Whiterose might still be an active threat to the world at large, but because her plan to move the Washington Township plant has been delayed, and the Five/Nine reversal has stabilized the economy, the rest of Mr. Robot’s ensemble are in a holding pattern. Elliot and Mr. Robot are making moves to stop Whiterose, but it’s a slow, complex process. Dom is stuck under the thumb of the Dark Army, trying to maintain appearances at the FBI. Price has to figure out his next move. In other words, they all have some time to reflect upon the aftermath of their destructive actions. If anyone needs to cope with emotional trauma, or potentially forge a path for self-forgiveness, it’s Elliot and everyone he has brought into his orbit.
Of course, it’s not that simple, considering that these people are masters of denial and repression. Elliot doesn’t even talk to the audience anymore because he has shut down that part of his brain, forcing Mr. Robot to pick up the slack. When Darlene calls to tell him their mother has died, he doesn’t stop to even address the import of the moment, and not just because she was emotionally abusive towards him. It’s a defense mechanism that codified when Angela was murdered: focus on the danger at hand and ignore what can’t be changed. “Cremation, cardboard coffin, cheapest urn,” he tells the funeral director without so much as a change in affect. To Elliot, these are just errands that need to be completed so he can return to the Whiterose problem at hand.
It’s a little different for Darlene, who has at least five kinds of guilt eating her up inside: the collapse of fsociety, the body count as a direct or partial result of her actions (Susan Jacobs, Cisco, Angela, to name a few), the betrayal of Dom, the splintering of her family, etc. It all weighs on her conscience like bricks, and it’s not something that days-long drug benders can magically fix. She takes their mother’s funeral arrangements a little more seriously than Elliot, even though she wasn’t close with her and doesn’t know what she would have wanted. It’s a way for her to process and reconnect with her emotions. It’s why she takes their mom’s fur coat, pockets Elliot’s Walkman that their mother kept for some reason, and pursues a safe deposit box that neither she nor Elliot knew about.
Unfortunately, the safe deposit box was disposed of after their mother failed to make the necessary payments. Answers to any lingering questions were never going to be inside, but it was a brief fantasy that Darlene could indulge just to keep the memory alive. Their mother was also the last contact to Angela, with whom Darlene and Elliot grew up together. Neither is prepared to move on from their childhood friend’s brutal murder, so they listen to a cassette of a Mother’s Day wish they made for Angela’s mother as kids. Elliot and Darlene’s mother probably held onto it for sentimental reasons, to pretend that the tape was made for her. But now, it’s a memento of slightly better times, being solemnly heard by two chastened revolutionaries, inside of an E Corp bank, an institution they once brought to its knees in an attempt to save the world.
Meanwhile, Dom and Philip Price are dealing with their emotional stress in similarly pragmatic terms, but with very different results. Dom feeds the FBI the Dark Army-approved cover story about Agent Santiago’s allegiance to a Mexican drug cartel. However, because Dom tells Janice that she’s “99.99 percent” sure that Agent Horton, the internal investigator, believed her, Horton had to be killed on the 0.01 percent chance he decided to sniff around. Dom has barely kept it together since she’s been blackmailed, but now that the body count has risen, it’s only a matter of time before she snaps under the paranoia and pressure.
Price, on the other hand, decides to tentatively align himself with Elliot and Mr. Robot, mostly because he feels he has nothing to lose following his daughter’s death. He saves Elliot’s life and provides necessary context for Whiterose’s actions, told through a stunning opening montage that covers the last 30 years of global politics. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Whiterose formed Deus, an investment group comprising the world’s wealthiest, most powerful men, designed to “to consolidate, control, and manipulate global events for profit.” They made money off of oil and private data, which meant fomenting wars and accelerating the scope of the Internet. Unfortunately, Whiterose only formed Deus to push her pet project involving the Washington Township plant and the annexation of the Congo. Soon, everyone realized they were working for her instead of as a team.
So, Price decides to resign as CEO of E Corp and quit the group permanently, which means that Whiterose must gather all of Deus together in order to pick his replacement. It’s a part of Elliot’s plan to stop Whiterose, but first he needs to find Price’s contact for Cyprus National Bank, Susan Jacobs, general counsel at E Corp, who has been missing for months. Unfortunately, Darlene killed Jacobs after she discovered that fsociety broke into her place to use it as headquarters. Elliot freaks out when Darlene spills the beans, not just because it’s the only connection he has to the Deus’ financials, but also because he wanted to keep Darlene out of his scheme. But it’s too late for that, so a makeshift two-person (or three, if you count Mr. Robot) fsociety forms for one last job.
Except that Elliot isn’t sure if he can trust his mind anymore. Darlene tells him that she wasn’t sure if this had anything to do with Vera, a dangerous drug dealer who murdered Elliot’s girlfriend, Shayla, way back in the first season. He reappeared at the very end of last season in front of Elliot’s building to confront Darlene. Apparently, Darlene told Elliot about it, only he has no memory of that. At first, he thought it was Mr. Robot keeping it from him, but when they both realize that she told neither one of them, they’re dumbfounded by the possibility of a mystery impersonator.
Sure enough, an abrupt flashback to Elliot’s childhood (or, more accurately, someone’s childhood) confirms the existence of “the other one,” separate from Elliot and Mr. Robot, whom Elliot’s mother knew about. Maybe the identity of this separate person was in the safe deposit box all along. Maybe it’s a third personality split that neither knew about. As Elliot re-enters the deep end of hacker terrorists and global crises, he suddenly has another person on his hands, and no one to squeeze his hand to tell him that everything’s going to be okay.
• It’s worth noting that this episode has some genuinely funny moments despite its focus on grief and trauma. Elliot and Darlene’s curt replies to the sympathetic nursing home employees is a particular highlight, as well as Malek’s dismissive delivery of, “The fuck are you talking about?” when Mr. Robot gently suggests he deal with his mom’s death. Plus: a person dressed up as Frosty the Snowman offering their condolences to Elliot and Darlene.
• Esmail and company still tend to overdo it with the cursing, as if they’re relishing their opportunity to say “Fuck” as much as possible. It’s one thing for it to manifest in conversation, it’s another thing for Whiterose to scream, “That is not how this fucking game is played!” or Elliot yelling “Jesus Fucking Christ” while staring at a cross, both of which feel desperate.
• Music Corner: New Edition’s “It’s Christmas (All Over the World),” off of their holiday EP of the same name, rings out while Elliot and Darlene are at the bank.