Wednesday, August 19, 2015

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Elliot Realizes the Sheer Amount of Fantasy in His Reality in 'eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 1.09 "eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt"

The Evil Corp hack is threatened by a mystery man from Elliot's past.

Mr. Robot has always embraced the fact that Elliot is an unreliable narrator. In the first episode, he says that he doesn't know what's real and what's not. This is the type of show that can play those tricks with memory and reality because the characters and storytelling is so strong. Last week's reveal that Darlene is actually Elliot's sister was phenomenal. No one saw that twist coming. It was played for the surprise of things. But that's also what made it so great. Everyone was speculating on whether or not Mr. Robot was real that they didn't think anything was up with Darlene. Elliot and the audience learning the truth about the people in his life is head-spinning but very entertaining.

This episode fully deals with the fallout of Elliot learning the truth. He has come to understand that Darlene is his sister. He knows that and is remembering more about their life together. He also learned that Mr. Robot is actually his father. That is made even more clear in tonight's pre-credits sequence that flashes back to 1994 with Mr. Robot working at his store and taking his son to see Pulp Fiction shortly before his death. That also led to the best placement of the title so far. But it was also made clear over the hour that Elliot's father really did die. Elliot has never properly dealt with the trauma of that childhood experience. He has seen his father solely as a figment of his imagination to explain the importance of the fsociety mission. But his vision has also allowed him to deal with the trauma of his past in a very direct way.

The show doesn't play the reveal that Mr. Robot is a character who only Elliot sees as a surprising moment. It's not the same as the reveal was with Darlene. The show knew that the audience would be speculating about this character and decided to give concrete answers in the penultimate episode of the season. The reality of that moment isn't in the show pulling the wool over the eyes of the audience. It's in seeing Elliot react to just how crazy he has become and how much of his own reality isn't what he has been led to believe for the last three months.

Rami Malek is the reason to watch this show. It will be so devastating if he doesn't get any awards love for his performance because it truly is phenomenal. This episode in particular really does a number on Elliot's psyche. He starts the hour angry and upset. He's desperate to know the truth from Mr. Robot. He is his father and kept that from him all this time because of their mission together. And now, he is being asked to be quiet because he has paranoia just like Elliot. Mr. Robot has always been a crazy and reckless character on the show. And now, it appears that that is just a new extension of Elliot. He is Mr. Robot. He has always been Mr. Robot. Every interaction between the two of them has been about Elliot trying to understand what this man meant to him as he embarks on a mission to save the world. He is still pained by the past. He pushed himself off of a ledge twice this season. It's only after Darlene asks who he thinks he's talking to that he realizes just how damaged he truly is.

It is comforting for both him and the audience to have answers to these big questions. The payoff works so well because so much of it is framed around Elliot's reaction. He doesn't know what to do with himself now. Angela and Darlene were able to find him by his father's grave and get him back to his apartment safely. And yet, he doesn't know if he should go through with the Evil Corp hack anymore. He doesn't remember why he and Darlene started fsociety in the first place. His life is a mystery to him. Even though he is remembering more and more, it's still an uncertain reality for him. Darlene is passionate about the mission. Even though she doesn't share any of it with Angela, she still loves the familial bond between the three of them. Elliot doesn't have that safe connection with anyone. He searched for answers but is even more adrift than ever before - with everyone being so focused on getting him back on his meds.

But Elliot is forced into action by Tyrell. Tyrell's life is crumbling at the moment. He is a suspect in a murder investigation and has lost all hope of becoming CTO at Evil Corp. Even his wife who has been so supportive of his mission has threatened to divorce him if he can't make things right for their family. There was uncertainty in the scene when Tyrell first opened the door to Elliot's apartment. He is unhinged in a way that could go any number of ways. As he talks about killing Sharon, he admits to the various emotions he felt during the act before noting how much of that moment actually just went away. He is a powerful and important character in this narrative. He brings Elliot back to the fsociety base of operations to finish the mission. Elliot is just as confused about why he started this thing as Tyrell is. But now, they are working together to take down Evil Corp and perhaps save the world. That probably won't happen. But it's such an exciting and compelling moment to end on heading into the season finale.

Some more thoughts:
  • "eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Tricia Brock.
  • Gideon's life starts bad and only gets worse as his day goes along. The support of his boyfriend isn't enough to overcome what the rest of his day brings. Again, he truly is the most tragic character of this season as he is losing everything.
  • Angela is also offered a job at Evil Corp as a businesswoman. That development did come a little out of nowhere. Terry Colby liked how she handled herself in this arrangement and figures the other executives would like her as well. That could set her up for a different story arc in the future. But it's hard to see how that will connect with the rest of the story for the finale.
  • Apparently, it's really easy to break into the house where Elliot used to live as a child considering Elliot, Darlene and Angela were all able to separately break in.
  • Does the reveal about Mr. Robot mean that he will be seen less moving forward? Or will Elliot welcome the fantasy into his reality again but with the understanding of what it truly is? Either way has the potential to be great.