The latest episode of USA’s cyberpunk drama Mr. Robot continues to show realistic ways hackers can ruin people’s lives—or save them from diabolical corporations, depending on how you look at it. Learn more in our spoiler-filled recap.
The time has finally come for FSociety to infiltrate Steel Mountain data center: a Bauhaus-looking behemoth with its own fire department, sort of reminiscent of a campus of a Silicon Valley tech giant. But it’s actually a data center in upstate New York that shelters valuable information of the S&P 500—including Evil Corp.
Elliot, the increasingly unhinged Mr. Robot, and a couple of FSociety hackers drive up there, outfit Elliot with a secret radio, and communicate with him from their van outside. They shove him into the lion’s den, asking him to pose as “Sam Sepiol,” a made-up tech wunderkind worth billions.
What happens during the Steel Mountain break-in is an almost orchestral arrangement of twenty-first century worst-case scenarios sparked by internet evils: fake information online having real influence, hackers posing as loved ones, and feeling worthless and alone despite being constantly connected. FSociety employes them all, using data to manipulate the data facility workers via Elliot, gaining deeper access within.
First, Elliot/Sam tries to weasel his way into a Steel Mountain tour in order to eventually hack the facility’s climate control, destroying Evil Corp’s data records with heat just strong enough to melt its data files. However, in the lobby, would-be tour guide Bill is skeptical, especially in the face of Elliot’s unconvincingly deadpan “Don’t you know who I am?” bit.
But as Elliot starts to walk away, Bill whips out his phone to, y’know, just double-check real quick. Lo and behold, FSociety had anticipated this: The boys in the van are workshopping a bogus Wikipedia entry on “Sam Sepiole” in real-time, and once Bill realizes “Sam’s” supposed fortune and influence, he bumblingly chases after him, telling him a tour spot just opened up. Friggin’ Wikipedia. Google harder, people!
Next, Mr. Robot tells Elliot to ditch Bill ASAP, encouraging Elliot to figure out Bill’s weakness and exploit it. That’s become a major theme of this show: What is your “bug”? What’s your Achilles’ heel? Your biggest secret, worry, insecurity, fear? What would happen if it was deduced, manipulated, and/or exposed? That’s the threat many Mr. Robot characters are constantly facing, despite many of them often being in the very position of unearthing others’ weaknesses, and tinkering with them for nefarious purposes.
In this case, Elliot had already done his homework on Bill. That is—he stalked him on social media. Turns out the kindly, rotund, middle-aged man has a lot of photos of only himself and his cats. Elliot now needs Bill’s supervisor for deeper access into the building. So, upon Mr. Robot’s instruction, Elliot goes in for the kill. And does he ever kill Bill: After a brief flashback of his mom yelling at him and being awful to him, Elliot unleashes an unblinking monologue that crushes all cat-loving spirits.
“If you died, would anyone care? Would they really care? Maybe they’d cry for a day or two… the few people that would feel obligated to go to the funeral would probably be annoyed and leave as early as possible. That’s who you are,” he tells Bill, mid-tour, standing in the middle of a hallway in his own workplace. “You’re nothing. To anyone. To everyone. Think about it, Bill—you’ll know I’m telling you the truth. So instead of wasting any more time, I need you to call someone who matters. Because, Bill, you don’t.”
Ouch! All the selfies and Facebook likes in the world don’t spell real self-worth, and now a shocked and devastated Bill scurries to get his supervisor. Score! Elliot’s one step closer to installing the climate-controlling raspberry pi. Problem is, Wendy, the higher-up that FSociety was anticipating speaking with based on their homework, is out today. Here comes Trudy: a “ghost” online, the FSociety boys in the van are realizing, as they’re frantically Googling for her potential bug. Alas, no Facebook, no LinkedIn, no credit problems, no weird sex stuff, not even a photo. Just a phone number. Bingo.
The boys spoof a text to her phone, saying that it’s her husband. He’s at the hospital. It’s what they’ve always feared. 2015: The year in which strangers can make you believe your spouse is dying. (Editor’s note: Did I miss how they knew this? Did they take a shot in the dark with the very specific language of a hospital and their biggest fear?) Anyway, Trudy’s gutted, and while she’s off being distracted by fake life-altering news, Elliot makes a break for it—before running into evil Evil Corp exec, Tyrell Wellick.
Plans seriously derail once Wellick ropes Elliot into lunch—Mr. Robot is scrambling and tells Elliot Wellick’s bug is his hubris—and after Wellick finishes comparing their salad-serving waiter to a cockroach, Elliot makes for the bathroom. There’s some brief vomming in the sink due to drug withdrawals, but then he finally begins implanting the raspberry pi. (Luckily, Wellick granted access Wendy would’ve.) He’s able to successfully do so, but not before Wellick joins him in the bathroom, telling Elliot he knows he framed Terry Colby—that he knows about his dad working at Evil Corp before he died. He won’t turn Elliot in, though—he just wanted to learn Elliot’s own weakness, revenge. “How ordinary, just like our waiter,” says the icy exec (whose dastardliness has bordered on cartoony in recent episodes). But he leaves, and Elliot’s mission is completed upon finding a storage room to install the raspberry pi.
Unfortunately, by the episode’s end, we learn that it was all for naught, because the other hacker group that FSociety is in cahoots with has backed out under mysterious circumstances.
As for everyone else? Shayla’s working a new job at a cowboy restaurant. Ollie and Angela break up, the latter of whom goes to stay with her dad for a while—where she discovers bags full of overdue insurance payments to Evil Corp. Wellick continues being creepy: During a dinner party at a married colleague’s house, he tells the hostess “thank you for the lovely evening” while staring at her as she’s sitting on the toilet. Darlene, meanwhile, has a meltdown that FSociety’s cohorts are out of the deal to take down Evil Corp.
Hackers breaking into a data center? The biggest 2015 fear of all! And it doesn’t matter if the criminals are Robin Hoods with noble, one percenter-busting intentions. Nowadays, information is our greatest resource, and the characters on Mr. Robot toy with it on an individual level with specific people, which in turn grants them access to bigger breaches, capable of ruining many people’s lives on a larger scale.
The FSociety crew—which, have we decided who’s imaginary and who’s real yet?—suffered a setback this week in their grand, corporation-crumbling plan. But if the gang can keep pulling off hacks in ways that are fascinating to watch, but also terrifying in their realism, the show could end up being one of cyberpunk’s greats.
All images courtesy NBC Universal