After last week’s relentlessly brutal low point, can Mr. Robot please get back to something more hopeful? I know this isn’t the happiest show in the world, but geez. I can’t imagine these characters getting much lower than they feel right now. A key point of every low point in a story is the climb back up. Unless you’re telling one of those stories that wallows in grimdark and thrives on the misery. So what does Mr. Robot have in store this week?
Spoilers for 3×08 “eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko”
Hey, flashback time again to kick Mr. Robot off again. Elliot’s father takes him to the movies sometime after pushing him out the window, and clearly well into the final stage of his cancer, hoping to get back on good terms with his son. Elliot refuses his efforts and watches his father drop dead. He decides to go watch a movie afterwards. Harsh.
The movie begins and hey, the whole episode will air in a theater’s aspect ratio! I love how creative Mr. Robot is.
Back in the present day, Elliot mourns the deaths of Trenton and Mobley while deleting their info from his PC. Darlene comes knocking while he wipes his hardware and we find out it’s been 3 weeks since Stage 2. She wants him to talk to Angela but Elliot refuses. She also tries to make him feel better but Elliot unloads on her. They talk about getting rid of Mr. Robot, but Elliot insists there’s no way Robot can vanish unless he does.
Darlene can tell Elliot is giving up and tries to help, but Elliot refuses. He placates her with plans about meeting up the next day to watch their crappy horror movie together. After she leaves, he brings Flipper over to George RR Martin’s house and leaves him there. Elliot also brings the Mr. Robot jacket to a trash disposal guy.
He then meets up with a drug dealer to buy a baggie of morphine pills, and the dealer says the only people who buy that much either work for the cops, want to resell in his territory, or want to kill themselves.
With the method in hand, Elliot starts making visits. He first visits Mobley’s brother to tell him Mobley was innocent and ask about the funeral, but the brother insults Mobley and says there will not pay for a funeral. Then he visits Trenton’s family, who are preparing to move away. They are more receptive to Elliot’s words, though they also ask questions he won’t answer.
With this done, he takes the subway to Coney Island and prepares to take his pills on the beach. However, Trenton’s little brother interrupts him. He followed Elliot all the way there and refuses to go home. Elliot avoids his questions about his relationship to Trenton and brings him home. When they arrive, Elliot finds out that the boy’s parents left for Connecticut.
They’re left to wait, and rather than sit outside the house the boy convinces Elliot to take him to the movies. When they get there, Elliot talks crap about The Martian and insists they watch Back to the Future instead since it’s the day Marty traveled into the future. While munching on M&Ms in popcorn, Elliot and some others in line talk about the point of Back to the Future.
They don’t watch the movie long before Trenton’s brother leaves unseen. Elliot hurries out to find him and comes across the coolest Jewish ice cream truck driver ever, who tells him how War of the Worlds is a story of hope, not the apocalypse. Eventually Elliot finds the kid at the mosque he mentioned going to with his family.
Trenton’s brother refuses to leave, and during their argument Elliot admits to wishing he was dead. The boy wonders if he did something to make Trenton bad, and Elliot insists it was his fault, not her or her brother. The boy talks about how he can be president, and what he would make people do if he was. Elliot calls his vision that of a dictator.
When they arrive back at the boy’s house, it turns out he had the key to get in all along. He thanks Elliot for taking him to the movies and asks to see him again. Elliot promises he will. When the boy goes to get something in the house for him, Elliot cries. The thing turns out to be a lollipop, since Elliot was “sick”.
Afterwards Elliot revisits Mobley’s brother and blackmails him to give Mobley a funeral by blackmailing him using shady information in his emails. Turns out the drug dealer dealt to Mobley’s brother. Elliot gives him the morphine. He then visits Angela, who refuses to open the door. Rather than leave, Elliot sits outside her door while Angela sits inside and talks about a wishing game they used to play.
When Elliot arrives home later, the trash guys dump the Mr. Robot jacket out of their van and he picks it up before heading inside. He puts together a new PC and checks his email. Within he finds Trenton’s email describing what she found that could undo the 5/9 hack.
Even with so little as five to ten minutes left in this episode, I worried Mr. Robot was doubling down on last week’s misery. This episode spent so much time beating Elliot down. He spends a good forty-minutes on what amounts to a death march, saying his goodbyes and handling final business before a coming suicide attempt. I never thought for a second that he would actually go through with it (Mr. Robot isn’t killing its main character right now, obviously), but this episode still could have been an introduction to a suicidal Elliot hell-bent on “one last mission” before he kills himself.
I know this is a tried and true storytelling tactic in the aftermath of a low point. You have a character spend a follow-up episode/chapter/whatever gradually climbing back up. I guess it speaks to how damn convincing Rami Malek is and how well made the episode was that I still worried all the way up to Elliot’s final conversation with Trenton’s brother. I was ready to write another disappointed review lamenting Mr. Robot’s double-down on grimdark.
Thankfully this is a better show than that.
As an exploration of Elliot’s mental state post-Stage 2, this was a glacial episode compared to the breakneck speed most of season 3 has run at. It follows only him, takes place over a single day, and involves nothing besides his coping with the thousands dead at the Dark Army’s hands. It was a great deal like a season 2 episode, slow and luxurious and self-indulgent in its own creativity.
And because of that fast pace, an episode like this was not only well earned, but perfectly timed. This was the start of the climb back, the reaffirmation of Elliot’s motivation not only to stay alive, but to truly live and create a better world. This will probably be the point where Elliot’s misguided intentions in season 1 receive a proper outlet and focus.
It was also an outstanding showcase for a wonderfully talented actor. I don’t put much faith or stock in the Emmys anymore, but I’ll be stunned if Malek doesn’t get at least a nomination for this episode.
The very first article I ever wrote about Mr. Robot talked about how this is a show about mental health, and the hacking is just something used to drive the plot to the next checkpoint along Elliot’s uneven mental journey. The fact an episode like this exists just proves my point. Everything about it shows the world around Elliot has followed him in his descent. Just take a look at the world we see here. Military roam the streets enforcing mandatory curfews and guarding makeshift detention centers. It’s basically always grey outside. People crowd the sidewalks. Elliot pays someone to take his trash only for those people to dump it outside his apartment later.
The world of Mr. Robot quite blatantly conforms to Elliot’s mental state and always has. This was never clearer than in the second season’s fake neighborhood Elliot imagined for himself to avoid the truth of prison, but has always been true. Mr. Robot’s world this year has been a dark, violent one matching the hectic pace of the season. This one was a drab, grey, depressing one, an episode highlighting every mistake driving Elliot towards suicide.
The scenery doesn’t change by the end of the episode, but Elliot’s mindset does. It might not happen this season, but at some point soon the world will start to reflect the good Elliot does from here, and the improved health of those around him.
He began the process with Angela with his visit to her apartment. He helped Trenton’s brother. Mobley will now get a proper funeral. Next week he will probably try to make things right with Darlene. And with the e-mail Trenton sent him (yay the dead switch worked!), he can begin undoing the damage done by fsociety and the Dark Army. The climb towards something better has begun for Elliot, his friends, and the rest of this dystopian world they created.
- M&Ms in the popcorn sounds like an excellent idea. I’m definitely trying this soon.
- Yo, Esmail, The Martian is a really good movie. I hope “Elliot’s” attacks were just something random and not his actual thoughts on the movie.
- What the fuck is oyslendish oycecream? Has anyone seen this before?
- Does Back to the Future typically return to theaters on the day Marty traveled into the future? And do people go to these showings dressed like characters?
- So Elliot has to get Romero’s keys from the FBI. Gee, maybe Darlene could help him contact Dom about that? One step closer to cooperation. One step closer.
- I have no idea what Jerky Boys is. None at all. How exactly was it selling out theaters?
- I just realized the “stages” of the E Corp attacks are just like the stages of cancer. I bet the final season ends with a Stage 4. It all ties back to Elliot’s father.