This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Mr. Robot.
If someone had told me early last season that Mr. Robot could survive a single episode without Rami Malek as the brilliant, unraveling hacker Elliot Alderson, I would have rattled off several reasons why I thought that person was wrong. But Rami is the show’s anchor! He’s a perfect Elliot! He lends a crucial humanity to the show’s crushing neuroses and cynicism! But over the rest of the season, Mr. Robot wisely deepened the other characters lodged in Elliot’s orbit (especially Angela). Even the most diehard Malek fans would have to admit that Wednesday’s episode, “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12,” made the powerful case that Mr. Robot can be genuinely fascinating, moving, and tense without its titular dual personality.
Coming just after last week’s revelation that Elliot has been (as many had suspected) not at his mother’s house but in prison all season, the latest episode offered a much-needed return to some of the more straightforward cyber-thriller qualities that so perfectly complemented the show’s headier themes in season one. (Finally, a break from wondering what is or isn’t “real.”) The episode also finally unleashed the rest of the Mr. Robot cast, which has been less prominent this season as Elliot’s mental crisis overshadowed fsociety’s troubles in the wake of the disastrous E Corp hack (a.k.a. 5/9). The result was a fairly tight narrative that saw fsociety leak an FBI conference call confirming an illegal surveillance operation; Mobley and Trenton’s paranoia mounting; Dom’s investigation flailing; and Angela’s disillusionment growing. Oh yeah, and Darlene killing Susan Jacobs, the “Madame Executioner” E Corp general counsel, who comes home unexpectedly to find the hacker group squatting there. And possibly Cisco, her Dark Army-affiliated boyfriend.