One of the interesting things they’ve been doing this season on MR. ROBOT is showing us flashbacks of the fsociety characters before the group came to power. We are being fed bits and pieces, small kernels of how it all began, in order to help us understand how these characters got themselves into this situation. This time we get a glimpse of Darlene and Elliot before the idea for fsociety even came to be, where the mask comes from, and the moment Elliot got the idea for the hack on E-Corp.
These glimpses into the past seem to be true portrayals of how things came to be instead of unreliable information slanted through the viewpoint of Elliot. There’s no voice over, he doesn’t address the camera or us, and instead appear to be factual representations of the birth of fsociety. It’s an interesting insight into how Elliot began the crusade against E-Corp, where the idea came from, and how he went about building the infrastructure to pull it off.
The relationship between Darlene and Elliot has always been the same; Darlene gets herself in trouble, and her big brother comes to her rescue to make everything ok. We aren’t told what’s wrong with Darlene, but only that she’s crashing. It’s Halloween night, and she pops in on Elliot. Between firing up a bowl and watching an 80’s slasher film The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie (where the Mr. Robot mask comes from, which Darlene has with her) we find out more about Elliot before he worked at AllSafe and why he was in therapy. It turns out he was having missing time episodes well before Mr. Robot came on the scene. He was hired to hack a company website, and when he continually was able to gain access, he fell asleep at work. When he woke up he’d smashed all of the servers in the room, destroying them without out any memory of doing so. A judge made him go to anger management classes, and he was also ordered to go to a therapist. He’s not sure what he’s going to do with himself, but Angela has offered to get him a job at AllSafe.
There’s a moment where Elliot shows Darlene something he has tucked away in his closet. It’s his father’s Mr. Robot jacket. She urges him to put it on, and wear the mask at the same time. This is where everything clicks. Elliot already has psychological issues and mental breaks from reality, but the Mr. Robot outfit gives these things a home, a persona he can finally flesh out his alter ego with. He immediately comes up with the idea of taking the job at AllSafe and using it as a Trojan horse to infiltrate E-Corp and take them down. Elliot even comes up with the idea of hitting them once they’re down to finish them off. It’s something he’s turned his back on while he tries to live an ordered, monastic life, but something Darlene has taken seriously and forged ahead with in his absence.
The FBI has found the arcade, but the only thing they have to go on is “the end of the world party” poster, pictures on social media from the night of the party, and a spent gun shell casing they find during their sweep. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than what’s comfortable for either the Dark Army (Chinese hacker syndicate) or Darlene. With both Romero and Gideon’s murders, and the notion the FBI has a surveillance program on fsociety, Darlene once again turns to Elliot for help. At the moment he’s both unable (since he hasn’t allowed himself near a computer) and unwilling to help.
Ray still gives Elliot the full court press, but in a slow way. They build up a friendship through conversation and chess. He tells Elliot to take the chessboard with him and practice playing against himself to get better. Ray tells him if he’s lucky he might beat himself. This turns prophetic as Mr. Robot challenges him to a duel of sorts for supremacy over Elliot’s conscious. It’s over a game of chess, winner take all. If Elliot wins, Mr. Robot goes away forever, and it Mr. Robot wins, he takes over Elliot’s conscious for good. No more Elliot. This game of theirs is very similar, but not exactly like the one in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. It means death for the loser of the game.
Elliot’s therapist thinks it’s not a good idea to take the challenge. This other persona is a part of Elliot now, and something she thinks should be embraced, accepted, and learned to deal with. Either way the game ends, Elliot loses and a part of himself will be destroyed. It’s what he wants though, and removing Mr. Robot from his life has been his goal this entire season. If this is his only chance to do so, he’ll take his chances. The problem is he’s playing against himself. Every move Mr. Robot makes is something Elliot has subconsciously told him to do. Even though Elliot doesn’t know that he knows these things, he does, and every game is a stale mate. He has to learn to accept there’s no getting rid of Mr. Robot. The two halves of his persona need to find a common ground in the middle in order for their relationship to work. Ray, Darlene, and his therapist all tell him to reconcile with Mr. Robot. Are they right?
Angela took the information Pryce gave her, and had both of the men arrested. She knows he’s playing her, and thinks she’s able to see his end game and why he’s using her. What she doesn’t know is that Pryce and the White Rose are working together. She’s a part of their plan, but what they have up their sleeves is something that isn’t completely clear. Is it market manipulation? Either way, Angela is a part of one of their options, but the White Rose doesn’t trust Pryce and is pursuing other plans without Pryce knowing. When Angela calls Pryce out on what she thinks he’s doing, she demands a certain job and prestige within the company to stay silent, but he calls her bluff and shatters her confidence.
Once Elliot realizes he can’t beat Mr. Robot, he finally takes Ray up on his job so he can gain access to a computer to help Darlene. The problem is that whatever Ray is up to, whatever he’s selling online, it’s illegal and he takes it seriously. Elliot is not to go snooping in Ray’s business in any way other than to perform the site migration he’s hired to do. Ray has muscle in the room to make sure Elliot behaves. Elliot has other plans though, he’s going to hack the FBI and find out what they know.
This episode had an extended time run, and though entertaining and informative, appears to be merely a set up for the bigger picture.
Season 2, Episode 4 (S02E04)
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 9PM on USA
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Jeff Iblings | Contributor