MR. ROBOT Review: “eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes”

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MR. ROBOT gives us a glimpse into what it would be like if it were a 90’s sitcom, while also exploring the aftermath of the attack on the FBI in China, and Elliot’s beat down by Ray’s thugs. Zhang seems to be the puppet master pulling all of the strings at this point, but what is he up to?

The opening of this episode was incredibly strange, and threw me off balance. It wasn’t what I was expecting after the way last week’s episode ended. Instead of showing us what happened to Dom during the attack in China, we’re shown an old USA networks logo, and thrown right into a cheesy 90’s sitcom version of Elliot and his family. They appear to be heading on vacation or going on the run, it’s not exactly clear which. Gideon is there, so is Angela, and even Alf, the creature from the old sitcom. Elliot’s mother repeatedly beats Darlene, his father has someone (Tyrell) tied up in the trunk, and Elliot tries to make sense of it all. He’s confused by the situation though, and even more so when he sees visions of his beating playing on Darlene’s Game Boy, and in the car’s rearview mirrors.

The sunny sitcom, laugh track, cheesy joke version of Mr. Robot goes on for a while, maybe even a little too long. Elliot is as confused by it all as we are, and it doesn’t help that Gideon is a cop who gets run over by Alf as he tries to pull over Elliot’s family. Why is this happening, what is the point of it all? Mr. Robot has taken Elliot’s conscious here to this sitcom, so that he won’t have to experience the severe beating Ray’s goons are giving him. Elliot thinks Mr. Robot has won, has taken over control, but that’s not the case. He’s trying to save Elliot from the pain. He’s taking the punches for him, and it’s a good thing, because when Elliot comes to in the hospital, he looks like pulverized shit. Ray has really done a number on him. There are gashes, and stitches, and bruises all over him.

The hospital doesn’t really look like a regular hospital, and it can’t be. Is it a vet’s office or someone who owes Ray? It’s hard to tell, but like all things, we’re seeing this through the skewed reality of Elliot. Ray is there with his goons, and he tells Elliot a round about story about how his dog died. The gist of the story is a way of letting Elliot know that Ray owns him now, he’s Elliot’s master. Elliot only lives because Ray allows it, but he needs Elliot to work some more. There’s a lot to be done. This was all meant to break Elliot into submission, but the way Mr. Robot took Elliot out of experiencing the pain of the beating, has allowed him to not break. It seems he and Mr. Robot will bounce back from this, but how will they escape, and how will they turn the tables on Ray?

Ray has Elliot locked up in a basement after abducting him from the hospital. How will he and Mr. Robot get out? Elliot thanks Mr. Robot for protecting him, and it’s heartfelt. He has tears streaming down his face. In a flashback, we also get a glimpse of the day his father told Elliot about his illness. He wants Elliot to keep it a secret, and we find out E-Corp fired him because he missed work days to go to the hospital. As a little token for keeping his father’s secret, Elliot is allowed to name the new computer store his father is opening. First thing that comes to your mind, his father tells him. We know it will be called Mr. Robot.

One thing that bothers me, is why did Elliot choose to work for Ray? If he wanted access to a computer, he could have gone out and bought one, or gone to Darlene. He didn’t have to choose this option, but he did. Why? I hope there’s a solid reason behind it, and that it isn’t just convenient to the plot of this season. Mr. Robot repeatedly told Elliot not to work for Ray, but he did it anyway. If a solid reason isn’t put forth by the end of this season it will be incredibly disappointing.

Dom is back at work after surviving the attack in China. The FBI wants her to take a one-month leave for mental health, but she knows the Dark Army was behind the attack and doesn’t want to leave the investigation. Almost everyone else with her in China was murdered except the guy she’s talking to. She was allowed to live even after she was pinned down and an easy kill. Both terrorists killed themselves, and erased their history or any chance of figuring out what the point was. It’s clear this was ordered by Zhang/White Rose as a way to kill off the FBI investigation into the Dark Army’s role in the hack. He let Dom live though, and I think that was on purpose. They had a strange connection together between the clocks, and the dresses at Zhang’s party. Dom is smart as hell, and if anyone figures out the interweaving connections between all of the groups it will be her.

Darlene and fsociety are trying to teach Angela how to hack, so they can get access to the FBI while they’re still camped on one of the floors of E-Corp. It’s not something you can learn in 24 hours, but there really is no other option. The FBI are leaving E-Corp the next day, and if Angela can’t get the hack done, they’ll be out of options. She practices over and over until she has what she needs to do down. There’s a window of opportunity during lunch the next day that she has to exploit or all is lost.

Darlene’s boyfriend Cisco meets with members of the Dark Army to get the device Angela needs to install in the FBI system, but he’s worried the Dark Army has done something to it that will get his friends in trouble. When he questions their motives, he gets a needle shoved under his fingernail and broken off. If Zhang is behind the Dark Army, the attacks on the FBI, and in league with Price (who he’s clearly screwed over based on Price’s only scene) what are his motives? Clearly the Dark Army will also have access to all of the FBI that connect to the device, but how does that help him? It seems like Zhang is setting himself up to move in and take over after E-Corp topples, but why? It’s like the Zhang/White Rose personas are similar to Elliot/Mr. Robot and perhaps the two sides of him sometimes want different things, and other times work together. Time will tell I guess.

Angela does get to the floor to install the device, but has to use her feminine wiles to get out of a tough situation with an FBI agent who asks her out. When she thinks she’s in the clear and has set up the device, something is wrong. Darlene needs her to go back to her own computer and run a hack that will get the wifi back up and running, only she’s interrupted from finishing the hack by Dom. What does Dom want, and how did she find Angela?

The thing I have to keep telling myself about this season of Mr. Robot, is that it’s not about the episodes, it’s about the season arc. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, but the show can’t really be judged on a by episode basis as to whether it’s working or not, or if this season has slumped. It really will only be possible to tell in hindsight once the season arc has completed itself. Hang in there with me, I have my fingers crossed we’ll be rewarded.

B Grade
Season 2, Episode 6 (S02,E06)
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 9PM on USA

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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.
Twitter: @OfSoundnVision

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent recap! I agree with all of your insights and concerns, and would like to add that the reason the opening didn’t work that well for me — or at least was WAY too long — was because I immediately thought of how it was a pretty overt rip-off of a couple episodes of “My Name is Earl”!

    (For those who don’t know or remember, when Earl was hit by a car sometime in the second or third season, in his mind he became the star of a 70’s sitcom, in which he was married to the girl he wanted so badly in real life.)

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