Thanks to the collective hivemind of the internet — also known as the TV fun police — the whopper of a revelation at the end of Mr. Robot's "Handshake" may not have hit as hard as it could have. The theories that Elliot (Rami Malek), in Season 2, was hallucinating his surroundings and actually locked up in prison somewhere were out in the wild even before the season officially premiered, thanks to an early advance preview of the first hour. Heck, even I wrote about it!
And boy were those theories true, right down to the last detail. In the final moments of "Handshake," Elliot was meeting with Krista (Gloria Reuben) and talked about staying with his mom. Krista asked Elliot, "Where do you think you are right now?" And then Elliot's world melted around him and the truth came out: he was in one of the Department of Corrections' finest iron-bar hotels, Krista's office was a prison meeting room, the basketball courts were part of prison recess, his room was a cell and his mom was a mean old prison guard.
It was a similar situation to the big secret in Season 1, you know, the one about Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) not being a real person and a Fight Club-style extension of Elliot's psyche. Almost everyone who watched the show figured out that Mr. Robot wasn't real early on, and it was practically fact by the time Elliot found out himself in the penultimate episode of that season.
But the graveyard scene where Elliot caught up to the rest of us was absolutely terrific because Elliot discovering he had been imagining Mr. Robot was the true path of that story and essential to his character's arc. Plus, Malek acted the crap out that scene, punching holes in all our hearts.
Here in "Handshake," the big trick seemed to be just that: a trick. And it wasn't played nearly as well as the big secret of Season 1 — which, honestly, would have been amazing to pull off effectively twice. Part of that was because Elliot knew he was in prison the whole time and was lying to us (saying he was sorry for it didn't make it much better), which was the direct opposite of what the Mr. Robot reveal was in Season 1. If it's not news to Elliot, it's just a ruse for us, and Mr. Robot seemed to be above that in Season 1 by making sure it wasn't in the business of GOTCHA! moments and making sure these revelations counted in the story. Perhaps a victim of its own popularity, Mr. Robot not only felt the need to keep the audience off balance like it did in Season 1 to much acclaim, but also inadvertently encouraged fans to comb through every detail therefore making it nearly impossible for the show to stay ahead of its viewers. Without it being a shock to Elliot, it was supposed to be a shock to us, but instead we all saw it coming.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm not saying it was bad. But when comparing it to what happened before, it didn't have the same pizazz. But it was beautifully shot as the camera panned from one hallucination to the concrete reality of the prison, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get the chills as Elliot confirmed all the early theories. And for those of you who stayed off the web and didn't know it was coming, I'm awfully jealous, because that must have been one awesome trip.
And what about Leon (Joey Bada$$)? He went HAM on those guys looking to get their Bitcoins back, even giving one of them a shank enema, which looked even more uncomfortable than it sounds. Also, he's in with Whiterose, somehow, telling Elliot, "When you see Whiterose, make sure you say I did you good." Was Leon in prison with Elliot to protect him on behalf of the Dark Army? It certainly wouldn't surprise me and it would be a cool turn for the character, who just a week I assumed was also one of Elliot's hallucinations.
Now the question is why is Elliot in prison? It's not for murdering Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom), because Tyrell is still missing, according to authorities (despite what Mr. Robot said, more on that in a sec). It's not for the hack because Gideon was the poster boy for that and the true culprits were still at large, Tyrell being a big suspect. Was it Krista's ex who called authorities on Elliot for his hacking? That's my only guess at the moment.
As for Tyrell, Mr. Robot claimed that he shot him (Elliot quickly replied, "No, I shot him."). But it seems like that wouldn't make a lot of sense for Tyrell's arc. He's just dead? I don't buy it. That would be an incredibly disappointing end to a character who was built up so high, and Wallstrom is too good of a talent for the show to throw away like that. No, I think Mr. Robot is lying to Elliot to protect him once again; maybe the truth about what happened to Tyrell is worse than Elliot killing him, or maybe Mr. Robot needs Elliot to stop thinking about Tyrell and move on with things.
Speaking of disappointing ends for characters, was that it for Ray (Craig Robinson)? Did he go from menacing middleman for mail-order murder to "Oops, I'm sorry" just like that? He said he never looked at what his site was actually doing until Elliot came along, and apparently that was enough for him to want to end the game and turn himself in, which he facilitated by allowing Elliot to go back on his computer and fix things again (and send the FBI an anonymous tip). It's a boggling turn of events, and almost an anti-victory for Elliot since it was Ray who allowed it to happen. Just another wacky day in New York, I guess!
Angela (Portia Doubleday) continued her intriguing, if confusing, hop around the Evil Corp employee directory, getting the class-action lawsuit to drop the contingency about the independent investigation (when did she do that?) to appease Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer). She used that good favor with Price to get a transfer over to the Risk Management department, where she was angling with her new boss to get access to the files in the lawsuit and zzzzz... sorry, I nodded off there. Look, I know I've defended Angela's storyline a lot in the past, but even I — TeamAngela superfan number one — am doing that thing with my hands signaling for her arc to hurry up. Is she pledged to Evil Corp because she feels valued there? Or is she shuffling herself around to get to the truth about what happened in the Washington Township scandal?
Angela's story is a little too muddy this season, her motivations smothered by the details of corporate red tape and self-help audio books. She's still in a position to really matter, but after watching her go Ocean's 11 on the FBI in the previous episode, seeing her move away from joining fsociety to go back to her mind games with Price in order to shlep around the quagmire of legalese was a step backward.
If you went into "Handshake" oblivious to the prison theory, the episode had a spectacular payoff. But for those of us who had a good idea it was coming, it was another example of the internet knowing too much (Game of Thrones' Jon Snow, who normally knows nothing, actually knows something about this). Still, "Handshake" was another perfectly fine episode of Mr. Robot. But is "perfectly fine" what we expect from a show that dazzled us so greatly in Season 1?
- Question: Is Evil Corp's plan in the aftermath of the 5/9 hack to dominate new-world currency? There was a news report about E Coin being accepted by cabs and growing in popularity. Those bastards will find a way to make money out of this disaster no matter what. Like those E Kits? A bucket with a bunch of stupid "survival" items inside? Ugh.
- I've stopped trying to figure out any theories about Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen). I simply have no idea what she's doing, and she barely fits into the rest of the story.
- More chess metaphors!