Mr. Robot Recap: I’ve Helped a Lot of People

Mr. Robot

Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Mr. Robot - Season 1

Mr. Robot

Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson. Photo: David Giesbrecht/USA Network

What a difference a month makes. It’s been that long since Vera murdered Shayla, her throat slit and body crammed into a car’s trunk, and the horizons of Mr. Robot seem vastly different.

Episode seven, directed by creator Sam Esmail, focuses on Angela, who had promised to do something bold and daring and secretive outside of Elliot’s apartment. Esmail has previously mentioned this episode was season one’s inciting incident, a technical filmmaking term that signifies an event or decision that kicks off a story’s problems — a clarion call for a protagonist to solve a conflict.

Esmail told Vulture that the paths of both Angela and Elliot would eventually intersect, and while each faces inciting incidents in “v1ew-s0urce.flv,” Angela’s is more actionable. She is now represented by Antara Nayar, the same lawyer who brought a lawsuit against Evil Corp years ago, and the two meet with Terry Colby’s lawyers with a proposition: In exchange for Colby’s testimony against the company, Angela will reveal information about his pending litigation.

“You are duty-bound to present him with any legitimate offer of geneficial evidence,” says Nayar. “We’ve been sitting on opposite sides of the negotiating table for two decades. I’m not some joker come out of the woodwork trying to scam Colby for millions. I’m giving him the only glimmer of hope he’s had.”

There’s a catch, though — Angela will only meet Colby without his lawyers present, which, to the surprise of both herself and Nayar, he agrees to do (he just needs total immunity from their meeting). We don’t even know the information Angela is using as her trump card, so the plot is set for a dramatic unveiling: Did Angela find information others missed in the massive Evil Corp data dump? Did she do her own offscreen investigative digging? Did that digging involve hacking?

Not exactly — if Colby breaks ranks with his former company, Angela will come forward and say she broke the chain of custody regarding the Evil Corp hack (which, in computer forensics, is how investigators preserve the infallibility of the collected digital evidence). She’s giving Colby a get-out-of-jail-free card, but he at first doesn’t see her offering in that light and essentially tells Angela to suck his balls (in an elegantly written scene).

What follows is some of the show’s best writing to date. Angela realizes her efforts to effectively avenge her mother and right her father’s life were futile, so she bluntly tells the ex-CTO, “If you leave right now, you’ll become like me. Sure, maybe you’ll live in this house. Maybe you’ll have money. But even if your expensive lawyers find a way to get you off, people will still think you’re guilty. Losing everyone’s respect, the respect of people you know and the people you don’t? It’s a shitty feeling, trust me.”

The scenes between Portia Doubleday and Bruce Altman are fantastic — the seemingly innocent former who phrases softball-like questions but rebuts with a stoic and steely force; the unctuous latter who in another life might be your best friend. Colby eventually agrees to Angela’s deal, and when she returns to his study, inlaid with dark wood and serious books, she asks what happened during those board meetings when Evil Corp decided to hide the evidence and documents implicating their culpability in the death of her mom and Elliot’s father:

“You want to know, what was it like? Did we all have cigars and laugh hilariously as we signed the evil documents? […] January ’93. My secretary then was Elaine, who brought us a platter of shrimp cocktail to tide us over to dinner, which pissed us off because we just had a platter at the holiday party. Jim opened the bar. Now, Jim was a real piece of work — half pansy, half mafia. First sign of a tight decision, he’d be chain smoking, down a river of Scotch. It rained, I remember that.”

She then asks, “So, you were drunk, eating shrimp cocktail, and it was raining when you decided my mother would die?” which is an epic burn of the man who has just promised to help solve a decades-old case.

Angela knows she has made a deal with the devil; she just doesn’t care. Esmail delicately portrays how Angela’s decision is similar to Evil Corp’s long-ago act. Everyone, including Colby, knows Angela didn’t break the chain of custody, but her admission will doom All Safe, virtually guaranteeing the company will fold. Gideon, her boss, stresses to Angela how her decision will put everyone out of work, but she is selfish. As she told Elliot, she’s still mad at Evil Corp, and if this is her only path to vengeance, so be it.

Elliot is far too scarred to act on his inciting incident. In the month since Shayla’s death, he turned into the person he was before ever meeting her: Days at work, nights holed up in his apartment (with Flipper his only reminder of Shayla).

The opening-scene flashback reminded us what she meant to Elliot; how, in her presence, he became normal (which he claimed that he wants to be in episode three). The two of them sit on the stoop of his apartment building, listening to the Cure while Elliot reveals all of his social anxieties. Shayla handles his issues with bemusement but also care. “By that rationale, if you are to really like one person, it’ll be considered an aberration, an abnormality, or special, even,” she says. “Well, I aim for special, so challenge accepted.”

The scene also reveals how Elliot doomed Shayla: to fill his need for Suboxone and morphine, Shayla says she knows of a guy, “a fucking psychopath … but you might be worth a psychopath.”

But now she is dead, and Elliot is still processing the loss. FSociety fades into the background of his life — he doesn’t even mention Evil Corp or Steel Mountain, doing the bare minimum to exist. But his daemon, Mr. Robot, attempts to pick up the failed revolution’s pieces, visiting Darlene and Romero to resume the cause. He tells Darlene he has a plan in motion, to which she responds, “And God’s laughing.”

I am beyond wondering about Mr. Robot, and whether he is real or fake — I like how Esmail introduced him as Elliot’s daemon, always operating but at different levels. In the past two episodes he’s been portrayed as an active character, engaging with the other members of FSociety and the world at large (the coffee shop in upstate New York), but I think Mr. Robot is still very much Elliot, just an extension of him that can be front and center or in the background, depending on Elliot’s state. After Shayla’s death, Mr. Robot has to be active, which is why he is shown trying to rouse Darlene and Romero.

This episode also revealed what I think could be a twist (in a show that eventually might be full of them): Mobley and Trenton are daemons of Romero and Darlene, respectively. Notice that Mr. Robot doesn’t go to re-recruit either of them, and the episode’s only mention of the two comes from Darlene (when she is meeting Trenton) and Trenton (she talks about Mobley’s goals).

Mr. Robot knows that if he succeeds, the daemons will follow, and it’s never been clear if the duo has had any interactions with people outside of FSociety. This is an interesting track taken by Esmail — FSociety represents the different eras of hacking, from old-school (Romero) to very new-school (Trenton), and he’s sculpted a group where some characters might be illusions.

Esmail has mentioned that an inspiration for the show was the Arab Spring, and Trenton is that idea manifested. She tells Darlene her backstory, how her parents immigrated from Iran and claim the United States is a dream country despite the crippling debt they’ve accumulated trying to “normalize” themselves (her father opening accounting loopholes for an art dealer, her mother receiving an online degree).

But Darlene stresses what I consider to be a tenet of the show’s core: “Somehow you and I ended together, doing something impossible if we were alone. Not to mention at the right point in history with the right resources. We have what we worked for right there for the taking, we just need each other to see this through.”

Darlene hasn’t been this blunt with anyone else in FSociety, and I suppose her candidness is due to Trenton’s daemon status. Trenton is a part of her, so she can open up.

However, those scenes pale in comparison to the episode’s hallmarks: Tyrell’s murder of Sharon Knowles, and Elliot’s brutal reveal to Krista, his therapist. Before talking about the murder, some of the scenes this season, including the rooftop one, have been brutal in their depiction of violence against women. From Shayla’s murder, to her alleged rape by Vera, to Sharon’s strangling, a scene accompanied by an FKA Twigs song, Mr. Robot seems to be keeping pace with Game of Thrones.

However, it has yet to be determined whether Sharon was actually killed, as Esmail, an admitted American Psycho fan, might be blending real life with imagination. Was her death a hallucination? A manic break for Tyrell, whose grip of reality has been steadily becoming unhinged? Joanna tells him to be steady before he seduces Sharon, but she couldn’t have meant for him to kill her … unless Joanna is actually the mastermind behind Tyrell’s corporate rise (and the murder) — she did tell him before their dinner with the Knowles, “Besides, even if they’re content, or don’t want anything, they will. You just have to take away what they already have.” I am eagerly anticipating how this, and any consequence, plays out in the final three episodes.

Krista returns after an absence of several episodes, and her presence is further evidence that Elliot’s therapy must have been mandated. She stresses that their year together is complete, and he has to sign paperwork signifying his sessions. There must have been some action offscreen that caused him to see Krista — whether it was an arrest or a condition of some hospitalization, this should be revealed at some point.

Both Gideon and Krista have told Elliot he needs to be open and honest with someone — he can’t talk to Mr. Robot, out canvassing for the next FSociety crusade, and Shayla is gone. He needs to confide in someone, so he does: He is brutally honest with Krista, which perhaps she wishes he wasn’t. After revealing that he hacks her, knows her pornography preferences, and the things she only does or admits to herself, he then says, “You cry sometimes, just like me, because you are lonely. I don’t just hack you, Krista, I hack everyone. My friends. Co-workers. But I’ve helped a lot of people. I want a way out of loneliness, just like you. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Elliot and Angela were asked what they wanted during this week’s episode, and while one character turned that question into something to act upon, the other is stuck in the wilderness, groping his way to the answer.

Additional thoughts:

  • What is Cisco planning? He’s obviously pissed Darlene hacked his operating system and pretended to be him in the Dark Army IRC, so why seek out Ollie? And what about his reference to a coming “shitstorm”?
  • During the flashback, Shayla mentions her love of the Cure, specifically the song “Pictures of You.” Music is a key component of the show, and the song is particularly crucial for its composition: a fire destroyed lead singer Robert Smith’s home, and as he was searching the rubble, he found a picture of his wife in the ashes. It’s a hat tip to the destruction that would soon level the lives of Shayla and Elliot, and the need to carry on in spite of the damage.
  • Esmail has been teasing White Rose for some time. The white roses behind Elliot and Tyrell at the Steel Mountain suite. The White Rose Darlene mentions to Cisco in the library. And now the White Rose whom FSociety will finally meet. Is he the leader of the Dark Army? A supreme hacker?

Mr. Robot Recap: I’ve Helped a Lot of People