a day or two!