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Mr. Robot: 404 Not Found

“Wherever we’re walking towards, it ends with death.”

I was not sure how I felt about this one for awhile.

Usually, despite all the intricacies and twists and turns, I generally end off every episode of Mr. Robot with a pretty good idea of what happened and why it’s probably happening. This time it took me a minute. Well, more like three hours, since I watched the episode three times.

While I am constantly amazed at the way this show does its own thing and isn’t afraid to diverge from normal TV storytelling, it still feels strange that we would get an episode like this in the final season. One in which the main characters just kind of meander around the actual plot.

I mean, on the surface, that is literally what’s happening.

Elliot and Tyrell spend their time walking around in the middle of nowhere in search of the Dark Army goon who was spying on them. Darlene's attempt to boost a car leads to her serving as the designated driver to a drunk guy in a Santa Claus outfit. And poor Dom DiPierro spends her time sulking in loneliness and dreaming of fake booty calls.

With a description like that, one would be forgiven for thinking that not a lot happens in this episode.

One would be wrong, though.

Stripping away the cyber-warfare, the espionage, the big city and the multilayered plot for a single episode ended up being kind of nice. Instead we get an introspective look into our main characters as they're confronted with the hopelessness of their situations.

Dom, for instance. Most of what she does in this episode turns out to have been a fantasy turned nightmare, but even that ends up being crucial. I'm glad it was a dream, because that scenario where the random person she talks to in sex chat rooms just so happens to be a lesbian too seemed a little too convenient, in my opinion. The dream ends with the hot chick revealing herself to be another Dark Army soldier, who drowns Dom in her own bathtub. Dom had previously told Angela that she had dreamed of drowning before, and that it was only after she stopped fighting and accepted the loss of control that she survived.

With that in mind, this new dream can be taken in a couple of ways. Has it made Dom accept that she is powerless to stop the Dark Army, or will this clarity give her newfound determination to fight back? I'm pulling for the latter.

Darlene's arc also gives us insight into her mind. Specifically, the fact that, underneath all that morally ambiguity and grungy punk demeanor, she is an empathetic person who wants to do the right thing. Which is why she refused to let Tobias, the drunken volunteer Santa, drive himself home. I found it funny that my imagination went to the same place as Darlene's when she took note of Tobias' sad alcoholic appearance, his bottle of pills and wistful dialogue as evidence that he was suicidal. We're all so used to thinking the worst on this show, that we end up naturally assuming the same applies to everyone we meet, just like Darlene did. While it is very amusing when she turns out to have misunderstood everything Tobias said — he's not suicidally depressed, he's just drunk and rambling — it reveals that her edgy indifference is just a front. Darlene cares about people, whether it's a stranger like Tobias or her insufferable brother Elliot. And though part of her would rather worry about herself alone and escape from her troubles, in the end she can't turn her back on the people she cares about.

Of course, the main thrust of the episode concerns Elliot/Mr. Robot and Tyrell's long journey into the night. Trying to dispose of the Dark Army spy and his van in the wilderness, they end up losing both spy and van, forcing them to wander through the snowy woods and along the desolate roads to find him before he reports back to the Dark Army. This forces Tyrell and Elliot to actually engage each other for the first time since the second season finale. Which I liked. The duality between these two has fascinated me since the beginning, even after Tyrell turned out to be nowhere near the ultimate villain he initially presented himself as.

There's a reason he's still drawing comparisons between himself and Elliot. They both are outsiders, expert hackers, and crazy. Even Elliot comes to acknowledge this in the end, though he spends most of the episode being fed up with Tyrell.

Which is understandable, because Tyrell does end up going through the various stages of his neuroses in this one episode alone. First he's acting like he's in charge, taking action and telling Elliot what to do. When the spy disappears due to his mistake, he makes some awkward attempts at being chummy with Elliot. When frustration sets in during the search, he gets petulant and paranoid. Not long after that, despair sets in and he gets all sad and sentimental, thinking everything is hopeless. Which is where he and Elliot have their big argument. It would have been a falling out, but despite his best efforts, Elliot is still an empath, and even he can't bring himself to give up on Tyrell. Their quarrel ends up making Elliot admit that he and Tyrell are the same in the way they both hate feeling like outsiders, and discovering that Elliot is driven by a need to protect his family inspires Tyrell to press on.

Which makes it kind of sad when they find the van two minutes later and Tyrell is shot by the Dark Army guy, who promptly kills himself. Tyrell quickly accepts his fate, encourages Elliot to fulfill their goal and bring down Whiterose, and chooses to "just go for a walk." Gotta say, I never expected this character's death to be so... what's the right word? Poetic? Classy? I guess I was expecting something either really epic or totally sudden and lame. Well, it is kind of a lame way to die, but Tyrell's state of contentment while fatally wounded somehow makes it oddly beautiful too; I'll elaborate on the very last scene further below.

Earlier, Tyrell tells Elliot that he'd begun to consider just leaving his life behind to escape his troubles, something Darlene considered in this episode as well. It's easy to see why when we reflect on Tyrell's storyline: his quest for power and godhood only earned him misery, and in the end he was little more than a puppet for greater threats, such as Price, Whiterose, Mr. Robot and perhaps even his own wife Joanna. Getting shot and dying on Christmas morning may have been exactly what he was looking for. Now he's free from his regrets and failures, the lie of being a hero, the reality of being a villain, the stress of outmaneuvering Whiterose and losing his infant son. Things he probably never would have been able to make right anyway.

Although this marks yet another person Elliot has failed to save, it does get him out of a jam as far as Whiterose's surveillance goes. Now that he's in the clear and got his priorities straight, we're free to get back to the plot next episode. Which will apparently call for Elliot and Darlene to break into Cyprus National Bank's cybersecurity firm, Virtual Realty, in order to own the Deus Group. That ought to make for a Merry Christmas.

Ones and Zeroes:

* Tobias the drunk Santa might be one of the series' best minor characters.

* Dom told Darlene she hated her and blamed her for her current circumstances, but that evidently hasn't stopped her from masturbating to footage of Darlene's interrogation.

* Gotta hand it to them, that moon in the last few minutes of the episode actually looked real. Most movies and shows feature the moon looking ridiculously massive, like it's about to come crashing into the earth. We all know the moon never really looks like that.

* Once again, I found myself amused at Mr. Robot opting to be the good guy and how that reflects Elliot's morality. When Elliot is ready to abandon Tyrell, Mr. Robot remains by his side until Elliot comes around. When Tyrell gets shot, both agree that they can't leave him to die. I thought that was endearing.

* Making Tyrell CEO of Evil Corp was crucial to Whiterose arranging the Deus Group meeting. I wonder if Tyrell disappearing (and dying) on the same night that he was promoted will interfere with that in some way.

* As with Joanna Wellick, I'm left wanting more from Tyrell's storyline. Since the first season, I was eager to find out exactly what the Wellicks' backstory is, to learn how they became the people they were. I guess we'll never know. And since they ultimately didn't achieve much in the overall narrative, I guess it doesn't matter. Great characters, though.

* Throughout Elliot/Mr. Robot and Tyrell's trek in the woods, they keep hearing this eerie moaning sound in the distance. Elliot tries dismissing it, but it gets to Tyrell, who eventually claims it is "the sound of death." In the final scene, as he dies, Tyrell appears to find the source of the sound in the woods. Whatever it is, it exudes a strange blue light. Tyrell kneels before it, basks in its glow and seems to be in awe of it, but we don't see it. The screen fades to white as the credits roll. So obviously we're supposed to wonder what the hell this was. At first, I thought Tyrell was right and it was literally "the sound of death", which he finds in the end. But then I remembered, Elliot and Mr. Robot heard the sound too. Then I thought it might be the lost fawn of the dead deer they found near the crashed van; maybe in death, Tyrell was able to find a lost child, just not his own. But that doesn't quite explain the blue light. Was it an alien, Esmail? Did Tyrell find freaking E.T. out in the woods? Your guess is as good as mine.


Tyrell: Have you ever considered leaving?
Elliot: What do you mean?
Tyrell: Just walking off, disappearing. Leaving the life you’re living behind you, all the bullshit, the stress, the pain, everything. You know, maybe start over, where no one knows you, and reinvent yourself. Forget about all the mistakes you’ve made in this life. Find some peace. Some rest. I think about that. Don’t you?
Elliot: No.

Darlene: Big night tonight?
Tobias: Oh. No, I’m not the real Santa.
Darlene: Yeah, right.
Tobias: Sometimes I wish I were… Sometimes I wish I were.

Tobias: You know how it is. Soon you’re out on a cold winter night. Asking a lot of questions. Looking at the world. Thinking about what it might be like without you in it.

Elliot: I’m going.
Tyrell: Yeah. Go, Elliot.
Elliot: I will.
Tyrell: Yeah, good. Because you don’t need me, you never needed me. That’s the truth, right?
Elliot: Yeah, that’s the truth! I never fucking needed you! You were only in the way! If it weren’t for you—
Tyrell: The world would have been saved! And you would have been the savior! Is that what you think? Is that the fantasy I ruined for you?

Mr. Robot (narrating): Seems like we’re always thinking of ourselves when looking for something that’s lost. But we never think much about the lost. Whatever, whoever is unable to be found. Whether it’s a set of keys left somewhere and forgotten, a couple of guys wandering aimlessly in the woods, or someone who’s disappeared inside himself. What if that’s what they wanted all along. Not to be found.
Mr. Robot’s narration is starting to sound like Rod Serling.

Tyrell: Alright, let's keep moving. Maybe you can still make that phone call.
Not gonna lie, I think he redeemed himself a bit right here.

Three and a half out of five rocks in Tyrell's shoe.

1 comment:

  1. Darlene and Santa were my favorite part of this episode. At first I was like Good God is everybody in this world depressed to the point of suicide. The way the show played with our (and Darlene's) interpretation of his behavior was geat.

    And I like Dom, but isn't masturbating to an interrogation scene a little creepy?


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