Warning: Mr. Robot Season 3 spoilers ahead.
When Mr. Robot first began, E Corp appeared to hold the most power and fsociety presented the greatest threat. Over time, though, audiences came to realize that the Dark Army actually holds the most power and provides the real threat. The Chinese hacker group played an integral role in executing the 5/9 hack with fsociety. Their leader Whiterose engineers events far beyond the realm of hacking, though.
As not only the leader of the Dark Army but through the facade of Minister Zheng — China's Minister of State Security — Whiterose has arguably shaped the narrative of #MrRobot more than any other character. Working with and against E Corp CEO Phillip Price, Whiterose exchanges billions of dollars and the sovereignty of nations like trading cards. FBI agents and even the Dark Army operative Cisco have been gunned down in order to protect Whiterose's agenda.
As E Corp employees, Elliot and Darlene's father and Angela's mother died working on the Washington Township plant project, a project that unbeknownst to them served Whiterose's vision. Fans received a glimpse of the massive structure that's been worked on for years in the Season 3 premiere, something both Whiterose and Angela claim will reshape the way everyone perceives and experiences reality.
Given the extreme measures the Dark Army takes to protect themselves and complete their mysterious vision, it seems odd that they allow Darlene to live. Not only does Darlene no longer lead fsociety, but she became compromised by the FBI at the end of Season 2, something Dark Army operative Irving is well aware of in the taxi scene from the Season 3 premiere. However, the Dark Army has good reason for allowing Darlene to live as of now precisely because of her compromised position and relationship with Elliot.
Elliot's importance to Whiterose and the Dark Army extends far beyond the 5/9 hack. He remains a pivotal piece in their key schemes. But it is Mr. Robot that wants to work on Stage 2 with the Dark Army while Elliot works on undoing the damage of the hack through his new position at E Corp. The Season 3 premiere revealed that Angela can successfully navigate the Elliot-Mr. Robot dynamic as she is the only one who can always tell the two apart. She treats them differently, showing Elliot compassion and helping him get back on his feet. On the other hand, her relationship with Mr. Robot is more businesslike, calmly acting as the bridge that allows Mr. Robot, Tyrell, and the Dark Army to work together.
Darlene, however, is just as crucial to navigating the Elliot-Mr. Robot dynamic and allowing the Dark Army to exploit them. In Season 3, episode 2, audiences find out that Elliot believes Darlene is a trigger for manifesting Mr. Robot. This proves to be true as a childhood story about Elliot and Darlene leads to Mr. Robot manifesting during therapy with Krista. Mr. Robot also takes over when Darlene stays the night at Elliot's, trying to fulfill her bargain with the FBI. Darlene as a trigger also makes sense when revisiting Season 1 where Mr. Robot was constantly present when Elliot and Darlene worked on executing the 5/9 hack. Mr. Robot's existence isn't solely triggered by Darlene as he appeared frequently in prison and around Tyrell, circumstances in which Darlene wasn't present. Yet, since Mr. Robot is partly a manifestation of Elliot's father, his familial relationship with Darlene naturally helps brings Mr. Robot to the surface.
Right now for Stage 2, the Dark Army needs Mr. Robot, not Elliot. Keeping Darlene alive helps trigger Mr. Robot within Elliot, thus progressing the Dark Army's plans. In order for the partnership to work smoothly, Elliot needs to remain ignorant that he unknowingly becomes Mr. Robot and works with the Dark Army, but Darlene unintentionally helps with that as well. While trying to repair her relationship with Elliot and simultaneously obey the FBI, Darlene helps keep Elliot occupied, allowing Elliot to log meaningful interactions that don't include the Mr. Robot persona. As both a trigger for Mr. Robot and a distraction for Elliot, Darlene's survival is essential for the Dark Army's plans.
Darlene is also useful to the Dark Army precisely because of her compromised position with the FBI. First off, she provides a distraction from the real threat. FBI agent Dom continues to believe in a Dark Army connection to the 5/9 hack, fsociety and Tyrell Wellick. She's on the verge of seeing the bigger picture. Meanwhile, her boss places little stock in the Dark Army connections and focuses obsessively on using Darlene to take down fsociety and Tyrell. While the FBI focuses on Darlene, the Dark Army can continue their work. If the FBI gets to close to the truth, the Dark Army uses Darlene's snitching to backfire as evidenced by the encrypted message the FBI received at the end of Season 3, episode 2.
Beyond serving as a distraction, Darlene can also provide false or misleading information to the FBI. As they hound her concerning Elliot's relationship with Tyrell, she tells them the two men have no relationship. They disproved this with the phone call Elliot made to Tyrell from prison, but the whole situation causes the FBI to run in circles, never quite placing their finger on the fact that the Dark Army is behind it all. The significant information the FBI thought they were receiving from Elliot's computer thanks to Darlene was intentionally misleading them away from the truth, all a setup. In the Season 3 premiere Darlene also knows from Elliot's conversation with Irving that Stage 2 is supposedly off. It doesn't appear Darlene has divulged this to the FBI, but if she did, it would be yet another piece of distracting, false intel.
While working on the 5/9 hack and then as the leader of fsociety, Darlene acted as a brilliant, powerful character. Now she's caught between the FBI and Dark Army. As a trigger for Mr. Robot and a distraction for Elliot, and as a misleading snitch and distraction for the FBI, Darlene is currently the perfect pawn for Whiterose, thereby keeping her alive . . . for now.
What do you hope to see from Darlene as Season 3 of Mr. Robot continues? Sound off in the comments below!