Mr. Robot: “eps1.43xpl0its.wmv”

Posted on July 24, 2015


Rami Malek in USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.”

Once again, we find ourselves flummoxed at the prospect of attempting to provide you with a point-by-point recap of what happened this episode. The idea of somehow explaining what it all means left the building some time ago, but we’re hanging on by our fingernails to the idea that we can still come up with a half-way decent summary. In fact, we fear we have no choice but to lapse into the kind of review you’re not supposed to write if you want to be a Serious Critic; one that becomes all about your own reaction to the piece instead of the piece itself. You’re not supposed to use “I” or “me” too many times when you’re reviewing and critiquing a work. Which is good, because we write in first-person plural all the time, so we’ll just be using “We” and “us” instead.

Smartassery aside, please don’t take our unwillingness to recap or contextualize this episode as a criticism of the show on our parts – or even an admission of defeat. We, like any viewer, could spend the hours after each episode looking up the terminology or finding forums online where people will explain just what the fuck is going on, but we’re still firmly committed to the idea of simply letting Mr. Robot wash over you. And the longer we watch the show, the more we think we have the right idea; that the creators of the show actually want us to sit back a little and let things happen. It’s how Elliott himself experiences the world in so many ways, so you’re only putting yourself that much closer to the inner workings of his mind when you do the same. We’re huge proponents of the idea that good pieces of art beg for an active instead of passive interaction from the audience, but this time, we’re thinking maybe you should just spark up or have a glass of wine or take an Ambien and just see where things go.

But here:

Angela leaves her douche-bro of a boyfriend and goes home to Daddy after uploading that something-something from the Dark Army into All-Safe’s computers. Elliot and his Scooby Gang of strangely intense hackers get him in the front door of Steel Mountain by being total fucking sociopaths and tearing a very nice man down and then later ruining a very nice lady’s day by making her think her husband was dying. To be honest, these were our favorite scenes in the episode, because they handily demonstrated just how dangerously fucked up F Society is, making for a nice little reminder to the viewer that, just in case you forgot for a moment, you’re cheering on the anarchic sociopaths in this story. In addition, Elliot’s “kill yourself” speech, which cut that poor man to shreds with surgical precision, was a brilliant and electrifying summation of his character. Pro-Tip: If you want to really tear someone down, hire a high-functioning depressed schizophrenic genius going through morphine withdrawal to do it. His mind is made of knives.

Anyway, after disposing of the human beings in his path, Elliot promptly runs into Wellick (speaking of sociopaths…), who takes him out to lunch and pretty much says “I’m onto you, mister…” Also: Wellick later watches a lady pee after insulting both her and her husband over wine. She acts all annoyed and shit, as if she were overcharged for her muffin or something, but then she pulls a Sharon Stone and launches her spreadsheet at him. But we digress. Elliot manages to install the Raspberry Pi thingamajig, but unfortunately, the Dark Army pulled out or something, leaving F Society holding the ball or something, and then Darlene has an epic freakout and winds up getting into a screaming match with Mr. Robot.

With Mr. Robot. 

Suddenly and without any fanfare, characters are openly and explosively interacting with Christian Slater’s character. What made it so deliciously disorienting was that very lack of fanfare. This is why we think passively watching this show can be to a viewer’s benefit, because when everyone started acknowledging him and interacting with him, we wound up once again questioning our own perceptions and grips on reality. Wait, have they always talked to him and we just misread the scenes? Was there some sort of explanatory shift we missed? Should we go back a few minutes and rewatch?

But note that everyone who interacts with Mr. Robot does not interact with Elliot at the same time, because they’ve switched places in their scenes. Whenever Mr. Robot interacts with anyone, Elliot recedes into the background of the scene, as if he’s the one who’s the imaginary character. It’s possible Elliot and Mr. Robot are merely facets of a much larger picture ; that they both might be the ego and id of … well, to be honest, we don’t know. It’s possible when we encounter Elliot or Mr. Robot, we’re looking inside the mind of someone we might not have even met yet.


Randoms, and then we’re out:

Wellick is a sociopath and a freak but we are LIVING for his even more psycho wife.

We’re not loving the psycho drug dealer storyline or the highly unlikely way he figured out Elliot was his snitch.

They had Angela, in the midst of a personal and moral crisis, come to a literal fork in the road, which, because we were so sucked into her world at the moment, had us involuntarily blurting out (quite loudly, in retrospect) “OH JESUS, NO. YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT, MR. ROBOT.”  Which is both a testament to how dumb that moment was but also a testament to just how engaged and enraptured we were by the story. Sure, we talk back to our screen like any opinionated viewer would in their own home, but something about Mr. Robot seems to induce some sort of fugue state in us (probably due to that constant low-level hum and the tinkly, ’80s style electronica on the soundtrack) that causes us to become much more blunt and emotional about it, like sports fans watching a bad call being made.

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