'Mr. Robot' Recap: For Discerning Listeners

Everything falls apart, Joanna wants her husband back and Darlene shares the worst childhood story in history

Everything falls apart, and Darlene shares the worst childhood story in history — our recap of last night's 'Mr. Robot.' Credit: Michael Parmelee/USA

What Mr. Robot regularly does with visuals is so virtuosic, it's easy to forget how important a role sound plays. Mac Quayle's dire score, paired with ambient noises and creative soundtrack choices, conspires to create an aural landscape a person could live inside — if it wasn't such a goddamn stressful place to be.

That soundscape has never been on more stunning, nail-biting display than in last night's episode, "eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx" (try saying that five times fast). The primal scream that follows Price's quiet pronouncement that he wishes to be as powerful as God (emitted by Japanese all-girl punk band Bleach); the deathly instrumentals that accompany Elliot as he uncovers intel from his latest hack; the wail of police sirens that play over the end credits, following a shootout that may or may not have claimed the lives of two central characters — these jarring flourishes not only dictate the rhythm of the episode, but also the pulses of anyone who happens to be tuning in.

And the time is certainly out of joint this week. Mr. Robot — who in the past few weeks has been acting as a sort of security blanket — up and disappears on Elliot the moment he receives a call from someone who may or may not be the dead or not-dead Tyrell Wellick. Joanna wants our hero to track her missing husband down, and he traces the mysterious heavy-breathing calls to an address on the Upper East Side — a locale that makes Joanna's hired goon blanche.

Why? We don't know, just like we don't know so much in the show's increasingly byzantine world. But in a wonderfully weird moment of fourth-wall breaking, Elliot invites us to help figure it out. The camera tracks over his scuzzy apartment as he asks us, "Can you help? Can you look? Do you see anything?" as if he were Steve from Blue's Clues. Later in the episode, a subway ad's slogan reads: "Excellent audio for discerning listeners." Sam Esmail couldn't be more blatantly asking us to pay attention — but damn, is there a lot to sift through.

Better at looking for clues: Dom, who is apparently the only competent person working for the FBI. She's hot on Cisco's trail, which means she's one small step away from the Aldersons. Mr. Robot puts us in the fascinating position of rooting for Dom — who is so cool and likeable! — to track down the perpetrators of the hack, and also for said perps to continue to elude her, because we're rooting for them as well.

But Angela, for one, is done playing cat and mouse. She sets up a subway meeting with her old pal to tell him that she's going to turn herself in as an fsociety colluder, burnt out from all the evading. Elliot's realization that he's put the person he cares most about in such a perilous position leads to an uncharacteristic, but totally earned, moment of romance: They kiss as the subway shakes to a halt — Angela in her icy corporate pantsuit and Elliot wearing in his hoodie of protection, meeting in the middle — before going their separate ways.

These poor kids. At the core of its whirling plots and conspiracies, the series really comes down to three damaged people and their chest-achingly sad childhoods. Angela is still saved in our man's phone as "Claudia Kincaid," because neither of them ever got over their decades-old fantasy of running away and solving mysteries like the kids in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

The third spoke in that wheel, Darlene, may have had the worst of it. She tells Cisco a gut-twisting story about the time she was kidnapped as a child during a family trip to Coney Island, and how disappointed she was when the cops rescued her from her abductor. That's how bad life with the Aldersons was. Poor kid, living in her mad genius brother's shadow, thrust into a leadership role she has neither the ability nor the inclination to handle.

And poor Darlene, now very possibly dead. Esmail's camera lingers in a Nighthawks-esque long shot at a Soho diner, right before by the Dark Army's kamikaze gunmen show up. The massacre happens at such a distance that it's impossible to tell whether our hacker lovers survived, but we sure hope they did.

"Is this the future I was fighting for?" Elliot's voiceover asks as he rides through a post-Five/Nine New York in a state of economic blight. Fsociety set out to dismantle a broken system, but they had nothing to put in its place — and the dissolution is ugly, bloody and riveting to watch.

Stray thoughts
- Speaking of From the Mixed-Up Files…, the address that Elliot tracks Tyrell's phone calls to is right down the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Considering Elliot is getting texts from "Claudia Kincaid" as he uncovers this information, we doubt it's a coincidence.

- In the show's world, Donald Trump is still on the GOP ticket. "Can you believe that cocksucker is actually running this time?" ex-E Corp CTO Terry Colby remarks. We can't decide which reality is worse — Mr. Robot's or the one we actually live in.

- An ID badge reveals that Cisco's real name is Francis Shaw, which is surely tribute to Frankie Shaw, the actor who played Shayla (R.I.P.) in Season One.

- Elliot makes a Wi-Fi antenna out of a Pringles can. Can he teach us how to do that?

Previously: The United States of Elliot