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Does The Appearance Of Mark Moses Bode Well For Mr. Robot's Second-Season Homestretch?

Sarah D. Bunting is not a crackpot. She just thinks casting the former Duck Phillips is a reason to believe.

Having revealed in the previous episode that everything we'd come to think of as Elliot's current reality was in fact a jailhouse reality his psyche had altered to make it more palatable, Mr. Robot gave Rami Malek a week entirely off and moved things forward on the outside. fsociety successfully pwned the FBI -- and inadvertently bought themselves some time thanks to the horrendous optics created by their leak of an Operation Berenstain conference call -- but Darlene and Co. took two steps back, too, when Darth Susan returned to her smart house and caught them all by surprise, paying for their porous vigilance with her life.

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Darlene, seeing no other workable option, pretends she didn't see all the emails they'd hacked into about Susan's pacemaker, and "accidentally" tases her to death. (Possibly because she still has a Hotmail account. And that it's...this.)

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Numb, Darlene explains to Cisco that she feels nothing, that she doesn't feel bad, although she thought she might, but of course Cisco insists that she go home with him, that she shouldn't be alone...and of course Cisco, who isn't as smart as he needs to be, gets in the shower before hiding all the evidence Darlene needs to figure out he's a Dark Army double agent.

Dom overplays her hand with Mobley, hamstrung by the Operation Berenstain leak, but continues to build a solid c.v. as one of my favorite Mr. Robot characters by mentioning that she loves Romy & Michele's High School Reunion. ("Me too, but: you!") Released, Mobley wipes his phone and ditches it, then advises Trenton to blow town while she still can (or does he?).

And Angela, slurry drunk on an Independence Day karaoke date with her trick Andre from earlier in the season, gets read to filth by a plumber friend of her father's at the bar. Her snotty "I make a six-figure salary, you clean up shit" comeback is classic Angela: it takes her so long to come up with it, and she has so little faith in its content, that it's pathetic instead of intimidating. Angela's follow-up, her way of centering herself after a middle-aged man has once again sneered down her plans and sense of self, is to try to grab at the nearest confidence-builder she can find, namely trying on a bloodlessly assured man-eater persona for low-hanging middle-management fruit played by Mark Moses.

And it's a good thing, too -- it turns out Andre is an FBI CI, not that he was getting anywhere before she went off with Moses -- but even if we never see Moses again and his character only existed to separate Angela from Andre and reveal Andre's true agenda to the viewer, casting Moses is a shorthand, a wink to an audience who remembers him from Mad Men and Homeland. The institutional prestige-TV memory of resentful, self-defeating characters Moses has played in the past is a picture worth a thousand Angela-character-beat words.

I am NOT a crackpot.

The primary association with Moses for many of you is likely Duck Phillips, the intermittently sober "there but for the grace of God" flip side of Don Draper's neatly pressed confidence on Mad Men. He struggled not to drink; his in vino veritas act of defiance, taking a dump on Don's couch, was interrupted when he was discovered -- and in the wrong office. Moses's ability to convey that relatable, but also repellent wimpy bitterness is unparalleled, and I still regret that his work as Dennis Boyd on Homeland's fourth season never got acknowledged by any awards bodies. Overshadowed by a powerful wife, swept out of a prestige university position thanks to allegations (whatever; he did it) of plagiarism, flustery, spluttery, and a perfect mark for a Big Bad who could make him feel important, Dennis is the last to realize he got played at a cost of hundreds of lives -- and the way pride and fear of being hated compete across Moses's face is quite something.

Moses brings all of that into any scene he's in, anywhere (probably? maybe he's an ass of baddery on The Last Ship; I won't be finding out), and it's especially interesting to see Moses here because all of these associations apply to Angela. She does have talent, worth, and power, but gives it away in her interactions with others by betraying the fact that she doesn't really believe it, and needs their sign-off on her value. She wants to strike back at those who've wronged her, but has picked the wrong route to vengeance. She's a puppy in a shark Halloween costume, and eventually the real sharks will get hungry.

We knew all this already, of course, and the shorthand that Moses lets Mr. Robot use is, alas, expended on information we already saw written out in longhand. Angela as a character needs to evolve, or pay for her failure to, but the unblinking stasis she seems to exist in doesn't seem intentional and character-driven so much as the show not knowing quite where to take her. But the show knows what she is, and how to make sure we knew: send her Peggy to the bar, and line up a sitting Duck. Casting Mark Moses is all the narrative self-assurance his characters tend to lack about themselves, and a good sign for the homestretch of Season 2.

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