Mr Robot S02E04 “Init_1.asec” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Elliot is at home in his apartment, someone is at the door, it’s Darlene. We’re seeing a pre-fsociety flashback and not back to the end of season one.
- It’s Hallowe’en – Darlene is depressed and wants to hang. They watch one of their favourite childhood movies: The Careful Massacre Of The Bourgeoisie.
- Elliot has their father’s Mr Robot jacket. He puts it on it along with the mask from the movie and comes up with the plan to hack E Corp. He’s going to take the job Angela has offered to get him at Allsafe so he can get closer to E Corp’s network.
- The FBI is all over the arcade. Dipierro finds a shell casing behind the Mallet Murder game.
- At the parking lot where Tyrell’s SUV was abandoned, Joanna Wellick is paying off the car park attendant to keep quiet about something. But she’s getting low on funds; E Corp won’t release her husband’s severance pay.
- Angela watches as the two men she was at dinner with (the ones whom Phillip Price gave her incriminating evidence about) are led away from the office in handcuffs.
- Elliot and Ray play chess. Elliot wants to confess all to Ray now that Darlene may be a target for the Dark Army or the FBI, but Mr Robot advises against it – by threatening to take a swan dive off the nearest tall building.
- Elliot and Mr Robot agree to a game of chess, winner takes all: all being control of Elliot’s mind and body.
- Whiterose is getting impatient with Phillip Price and the plight of E Corp.
- Joanna goes to visit Scott Knowles (E Corp’s CTO). He’s in a mess, and still looking for the murderer of his wife, whom he believes to be Tyrell. He seems to be the one behind the withholding of the severance pay.
- Darlene is approached by Cisco (her ex), he tells her that it isn’t the Dark Army that’s after fsociety, it’s the FBI. Turns out Romero was investigating an illegal surveillance operation called Operation Berenstain.
- Elliot decides he will fight (Mr Robot) for the life he wants. They play chess but reach stalemate in each game they play.
- Angela meets with Phillip Price. She thinks she’s figured out why he needs her: he wants to remove any mention of inspection of the town plant from the class action settlement. He denies this, but congratulates Angela anyway.
- Darlene needs Elliot’s help to keep the FBI away – specifically his help, not Mr Robot’s help.
- To gain access to a computer, Elliot agrees to help Ray with his site migration. Ray warns him not to look where he shouldn’t, and brings in Lone Star (Michael Maize) to keep an eye on him.
- Elliot is going to hack the FBI.
Time to get the tin foil hats out, conspiracy theory fans. There re enough clues about what’s actually going on in Mr Robot this episode to start a boatload of new threads in /r/MrRobot.
But first, a history lesson. As with previous episodes this season we open with more backstory on the formation of fsociety. This time around we see Elliot come up with the original plan to hack E Corp and destroy all of their data while wearing his dead father’s jacket and a mask from an ’80s video nasty. Hopefully in a future episode we’ll get to see the point where Elliot splits into Mr Robot and forgets what he was doing.
Okay, so if we extrapolate some of the information from this episode, we can start to form a theory as to where Tyrell Wellick might actually be.
DiPierro finds what looks like a shell casing behind the Mallet Murder machine in the arcade. Previously we’ve seen Elliot reaching into the popcorn machine to retrieve the gun Darlene stole from random fancy apartment guy. We also see here Joanna paying off the car park attendant where Tyrell/Elliot left Tyrell’s SUV, the one Elliot woke up in after the hack. What is she paying the car park attendant for? To keep Tyrell’s space in the hope he comes back for his car? Or maybe there was something in the car that Joanna found, that she didn’t want anyone else to see… like a body. We still haven’t actually seen Tyrell yet; Elliot spoke to him on the phone, but given Elliot’s predisposition for imaginary friends that doesn’t really mean anything…
Running parallel to this we have Angela and Phillip Price’s little games, now with Whiterose in the middle. Phillip is giving Angela what she wants, letting her decide to have the two execs from the plant leak cover up meeting arrested. She thinks she knows what he’s up to: he wants to stop any inspections of the plant. So she plays her cards early and asks for a nice office and a better job. He refutes her suppositions and refuses her demands.
Could he be using her just to get to Elliot? Whiterose is getting impatient at his supposed long game, but for someone who measures every minute, she’d probably get impatient at just about anything. She even mentions Phillip’s E-Coin strategy; could this tie in to Ray and his Bitcoin site migration?
Add the FBI and their illegal covert surveillance schemes into the mix and things are starting to weave together nicely.
Phew! And we haven’t even mentioned the absolutely first class framing and cinematography this episode. Elliot’s dream of a better life is a particular stand out; it includes all the old favourites, including Bill Harper (the tech from Steel mountain whom Elliot reduced to tears). All set to a lovely lullaby cover of Green Day’s “Basket Case”. Elliot’s chess game with Mr Robot is also excellently handled, building from a slow Western-style start to a frenetic conclusion as they reach an impasse and Elliot realises he can’t beat himself.
Finally, it’s nice to see Elliot back at a terminal for some computer action for the first time in this new series, and the premise of Elliot audaciously hacking the FBI in spite of (or maybe because of) Mr Robot’s warnings leaves us wanting more.
- Elliot is back behind a computer.
- We find out where the fsociety mask came from.
- Superb cinematography and music as always.
- Elliot sets a place for us in his dream of a better life!
- Elliot didn’t set a place for Mr Robot in his dream of a better life.
- We still don’t know who was at the door at the end of season one!
- Still no Tyrell, although maybe we can now hazard a guess at where he is…
And the Random
- Init is a Linux command used to set the system run level; init 1 sets single user mode.
- The FBI’s surveillance operation is named “Berenstain” – perhaps named after the beloved children’s books about bears?
- Elliot uses the command line IRC client BitchX to log in to the th3g3ntl3man room as samsepi0l – Sam Sepiol being the alias he used at Steel Mountain and a combination of Sam Esmail and USA Network’s development chief Alex Sepiol’s names.
- The Careful Massacre Of The Bourgeoisie is available online (well the first eight minutes of it anyway) at https://www.whoismrrobot.com/massacre/ – be warned it’s pretty NSFW and you’ll need a VPN if you aren’t in the US.
- The cover of Green Day’s “Basket Case” which is playing during Elliot’s better life dream sequence is by Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. Aside from Green Day they create lullaby versions of songs by Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and many more.
- As well as Careful Massacre…, we see some other films Elliot has stored on his computer, including a documentary about Edward Snowden and Comet, a 2014 film by Sam Esmail.
- In the instructions Ray gives Elliot for the site migration is the ip address 126.96.36.199, which you can visit to see an ascii rendition of an onion (symbolising the Tor network).
- Elliot’s ip address when connecting to IRC is 188.8.131.52, which you can visit to chat with samsepi0l.
Review by Arthur Scott