Season two episode 11 of USA Network’s Mr. Robot is the first part of a two-part finale. It begins with Elliot (Rami Malek) musing that Mr. Robot is always one step ahead. He thinks that lucid dreaming will help him learn what Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) knows. During lucid dreams not only are dreamers aware that they are dreaming but they can exert some control over the characters and events in the dream. To enter this state Elliot chants “mind awake, body asleep,” and invites viewers to chant with him perhaps to enter the dream state with him.
Much of the episode does have dream-like qualities. Angela (Portia Doubleday) is transported in a van with a security partition. After she arrives at a residence, Angela is led past a stark kitchen with white cabinets and black counters, past a living room decorated solely in black and white, and locked in a dark room lit only by a fish tank and sky lights. Red is a key color in the series and the carpet and seat cushions are red as is the old rotary phone on the desk. It is notable that in Elliot’s mental transformation of the prison to his mother’s house earlier in the season, he spoke to Tyrell on a red rotary phone. Perhaps this entire segment with Angela is part of Elliot’s imagination or lucid dream.
That Angela is interrogated by a child (who looks like a young Angela) using an old Commodore computer adds to the surreal setting. At one point the phone rings and a computer-generated voice on the other end asks her about a key. Angela finally says that the key was in her fist. Dreams are full of imagery that may seem illogical during waking hours and there is much imagery in this scene: the key; the outdated computer; the fish tank with one fish that dies (Elliot had Querty); the outdated red phone; and the Lolita book on the desk. Whiterose enters the room and suggests that Angela’s mother and Elliot’s father died for a reason—that they were sacrificed for the greater good. Whiterose says that without their deaths, Angela and Elliot would be different people. The idea of alternate realities was introduced earlier in the season when the FBI operation to find the perpetrators of the 5/9 hack was dubbed ”Operation Berenstain” (see episode 8 recap for explanation). Whiterose tells Angela that she wants her to drop her revenge mission to destroy E Corp (which would shut down Whiterose’s project) and to believe that simply by willing something it can come true.
The next scene has Elliot saying “Mind awake, body asleep,” and wondering how long he was asleep which supports the idea that the segment with Angela was Elliot’s lucid dream. He observes Mr. Robot going through his mail and finding a “Red Wheelbarrow BBQ” flyer. A red wheelbarrow has appeared previously, (e.g., hot Carla in prison/recreation yard segment among others). Elliot watches over Mr. Robot’s shoulder as he deciphers the multi-step code leading him to a phone number. They both listen to a computerized voice (one of many this episode) giving instructions to a cab waiting at 25th and 8th streets.
Meanwhile, FBI Agent Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer) is in the hospital and her boss, FBI Agent Santiago, speaks with her in private. An agitated Dom tells him that she warned him that the Dark Army would come after Cisco and that the Chinese government is involved. It now is a matter of national security and an act of war, Dom says. Agent Santiago tells her that he believes her, but that the US will do nothing because of the two trillion dollars in no interest loans China has extended to E Corp.
At home a tired Dom is having difficulty sleeping and asks Alexa a series of questions. A lonely Dom tearfully asks if Alexa is happy, or alone, or if Alexa loves her. Alexa, in another computerized voice of episode, responds that she is not capable of that.
In another subplot, Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) is told by a US government official that it is unconstitutional to make his own currency (i.e., E coin). In response, Price says that hard cash is fading rapidly and that unlike bitcoin, E coin wouldn’t be controlled by the Chinese, and in fact, E coin could be used against China. Furthermore, he would provide visibility in loans and every wallet to the government and rebuild the banking sector without federal funds.
Evidently Price was persuasive because on the TV at Angela’s lawyer’s home, the newscaster is discussing the E coin loan program designed to provide the economy with a much needed jump start. Angela knocks on the lawyer’s door, which happens to be red. Angela tells the lawyer not to call her anymore. During the conversation there is a brief rewind in the TV broadcast.
In the final scene, Elliot gets in the cab as directed by the earlier phone call to find Tyrell there. Elliot doesn’t believe that he is really seeing him. In fact, Tyrell doesn’t quite feel real; his voice and looks seem off. This Tyrell (perhaps imaginary) tells him that the Dark Army said that stage 2 is ready and that Elliot will be pleased. As they walk off, he says, reminiscent of the last line of the film Casa Blanca, “This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
As in past episodes there were recurring elements in this episode: the color red; the red phone; the red wheelbarrow; and the computerized voices. In the finale next week, perhaps we will see Dom interview Darlene (Carly Chiakin), learn the fate of Cisco, Mobley, and Trenton, learn more about Joanna’s role, or perhaps it will end with another cliffhanger.