The latest episode of Mr Robot finally let Elliot back onto the playground with the rest of the kids, but between his prison stint and his psychological issues Elliot quickly realised his world is more off the rails than he thought. Image: Michael Parmelee/USA Network
After weeks of sitting on the sideline, indulgently working through his mental shit while the rest of the characters get meaty stories, Elliot finally returned to the game this week. A quarter of the episode was spent translating every single aspect of his fantasy into the real world. It was a nice cap to a storyline that still never quite went anywhere. (If you’ll recall, the season one finale also ended with Elliot finding some peace with his inner voices. So a nine-episode detour to retread familiar ground feels incredibly wasteful — even if it was very pretty and often times amusing).
So Elliot’s back, and he’s still broken, and where once he had a grand anarchic plan that ultimately set the entire world into chaos, now he’s just out to protect his family and maybe figure out what the Dark Army, China’s sinister black ops group of hackers, is up to.
Which would be a lot easier if he wasn’t losing control of his body.
Image: Michael Parmelee/USA Network
Remember United States of Tara? It was this great little show about a woman living with multiple personalities. In a key moment towards the end of the show, one of the woman’s personalities takes over and hightails it to a tattoo parlour. Her daughter, played by future Captain Marvel Brie Larson, rushes into the parlour to save her mother’s body. She pleads with the person in front of her to stop, to overcome their psychosis and give her back her mum. It was a gorgeous science fiction moment nestled in a domestic dramedy.
As Elliot and Mr Robot found themselves drifting in and out of control of Elliot’s body I was reminded of that moment. Science fiction can be a great way to explore psychological issues. It allows a writer to give logical rules to behaviour that is often illogical. Loss of physical autonomy. Body switching. These are concepts that are safely explored in the realm of science fiction. Sometimes writers of more realistic stuff — like Mr Robot — then take all those moments we’re familiar with in science fiction and use them.
So the beats of Elliot’s latest bout of missing time feel familiar. But there’s a sinister edge to the lost minutes that wasn’t there before, like another personality might be at play in his mind. A ghost in Elliot’s mental machine.
Either that or Mr Robot, who seems terrified and concerned at Elliot’s lost time, is playing some long inner brain con.
While Elliot (and Darlene) try to get to the bottom of his forgotten arrangements with the Dark Army, Angela is gaining enough guts to stop being a pawn and start being a queen (or maybe just a bishop) over at Evil Corp.
She uses some of the hacking gear F Society gave her to download keys files that prove just how evil Evil Corp is. So much of Angela’s story this season has been about finding personal autonomy after being manipulated by nearly every single entity she’s ever known. She’s fumbled, for sure, awkwardly trying on different personalities in the hope of finding one that best suits her. She’s worn both a bitch face and good looks as armour, retreating behind them when cut down by old family friends or new, nefarious bosses. This week she wields both bitch face and beauty offensively, and, more importantly, confidently in order to gain access to the Evil Corp files.
It’s the most basic of social engineering ruses, but it means the least hack-proficient member of Elliot’s band is now officially a hacker herself.
But unlike F Society, Angela isn’t out to hack for anarchy or revolution. She just wants to destroy Evil Corp. And, also unlike F Society, Angela still trusts the government to do the right thing. Her trust nearly gets her killed when she tries to go whistleblower on her bosses.
But Angela hasn’t survived as long as she has, hasn’t scrambled as far up the ladder as she is, by being stupid. Angela may not know jack about Unix, but the woman isn’t stupid, and can see a murder set-up from a mile away.
So she survives her attempt at whistleblowing and returns home.
And that’s where Dom finds her.
Image: Peter Kramer/USA Network
Dom is a good guy. She’s a noble pursuer of truth. An honest upholder of justice as defined by the majority. She’s that old heroic private eye character, shuffling into the shitshow to offer some comfort and worldly experience. In another show she’d be a guy, and probably the lead.
Here she’s just a life preserver offered up to Angela, a way out of the deadly game she’s fallen into. Their scene together, with Angela’s fear simmering beneath the surface and balanced by Dom’s calm weariness, is a standout moment. It’s the start of a turning point for all these characters, not just Angela and Dom — away for them to maybe fix a part of the apocalypse they have all kickstarted.
All they have to do is reach out and trust in a stranger. Which is never an easy thing to do.
- Darlene’s boyfriend is not dead, and is surprisingly easygoing about being beaten with a baseball bat.
- White Rose’s involvement with Evil Corp goes back over 20 years, to the accident that led to the death of Angela’s mum and Darlene and Elliot’s dad.
- White Rose really didn’t like the old head of Evil Corp.
- Looks like Elliot’s got another personality hanging out inside his head.
- The slow descent of the whole world into chaos is spelled out this week in brownouts, blackouts and a reminder that all credit and debit cards are completely worthless. Who knew how close we all lived to Mr Robot‘s dystopia?