Mr. Robot, TVGreg EnslenComment

“Zero Day”

Mr. Robot, TVGreg EnslenComment
“Zero Day”

Mr. Robot, S01E10 – “Zero Day”

Episode Number: S01E10

Original Air Date: September 2, 2015 (originally scheduled to air August 26, 2015)

Time: 54 minutes

Synopsis: As the global markets and Evil Corp react to the fsociety hack, Elliot searches for answers from Mr. Robot and former Evil Corp CTO Tyler Wellick. Angela learns more about Evil Corp.

Dog

Krista, Elliot’s psychiatrist, meets with Lenny—she knew him as Michael Hansen, and they were dating in the first episode. He lied, telling her he was dying to get her to meet with him—he tells her that Elliot hacked him and he’s been to the police. Their cyber crime department is looking for him—and they know for certain because Elliot took Hansen’s dog Flipper to the vet. The dog was microchipped, and a report came back. But his life is in ruins and his wife left him. He wants Krista’s help to catch Elliot, but she refuses. Lenny returns to his apartment with takeout food and watches the news—riots are breaking out in Europe over a massive computer hack.

  • Notes: This is the first time we’ve seen “Michael Hansen” since the pilot, episode S01E01. Krista has a friend at Sloan Kettering. He mentions the real-life Ashley Madison hack that happened in July 2015, just a few weeks before this episode aired.

  • Filming Location: Krista meets him at the same location where they had dinner in S01E01, Pierre Loti, a real wine and tapas bar located at 300 East 52nd Street in Midtown East. Pierre Loti operates two other locations in New York City.

  • Terminology: Sloan Kettering is the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center, according to their website. They were founded in 1884 and are located in New York City

The Hack

Elliot wakes up in an SUV—he doesn’t remember where he’s been. The parking attendant says it’s been days and he needs more money, and in cash—the credit card systems are still down. He’s confused and asks us, the audience, what we remember, but then adds that he doesn’t trust us. Elliot realizes it’s Tyrell Wellick’s SUV and flees.

Filming Location: The parking lot scene was filmed on the corner of 17th Street and 6th Avenue in Chelsea, beneath street artist Nick Walker’s Love Vandal.

Burn Rate

Angela, nervous, arrives at the Evil Corp headquarters. She’s late for work—she’s been hired to work in the PR department. At AllSafe, Gideon Goddard is going over his company finances with Penelope, his part-time CFO and friend. His burn rate is so high, he’ll be out of money soon. She suggests they close the doors—with his primary customer Evil Corp. on the ropes, there’s no coming back.

  • Notes: Gideon mentions “rearranging chairs on the Titanic,” a common saying for a hopeless situation. The interviewer mentions the global market reaction and says Evil Corp has lost “more than $400 billion of wealth was lost today.”

  • Characters: Penelope, AllSafe’s part-time CFO, is played by Susan Pourfar.

  • Filming Location: Evil Corp is located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 57th Street in NYC. The exact address is 135 East 57th Street. According to Untapped Cities, this is the same building used as the offices of Norman Osborn in the first Spider-Man movie.

  • Quotes: Penelope: “Gideon, I handle the money. It's always going to be a depressing conversation.”

  • Terminology: A burn rate is how fast a company is losing money after all profits and expenses are calculated. Many tech companies and startups have a high burn rate as they race to become profitable or launch a product or service.

Burned

At fsociety headquarters, they’re destroying all the hard drives and computers. Elliot arrives and everyone’s mad at him for EXECUTING the hack without them. He’s confused. Darlene says he disappeared from the apartment—she’d gone out to get his meds—and has been gone for three days.

Elliot doesn’t remember and wonders what happened with Wellick. He gets on-line and reads about the massive hack to Evil Corp’s data center—a “weekend” breach has “reportedly eliminated all record of individual and corporate debt owed to the company.” The NSA is searching for fsociety, who take all the computer parts to a dog shelter, where they get access to a burn room normally used to cremate dead animals. On her way out, Trenton and the others pick the locks and lets all the dogs free.

  • Notes: The earlier breach is now known as “the Colby Scandal.” The news reports, all dated 5/12/15, also mention the hack in China to destroy backups stored at “Evil Corp’s Chinese data centers” and “wide-scale” credit card system outages. Popular website io9 shows a headline that reads “Five Steel Mountain Facilities Could Also Be Involved in Systemic Hack.” Io9, a division of Gawker Media, reports on tech news among other subjects. A longer article speculates that fsociety formed in late 2014 and mentions the Federal Reserve’s potential response.

Panic

Elliot arrives at Evil Corp to find the employees in a panic. Elliot can’t figure out why Tyrell Wellick didn’t stop the hack—Elliot remembers telling him the whole plan. Elliot goes to Wellick’s home but he’s not there, but Joanna is. He’s immediately creeped out by her and asks us, the audience, for our help. “I feel like she can hear us.” He tells Joanna his name is “Ollie.”

  • Notes: Elliot says the worm took Darlene maybe two hours to code. As he walks through the Evil Corp offices, they show President Obama on a television, meeting with his “cabinet members” to formulate a response to the global hack.

  • Quotes: According to IMDB, what Joanna says to Elliot on the street in front of their home means in Danish: “if you did something to him, I am going to kill you.” Interestingly, this is also apparently the only foreign language through the whole season that isn’t subtitled.

  • Terminology: A worm is a program that makes data unreadable. 256-AES is an encryption methodology, or Advanced Encryption Standard, that uses a key that is 256 bits long. According to an article on encryption levels at EE Times, it “would take 1 billion billion years to crack the 128-bit AES key using a brute force attack. This is more than the age of the universe (13.75 billion years.)”

End of the World

Back at Wellick’s SUV, Elliot calls out for Mr. Robot to appear, but he doesn’t show up. Elliot searches the car and finds a USB drive hidden in a pair of sunglasses.

At fsociety, Darlene asks the other members of fsociety to hand out party fliers as their last official act together as a group. The others are depressed and wonder what happened to their “fearless leader” Elliot. He’s at a cyber cafe and opens the USB drive, which contains a video titled “Boardwalk Fail” that shows Elliot sitting on the railing at Coney Island and then jumping off.

Elliot realizes he has to force Mr. Robot’s hand and calls the police to confess. Mr. Robot appears. Elliot throws him against a wall and strangles him, demanding to know where Wellick is. Mr. Robot reminds him: “you know how weird this looks, right?” and we cut to what everyone else is seeing—Elliot holding HIMSELF by the neck against the wall. Elliot doesn’t care. Mr. Robot gets Elliot punched in the face.

The End of the World Party gets underway, and Darlene chastises the others for not being happier with what they’ve accomplished.

  • Notes: The actual skateboarding video show during this episode is available to watch on-line at Vimeo, uploaded by a user named “sk84904.” The link is here. The party invitation says “End of the World Party.” Between those words are written “Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Fsociety.” This is a play on the film Dr. Strangelove, with features a secondary title of “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.” The flyer also says the party will feature DJ Mobley and offer “free booze.” The party will be at the Coney Island Arcade and run “tonight 9pm to ???” The video shows that Elliot was alone at the end of S01E02 when he’s supposedly talking to Mr. Robot and was “pushed” off. When we see Elliot holding himself against the wall, this is the first time we see one of his Mr. Robot delusions from someone else’s perspective.

  • Characters: The huge guy that punches Mr. Robot/Elliot in the face for insulting his wife? He’s played by Adrian Matilla and officially listed in the cast as “Huge Guy.”

Evil Corp

At Evil Corp, James Plouffe prepares to go on TV for a live interview. He’s the Executive Vice President of Technology, so he probably works for CTO Knowles, and Angela works for him now. She helps him find a bag of missing paperwork he’s looking for. On the air, he answers questions and addresses concerns about the hack. Pushed into a corner, he agrees with the interviewer: the public should be worried. He then reaches for his bag, pulls out a gun, and shoots himself on live TV.

Afterward, CEO Phillip Price talks to the police and then sits with Angela, who has blood on her shoes. She goes out to shop for new shoes and argues with the clerk, who chastises her for working at Evil Corp. Back at work, she chats with Price, who’s impressed with her and is happy that Plouffe killed himself. “He was weak.” Price then speaks to the gathered company personnel and lauds Plouffe for his bravery. Angela realizes that she’s surrounded by evil.

  • Notes: The on-air suicide of Plouffe has some similarities to the real life on-air suicide of politician R. Budd Dwyer on January 22, 1987. The Pennsylvania politician killed himself in front of gathered reporters and others during a news conference. He had been convicted of receiving a bribe and was due to be sentenced the next day.

  • Filming Location: The interview scene was shot in the SoHi conference room at the Trump Soho, located at 246 Spring Street in New York City. Checking out the hotel website, you can review their meetings section and see photos of the SoHi conference room—it’s at the top of the building on the 46th floor, measures 34 x 56 feet, and features a 13 foot-high ceiling. This is the same room used in the board room scene in S01E02, when Wellick offers Elliot a job. And after the suicide, Angela heads to L.K. Bennett at 655 Madison Avenue for a new pair of shoes and a lecture. Phillip Price address the gathered employees of Evil Corp at Gotham Hall, a former bank and current event space. Built between 1922 and 1924 as the Greenwich Savings Bank, it has become an event space and is available for rent.

Times Square

In Times Square, protesters are marching, cheering on fsociety for the massive hack. Mr. Robot and Elliot are arguing—Elliot wants to know what happened to Wellick. Elliot asks us, the audience to help. “Stop talking to them,” Mr. Robot says. “They can’t help us.” Elliot’s mother and a younger version of him appear, saying Mr. Robot is right. Elliot says none of them are real. “Neither is whoever you’re talking to,” Mr. Robot says, talking about us, the audience.

Surrounded by chanting crowds, Elliot wishes he could be alone. Everyone disappears, including Mr. Robot, and Elliot’s left alone in a silent Times Square. Mr. Robot appears on one of the advertising screens, telling Elliot he needs to trust him. Elliot complies and walks to the subway, heading home. He watches the news on his computer, enjoying the “beautiful carnage” he’s created. There is a knock on the door, and he goes to open it—and the screen goes black.

  • Notes: Mr. Robot, being part of Elliot, knows that we, the audience, exist.

  • Quotes: Mr. Robot: “Is any of it real? I mean, look at this, look at it! A world built on fantasy! Synthetic emotions in the form of pills! Psychological warfare in the form of advertising! Mind altering chemicals in the form of food! Brainwashing seminars in the form of media! Controlled isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. Real? You want to talk about reality? We haven't lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century! We turned it off, took out the batteries, snacked on a bag of GMOs, while we tossed the remnants into the ever expanding dumpster of the human condition. We live in branded houses, trademarked by corporations, built on bipolar numbers, jumping up and down on digital displays, hypnotizing us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen. You'd have to dig pretty deep, kiddo, before you can find anything real. We live in a kingdom of bullshit, that even you have lived in for far too long. So don't tell me about not being real: I'm no less real than the f*cking beef patty in your Big Mac. As far as you are concerned, Elliot, I am very real. We are all together now, whether you like it or not.”

The Estate

After the credits start, another scene begins with the exterior of an opulent mansion. Whiterose arrives in a limo, this time dressed as a man, and enters the party, chatting with Evil Corp. CEO Phillip Price. They discuss another business deal, then get to the matter at hand: the hack. Whiterose thinks Price knows who is behind the hack, and Price confirms it, saying they will deal with it.

  • Notes: In the final scene, the harpist is playing “Nearer My God to Thee,” a song famously played on the Titanic as the great ship was sinking. There was an earlier allusion to the Titanic when Gideon felt like all of his efforts to save AllSafe were nothing more than “rearranging the chairs” on the Titanic.

  • Filming Location: The mansion shown in the last scene is the famous Hempstead House, located at 1217 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, New York. The mansion, also known as the Gould-Guggenheim Estate, was built in 1912—interestingly, the same year as the Titanic sunk, a recurring theme of this episode. The estate grounds actually contain two castle-like buildings: the Hempstead House and Castle Gould, a smaller home. The building’s website states that the location is available for magazine shoots, commercials and other productions.

-------------------------------------—

Critique:

The season finale arrives and delivers us the promise of the entire season—a world in financial chaos. And Elliot’s missed the whole thing, spending days in an SUV in a parking lot. Skipping over the details of someone spending 48 hours in a van—did he eat anything?—Elliot realizes the hack has happened and sets out to find out why. Wellick knew the whole plan, so why did he let it happen? And where is he?

Elliot spends the episode searching for Wellick. In the final moments of the last episode, Elliot glanced at the popcorn machine, where Darlene stashed her gun. How did Elliot know the gun was in there? Did he/Mr. Robot kill Wellick to prevent him from stopping the hack? Then what was the point of telling him the whole plan?

Everyone else is dealing with the repercussions of the hack—Evil Corp is scrambling to deal with the destruction of all of their financial records, citizens around the world are rising up, and Angela and Gideon are dealing with changes in their lives. Angela has taken the PR job at Evil Corp. But by the end of the episode, she realizes she’s sinking deeper into the soulless corporation. Gideon looks like he’s on the ropes as well—his company is burning cash and he seems hopeless.

Elliot struggles to deal with his imagined father, soon to be joined by an imagined mother and younger version of himself. The scenes in Times Square bring home Elliot’s deep delusions, including the ominous silence of an empty space that’s usually filled with so much bustle and commotion. Elliot is lost and alone even when he’s surrounded by others—and in the end, he finally realizes that he’s truly alone. Mr. Robot is in charge and Elliot knows it, following his instructions.

It doesn’t really matter at this point—there is nothing Elliot or anyone else can do to reverse the hack. This episode is about people dealing with things that have already happened. While everyone else in the world is dealing with the fallout of the hack—there are many scenes of worried world leaders scrambling to react to the computer breach or reassure the public—Elliot’s dealing with what he learned in the cemetery last episode. He’s alone and he’s been alone all along.

There’s a nice scene where Mr. Robot walks over and insults a man in the coffee shop, showing that we can’t trust Elliot’s perception of where “he” is and where “Mr. Robot” is in the world. In his mind, he’s still standing against the wall, watching Mr. Robot cross to the man and insult him. But we know—but never see—that it’s actually Elliot that crosses to the man and insults him. He’s imagining himself watching Mr. Robot get punched. This scene explains some of the past scenes where we’ve seen Elliot watching Mr. Robot talking to others or when Mr. Robot is alone, talking to people. We understand now that it was Elliot all along.

The show ends with a mystery: who’s at the door? There are several options. It could be Wellick, still alive and furious at Elliot for going through with the hack. Or it could be Michael Hansen, who has tracked Elliot down and angry at him for ruining his life. I think it’s probably Darlene, still mad at Elliot for missing the “end of the world” party.

Or maybe it’s the NSA or the FBI.

The after credits scene reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut, with the long tracking shot through opulence that seems completely unthreatened by the chaos outside. We see the 1% drinking champagne served by beautiful women—notice that the only women in the mansion act as servants to a group of very wealthy men—and talking about matters of finance and power. Price doesn’t even seem that upset over the hack that threatens to destroy his company. Whiterose, appearing for the first time since S01E08 and this time dressed as a man, hints that Evil Corp needs to deal with Elliot. And Price says they will soon enough.

Episode Notes:

Although he’s mentioned several times, Tyler Wellick is not seen during this episode. “Zero Day,” the title of the episode, refers to the day when a computer program is scheduled to attack. According to IMDB, this episode was originally scheduled to air on August 26 but was delayed due to a shooting that occurred in Roanoke, Virginia earlier in the day. Two members of a local news team were reporting live in Roanoke when they were approached by a disgruntled former employee of the station and shot. Both were killed, and the gunman was chased in a manhunt that lasted nearly five hours before the shooter shot himself. The network delayed the airing of this episode over concerns about a backlash over a scene—the one of Plouffe killing himself live on the air—in the episode’s finale.

References:

NOTE: All sites accessed on September 2, 2016.

Greg Enslen is an Ohio author and columnist. He's written and published eight books, including four fiction titles and four collections of essays and columns. Several are available through Gypsy Publications of Troy, Ohio. To receive updates on upcoming titles, sneak previews and appearances, subscribe to Email Goodies. For more information, please see his Amazon Author Page or visit his Facebook fan page.