Diving into the character of Elliot through S01E02 – Ones and Zeroes

Episode two starts off where episode one left off, with Elliot meeting Tyrell Wellick and his team of corporate lawyers sitting at a round table. It is kind of humorous to note here the extravagantly bloated and inefficient corporate structure of Evil Corp. One man needed eleven lawyers to make sure that Mister Wellick did not do anything that would make him liable for any potential lawsuits.

Created by Sam Esmail. Season 1, Episode 2 released on July 1, 2015 (USA)
Written by Sam Esmail, Directed by Sam Esmail
Starring Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, Christian Slater, and many more.
Full Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4686038/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

Tyrell makes a dramatic introduction with a foreboding quote, “Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. But give a man a bank and he can rob the world.” He continues the theatrics as he explains his line of reasoning reflected by the quote; the will to take is the only thing that guarantees power and success regardless of hard work or skill.

Here he offers Elliot (unofficially) a very lucrative position at Evil Corp’s cyber security division. What Elliot assumed to be a kidnapping was in fact a secretive job offer. The secrecy was necessary as what Tyrell was doing was technically illegal due to previous arrangements with Allsafe.

Elliot looks around and breaks his silence with a hesitant, “Can I think about it.” Tyrell, looking very disappointed, asks the lawyers to leave the room. Once the lawyers have left, Tyrell starts flaunting his accomplishments by saying that Evil Corp has named him interim CTO and that the CTO position was basically in his grasp. He would become the youngest executive in history. Walking up from the table, he gets closer to the visibly uncomfortable Elliot and let’s him know that very soon all cyber security will be handled internally at Evil Corp. Once this happens, all the other vendors would be cut loose, including Allsafe. He uses this information to try and convince Elliot to join Evil Corp, but more importantly, to Tyrell’s very strong belief, that Elliot and Tyrell are destined to work together. He seems to be convinced that Elliot belongs with him. Here we see what could be described as the beginnings of obsession over Elliot. Elliot declines the offer once again to Tyrell’s great disappointment.

Tyrell’s lead henchman, Mr. Sutherland (played by Jeremy Holm), drops Elliot off and gives him a card if he ever wants to take Wellick up on his offer. Elliot gets out and walks over to his apartment as he sees a disreputable man (played by Elliot Villar) harassing Shayla. As Shayla and Elliot go to the apartment’s entrance, she drops the fact that the man was her ’employer’ Fernando. Elliot asks Shayla for more morphine without the withdrawal medication. Shayla reminds Elliot that he made her promise to never give him morphine without it but he convinces her to do it regardless of the promise.

Once in his apartment he takes the morphine and starts hacking Tyrell Wellick. His password ends up being his wife’s maiden name and the date of Sweden’s independence, ‘olofsson66’. Elliot finds that Tyrell’s life is too perfect and comes to the conclusion that Tyrell may have let him hack him. Overcome with paranoia, Elliot frantically initiates a full wipe down by microwaving all the microchips and drilling holes through his hard drives. Whether this is a drug induced fantasy or accurate realization is not made clear. This uncertainty makes the audience question just how much Elliot is grounded in reality. As he finishes, he grabs a Polaroid off his shelf and looks at a picture of him and his mother and puts it in his pocket.

Once done, he goes back to doing more morphine. He notices his radiator is broken and he tries to fix it in the tried and true method by kicking it. He glances over to see that Flipper, his pet dog, has urinated on his pillow. He throws his pillow out in the trash, contemplates throwing out the Polaroid, and tries to talk Flipper into relieving himself outside. Here it is implied that his relationship with his mother may not have been the best. Elliot talking to his dog is another endearing and humorous scene. Flipper does not understand anything Elliot is saying so he tries to encourage Flipper by telling him “you got this, you got this.”

We see Elliot return to Allsafe, continuing to do morphine by sniffing it out of a small bottle. The news is playing the story of Terry Colby’s arrest in the background while Elliot is wondering when Mr. Robot will contact him again. He ponders if he destroyed an innocent man’s life for no reason. Here we see Elliot has empathy once again for a fellow human being, even if it is an arrogant and immoral executive from Evil Corp.

We cut to a scene where Gideon is thanking Elliot for saving the company by undoing the hack from the previous episode and informs him that he’s being given a raise. Elliot tries to decline but Gideon moves on and questions why Elliot did not inform him of the dat file. Elliot lied that he wasn’t sure what it was, that it could have been a junk file. Here Gideon pleads with Elliot to stay on the hacker case and that F Society is attacking Evil Corp once again. Elliot is caught off guard as he thought the hacker group was only known to him.

Gideon is surprised that Elliot is unaware and informs him that F Society has hacked most of the data and emails from Evil Corp and is threatening to release it to the public if they do not release Colby. Gideon plays the F Society ransom video for Elliot. Here we see a man with distorted voice (that sounds just like Mr. Robot) in a mustached mask go on a tirade of the evils of Evil Corp and makes three demands. One, that they release their ‘leader’ Terry Colby from his unjust prison. Two, that they release all of mankind from the unjust prison of debt created by Evil Corp. And finally three, that Evil Corp sell all their assets and donate the money to the poor. If the demands are not met, F Society threatened to ‘kill’ Evil Corp. Elliot wants to watch it again.

We cut to a desperate musician trying to sell his CDs for social media likes. Angela and Ollie walk into Elliot and Ollie tries to arrange a double date with Elliot. Elliot is distracted by men in black and blindly agrees and leaves in a hurry. The musician walks up to Ollie and tries to pass on his CD to him. Ollie is clearly annoyed, as he was bothering everyone unsuccessfully outside the building for two weeks, and takes the CD.

Elliot walks into his apartment to find Darlene showering in his bathroom. He is confused and asks her why she is in his apartment. She responds that she was waiting for him and that he was supposed to come yesterday. He is clearly confused and asks where. She just responds that it is fine and that everyone will come later. Darlene is acting very familiar with Elliot. He drops Flipper off to Shayla and follows Darlene to the subway to travel to the hide out. During the train ride, Elliot asks Darlene how she knows where he lives. Darlene responds why wouldn’t she know where he lives. They go on a conversation where Elliot finds out Darlene moved out of her boyfriend’s place because he proposed to her. Clearly she does not handle long term commitment very well. As they walk out Darlene quickly shoves Elliot onto another train, and Elliot sees the men in black trying to follow him. He wonders if Darlene sees them too. Here we see that Elliot is struggling with maintaining control over reality and is aware of it. He is worried about Tyrell finding out that Elliot hacked him. We continue to question if the paranoia is real or induced by his heavy intake of morphine.

Darlene keeps talking to Elliot with familiarity as they walk into the F Society hideout and the people there applaud him for, Elliot assumes, Terry Colby’s arrest. Mobley (played by Azhar Khan) tries to shake Elliot’s hand but he withdraws it quickly. It is made clear from this episode and the previous one that Elliot does not like being touched. Mr. Robot is in the back playing an arcade game.

Darlene asks for the progress on phase two of the plan, something to do with Steel Mountain. Mr. Robot stands in front of Elliot and gives a progress report to Darlene. Mr. Robot goes back to collect his thoughts and talk with Elliot. Darlene walks off. Elliot wants to know how Darlene knows where he lives but Mr. Robot brushes it off and starts discussing phase two of the plan. He talks about blowing up Comet, the natural gas plant near Albany, which is next to Steel Mountain. Steel Mountain is the offsite data storage facility of most corporations, including Evil Corp. More importantly, it is housing the tape backups for Evil Corp’s financial records. This a vital part of the plan in destroying everyone’s debt. Elliot warns that Tyrell knows of their involvement but Mr. Robot waves it off and claims that their data dump will distract everyone. He credits the plan to a young middle eastern woman code-named Trenton (played by Sunita Mani).

Mr. Robot wants Elliot to use his Allsafe clearance to do the hack but Elliot has reservations because blowing up the plant may kill innocent people. Mr. Robot says that this is necessary. Here, Mr. Robot lets Elliot in on his master plan. The plan is a three pronged attack on Evil Corp. Darlene’s worm in the data center will take care of the US side. The infamous, and notorious, Dark Army will take care of the redundant data centers in China. And finally, Elliot is charged with taking care of Steel Mountain. Steel Mountain is actually based off a real company called Iron Mountain, which also houses backups and acts as storage for many corporations and individuals. Elliot still refuses to take innocent lives.

Here Mr. Robot asks Elliot a simple question, “Are you a one, or a zero?…Are you a yes, or a no…Are you going to act, or not.” Elliot states that this conundrum is not that binary. Mr. Robot refutes that line of thinking because when it comes down to it, every choice is based off of action or inaction. Here he gives Elliot an ultimatum, to choose to act and continue being a part of F Society, or to choose to forfeit his place in F Society by doing nothing. Mr. Robot takes a dig at Elliot’s father by saying that he was a zero who died a slow death because he chose to do nothing. This angers Elliot and he chooses to walk out. Darlene is smoking by the exit and she states that Elliot is off disappearing again and that he can’t just walk away from this. Notice here how Darlene is addressing Elliot, not Mr. Robot, as disappearing from the F Society hide out.

Elliot returns home and knocks on Shayla’s door to get Flipper back. He finds Fernando Vera in his underwear doing drugs. Shayla is unresponsive in the locked bathroom. Elliot has already hacked Vera and states that he is one of the worst human beings he has ever hacked. Elliot is morally conflicted as he wants to turn Vera in but doing so would deprive him of his much needed morphine. After they introduce each other, Vera goes off on a rant of needing to know the meaning of one’s own name because names have power. He also spoke of hating himself for a long time and even trying to kill himself multiple times. Instead of fearing his own self hatred, he started to embrace it and use it as a source of his power. For some strange reason Vera seems to bond with Elliot, as he sees a kindred spirit in Elliot. Ironically, Elliot was the only reason that Shayla met Vera in the first place, as he was the only dealer carrying the withdrawal medication.

He states that Shayla is the love of his life and that it wasn’t coincidence that they had met in that moment. There is a parallel here with Vera seemingly becoming obsessed with Elliot, just like Tyrell. Both of them seem to be unstable and psychotic individuals but strangely human and relatable in some ways. He warns Elliot to not be so comfortable with Shayla and leaves. Elliot rushes to pick the bathroom door open and wakes up an unconscious Shayla in the bath tub. She doesn’t seem to remember anything, and they both find out that she has been raped. Shayla refuses to report the crime because she needs Vera’s connection to make money. Elliot notes again the invisible hand controlling people even though it causes so much pain. She asks Elliot to sleep at her place, feeling unsafe.

He reflects on Mr. Robot’s advice and realizes that life is indeed all about choices, deciding to act or do nothing. Elliot reflects on his choices once again and decides to quit morphine cold turkey because Vera’s terrible acts against Shayla has left him no choice but to report him. He would rather go through life without morphine than let Shayla suffer anymore.

We cut to another therapy session with Krista. Elliot wants to know if we are indeed in control, or are always forced to pick between two options that don’t really make a difference. The illusion of choice. Krista reminds Elliot that he brought up the feeling of not being in control when he brought up his father’s illness, caused by Evil Corp. Instead of fighting, his father chose to succumb to it. She tells Elliot that this is not the case because Elliot has options, different paths to take. Elliot is visibly distressed by the mention of his father and yells at Krista to shut up.

He returns home to burn a CD for Vera and store him in his binder of hacked individuals. He starts to look up information on climate control. Angela tries to call Elliot while in the bathroom. Ollie is trying to play the CD he got from the street musician. He sees an email from Stella B, the girl he is cheating on Angela with. Stella wants to meet up. He makes up a lie about his friend Fred from Arizona wanting to meet and goes off. We see that the street musician has hacked Ollie’s laptop and is spying on them. The hacker is in an IRC chatroom with people typing in Chinese.

Elliot walks to the pier to meet with Mr. Robot, who is sitting on the railings of the pier. He informs Mr. Robot that he has a plan that can destroy the backups without blowing up anything. Mr. Robot states that Elliot left F Society and that he can’t just come back. His condition is that Elliot tell him how his father died. Elliot says his father was his best friend and one of the best computer engineers Evil Corp ever had. He had contracted Leukemia from his workplace and was let go. He made Elliot promise to never tell his mother, and when Elliot broke his promise, his father got so angry that he pushed Elliot out a window and never spoke to him since. Elliot stated that his father wouldn’t even look at him the day he died.

Mr. Robot comforts Elliot. Mr. Robot throws the audience off by asking Elliot that maybe his father was right in hurting Elliot because he had broken his trust. Elliot tries to defend himself by saying that he was only eight years old at the time. Mr. Robot pushes Elliot off the pier mid sentence. “You didn’t commit to the sacred pact you had formed.” The episode ends here, on a cliff hanger. I’m not going to go into spoilers but this scene has great foreshadowing for season four. Not only that, it gives us great insight into the source of Elliot’s pain and his internal struggle. The feeling of guilt for a crime he didn’t commit. The feeling of guilt even though one was innocent. Blaming yourself for a senseless and horrific act committed against an innocent. This exchange between Mr. Robot and Elliot can be seen as Elliot’s own internal struggle. Even with his struggles, Elliot can’t help but empathize with the people around him. I’ll end it here before I head into spoiler territory. All I can say is the writing and cinematography of season one is incredibly dense with details as well as being intelligent and elegant in its design. It is incredibly well crafted for the most part with some minor flaws in realism, narrative focus and logic, and as well as a reliance on rhetoric here and there.

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