The fourth episode of the second season of Mr. Robot begins as the first three episodes did, with a, wait for it… Elliot Alderson style pause… and… FLASHBACK! One that provided some incredibly important info like the origin story of fsociety and Elliot’s plans to annihilate (a word he is a fan of) E Corp. We see Darlene arriving at Elliot’s apartment back in the day with a mask in hand (it’s Halloween after all which they were supposedly super into as kids). She is returning after apparently taking off for a long chunk of time. She “needs to hang out with someone” and her brother, who is never out, is of course available to provide that social interaction service.
They get high and watch a poorly made horror film which Darlene adores because it reveals the truth about how we don’t live in a classless society, despite what some say. This scene may appear light and charming at first, but the darkness soon arrives. Elliot asks if she’s still having “them” aka “panic attacks.” She shrugs it off saying that anyone who doesn’t in this day and age is “sickening.” She’s got a point, but also doesn’t have a point at all. He hints at this own mental health issues when he talks of being fired for falling asleep at work and smashing a bunch of servers while unconscious. Typical Elliot. Boy, does he like his pauses and his blackouts. Then comes the highlight of the scene, when Darlene mentions their parents and in particular their dad whom she wishes she knew more about. Elliot takes her to the closet of mystery in his boudoir and pulls out his dad dead’s cool jacket. Darlene goes batshit happy over it and insists that her bro try it on for size. Of course, it fits like a glove. He adds to his costume, which will soon become his fractured persona, by placing the fsociety mask on his cute, chiseled face, also ‘cause his sister insists. This is when Elliot transforms into the one, the only, MR. ROBOT.
This is also when the theme of the episode is revealed: partnerships. Elliot goes off for several minutes about his newly concocted plan to maybe accept the job at Allsafe that Angela is trying to get him and Trojan Horse his way into taking down the most Evil with a capital E corporation in existence. Darlene giggles in response, not sure if he’s being serious or not. Oh, he’s being serious, or at least Mr. Robot is being serious. Mr. Robot does not mess around. He means business which Darlene soon discovers, when she at some point agrees to be the VP to his anti-capitalist president and takes control of the reigns when he disappears into simple regularity. They’ve been partnered up as siblings their entire lives and now a new type of partnership has formed. One that will alter the world forever and get both of them into a whole wack of trouble with E Corp, the FBI, The Dark Army, and Elliot’s hallucination of his dead dad.
When we arrive in present day, this bro-sis partnership is on the rocks, mostly due to Elliot deserting the cause in order to delete said dead dad from his noggin. Darlene is on her way to meet him at his boring abode and beg for his assistance. She is worried and tired and as we hear later in her weeping phone voice, scared. She wants him to join her once again in the fight against The Establishment and he does not like this idea. She reminds him of that conversation they had in his apartment on Halloween those many moons ago, when he passionately declared war against E Corp. That wasn’t him, he explains. It was… “him.” Darlene instantly knows who this “him” is and she is not opposed to “him” lending a hand because the man sitting in front of her “isn’t helping.” But Elliot wants Darlene to stop, drop, and roll the hell out of fsociety. He thinks it’s too dangerous and he is concerned that she will end up like old Gideon.
Darlene departs and finds a helping hand instead in her ex-boyfriend Cisco, who she runs into, or more accurately, who runs into her, on a dark, loud street, as she is being possibly followed by a man in a suit. Cisco requests that she meet him in a bar nearby. She follows his instructions and learns through the bar chat that she should be even more worried/tired/scared than she is because the FBI is onto her (they found the arcade, among other bits of info, and agent Dominique is continuing to dig deep for all of the facts). The Dark Army will kill her if she tries to leave town because it makes her look hella guilty. AND her fellow hackers (Romeo) are dying, or potentially being annihilated (there’s Elliot’s fave word again) by an unknown source. Also, before Romero’s demise, he was up to some scheming of his own and doing a bit of research about the FBI’s “Operation Berenstein” which no one knows much about, as Cisco unveils to a shocked Darlene. Cisco offers to help her (after banging her in the bar bathroom) and demands that she stop being a tough guy and accept his help. Another new partnership has formed. Their romance has transformed into a solid allyship.
A surprising partnership we discover is that of White Rose from The Dark Army and Phillip Price from E Corp. They are working together in a capacity that we also don’t know much about, but we are definitely sure that they are in cahoots and that Phillip Price is possibly using Angela to benefit him/them. The game he is playing with Angela though is a long one and White Rose is not known to be very patient, as demonstrated by the beeping from the watch beside her indicating that conversation time is up. She finds Price to be a “fussy cat” and does not enjoy his “Ecoin strategy” as she tells her lover, who she gently kisses after he chooses which earring she should wear upon her request. She thinks they need to look into stage two of the schedule. White Rose is skeptical about why Price is putting all of his faith in “her” aka Angela. Price explains that he needs her because “closing the plant is not an option.”
The plant he speaks of is the Washington Township chemical plant, otherwise known as the place that killed Angela’s mom. This brings us to the fourth partnership in the episode, which is a rekindled one. Angela meets with Antara Nayar, the ethical lawyer who was defending the victims of the Washington Township Scandal against E Corp. Angela had ditched the possibility of taking E Corp to trial again early on in season two, but here she is meeting with Antara once more. This time though it’s because she suspects that Phillip Price needs something from her, based on how generous he has been towards her. He gave her the info to get two men that contributed to her mother’s death arrested. He hired her at E Corp. He is taking her to fancy dinners. Why? She doesn’t know but she wants to find out, with the help of Antara, and she does find out, she thinks. Her theory: Price wants to remove a third-party-inspection contingency which E Corp doesn’t like. But when she offers to do such a thing in exchange for an office on the 20th floor and Melissa’s job, he declines her offer but is impressed with her nonetheless. This exchange leaves Angela confused ‘cause she is confident that she’s not wrong. But as all loyal viewers know, it’s never as clean-cut as this is right and this is wrong in the world of Mr. Robot.
The lack of clean-cut rights and wrongs is most evident in our last two partnerships of the episode. The partnerships of Elliot and Mr. Robot/his hallucination of his dead dad/a part of himself and Elliot and Ray, his wise, therapeutic friend who has a seriously ulterior motive for their friendship. Elliot has spent all of his energy thus far in the season attempting various methods of “annihilating” Christian Slater from the series. He thinks it’s the correct route, although his therapist Krista disagrees. She believes annihilation is not the answer. That Mr. Robot is Elliot and Elliot is Mr. Robot and both exist for a reason. Elliot could not dissent more in his opinion. He is sure of one thing: that Mr. Robot has got to go, so when his dead dad proposes an annihilation deal, Elliot listens. The deal is that whoever wins a game of chess gets to dominate the vessel that is Elliot Alderson. They 100% take over. If Elliot wins Mr. Robot will say tata, but if Mr. Robot wins Elliot will forever live in blackouts. After much ruminating, and an enlightening convo with Leon, who proves to know much more than Seinfeld trivia, Elliot agrees to the conditions of the deal and they meet in a park to play this game of very high stakes.
But, the playing is halted three times in a row as the two of them happen upon a trio of stalemates. What are the odds of that happening? Low. The odds are low. As Elliot says, it’s impossible. Maybe Krista wasn’t so clear cut wrong after all. Maybe there IS a reason that Mr. Robot is still around and maybe Elliot needs to focus his energy less on getting Christian Slater fired and more on helping the ones he loves aka Darlene. As Leon advises, you gotta figure out the future you’re fighting for. You need to dream, or you might as well “fade the fuck out right now.” Elliot takes some me time and really thinks on what he wants to fight for. What his dream is. Turns out, it’s a super sweet dinner party with everyone he loves (and that includes US!). He wants to annihilate his loneliness by surrounding himself with friends and family and the way to achieve that might not be via Mr. Robot saying tata. It might be by hacking the FBI, which is something he casually begins to do while Mr. Robot faithfully looks over his shoulder.
Elliot agrees to partner up with Ray and lend him a helping hand with his project, which gives him access to the internet once again and reignites his lifelong partnership with hacking.