Mr. Robot: 409 Conflict
December 2, 2019 1:03 PM - Season 4, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Another thrilling ep. How did Mr. Robot put it, "Why do we always cut things so close?"

- Very pleasing and suspenseful SMS-interception hack. Just shows we all need to get onto app-based 2FA systems, or if you're a billionaire, a physical key.

- Where did they transfer all the money?

- Still four episodes to go! Quite a lot of plot was resolved in this ep, but there's still a fair few questions to answer, like the purpose of Whiterose's machine; the secret discussed at the start of the ep with all of Elliot's alt personalities; and of course, the fallout from the hacl.
posted by adrianhon at 1:09 PM on December 2, 2019

So looks like Elliot has a bunch of money - as well as the plans for the "machine." A machine that allows either some sort of alternate life, or some sort of time travel, or similar - implied to be able to undo things as drastic as death. All that handed to someone who just remembered a bunch of suppress trauma. It's going to be very interesting to see where they take this - there's no way they set all of this up for no reason.

That hack was generally good. Having worked with some unique financial institutions in the past, I'm totally willing to believe that the banks that are the most likely places to hide money from scrutiny also have really rudimentary 2FA - less willing to believe that they'd be advanced enough to proactively push overdraw notifications.

The phishing combined with the lack of "operator knowledge" for manual operation of the parking lot gate was also believable - the greatest weaknesses to systems are the ones that involve exploiting people and not code.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Such a wonderful end to Pryce.
posted by armacy at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

hackerrific! The Vice article really digs into it. Good stuff. : )

I would still be surprised, tho, that even if all the big Deus guns had mega funds tied up in their group's accounts and they were permitted via reasons to xfer huuuuuge amounts of money whenever they wanted, that at least one of them would not either
a) know something about multi-factor authentication, and use an app instead of SMS, or
b) have an assistant at their beck and call 24/7 who they would ask 'uh, hey, what up, dis?'

Also I have trouble believing that whiterose ever has her own actual consistent phone. I'd figure every single phone (if not every single phone call) would be some kind of burner.
posted by bitterkitten at 4:57 PM on December 2, 2019

Michael Cristofer was so fun to watch throughout the episode. I wish I had been able to pay better attention to his monologue on the steps at the end, but I was so tense about the hack that I couldn't focus on it.

The one thing I found hard to believe is that the garage hack would have been so effective for so long. First, there had to have been other key fob transmitters that the attendant could have tried. I don't recall him running back to the booth/office to find one. Second, since it seemed there was a physical or mechanical way to move the gate, wouldn't the attendant have tried that after 30 seconds or so? Third, there is no way the drivers would have just sat in their cars honking and screaming. Assuming these are staff drivers for the top 1% of the 1%, they would have been actively working to get the gate down and get where their bosses wanted them to be.

Also, when was the video filmed and who is behind the mask?
posted by nequalsone at 9:59 PM on December 2, 2019

The video was shot by Darlene in the (costume? dry cleaners?) shop that she broke into. It was a fast social hack and a great callback to what started this drama.

I am enjoying this season a great deal. Each of the seemingly bottle episodes I feel is going to have more pay-off as we move into the resolution of Elliot into a whole being. And with a possible re-write of his personal history or a Neon Genesis: Evangelion style exploration of alternate realities (or are they?) this whole thing may become more PKD than ever.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:40 PM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

nequalsone: Yeah, the ineptitude of the garage attendant stuck out but I was willing to give it a pass since it may have only been a couple of minutes in total (editing/timeline magic) and perhaps they've never had to move the gate manually before. If they showed the cars in there for any longer, I wouldn't have believed it, but it was just about credible.
posted by adrianhon at 2:11 AM on December 3, 2019

great episode, this season is really delivering on storytelling, creativity and drama.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:10 AM on December 3, 2019

Re: the attendant: As someone who has had to operate those kinds of thing before, you may have once been shown how to lower the blockade manually once. If you do not have to use that knowledge, say because the blockade has always worked (until someone uses a not to common piece of jamming tech on a garage blockade), it fades.

Figuring out how fix it while being pressured by frustrated drivers is not helpful. Also the engineers who design those things almost never make it simple or obvious to anyone how to manually override their system. Why would you need to? Feckin eejits (though in fairness, if it has always work they probably did their job well overall). There are no doubt at least four switches with several possible positions and no clear markings. One of them is behind one of the hydraulic hoses and is therefore non-obvious. And of course you have to do it right or you risk losing fingers. Or there is one switch which is directly behind the hoses and all you have to do is flip it. You just need to have fingers the width of a four year-old and five inches long. (Apologies, I am bitter.)
posted by Ignorantsavage at 5:33 AM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ah thanks Ignorantsavage. The tip off obviously was the Guy Fawkes mask when she broke into the building. (Talk about serendipity! Unless we are supposed to think she was carrying it around in her bag?) But it cut quickly to the garage, which I at first thought was one of those cafeteria-style places around Wall Street that taxi drivers and security guards frequent at night that Darlene was going to use as her HQ for the bank hack. By the time I figured out it was the drivers for the DEUS group playing cards in the garage, I had lost track of where Darlene was and what she was up to. Later, when the video came on, my first thought was that she had done it on the fly but later it seemed less plausible and I had forgotten the clues.

I thought a bunch of the editing tonight was sloppy (or intentionally confusing, perhaps). When the camera followed the waitperson right after Darlene scoped out the fancy club, I though, "Awesome Darlene, made it in. I wonder how she pulled that off. Weird that they just skipped over it. Now she just has to find a place to set up shop. Here's a spot. Nope. Maybe here? .... Oh, that's not actually Darlene!" It served the purpose and was clever but maybe just a little too.

Not to get too hung up on the garage gate, but the problem wasn't that it wasn't easy for the attendant to fix, it was that they kept cutting back from other scenes to show the attendant standing in the same position, at the same distance from the gate, clicking the button over and over again. At least that was the impression I got. I guess it goes under confusing editing or not enough clues for your average viewer to track how much time was passing. They could have shown him on the phone or walkie-talkie trying to get another worker to come look at it. Practically anyone would have walked over to the gate, peered at it, maybe given it a Fonzi-esque thump? If the attendant didn't do that, one of the drivers would have gotten out and investigated for sure. It almost made it seem like he was stalling, like he was in league with Darlene.

I was also confused that Whiterose was spending so much time on the phone at the first location, trying to manage the fallout from the DEUS meeting from a distance rather than taking those calls from the car while trying to get there to handle it in person. Maybe that part was only supposed to be 3 or 4 minutes? Out on the steps, it was obvious that Pryce was stalling to allow the hack to go through. Did Elliot tell him enough about the mechanics of the hack that he would have known when it went through? I guess maybe, so that he could stall if necessary.
posted by nequalsone at 7:23 AM on December 3, 2019

from the Vice link:

“Technologists, hackers, and journalists recap the ninth episode of the final season of the realistic hacking show.”

posted by mwhybark at 3:30 PM on December 3, 2019

I am amazed by Elliot's and Darlene's ability to type incredibly quickly without a single typo (especially on Darlene's phone), without even using tab completion.
posted by ShooBoo at 3:37 PM on December 4, 2019

The problem with the garage gate is why is a high-security device designed to stop someone from driving a car bomb under the building facing in.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am amazed by Elliot's and Darlene's ability to type incredibly quickly without a single typo (especially on Darlene's phone), without even using tab completion.

Similarly, I'm always boggled by the idea that before the hack, they didn't write a script called ./ to make all the magic happen without a whole lot of typing? Realtime typing parameters on command lines? Seriously?
posted by mikelieman at 8:16 PM on December 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

The total hacking-centric focus on this episode including all the satisfying real code results on screens was utterly delicious.

I've been Oddly Compulsively Rewatching episodes this season, starting with the "we don't have to talk" episode, and the experience has been rewarding. Lots of details, lots of appreciation for structure, utter amazement at the acting by all involved but esp. Malik...

I'm waiting for this series to end so I can rewatch it as a novel, but based on this season and my rewatches, I may not be binging. I may be digesting.
posted by hippybear at 2:02 AM on December 5, 2019

Also, a shoutout to all the various recaps who have helped me keep in touch with a series like this -- very few episodes over a zillion years. Like, yes, someone mentioned "Alexander" in S4E3, but how was I supposed to remember Alexander being this guy in S2E2?

Recaps are great.

I'd love for there to be a genre that was recap recaps, where the people who wrote the recaps first-run binge watch the show and then also read their recaps on each episode and do posts where they talk about the 5-6 hours of the show they watched that day and how about what they know from the ending point and what they were going on about during the run and how they feel about watching the show now in this compressed format.

I'd read those.
posted by hippybear at 2:06 AM on December 5, 2019

This episode was all I ever wanted from this show! As frustrating as this season has been, the heist episode and this one were worth all the trouble.

As we near the end I'll throw out a couple of my theories:

1. Who's the third personality? My money is on Eliot Alderson. The Eliot we've been watching this whole time is a personality created to escape some kind of trauma (they literally said "you were born a month ago" at some point, and the Eliot we've been watching didn't recognize his own sister or his father when he saw them.)

2. Whiterose's machine? She obviously believes it will make it possible to revisit an earlier time. My theory is that rather than being a time machine, it's designed to "break" our timeline, by creating a loop or whatever, causing time to revert back to the day before Whiterose's boyfriend killed himself. A normal person would invent a time machine, a narcissist would be equally happy with a machine that would destroy the present world and everyone in it just to get back to an earlier time.

(Pryce knew this and believed it would work, thus he wants Eliot to destroy the machine because he knows it won't bring Angela back, it will just erase her entire existence.)

My second theory is that Whiterose is a lunatic and the machine is an insane leap of hubris and will not work.

With all the commentary on the Top 1% and Trump and so on, it would fit right in with the philosophy of this show that an organization led by the world's richest people has spent billions of dollars and created hazardous conditions that killed a bunch of people, all to build a machine that has absolutely no basis in science and will do nothing at all.
posted by mmoncur at 5:06 AM on December 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Alternate silly theory: Whiterose's machine will break the 4th wall, allowing the characters from the show to enter the real world. Eliot really can see Angela again except that she'll be an actress named Portia Doubleday who doesn't have any of Angela's memories except the ones she remembers from the script.
posted by mmoncur at 5:10 AM on December 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Woo this is the Mr. Robot I like! I hated the last two episodes, all the apartment torture, the escalation of Eliot's childhood trauma. Bleah. Bring me more of this, the hacker caper show, the tension, the smart fun.

It was a very clever device splitting up the Deus Group into two buildings, requiring two separate hacks in parallel. It lets them have all the tension focused on Eliot/Mr Robot, a one on one duel, while Darlene gets to do something equally difficult but completely different in a parallel story. Double the tension!

The one weird thing is Pryce is left being the face of the Whiter0se hack. But oh boy did Michael Cristofer sell it. I love that he sits there and then just proceeds to get drunk. Again, the acting really sold that, and he seemed both sloppy and yet still more or less in control. Also the dramatic irony where he knows the broad shape of what's coming and can taunt Whiter0se, but doesn't know the details to give the plan away... Just a great way to tell a caper story.

Speaking of control, Whiter0se completely lost it here. 100%. Both in the small, getting angry with his staff, with Pryce, finally shooting Pryce in a completely stupid move. And in the large, the hack apparently worked?! I have a feeling out-of-control Whiter0se is going to be much more dangerous, although maybe mostly to herself.

I loved Darlene's ruse to smoke out the Deus Group, to post a video that she'd doxxed them. She sort of had; she had their phone numbers at that point. But only just barely, and no time to do the real research behind every member. (Or had they done all that research before, in preparation?) Anyway it felt like a hasty bluff, and a smart one, complete with another goofily edited 4chan fSociety video delivering the word.

It seems to me the only remaining mystery is Whiter0se's machine. Right? What else is left to resolve? I'm assuming Angela is really dead, barring multiple universe / time travel idiocy. Dom's story seems over. The rest of Eliot's personalities are still a question. They hint there's 4, right? Eliot himself, Mr. Robot, young Eliot... and the fourth is a mystery? I'd also love some treatment of what happens to the financial world post-hack, that was such an interesting theme in the second season. And maybe revisit our old fSociety buddies who were last seen hiding out at a Fry's in New Mexico. (Or did they do something with them?)
posted by Nelson at 8:10 AM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

The first scene in this episode would imply that the fourth personality is his mother.

Like, that's why that scene sort of bothers me. There's two, right? Eliot and Mr Robot? But then there's a third, Young Eliot. Okay, he was a secret, but he's been active all along.

But now there's this room with Mr Robot and Young Eliot and Mother? Like, why is she even there? She's not on the list.
posted by hippybear at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel like one other unresolved character is the now-freelance Leon; I'd love to see him again. Fingers crossed.

Sadly, the Fry's fSociety members got something done to them already (last season?)
posted by mabelstreet at 2:08 PM on December 8, 2019

On this rewatch, I'm wondering if this whole "alternate reality" spiel isn't some form of hypnotic technique that Whiterose has developed. It seems like a routine he has used, and with very specific vocal tones each time, and I'd have to compare the music used, but maybe it is similar?

Its a very interesting sort of ploy, trying to convince someone you can change history. Not sure why it worked on Angela.
posted by hippybear at 10:24 PM on July 14, 2020

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