Warning: Spoiler content for Mr. Robot Season 3 episode “Python Pt. 1.”
USA’s humble hit cyberdrama Mr. Robot has already delved into some supremely strange sophomore season territory, notably the surprising midseason reveal of Elliot’s delusion-dressed institutional setting. However, as Season 2 readies a (hopefully satisfying) revelatory climax with the first part of finale “Python,” it’s clear that the show is not quite done unveiling its insanely oblique, symbolism-strewn bag of tricks with the odd scenes involving Angela’s captivity. While these scenes were quite perplexing, writer/producer Kor Adana provides an interesting explanation.
“Python Pt. 1,” saw the ambivalence-addled, vengeance-seeking, would-be whistleblower Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) whisked away against her will to a secluded estate and placed in a room filled with randomly anachronistic items such as a 1980’s Commodore 64 computer, a rotary phone, a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita and a version of the famous inspirational “Hang in There” cat poster. It was almost as if characters from Mr. Robot had been whisked away to a secret compound of the DHARMA Initiative from Lost. – All we needed were some jumpsuits and a klaxon-cancelling button. There, Angela was subjected to a curious series of questions by a mysterious little girl and later by the Dark Army’s clandestine transgender maker of machinations Whiterose (BD Wong).
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kor Adana claims that Angela was being subjected to a test of worthiness, further explaining:
“The questionnaire in the game is designed to gauge how malleable Angela is. I actually love how the game’s questions and the content of the phone call are reminiscent of those old C64 adventure games. The little girl showing Angela her bruises could be perceived as a test of Angela’s empathy. While the rest of the house has a contemporary décor, that room feels like it’s from a different time. This scene always makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Dave Bowman finds himself in that neoclassical style bedroom where time is completely warped.”
Angela was asked questions both odd and intrusive by a mysterious little girl under the moral duress that not only will a fish tank in the background drain, but the girl will be abused if Angela doesn’t comply. Yet, with said questions kicking off with, “Have you ever cried during sex?” and “Red or Purple?,” Angela’s bewilderment was understandable. The questions also depicted hypothetical scenarios resembling the kind of old adventure games played on the very antique computer sitting in that room. However, as Adana affirms, this was simply Whiterose’s algorithmic style hacker approach to determine Angela’s value in the “Phase 2” plan, specifically why (secret co-conspirator) E Corp CEO Phillip Price is so fixated on her.
Yet, the contents of the dark and relatively empty room seem to carry the kind of potent pop-culture symbolism that has become a staple on Mr. Robot, as embraced by creator Sam Esmail; something also affirmed by the myriad Easter Eggs visible in not only the room, but the vintage video games listed on the computer screen. In fact, the inquiry quickly transformed into a game to find a mysterious key, which Angela was apparently holding (symbolically,) the entire time. As Adana explains of the array of oddball knickknacks:
“The room is full of references to time or of how time is fleeting. This includes the old rotary phone, the Commodore 64, the leaking fish tank, and the ‘hang in there’ poster. There is also this notion of games here. The little girl loads a game from a disk, which has some other fun games stored on it. The reference to Lolita is not only connected to the location of the key, but many of the characters in Lolita consistently engage in games and puzzles.”
Yet, there might be an additionally powerful component in the 1950’s music played on the radio when Angela was being transported to the compound, notably the instrumental “Night Train,” which was famously played in Back to the Future (Angela and Elliot’s favorite movie to watch together while getting high,) at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. A later scene with Elliot had The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” – another prominent tune from that film – play in the background. While we essentially know the reason, Angela’s abduction might turn out to be more connected to Elliot than we thought. This is especially the case with the (apparent) reemergence of Martin Wallström’s Tyrell Wellick, with whom Elliot (under the influence of Mr. Robot,) forged a mysterious plan.
In the meantime, Mr. Robot is readying Season 2 finale “Python Pt. 2” on USA on September 21, likely looking to blow our minds with more stunning twists and turns that make us question the veracity of what we saw.