Metadata is data that provides information about other data. In this episode, Elliot describes metadata as “the story behind the data”, and maligns users who give social media websites access to their camera or phone type and other personal information whenever they share photo, via the metadata. Mr Robot reminds its audience how ubiquitous “big brother” is, not just in the world of the show, but in their real lives.
The episode opens with Darlene accusing a random stranger on the train of stealing her wallet. Darlene coerces the stranger into giving the wallet back without any weapons other than her words. In a weird act of generosity, Darlene simply asks for a Polaroid back, leaving behind the wallet itself and anything inside it. When the stranger asks why Darlene is so willing to part with her stuff, Darlene cops to “stealing from everyone” by causing the Five Nine attacks. She even confesses to murdering Susan Jacobs back in season two. Clearly, Darlene has a lot to get off her chest and is nearing a breaking point.
Dom appears with a familiar lollipop, and it becomes clear this episode is picking up in the last two or three minutes of the previous episode, with Elliot breaking into the FBI’s safehouse/Darlene’s apartment. A pulsating Birdman-esque drum beat underscores and emphasizes the tension of the break-in until Darlene arrives home and finds Elliot at her place, downstairs from the FBI safehouse. In the now-eery silence and shadows of Darlene’s apartment, Elliot reveals he knows Darlene hacked her computer. Darlene is suspicious; she doesn’t know whether she is talking to Elliot or Mr. Robot. Elliot says “Darlene, it’s me” and she responds “that’s a pretty complicated statement coming from you”.
Angela and Irving have met for breakfast at Red Wheelbarrow, where Irving is sharing his BBQ secrets until Angela gets him back on track discussing the next steps of Stage Two. Irving tells Angela she is “going” in 20 days. Angela asks about a shipping device, presumably affiliated with the shipments of eCorps back-up data, which are supposed to be arriving to a building in Manhattan. Angela brings up their agreement to have an “emergency evacuation so no one will be in the building” when they blow it up, and Irving agrees although it is unclear whether he is lying. Angela asks Irving “did White Rose ever show you?” Irving doesn’t really answer his question, and gets back to talking about BBQ. When pressed, Irving says “anything is possible.”
Back at Elliot’s apartment, Elliot and Darlene continue to fight over who Elliot really is. “There’s something inside me that can’t let go of what we started,” Elliot tells his sister. They’re doing a lot of fighting in dark apartments this episode. It could be the continued rolling blackouts typical of a post-Five Nine New York City, or it could be a symbol of the work the siblings do — always in the shadows, away from the harsh light and scrutiny of normal society or law abiding behavior. Elliot asks Darlene to spy on him, giving her permission to do what she is already doing in secret — albeit for the FBI.
There’s a raid on an unknown character in an F-Society mask, who Dom is later seen interrogating. This new hacker admits his leader is “F-Society”. Dom’s partner makes a weird reference to the hacker being Muslim, saying if he doesn’t talk he’ll end up in a prison shower “with a bunch of Allah-hating Nazis”. In the previous episode, White Rose casually requests that his organization make it seem like F-Society is based in the Middle East, so this new hacker in custody may be one of the fall guys set up by White Rose. Dom suspects a self-surrender, but Dark Army policy is typically to kill themselves before getting caught, so signs point to this hacker being a plant.
Angela stops by Elliot’s desk at eCorp to see if he’s going to a company party that night, and catches him flubbing the manifest for the data shipments. Unfortunately the mandated corporate hangout goes unseen, with Elliot only referencing it to Darlene when he gets home for the night to walk his dog and go to bed, a startlingly funny degree of normalcy from the mastermind behind trashing the global economy! While walking Flipper, Darlene asks Elliot if he will avenge her death should she die in pursuit of their goals. They make a “vengeance pact”, and Elliot apologizes for being a bad brother. The steady drumbeat from earlier in the episode is back in this scene, driving the anxiety underlying this episode.
An interesting Easter Egg: while staking out Elliot’s apartment Darlene has Shazaam starring Sinbad on in the background. This is a fictional movie that is often cited as evidence of the Mandela effect — an experience of multiple people sharing the same unreal memories. The Mandela effect is also cites as evidence of a multiverse. With this many references to multiple timelines so far this season, it’s difficult to argue that they’re just Red Herrings. Darlene is also checking out flights to Budapest while waiting for Mr. Robot to appear.
Around 2 a.m. Mr. Robot leaves Elliot’s apartment, and per their agreement Darlene follows him. This season has been punctuated by matching shots that alternate between Elliot and Mr. Robot, going the furthest the show has gone so far in highlighting how Elliot’s appearance stays the same for everyone else, but for the viewers he “becomes” Mr. Robot. The pulsing beat picks up more orchestration as the chase proceeds, but Darlene loses him. Darlene’s loneliness intensifies, culminating in an intimate conversation with the only “friend” she has left, Dom, at a bar. They bond, as much as an FBI agent and her suspect-turned-spy can bond.
Angela reveals to Tyrell that Elliot has been trying to foil their Stage Two plans by sneakily rerouting eCorps back-up data, delaying all the shipments necessary for the single point of failure when F-Society blows up the building. Mr. Robot listening in says “never appeal to a man’s better nature, he may not have one.” Mr. Robot and Tyrell jockey for power, and Mr. Robot glitches back into Elliot unexpectedly. Angela rushes to hide the operation from him before he can tell what they’re up to, and sedates him. The shift between Elliot and Mr. Robot is becoming more unstable and unpredictable.
Irving tells Tyrell that if Elliot/Mr. Robot can’t finish the job, then it is up to Tyrell to fulfill his destiny and “become a God”. This pep-talk dangerously invigorates Tyrell. He asks Irving to secure his family’s safe escape to Ukraine when Phase Two is complete, and Irving agrees to it despite knowing Tyrell’s wife is actually dead, and there is no chance of such a reunion.
Angela gets Elliot fired as quickly as she got him hired, doing so directly through Price. Angela is also lurking in the shadows of a dark apartment for this call, only stepping into the light when she sits down across the table from Mr. Robot. She encourages Mr. Robot to fight off Elliot if he tries to come back.
After all of the answers Mr. Robot has provided this season, it’s time for some new questions and this episode delivers them. With Esmail setting the parameters for where the show will go as “anything is possible,” there’s no way to know where this season’s trajectory will land. The hype around the show’s next episode is intensifying, with USA’s announcement that the episode will be presented commercial-free. Creatively, there are also rumors that the entirety of eps3.4 is made to look like it was all filmed in one shot, a technique notably used by Emmanuel Lubezki in the film Birdman. There also seems to be a significant amount of foreshadowing that Darlene may not survive the next episode, especially since her treasured polaroid from the opening scene makes a reappearance in this episode’s final moments, when she leaves it in Elliot’s empty apartment.
Mr. Robot, written and directed by Sam Esmail, continues its 10 episode season Wednesday nights on USA at 10 p.m. ET.
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