Written and directed by show creator Sam Esmail, this week’s episode of Mr. Robot is an interlude of sorts. Eps2.2_init1.asec is a sort of necessary evil. A pause in the second season’s pace where everything slows down…to…a…stop. The expository look at the beginning of the whole “taking down E Corp” plan and Elliot’s battle with himself has to be presented to build up the payoff.
The prologue to the episode starts with Darlene turning up with the “Monopoly” mask of Fsociety and having a visit with her brother. She is having issues and needs a break from it all. She says to an evasive Elliot Init1. A password of sorts between the two of them which equates to teaming up.
As the two watch a faux ’80s slasher film, the score sets the mood. An ethereal mix of orchestra and a chorus of wailing that is both evocative of science fiction and fantasy. (The music is, incidentally, “The Planets: Neptune, the Mystic” – by Gustav Holst – a grateful thanks to Jeff Jensen over at EW for finding that one out.)
The episode spends a lot of time focussing on Elliot’s fight for control with Mr. Robot. The peripherals show Joanna Wellick having money issues. Darlene fighting to protect Elliot while simultaneously asking for his help.
Angela is also seen playing her own chess game with Price. Her boss clearly has her in line for something as he speaks with the Dark Army rep Whiterose, played by BD Wong.
Whiterose asks, cryptically, if Price is sure he wants to bank everything on her, and his answer is yes.
Later Joanna confronts Scott Knowles (Brian Stokes Mitchell) about Tyrell’s severance package. A drunken Scott is belligerent and refuses to authorize it even after Joanna offers to stitch her husband up.
Evidence seems to point to Angela being the next E Corp sacrificial lamb. A young blonde version of the on-air suicide man himself, James Plouffe. Angela believes she knows where Price is headed with his constant tests. Unfortunately she gets it wrong.
Agent Dieperro (Grace Gummer) shows the rest of the FBI team at the arcade the shell casing found “tucked behind that Mallard Murder game.” Once more the idea of Wellick being murdered crops up.
The main thrust of this episode is chess. Elliot plays it with Ray (Craig Robinson). Leon offers to give Elliot a game and later, he plays with Mr. Robot, in other words himself. Unsurprisingly each match ends in a stalemate.
Earlier, after playing Ray and losing, the winner suggests Elliot plays against himself and says “Who knows, you might beat yourself.”
Before taking on Mr. Robot, who actually suggests playing chess for control, Leon urges Elliot to dream. In this sequence, Wellick is seen for the first time since this season started.
He and Joanna are seated at a long table in the street. (Very evocative of the V.E. day celebrations.) At the table are a group of Elliot’s friends and loved ones, Angela, Darlene, et al. Strangely missing is his dad, Mr. Robot.
At this street banquet a tall imposing building in the distance begins to crumble and fall. The skyscraper is obviously E Corp and this is the manifestation of his real life dream of annihilating the company.
Angela confronts Price who tells her that all this in in her head. “Wait,” she says, “I’m not wrong.” “Go home,” replies Price.
Later, after the successive stalemates, Elliot takes back the chessboard to Ray. He offers to fix Ray’s computer problem and immediately begins talking to Darlene on the web. Ray tells Elliot that hearing voices is a trait shared by Moses, Abraham, John, Paul and Jesus. “You could be divine,” says Ray.
Elliot learns of the FBI finding the arcade, Romero’s death and the “Berenstain” program. He begins to hack the FBI.
Esmail as director makes short sharp cuts between scenes. This leaves the viewer veering quickly between vignettes and sometimes feeling a little off balance. It works for this episode but is not a technique needed for others.
Mr. Robot taking a moment on more backstory and allowing more focus on Elliot was needed to move things on. No one else had died yet, but the FBI have traced, Mobley back to Vegas. This means that other’s can as well.
The series airs Wednesdays on USA. Stick with this one it gets under your skin and stays there.