Sunday, November 17, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Vera Aspires to Break Elliot Down Until He Becomes His Partner in '407 Proxy Authentication Required'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 4.07 "407 Proxy Authentication Required"

I feud any data.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of USA's Mr. Robot.

"407 Proxy Authentication Required" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail

When are we made? That is the underlying existential question that runs throughout the entire series. Does it happen at conception? Does the sharing of genetic data to form a new identity signal the existence of new personhood? Or does it come along later based on the experiences that collectively happen? Or does it only occur when each person feels in control of their lives and the choices they are making? For Elliot, he has never truly felt in control. Outside forces have seemingly always been coming in to pluck him out of his life. It's a huge physical reaction for him. One spurred out of trauma. One that is forever posing a dangerous risk to unravel his emotional psyche. He has presented as a closed off individual focused on a singular mission this season. He had to stop Whiterose and the rest of the Deus Group. Otherwise, he would be killed. It was the only action he had left to play. He and Mr. Robot could be united. And yet, the world so often is making choices for us. In fact, every dramatic twist and turn may just be seen as the inevitability that the universe always had mapped out. That's horribly depressing. However, that's the mindset that Elliot frequently finds himself traumatized by and trapped within. He views that he has no autonomy over his own choices. Other personalities literally come in and take control over his body. He and Mr. Robot still have absolutely no clue about the third personality. They just know that has to be an ongoing concern. And yet, there is still so much personal baggage and upheaval that fills up Elliot's world. He believes he can cut himself off from any emotional attachments. That may make him more willing and able to do a great deal of harm to others though. It just means he won't be personally affected by it like he was when Shayla was killed. Vera did that to him. And now, he has returned to Elliot's life. He returns wanting a partner and believing he has the ability to break Elliot down until he can be reborn in that image. Elliot is too busy with his grand plan to get sucked into these mind games. However, it also presents as a massive release. One that explodes in more ways than one. One that also promises to have lingering consequences especially if Elliot hopes to be successful in his latest hack. This show has always presented its stories in unique and powerfully striking ways. It showcases an off-kilter world because that's the reality that so many people actually live in. We believe that we have a firm handling on our identities and the problems of the world around us. And yet, all it takes is for one twist to occur to completely leave us dumbfounded. Elliot is prone to those emotional breakdowns just like anyone else. He may have a coping mechanism in Mr. Robot. But that may have only been healthy for a certain amount of time. After awhile, it became a way for Elliot to avoid dealing with the realities of his life. He still contributed to a ton of damage. And now, he and Krysta are being held against their will by Vera. He presents as the man forcing this ugly reality to the forefront of their lives. It's dangerous and sickening. He is a threatening presence. One that could take away yet another person Elliot cares about. Vera knows he can't repeat the same story. He doesn't. What he does this time though is just as devastating and powerfully transformational for the entire series.

At times, Vera presents as a low-rate thug who has no idea how the world actually works. Mr. Robot challenges the notion of owning the city. That appears to be Vera's greatest ambition. And yet, Mr. Robot isn't impressed. He simply sees him as a tool to unload all of the money he is about to collect. That may be the grand purpose to all of this. However, it's a rather personal affair. It brings a lot of intimacy to the forefront. It strips Elliot down to his core essence. He is more vulnerable here than he has ever been. It's marvelous to watch because it is so meticulous. It's intricate character details that inform a broad picture of what led to the creation of Elliot as he currently exists. He has always felt strange and alienated by the world. His family was an abusive place. He found comfort and solace with Darlene. However, he always feels the need to keep her at arm's length. She may always care about him. She may die in this crusade as well. Right now though, the urgency comes from the man holding the gun and forcing his hostages to submit. It's such a balanced discussion though. Elliot and Mr. Robot operate with some power in this situation because Vera needs them to achieve his ultimate goals. Elliot has the résumé to back up every claim that he is the genius who can transform the world. He has done it once already. He has terrified Krysta in the process as well. She is the trained therapist in the room though. Vera is never sure how he can best exploit this relationship in order to get exactly what he wants. However, he is also the objective observer who understands what Elliot needs to properly process. Only then can the fruits of his labor be found. Krysta sees the danger in forcing Elliot to confront the ugly truth of his reality. It's not something that Elliot is willing to embrace fully either. And yet, that's what makes it such a powerful sequence. The audience can linger on all of these thoughts that could allow Elliot to escape and return to his plan. It's also just as inevitable for it to be revealed that Elliot was sexually molested by his father. But there is a great sense of agony that comes from that revelation because it has to be pulled out of Elliot. He has come to accept a certain reality of the world. It has all been built on a false premise. Mr. Robot has always insisted that he has been protecting Elliot. That's why he exists. This trauma broke his mind in severe and traumatic ways. This truth cannot be forgotten or ignored. It makes Elliot question everything that makes him who he is. He wonders if there is any point at all to anything that is happening. Vera fulfills the role as ally and friend. He is there to support and uplift Elliot no matter what happens next. He sees beauty and power in what makes Elliot unique. He saw that the first moment they met. And yet, Vera has always been a monster who is willing to abuse the world to get what he wants. The show delivers a simplistic version of justice in what happens to him. He killed Shayla. And now, he is killed because he is too focused on comforting Elliot to be aware that Krysta can stab him in the back. She is doing so out of self-preservation. Meanwhile, Elliot is destroyed once more because it truly does feel like he is all alone in the world. Vera broke him down in so many ways. He may not be able to recover. That is devastating given all the plans that Elliot had that gave this season purpose. That may be all up in the air now. And yet, this hour is still incredibly rewarding for an entire series' worth of character journey. It showcases how the narrative of identity is always evolving even though some formative moments will hold steadfast no matter what happens later. It's a beautiful, intimate and intense hour that highlights strength in struggle and grace in vulnerability even when people are absolutely terrified.