Mr. Robot: 408 Request Timeout

“This secret was never mine to keep. And you deserve better than to spend so long in darkness.”

You'd expect this one to be a breather after the bombs that got dropped previously, but it turned out to be quite the opposite.

Because, of course, last episode's focus on one perilous situation meant there was another still to come.

As impossible as it seems, Darlene and Dom's long night with Janice is even more horrific than Elliot and Krista's long night with Vera. When Darlene refuses to give up her brother, Janice shakes things up by puncturing Dom's lung with a hunting knife. She spends most of this episode bleeding out on the floor, struggling to breathe. What's really messed up about this is Janice does it specifically to exploit Dom and Darlene's complex feelings toward each other, using Dom's slow suffocation as a countdown for Darlene, who was already pretty depressed about having put Dom in this compromised situation.

While this is going on, Krista and a totally unbalanced Elliot narrowly escape the late Fernando Vera's goons and make it to the police. But Elliot has to deal with the revelation about his father's sexual abuse in his own insane way. He follows his inner child -- literally, it's the split personality that looks like him as a kid the way Mr. Robot looks like his father and the Alter-Magda looks like his mother -- to the Queens Museum, where he and Angela would run away to as kids. The Alter-Elliot helps our Elliot find something he hid there as a boy. It turns out to be the key to his childhood bedroom that his father kept.

This, I believe, is a turning point for him. Throughout the episode, he is blaming himself for being molested by his dad, believing he should have fought back or prevented it somehow. With the key, the ghost of his past makes Elliot realize that he did rebel against his father, even without the help of Mr. Robot. He may have been batshit crazy, but Vera was right. Elliot has always been a survivor. A fighter. Confronting his greatest pain in life has only proven the truth of this.

Unfortunately, Elliot's absence ends up jeopardizing Darlene. When Dom's failing lung isn't getting Darlene to talk, Janice decides to start ordering the deaths of her family; the Dark Army enforcers bursting into the DiPierro home on Christmas and chasing everyone down with guns was like something out of a nightmare. Only when this forces Darlene to finally give up Elliot's location, he's nowhere to be found, so Janice loses patience and decides to kill the DiPierros anyway. Which is when we find out Dom managed to turn the tables in a most delightful way.

As karmic as Vera's death was in the previous episode, it was very sudden. Janice's death is also sudden, but the buildup of her defeat was especially satisfying, considering what a sadistic tyrant she'd been up until now. It gradually dawning on Janice that Dom totally blindsided her by bringing in an unexpected third party, Deegan.

I don't think I even mentioned this character before, but Deegan is the Irish gangster Dom was interrogating earlier this season. Dom arranged a deal with him behind the scenes, letting him off with a "technicality" in exchange for protecting her family from the Dark Army soldiers. As impressive as that is -- responding to threats from one criminal organization by siccing another criminal organization on them -- I just really love that Dom's paranoid insistence on writing down the license plates of all the Dark Army vans, which seemed like a futile gesture before, actually came in handy, allowing Deegan to track her enemies.

It's when Janice fully realizes she's lost that Dom takes advantage of the distraction: ripping the knife out of her chest and slicing the Achilles tendon of one of Janice's henchmen (in one swift motion), allowing her to grab a gun and headshot them all. And with that, Dom reclaimed her title of most badass character in the show, and hopefully her self-dignity too.

Half-dead from her knife wound, Dom implores Darlene to find Elliot and bring down the Dark Army. Only it seems that Elliot will once again pose a set-back for them.

His decision to let Mr. Robot in and have a much needed talk leads to one of the most oddly moving scenes in the show. Something that I enjoy seeing explored more is the idea of Mr. Robot not as a simple crazy revolutionary, but as the embodiment of a defense mechanism. That's what split personalities generally are in real life cases, things a young mind creates to cope with trauma. This is at the root of all of Mr. Robot's actions, even the ones that seem contrary to Elliot's wants and needs: he does what he does out of a belief that it's all in Elliot's best interests. This includes suppressing his memories of his father's abuse and leaving only the good times that we've been privy to throughout the series.

Yet, as wounded as he is, Elliot is remarkably able to accept who he is and even the parts of himself that are twisted and inextricably linked to his suffering, like Mr. Robot, Elliot's shadow meant to be the father and protector Edward failed to be. It ends on a sad note, as Elliot finds himself too emotionally worn to go through with the hack that will end the Deus Group. And we're left with the image of Elliot breaking down into tears as Mr. Robot comforts him, knowing that he's finding comfort in his own inescapable loneliness.

I can't believe they would hype up this hack to end all hacks only for Elliot to let it slip away at the last second, no matter what he's going through. There is still a lot riding on this, namely the lives of every protagonist on this show. Anyway, there are only five episodes left. Something big is going down, one way or another.

Ones and Zeroes:

* The opening scene with young Elliot and Angela playing hide and seek at the museum reminds us of the really tragic part of this show. At the core of the story has always been these ordinary American kids, forever scarred by the sort of pain and loss no child should ever have to feel. Kids who made a game out of running from their problems (an abusive household in Elliot's case, a dying mother in Angela's) years before they would redirect their anger toward those who played god with their lives.

* I believe this is the third child actor to play young Elliot.

* I like that Krista got to protect Elliot for a change. She's always clearly wanted him to feel safe with her, and I always got the impression that she was a maternal substitute for him. I'm so glad she saved Elliot from Vera, that she wants to continue seeing him in the future and that she didn't get murdered just to hurt Elliot.

* Props to Ashlie Atkinson for her performance as Janice, one of the freakiest characters in a show that was already running rampant with freaky characters. She was giving off serious Annie Wilkes vibes ("You're a dirty liar!") in this episode. Great acting, but as with Vera, I’m way more comfortable now that Janice is dead.

* At this point, I don't think anyone has taken down more Dark Army stooges then Dom.

* Many aspects of Elliot's journey in this episode were specifically foreshadowed in a couple of episodes in the first season. During Elliot's bizarre withdrawal visions, a key is a prominent motif and various characters refer to Elliot's "monster"; a twisted, fsociety version of Mr. Robot even says "find your monster and turn the key." Back then, I believed the monster was Mr. Robot. And I was almost right, as Mr. Robot was only created in the true monster's image. A few episodes later, Elliot is missing, and Darlene and Angela go looking for him at the Queens Museum, where they used to run away together. That's some serious plotting right there if Esmail planned the reveal about Elliot's father from the beginning.

Quotes:

Janice: Destruction can be so productive!

Elliot: He made me feel special.
Krista: You are special. And what he did will never take that away from you.

Janice: I am remarkably normal.
Bullshit.

Elliot: I’m sorry I let him do those things to you. I'm sorry for all of it. I am so fucking sorry!

Deegan: (to Janice) Now you have yourself a merry little Christmas. Ta-ta for now, ya flange!

Mr. Robot: If I could have stopped him. If I could go back in time and change everything…
Elliot: Then I wouldn’t be me. And I wouldn’t have you.
This really kind of stunned me. I still don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, aww. On the other hand, this guy is on a level of damaged that is painful to even comprehend.

Four out of five knives in the chest.

2 comments:

milostanfield said...

Three things stayed with me about this ep: Dom’s totally bad ass move (eyes darting, calculating, waiting…); Mr Robot/Elliot reuniting (nice acting by Christian Slater); and Janice’s "I am perfectly normal" speech.

At first I took what Janice said as meaning "we can’t always catch crazy", but then I began to wonder if what was meant is that maybe Janice was "normal", and that you don’t have to BE crazy to DO crazy, and be judged as such. Germany was full of normal people in the 1930’s, and yet…

We know Vera really was crazy whenever he opened his mouth, but he was also charming, charismatic, and entertaining. I really hope Elliot Villar gets some kinda nom for that performance. Janice’s demeanor was more like a bad midlevel boss on a bad day in comparison, just killing people instead of firing them.

This show has had some remarkable villians, but that "normal" ambiguity about Janice has made her the scariest of all for me.

Thanks again for your reviews.

Logan Cox said...

And thank you for your comments!

Dom is unreal. She shot a dude in the head from over her shoulder. Without looking. While near death from a lack of blood and oxygen. After blindsiding the Dark Army. I love her. Speaking of nominations, let's give Grace Gummer some love.

But yes, Elliot Villar should receive mad praise for playing Vera. I think Vera was an unhinged psychopath. Right and wrong meant nothing to him, only his unwavering confidence in himself and his journey; in that way Vera is like many of the scariest figures in real life, like Charles Manson or Jim Jones. He totally believed in his own perceived specialness, to the point that morality became whatever enhanced this perception.

With Janice, I think she simply illustrates the way "normal human behavior" can be faked by an intelligent sociopath. Plenty of serial killers were able to trick everyone they met into thinking they were the nicest, most charming people in the world. The fact that she can threaten to butcher Dom's mother with a placid demeanor as opposed to Vera's obvious wild-eyed derangement doesn't make her any less of a maniac than him, in my opinion.