This review contains spoilers.
2.5 Logic Bomb
Mr Robot can create atmosphere out of thin air. That’s one of its best aspects. In addition to its fascinating lead character and somehow realistic yet bonkers plots, the mood that Mr Robot creates is its unlike anything else on TV: frenetic, dissociative, fun.
In that sense, the show is not entirely dissimilar to a horror movie. Both need to bring an interesting enough concept to the table but after that it’s all about developing a strong pallor of dread. Logic Bomb, roughly the halfway point of season two considering episode one was actually episodes one and two, brings that sense of horror movie dread better than any Mr Robot episode before it.
Instead of using merely similar stylistic techniques of a horror movie, Logic Bomb is a horror movie. So many scenes establish a mood that ranges from creepiness to outright terror. And the episode is all the better for it. Mr Robot almost always feels viscerally exciting. Logic Bomb is both viscerally exciting and terrifying.
Let’s start with FBI agent Dominique DiPierro, who gets her biggest showcase of the season thus far. Even before she ends the episode hiding behind a coffee bar and exchanging gunfire with Dark Army terrorists, her experiences are profoundly creepy. The sequence that ends the episode is potentially one of the most exciting gunfire scenes since season three of Breaking Bad. Still, I’m somehow drawn more to the dream-like horror of what leads up to it.
After the FBI impounds evidence from the server facility Elliot hacked in season one, Dominique returns to the makeshift office the FBI has set up, taking time to comment on the troubling security situation.* Her (to my ears at least) unnamed co-worker tells her about a recurring dream she’s been having. Only this time she’s walking down a hill this time when she sees the creepy guys in surgical masks. Dominique responds by saying she never dreams. And then commences the most dream-sequence seeming episode that is for sure not an actual dream sequence.
Dominique’s time in China is so compelling and perfect because it’s so weird. The first four episodes of Mr Robot season two have been almost uniformly excellent but were missing something. And based on Logic Bomb what was missing is this fabulous sense of weirdness Dominique’s storyline provides.
It’s strange enough that the whole bureau is uprooting to China and it’s brought up so quickly and casually. Of course, as the world’s second superpower in a global economy currently devastated by hackers it makes perfect sense that the FBI would want to pay Beijing a visit. Still, there’s something vaguely dreamlike about how quickly the trip comes to pass with no warning.
Out of nowhere, Dominique is in the Beijing airport and about to experience something even more dreamlike. She descends on an escalator and on the adjacent escalator she sees two men in dragon masks. She’s walking down the hill to men in masks, just like her co-worker’s dream. Dominique doesn’t dream so she can’t receive all the important signs and clarity from a dream like Elliot did last week so reality intervenes for her and gives her a waking sign.
Then the FBI contingent finally gets to meet with the Chinese Minister of Security… who just happens to be Whiterose (or the male version of Whiterose).**
And their interactions are so profoundly creepy. Dominique is looking for a bathroom when she stumbles across a room that highlights Whiterose’s obsession with clocks. Then Whiterose addresses her with a sardonic remark offscreen, not entirely like a movie villain might in a tense moment. Dominique seems to hit it off with the male version of Whiterose and he takes her to a room to show off some art and talk more.
The dialogue is substantive. Dominique talks about her life that led to the FBI. She fell in love in law school and ran away from a proposal to the FBI. Whiterose talks about the beautiful, perfect dresses in his closet that he says belong to his sister. And then adds wistfully that he wonders what the universe would be like if the 5/9 attacks never happened and dreams of alternate universes with alternate versions of everyone.
What’s even better, however, is the atmosphere the show is able to create out of nothingness. That dreamlike sensation from Dominique’s previous scenes carries over and a pervading sense of doom creeps in as well. Dominique and Whiterose begin their conversation at ten minutes to midnight and end it at midnight. Mr Robot makes sure those ten minutes are imbued with the appropriate level of increasing doom as that’s exactly what the phrase “ten minutes to midnight” is supposed to mean. For the entirety of the scene it seems equally as likely that Dominique and Whiterose will bone as it is they’ll kill each other.
Then in the end Logic Bomb settles on the latter and Dominique finds herself under gunfire (after casually revealing to a coworker that she knows Whiterose doesn’t have a sister). It’s terrifying in a real, visceral way. Though in a sense the strange, dreamlike creepiness that preceded it was just as unsettling.
Dominique’s adventures in Beijing isn’t the only storyline that Mr Robot brings a horror sensibility to this week.
On appearance alone, Joanna Tyrell is already one of TV’s scariest characters. As brilliantly depicted by Stephanie Corneliussen, Joanna is so equally attractive and mysterious so as to appear alien. It doesn’t hurt that she’s always seemed to have an underlining sense of cruelty. And when that cruelty manifests itself in Logic Bomb it is absolutely horror movie worthy.
Joanna’s contact at the parking facility, Karim (no, I’m really not sure what his role for Joanna was either) has succumbed to paranoia and makes clear he’s a liability in her efforts to find Tyrell and/or continue his legacy.
So Joanna kills him. That’s pretty well expected on a TV show. It was clear from the moment Karim was introduced that he was marked for death to help prove Joanna’s badass bonafides. Still, I don’t think anyone could have prepared for the efficient, and cruelly logical way in which Joanna does so.
Her bodyguard comes to her and she asks for the narrative of how Karim died. Already unusually cruel but her bodyguard is honest with her. He drugged Karim, staged a robbery and then shot him twice. But then he asks a question. Why did Joanna insist that he paralyse Karim via drugging before shooting him when he could have just as easily shot him and staged the robbery?
“Now even though he was paralyzed, his mind was still able to understand why he was dying,” she says. “To let him die with answers. Otherwise, we’re nothing but worthless murderers.”
Holy shit. Prior to Dominique’s shootout, it seemed as though this would be the most brutal and fascinating scene of the show’s run thus far. This is still in the running.
The horror movie vibe continues when Joanna gets another call from whom we presume to be Tyrell but all she hears is breathing. Then she hears the same siren on the line and outside her window and she rushes outside to find nobody there. Logic Bomb has a nice way of turning everything that slightly annoyed me about season two of Mr Robot into something that intrigues me. Tyrell’s absence is a prime example. The longer he’s gone, the creepier and more fascinating it gets. At this point it seems as he’s as likely to be in hell as he is anywhere else.
Still, Elliot is living the worse kind of horror movie. The one that’s real. Ray told him to not look at what was on the site. But in-between coordinating a takedown of the FBI with Darlene and (despite his best efforts) Angela’s help, Elliot find the time to make an excuse to meet with R.T., Ray’s previous IT guy. He likely could fix the site on his own but wants to get a measure of his new employer.
Via a feverish notepad app writing session with R.T. as they supposedly fix the site and Elliot discovers what it really does. It’s an invite-only tor browser site. And it’s as bad as it sounds with human trafficking, weapon trafficking and hitman contracts.
The beginning of Logic Bomb almost serves as a promise from Mr Robot that Elliot was going to be hacking again and everything would be exciting like you liked it in season one! Elliot has a cool voiceover about his passion for hacking and while it’s incomprehensible gibberish for the layman, it’s an undeniably stylistic and exciting moment. But Logic Bomb has a way of bringing everything back to reality as a logic bomb would. We may be excited that our boy is hacking the FBI again but access to a computer and strong ideals just bring him a vicious beatdown in the end. Like only the best horror can.
*Do you even Chekov, bro?
**I’m not really sure what to make of Whiterose’s gender identity, since he is a cagey fictional character and all. So I’ll just refer to him as a “he” when he’s the Minister of Security and a she when she’s Whiterose for clarity’s sake.
Read Alec’s review of the previous episode, Init1, here.