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Mr. Robot - 402 Payment Required - Review: "Siblings United"

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Following a superb premiere last week, Mr. Robot's second episode pulled the pace right back to focus on the relationship between Elliot and Darlene, but still managed to provide some big leaps forward in the overall storyline. Kyle Bradstreet wrote "402 Payment Required", with Sam Esmail directing.

As with last week, the opening recap was fantastic. We knew right from the outset that blasts from the past in the form of Elliot and Darlene's mother, and the deceased Susan Jacobs would be back on the table. After that came a fascinating historical themed monologue narrated by E Corp CEO Phillip Price, chronicling the meteoric rise of the Deus Group, founded by Whiterose, or Zhang, whichever you prefer to call him/her. Some fantastic VFX came into play here, with Whiterose cleverly edited into footage featuring the Queen, Putin and another Arab leader. The monologue explained that E Corp rose in the early internet age as a front for the Deus Group, enabling it to gain more and more control over the wider population through data mining and other nefarious tactics. Deus also funds the Dark Army. But now, with Whiterose's pet project nearing completion, Price tell us that this project was actually the entire purpose of the Deus Group right from day one.

The monologue largely sat on its own. It's something to park in the back of our minds and refer to from a macro perspective while the rest of the episode took a rather different tangent. The hour kicked off for real inside the former Allsafe offices, with Price explaining to Elliot how futile his mission to incapacitate Whiterose would be. This was a surprising change in circumstances given what happened to him last week, with Price explaining that he was the one to be thanked for that. With Price and Elliot having been at opposite ends of the spectrum during the past three seasons, this episode presented a curious change in that direction, because by the end of it their motives were largely aligned.

After putting the Cyprus National Bank in his crosshairs in the premiere, Elliot was now pointed towards the Deus Group. This very powerful and secretive organization was seemingly impenetrable, but it turned out that a potential weakness could be created should the E Corp CEO resign, which would force the Deus Group to meet in person to elect a successor.

You're trying to stop a speeding train by standing in front of it.
Price also revealed a name we've heard before: Susan Jacobs. She was killed by Darlene in the second season after she came home to find fsociety had taken up residence in her home. She was very important to Price, and the day to day running of E Corp, but that name drop was a catalyst for Darlene and Elliot's relationship to evolve. Eventually, Price met with Whiterose and resigned from the CEO role, giving Elliot a precious opportunity to exploit Deus.

Let's get into Darlene and Elliot's relationship now. Things started off rather abruptly with the news that their mother died. This was nothing more than a huge inconvenience for Elliot in particular, given his own death day is fast approaching. Elliot was reluctant to participate in any of the processes that take place in the event of a death, which wasn't drastically different from Darlene's, but there was still night and day between the siblings. Despite a dispute over the missing contents of their mother's safety deposit box, eventually the siblings got to a point where they could grieve somewhat, and Angela's memory was also a part of that thanks to a taped message on an old walkman.

Also of significance was Darlene committing herself to helping Elliot take down Whiterose and the Dark Army. For the majority of this series the two siblings haven't necessarily got along or helped each other out significantly despite sharing some common goals and the direction of fsociety in the first season. The fact that we've now got Elliot cooperating with Darlene as well as Mr. Robot sets things up for a proper family affair as the series winds down (or up, whichever way you look at it.)

A passing comment by Darlene piqued Elliot's curiosity and concern after she mentioned Vera had returned. Fernando Vera was, of course, seen in the post credit scene in the third scene finale. Elliot was responsible for having him locked up in prison early in the first season, but the fact that he's returned is immediately of some concern to Elliot. But more importantly, Elliot doesn't remember Darlene apparently mentioning Vera's return to him back when it happened several weeks ago - and neither does Mr. Robot. That suggests a previously unseen third personality could be living inside Elliot's mind. We will have to wait and see how that pans out next week.
I am telling you the truth. I am not the one Darlene talked to.
The final subplot that needs covering is Dominique's situation with the Dark Army. After taxidermist Janice threatened her last week, she was forced to talk to the FBI and confess Santiago's involvement with the Dark Army, only for the Dark Army to kill Agent Hudson - the investigator Dom talked to - in a staged suicide mere hours after their conversation. Dom is well and truly wedged between a rock and a hard place, and it's hard to imagine how she can escape from the Dark Army's clutches.

The episode drew to a close with a curious scene which presumably takes place inside Elliot's mind. While Elliot is spinning on a chair inside a vacant conference room, his mother comes in and tells him to stop, and says they're waiting for "the other one". Whoever they're waiting for, it's not Mr. Robot or Elliot because young Elliot asked if it was either of those. Curiously, a relatively new New York skyline can be seen out the window in the background, and given the iconic Freedom Tower wasn't opened until late 2014, young Elliot is far too young for his age to match with present day Elliot, especially given the series is set, and remains in, the year 2015.

How this is all explained is anyone's guess, but in any case, despite an overall reduction in intensity compared to the season premiere, this episode of Mr. Robot still delivered handsomely from an entertainment and storytelling perspective. The monologue was sensational. Angela's ending last week was abrupt, but it was great to see her get some additional referencing, and some closure for Elliot and Darlene, who grew much closer despite the death of their mother. It's awesome to have them united in the cause alongside Mr. Robot, too. Phillip Price resigning from E Corp was a game-changing move, and if he and Whiterose are to be believed, will open up a vulnerability in the Deus Group. For Dom, well, things only get worse for her, but I'm really hoping she can turn things around. As for Elliot and Mr. Robot having to contend with a third personality? I'm not 100% sure how I feel about that, but I have a hell of a lot of faith in showrunner Sam Esmail, so that's enough for me.

That's all from me in this review. I'd love to hear your thoughts and theories on this episode so be sure to drop them in the comments below. I'll see you right back here next week.

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