Mr. Robot: eps1.8m1rr0r1ng.qt

Posted on August 20, 2015

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Rami Malek and Christian Slater in “Mr. Robot,” on the USA Network.

 

“You knew all along, didn’t you?”

We’re going to keep this review relatively brief. Not because we’re lazy or because we think this episode isn’t worth discussing, but because this episode, more than any other in the series so far, required that you power down the paranoid, pattern-seeking parts of your brain (which the series has been gleefully stimulating week in and week out) and just feel what’s happening. That’s not quite the same as our weekly plea to everyone that they not try so hard to break the code of this show and just let it be the experience it’s trying to be, although we do think the nature of this episode tends to bolster our point on that front.

We’re totally not making sense, are we? One of the awesome things about this show is that it encourages a sloppy, stream-of-consciousness style of discussing it, but like Elliott, we have to sometimes stop and check to see if we’re lucid.

Let’s try again:

Mr. Robot is Elliott, wearing the face of his long-dead father. We doubt anyone who’s been paying attention to the show was utterly gobsmacked by that revelation. The idea that Mr. Robot might not be real has been floated from the very first seconds of his first appearance on the show, and the idea that he might look just like Elliott’s dead father is something the online community of viewers collectively figured out very early on. If there was any surprise to be had, it was that the show went for what looked to be the obvious route.

But the beauty of this episode was that it was, after all the intense paranoia and mind-fucking of earlier in the season, a gentle voice whispering “shhh” into your ear and saying, “Look at how completely fucked up your hero is.” The creators of the show pressed “Pause” and just let the people at the center of the story act like people and let their pain bubble to the surface. In other words, the conspiracies and agendas all fell to the wayside (for the most part) so that we could watch Elliott’s whole fragile world come falling down around him and feel the pain he was feeling.

Or put in a more cynical manner: This was Rami Malek’s Emmy submission episode and we were more than happy to turn the proceedings over to his performance. By the end, we admired the show creators for once again treating the audience like intelligent people who won’t get antsy if we spend extended scenes on one character’s emotional breakdown.

Besides, we already got the shocking twist last week: That Darlene is Elliott’s sister. In retrospect, the whole thing with Christian Slater was a bit of sleight of hand, in order to distract the audience. Get them all to talk about the most obvious twist by doing nothing to really hide it. That way, you can shock the panties off them all with the real twist that no one saw coming. Masterful television, we’ve got to say. And was that opening sequence genius? With the show’s title credit turned into the Mr. Robot sign, then showing two decades of tenants and finally winding up as a branch of Evil Corp Bank? We think we may have clapped once or twice.

Of course, the rest of the story did progress in many ways aside from fitting the final (or is it?) puzzle piece in place. Angela’s fielding a job offer from Satan that you absolutely know she’s going to accept. She does too. Tyrell gets fired and dumped by his wife on the same day, leading to him dropping the veil in front of Elliott, who, having come to terms with the fact that he’s been the mastermind of the group all along, takes him to F Society headquarters. What’s going to happen next? ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. Although the shot of Elliott looking at the popcorn machine where he stashed the gun that Darlene gave him a couple of episodes back gives you every indication of just how meticulously this show has been plotted. For us, it’s that knowledge, that feeling of “Man, these people really know what they’re doing,” that thrills us the most about the show. It’s got quality stamped on every frame.

So is this it for Christian Slater? Or is he going to keep popping up in the story, like Elliott’s little imaginary friend? Why do we have a feeling we still don’t have the whole picture here?

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