Mr. Robot: eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes

"Used to be, you could trust in the story, vilify the villains and celebrate the heroes..."

This is a bold show. It's not afraid to mess with its audience, or, in this case, do something really weird and out of the blue.

We start off in what can only be one of Elliot's insane fantasies, which is pretty much a black-comedy sitcom version of Mr. Robot, featuring Elliot and his whole twisted family on a strange, imaginary road-trip. I couldn't help but be reminded of the episode of Supernatural where The Trickster briefly locked Sam and Dean in a sitcom.

A bunch of crazy stuff happens in this little fantasy: Magda casually abuses Darlene, Gideon gets run over by freaking ALF, and Mr. Robot prefaces his fatherly pep-talk to Elliot by stuffing Tyrell in the trunk and murdering him. Almost every serious issue in the story is literally (and quite successfully) played for laughs.

In a moment of despair, Elliot believes that Mr. Robot has taken control of him completely and that this is reality now. However, Mr. Robot explains that it is actually a sort of safe dream-space meant to spare Elliot the trauma of the savage beatdown he suffered at the hands of Ray's goons last episode.

When Elliot comes to, he's been beaten to a bloody pulp and can barely move. Ray had him brought to a hospital, but he makes it clear to Elliot that he is under his control now, and that if he will suffer until death if he fails to cooperate. His henchmen then drag Elliot to a basement and lock him in a room, with only Mr. Robot to comfort him. Elliot gratefully embraces Mr. Robot for "taking the punches" for him.

I think this plays into the episode's "master-slave" theme, even more so than it does with Ray and his speech about having a "master." The sudden benevolence of Mr. Robot and the entire illusion that was that sitcom world were, in my opinion, all the manipulations of Elliot's devious alter ego. Until now, Mr. Robot has mostly been an antagonist for Elliot, hell-bent on controlling him and exploiting his darker nature. Maybe he's trying a different approach: Slowly earning the trust of his other half with acts of "kindness", making Elliot more susceptible to his control. A more willing slave.

Luckily, Elliot isn't the only one who survived last episode's cliffhanger. Agent Dominique Dipierro is still alive, narrowly avoiding being killed along with several of her colleagues when gunmen attacked the FBI at their hotel in Beijing. It turns out both shooters ended up committing suicide.

The attack on the FBI only complicates matters for everyone else in the States. Between them, Evil Corp, the Dark Army and fsociety, it's a vicious cycle that's really just tearing everything apart. This latest catastrophe scraps the FBI's mission in China, which angers Dom, who is sure that the Dark Army was behind the attack and desperately wants to investigate them. Unfortunately, Santiago and their superiors believe it to be the work of Chinese separatists and the Dark Army to be nothing more than hackers. Price is really on edge after Beijing, his mask of composure slipping. He can no longer convince Congress to borrow money from China, and he can't get in tough with Zhang/Whiterose to figure out what's going on, even the protesters are starting to get to him. Judging by last episode and their encounter with Cisco, it's clear that Whiterose and the Dark Army are not fucking around right now. And fsociety is determined to own the FBI before the FBI owns them, using Angela Moss as their ace in the hole.

Once again, Angela is forced into a position where she must corrupt and compromise an entire network, or lose everything she values. This time it's even more direct, as she is given a brief training course in computer hacking from Mobley, Trenton and Darlene. Her mission is to hack the FBI, trespassing on their designated floor at Evil Corp and planting a device called a femtocell. It all goes well and she's almost completed the hack, until she enters Dom Dipierro's crosshairs, who catches her off guard.

This episode is bookended with another "road-trip" for Elliot. We get a flashback to Elliot as a boy, in the car with his father Edward Alderson. Contrasting the boorish sitcom we got in the beginning, this is a very moving and heartbreaking scene of humanity between father and son. It's also another flashback that delves deeper into the origin of Mr. Robot and fsociety. Edward tells his son that he's been fired for missing too many days due to doctor's appointments, and that he's sick with cancer. He tries to lift young Elliot's spirit, telling him he'll always be there for him and letting him pick the name of the new computer store Edward is opening.

Ones & Zeroes:

* That theme song, though...

* "The Man in the Trunk" was very over the top, with his muffled cries for help, his hopping and feet wiggling.

* Angela and Cisco cross paths at fsociety's HQ. She recognizes him as the man who hacked her and Ollie last season, dragging her into all of this, but she decides not to mention it. I was wondering if this would come up, and now I'm interested to see where it goes. Will Angela let bygones be bygones, or will she want retribution?

* There was a nifty little single-shot sequence that follows Angela as she hacks the FBI. There was another brief one last episode that followed Dom before and during the assault on her and the other agents.

* Christian Slater really showed his acting bones here. He was absolutely hilarious in the beginning, and painfully sad in the bittersweet ending.

* Another praiseworthy actor is Craig Robinson as Ray. When I heard he was joining the cast for season two, I was fully expecting him to bring a lighthearted touch to the series. I have never seen Robinson play a role this deadly serious before.

Quotes:

(canned laughter)
Elliot: What is that? That laughing!
Darlene: Mom, Elliot's hearing voices.
Magda: What else is new?
(canned laughter)

Mr. Robot: All right gang, let's pack it up and hit the trail! Together! Because it's one for Alderson, and...
Elliot: (close-up) ... Alderson for one?

Mr. Robot: Believing that it's real makes it so.

Ray: (to Elliot) Before she got sick, Maxine lived like her own operator. Didn't seem to cross her mind that she belonged to someone. But in that basement she needed human hands to give her every scrap of food, every pill... occasional light. For the first time, she realized that she continued to breathe because someone else allowed it. That she had a master. Now I'm no vet, but I think that realization may have killed her before the parasites had a chance... Anyway, I'm a quit yappin, let you get some rest. Big days ahead. Work to do.
Chilling.

Agent Ross Thomas: (to Angela) So what's it like? Knowing that every room you walk into there must be at least one person trying to muster the courage to ask you out.
Darlene: Jesus, end this before I hurl.
My thoughts exactly.

Edward Alderson: Come on, enough of this doom and gloom. Why dwell on the past when we can take a peek into the future?

This was an excellent change of pace. I feel like things are really moving now. Four out of four broken hypodermic needles.

4 comments:

Henrik Bennetter said...

This is the best show on TV! Totally unpredictable and incredibly well acted, directed, scripted and so on.
The next episode blew my mind!

Mallena said...

Sitcom style head trips, that's why I keep watching this show. That was so awesome. I love Mr. Robot when it is focused on Eliott and what is going on in that head of his. Sometimes the visuals and music used in this show are so amazing. Not liking Ray and the way the episodes are only giving brief glimpses into his motivations, but on re-watch, it'll probably all make sense. This season is testing my patience, in terms of over-all plotting, but then an episode like this arrives, and I am hooked all over again.

Heather said...

Logan, you have a great interpretation of this show. You guys, the stuff with Darlene and Elliot's mom was some of the darkest material this show has rolled out, imo. It made the sitcom almost excruciating, for me. Also, it totally reminded me of Natural Born Killers and the sequence with Mallory Knox's family. My hat's off to all of the Mr. Robot crew for having the guts to do something so out there.

Logan Cox said...

There is a great video by the Wisecrack channel on Youtube where they break down the various homages done in this show. I can't believe I didn't think of the Natural Born Killers sitcom parody.

This show definitely knows how to constantly keep its viewers on their toes.