USA’s Mr. Robot
Season 4, Episode 3: “403 Forbidden”
Directed by Sam Esmail
Written by Courtney Looney
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “402 Payment Required” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “404 Not Found” – click here
1982. IBM is making deals with the Chinese government. Or, trying to, anyway. A younger Zhi Zhang makes a deal to bring the first IBM factory to Asia, and while the white guys rejoice they have no idea Zhang was planning to steal all their “intellectual property.” He was busy flirting with Chen, planning their next night together alone. Interesting use of Boy George and Culture Club on TV, as Zhang was probably seeing gender lines blurred more than he had before. That night, Chen comes back to the room to discover Whiterose there as her true self. Zhang revealed herself in a dress belonging to her mother, and Chen accepted her.
In current day, Zhang plans for the big project to be a kind of big coming out for her true identity. She must be Minister Zhang right now. Wang Shu tries to tell him not to celebrate yet. There are many things to consider before they’re in the clear. Such as “cartoon character” Freddy Lomax’s suicide. Wang thinks it’s Eliot and that Price’s sudden resignation is more than a simple coincidence. So Zhang has her keep up pressure on Price and an eye on the hacker.
A flashback shows Zhang having to watch Chen be married off to a woman. “I love you,” the groom told him. He didn’t want to go through with it, whereas Zhang insisted they’d figure things out. When plans for Zhang to become ambassador to the U.S. didn’t work out and he took the position as Minister of State Security it made things seem impossible to Chen, who didn’t want to live in a country that forbade them to love one another. And this is part of why Whiterose wants to build a “better world.” But part of why it’s all gone wrong is because Chen couldn’t wait that long. He committed suicide rather than go on in pain. The past makes Zhang unwilling to be patient. He’s bringing the Deus Group together, ASAP. He’s also decided to extend the offer of CEO to Tyrell Wellick. Very, very interesting.
On the street, Elliot runs into Krista Gordon. He rambles about Mr. Robot a bit before she blurts out that she doesn’t “feel safe” around him. She tells him not to contact her again, in any way, or she’ll call the cops. He offers one last thank you for her help, then he walks off into the crowd.
Meanwhile, there are people always watching. Always.
Elliot and Darlene are attempting to find a way into the Cyprus National Bank. She’s pinpointed a woman called Olivia Cortez, a contact of the deceased Susan Jacobs, who’s the only U.S. account manager for the Deus Group. They have to get physical access to her laptop to really dig in. They also have to navigate the complexities of the various family mental health issues.
Elliot gets inside Olivia’s apartment and into the laptop. But there’s little time left to get things done. The hacker’s not sure of what to do next to get the information they need. He’s starting to get a bit more serious than Mr. Robot cares to see. He’s going to go full on extortion mode. Dad manages to be more slick, giving them access to her key fob without having to do anything crazy.
Speaking of crazy, Fernando has one of his guys, DJ, following Elliot all over the place. He’s looking to be “King of New York.” He hopes to make the hacker his partner, not force him into business with him. DJ mentions Elliot’s argument on the street with Krista, which could offer possibilities for these dirtbags. Well, not for DJ, because Vera shoots him in the gut, then in the face, all for not being “detail oriented.”
At the bar, Elliot awkwardly talks with Olivia, casually mentioning the death of his mom. They actually wind up bonding. Probably not a good idea when you’re going to use someone as a way to hack into a major national bank and, further, an international conglomerate of sketchy people. Elliot goes on to talk about his morphine addiction, as well as the heroin he had forced into his veins. He and Olivia are interrupted when her online date shows up. She pretends not to know him, rushing out, and Elliot eventually takes the hint to head outside and kiss her. They wind up back at her place. It’s only so he can get what he needs. Except Olivia starts to tell Elliot more about herself, and they’re both incredibly alike, which he doesn’t experience often, if at all.
Later, when Elliot gets home, he finds his door bust in, and outside there’s a van following him. He and Mr. Robot talk it out, then he goes through the apartment door where Wellick’s waiting with news about becoming CEO. Elliot tries to tell him to shut up, writing THEY’RE LISTENING on a notepad. Because, as always, there’s somebody watching closely. Too close.
A wonderful, and at times beautiful episode.
What an amazing swan song of a season.
“404 Not Found” is next.