Ding Dong: Mr. Robot, ‘406 Not Acceptable’

Last Week we got a Silent Night. Or day, technically but with the Christmas theme and Esmail being, you know, Esmail …

The end result of an hour of pure, perfect art was that the poor broken Alderson kids finally came through for each other in all the ways they’d been both afraid, and yet determined to, they were able to gain the right kind of access to hack the Deus Group ghouls. Elsewhere, poor Krista was abducted by Vera and his new assistant Peanut in their plot to convince Elliot to come over to Vera’s ‘world-building’ project. It’s worth noting that Elliot has no idea Vera is even up to any of this, while Vera goes to all these lengths.

Warning; This week’s episode features the portrayal of attempted suicide. If you are distressed by such content, please read with caution. If you need any help, at any time, or just to talk to someone, please use any of the available resources for your location on this list. And please remember, you are loved, you are valued, and you are not alone.

We open on Vera (Elliot Villar, who I don’t say enough or even at all, is just spectacular in this role and has been every time he’s in an episode) telling a story to a literally captive audience of Krista,  about a ruthless bully who  would stomp a ‘scrawny lil bitch’ for any reason he could think of; if Lil Bitch had some cash, if he had a good day at school, if he was dressed nice … he got stomped. Lil Bitch loved baseball and one Christmas Day, Lil Bitch woke to find an Eastern Magnum aluminum baseball bat and ran outside to play with it, didn’t even pause to take off the bow. His Bully appeared and without warning, Lil Bitch smashed The Bully in the head, as hard as he could. Vera remains just as calm as he’s been, but his eyes redden with tears as he explains that Lil Bitch knew the ‘truth’. That bat might have been made for sports, but it was put in his hand at that exact moment, to cave his Bully’s skull in. The point of all of this, Vera advances on a terrified Krista to explain…is that she will be Vera’s aluminum bat.

Do I start theorising now about Vera’s choice of Bruce Lee style tracksuit, banana yellow with a black stripe? I MIGHT. (Edit: I did, for a while, I got nothing. He just dresses great, the man has swagger for days, that’s all it is.)

Over with the Aldersons mere hours after their bank job, which in turn was mere hours after the kids both spent the night running around Pike’s Hollow, Elliot is sitting in a coffee shop (quite possibly the same one from the pilot. He might even be at the same table), speaking to Darlene by phone. While Elliot explains how he has a plan to use Olivia, their ‘in’ at Cyprus Bank, to get her boss’s credentials for the money transfer, Darlene is back at Angela’s and comes across her old ballet pumps. The show did a really great job of making us not … forget Angela as such, but push her to the back of our mind for a good few episodes, so this moment really landed. Elliot, clueless, tells Darlene he regrets the things he said in their big fight but Darlene just can’t right this second, at least not openly. She tells him she loves him and be careful though it sounds like she just tells him to keep his phone on. Look, I speak Alderson, okay?

She starts to leave Angela’s apartment but she runs face to gun barrel into a frankly, furious-looking Dom.

Uh oh.

Call ended, Elliot looks up to greet his visitor and LEON, IT’S LEON, IT’S MY BELOVED LEON I’M SO HAPPY IT’S LEON. GUYS. LEON IS HERE. Leon is all ‘long time no see!’ and I’m like I KNOW, LOVE, HELLO! He looks around the coffee shop and asks ‘Where do I know this place from?’. You know, as you might if you’d BEEN WATCHING IT ON A SCREEN FROM OUTSIDE THE SIMULATION? Sorry. Sorry. My theories about Leon are probably my wildest so I get excitable. (But listen, he’s an interdimensional traveller, a time traveller, or one of the few people who can leave the simulated reality at will.)

Leon has acquired something for Elliot and passes it to him beneath the table (like he did the Adderal back in prison) while in the background two … extras(?) move around in a way that is either just badly blocked or intentionally weird. Elliot moves to leave right away so Leon lets him know that he’s gone one hundred percent freelance now, loyal only to whoever is paying him, so Elliot can go ahead and hold onto his number. He heads out, hopefully very briefly. Probably going to check in with the Mothership or something. God, I love him.

Elliot goes to order drinks to go and Robot is there to worry, to Elliot and to us, about them crossing a line with Olivia, one they might not be able to come back from.

Back at the apartment, Dom is asking why Darlene was in Pike’s Hollow that morning — Darlene is more interested in how Dom got in — Dom is more interested in where Elliot is. Darlene gives her nothing so Dom starts to dial Janice, revealing to Darlene that she, Dom, is who the Dark Army have sent to deal with their little fuck up. Janice is at home, listening to a delightful Christmas Day radio show about The Rapture AND YES, OKAY ESMAIL. Janice thinks it’s a shame she only has Darlene and promises to call back with an answer.

Elliot is at Olivia’s apartment with two peppermint mochas, charming his way in and as he closes the door behind them he, for the first time this season, looks directly into the camera. At Us. Ooh.

Elliot holds Olivia’s hand and tells her he needs to talk to her about her clients at Cyprus Group. Olivia is confused, a little afraid, but she’s not throwing Elliot out as he lists Deus Group’s many atrocities. He asks her to simply call her boss, have him log in, so Elliot can swipe his credentials. He tells Olivia they’re using her and if he had her on the hook at all, that throws her off. She throws him out and Elliot heads to the door, stands before it. There’s a … moment. There’s this moment when Rami does something hard to explain. It could be Elliot, hesitating, but my first thought was of that flashback scene when Elliot became ‘Robot’ for the first time, with the jacket and the mask. It reminds me of that.  Elliot (… or whoever)  turns and points out she loses custody of her kids if she fails a drug test. She thinks she won’t, but, wouldn’t you know … Elliot, who wanted to use her drug addiction and kids way back when has dosed her coffee with Oxy.

Olivia is devastated. And, to a point, so is Elliot as he tells her she’ll lose her son if she doesn’t do what he says. Olivia asks why he’s doing it and a cold dulled Elliot admits he was running out of time and this was just … the fastest way. Oh. That hurt.

In some sinister War Room-looking place, standing before a huge whiteboard covered in complex formulae, Whiterose Assistant, Wang Shu, shows her the traffic picture of the Aldersons taken near the burned Dark Army van, and goes as far as suggesting she thinks, it’s, you know, time to fucking kill Elliot fucking Alderson who is clearly Up To Some Shit involving the soon-to-be-gathered members of Deus Group.

Whiterose firmly, slowly, as if speaking to a slow child she barely has the patience for, tells Wang Shu to have Elliot found and brought in so he can finally see what all the work has been for. It’s time, Whiterose states, Elliot learns they’re on the same side.

For anyone who thinks Whiterose is one of the alters, Esmail seems to be fanning the flames. Have we seen Whiterose outside of one of her private little hideouts even once?

At the apartment, Janice calls Dom with the news they want Elliot and Darlene is to be killed. Dom hesitates and Janice calmly promises to kill her entire family if she doesn’t, so … yaknowwwwwww ….

Dom stands up, takes a second and then drags Darlene into the bathroom, tosses her into the bathtub, and prepares to execute her. Darlene owns every single thing she did to bring Dom to this point and Darlene spills she and Elliot have a plan that would make this redundant anyway if Dom just lets her go.

There’s a horrible, long, drawn-out moment when Darlene is just begging and begging and reminding Dom that whatever else has happened, Dom isn’t just a fucking murderer. At the second she’s going to squeeze the trigger, Dom clubs Darlene unconscious and flees the room.

RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU FEEL PERSONALLY VICTIMISED BY CARLY AND GRACE BEING SO DAMN GOOD?

Distressing scenes to follow.

Poor Olivia, the other hostage, is making the call to get her boss to log in and when she hangs up, Elliot asks how long it will be. Olivia points out how her life is over now, even if Elliot thinks he’ll just leave, her life is ruined. This slip will destroy her, she won’t recover as easily as he might. Elliot comes back with the not unreasonable assertion that she … did, after all, choose to work for Literal Honest-To-God Supervillains. Olivia, just as reasonably, points out her choices are none of his damned business, and wonders how many people’s lives he’s destroyed in his quest, asks was it all worth it. Olivia requests to use the bathroom and Elliot apparently doesn’t remember what she has hidden inside her pill bottle.

She pauses to ask if their sleeping together (and the connection they had) was an accident and he sheepishly admits it was. She leaves the room and Elliot tells Robot they’ll be done soon. Without being asked he justifies his choices, makes sure to blame Olivia. Robot talks to us about the dread Elliot is feeling because he knows he’s crossed a line. Olivia collapses in the bathroom and Elliot rushes in to find she has cut her wrists.

Krista is telling Vera that Elliot has, frankly, a library full of mental health issues but Vera wants more. He insists Krista loves Elliot and because Gloria Reuben is a Goddess, there’s a split second when it almost, almost looks like she tries not to laugh, his allegation is that absurd to her. Vera does his bit, with banging and shouting and Krista, calm and cool tells him that it won’t work and he cant use being bullied as a child as an excuse.

Vera recoils like she spat in his face and asks if Krista just called him … a little bitch? He checks with Peanuts (The Artist Formerly Known as Red Coat) and Javi, who is some dude standing by the door who … was he there the whole time?! Reuben kills me again with her dawning look of panic that she’s just poked the bear.

Jason, her adorkable boyfriend who she invited over earlier rings at the door, and Vera sinisterly asks if they should let him in. My heart is going to beat out of my chest.

Back at her apartment, Elliot has saved Olivia and bandaged her wrists, promising she’ll be okay. Olivia’s in a state of shock but not so much she can’t tell Elliot she doesn’t believe his apology. Elliot is … I mean, our baby is so done. He just hands over her phone, which has three missed calls from her boss already. She’s so close to being done. Olivia asks Elliot about one of the crimes he accused Deus Group of, a massacre in South America. Of course, it’s the same one where her mother was murdered. Elliot promises he can stop them. Olivia makes the call and though she’s shaky and nervous she’s a cool as ice with her boss, and Elliot gets the login information. Elliot promises to erase any trace she and her boss were involved. Olivia cuts Elliot to the quick; she might have worked for monsters, but Elliot is one. And he’s worse because he doesn’t even know it.

Elliot’s expression bleeds so cold and dead that it would be easy to think the third, unknown alter has briefly stepped into his shoes. Even Robot looks at him warily as they leave.

At Krista’s, Jason is outside, disappointed, thinking Krista bailed on him, despite the fact it’s only been a few hours since she invited him for dinner. Vera returns to Krista and continues from earlier; Bully got his ass beaten and woke up in the hospital to find Lil Bitch waiting for him. Bully was scared he’d be finished off but Lil Bitch walked to his bed and just held his hand and got real close. Vera holds Krista’s hand and gets real close.

Lil Bitch was sniffling and crying and said ‘I see you now’. Lil Bitch showed up when no one else would, saw Bully like no one else could. From that moment on, he owned that bully, for life. Vera explains if he wants to own Elliot he has to break him, completely, enough to build him up. He has to wound Elliot’s soul so Vera is the only one who can fix him. He tells Krista he needs her to tell him what he wants, or she’s dead, and then so is Jason. Vera has those huge, shining eyes again like he’s always a second away from silent weeping. Vera tells Krista to trust him and properly terrified now, she nods. Krista, who has been protecting Elliot this whole time, by the way, directs Vera to a file about Eliot, labelled ‘September 15’. Vera asks what he’ll find and she tells him ‘Mr Robot … that’s how you’ll break him’.

Oooh! OOOOOOOHHH!!!!

In Angela’s bathroom, Darlene wakes up to a watching Dom, learning they might only have minutes before Dark Army comes. Dom wants Darlene to unlock her phone so Dom can use it to find Elliot. Darlene talks about the night they spent together, the genuinely nice time they had despite what happened after. Darlene tells Dom to do what she has to as long as she knows she gave Darlene one of the only high spots in her life. Dom grabs her, drags her out of the bathroom and hands her the gun, begging Darlene to shoot her and just run. Darlene can’t do it; Dom can’t do it to herself and while they scream at each other, Janice and two Dark Army henchmen walk in.

Neither Dom nor Darlene just SHOOTS THE THREE OF THEM IN THE FUCKING FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE but to be fair they are in a state of some shock. Janice reassures Dom she’ll live but will suffer horribly, and pulls a gun on Darlene to kill her since — again — they don’t need her, just her phone. Exceeeeeeeeeeeeept, Darlene managed to erase her entire phone, because she is a boss. Janice is stumped. She doesn’t even look mad about it, she’s almost impressed. HA!

On a New York street, in front of an advert for ‘Omni Consumer Industries’, reading ‘The Future Has A Silver Lining’ beside a logo that looks, honestly, like a stylised Large Hadron Collider or something similar (SAM); Elliot and Robot talk about how, you know … they’re kind of set to go. Robot wants to talk about what just happened and Elliot is like ‘You mean the thing where we successfully completed the penultimate stage of our hack and are, right now, mere hours away from saving the world?’

And Robot is all ‘I was thinking more about the woman you just drugged, threatened, and drove to an attempted suicide before leaving her completely alone with the knowledge her carefully fought for life might be in ruins?’

Elliot’s like ‘Eh’ because we are losing him, and then he gets a call from Krista who comes right out with the news Vera kidnapped her and pumped her for information. She admits she told him everything and then ‘let her go’ and Elliot without a second’s hesitation promises to come and get her. Robot, and, you know, ME, scream at him that it’s a clear and obvious trap but Elliot knows, and he’s going anyway. As Elliot jets off to be a hero, Robot voiceovers about how Elliot is changing and as the music builds … Elliot is grabbed by Peanuts and Javi, bundled, and screaming all the while, into the trunk of a car.

Sam Esmail has a thing with threes. Interlocking sets of threes, really, but threes nonetheless. The pattern has always been in the show though it’s gotten more and more overt of late, and this episode was an expression of that. Three hostage situations, three hostage-takers, three hostages. Janice arrived with two goons, at 3 pm. Previously we’ve seen characters tend to be bunched into groups of three, even when there are overlaps; Elliot/Robot/Tyrell being the most obvious, but we’ve seen Elliot/Angela/Darlene, Elliot/Darlene/Dom, and Grant/Whiterose/Elliot. Even in prison, Elliot had Ray and Leon to interact with and Esmail has openly played with the idea of the Holy Trinity. The number three is a hugely mystical number, featured in folk takes, ancient and modern religions … .did you know Plato believed three to symbolise the triangle, and that all the world is built from triangles?

But … enough of that. Or I will honestly, never stop.

Dominik Garcia-Lorido (I was today years old when I realised she’s Andy Garcia’s daughter and now I can’t stop seeing how similar they look) has done a remarkable job with Olivia Cortez. Olivia is vulnerable and fragile but she’s not lacking for a spine and she’s not afraid to call bullshit where she sees it. That she has to serve as Elliot’s … almost-sacrifice to the mission isn’t fair at all, even if she did decide to work for the bad guys. I loved the reveal (assuming Elliot wasn’t shamelessly lying) that Deus Group was responsible for the massacre in which her mother died. Her mother’s death led to Olivia’s addiction, which led to her losing her kid, which likely led to her willingness to turn a blind eye to the exact nature of her work, if it meant a secure job, access to her son and a life she could turn into something. Over the years, the show has made very sure that everyone now fighting back, through minor rebellions or major ones against Dark Army is someone Dark Army has created.

The parallel between that and Vera’s story, about the Bully who was brought down by someone he just kept pushing and pushing until they couldn’t take any more, is just *chefs kiss* perfect.

Speaking of Vera … I just love what an odd bird he is. Despite his repeated explanations of what he wants Elliot for I still have absolutely no idea what he wants, and I’m both terrified and excited to learn. What world does he want Elliot to help build? There’s no way, at this stage, that it’s some sort of criminal enterprise or drug empire. That would just be such small potatoes. But what else can it be?

Of course, A-games are always brought by this cast but while I’m out here praising the guest stars, let’s not forget Rami, Carly and Grace. Grace Gummer and Carly Chaikin are spectacular on their own merits but when they’re together in a scene? There’s just a different kind of energy and you know from the first frame you’re about to witness excellence. One of my favourite things about tonight was trying to decipher when or if the little ‘moments’ each Alderson had with their scene partners were genuine. Was Elliot lying about the massacre? About fixing things for Olivia? Did Darlene really have such a good time with Dom ? I want to believe they were real but with our kids, so broken? It’s hard to know.

Oh, sidebar for a moment; it’s harder to know if the Dom Theory That She’s Playing A Long Game is happening. I have no doubt Dom was in a sincere moral quandary over killing Darlene, no doubt she’s sincerely suicidal and riddled with anxiety over her current situation. But … guys … so much of what happened was very important. She probably just did hesitate over committing an actual murder and that of someone she’s got history with, no less. She probably just happened to knock Darlene out until minutes before the all-important deadline. She probably really did just give Darlene her phone to take and escape and she probably wants to kill herself but has struggled to do so.

But …

… She also just happened to have stalled Darlene long enough to ensure they stay together and are therefore safer. She also just happened to have handed Darlene her phone, allowing her to wipe it, ensuring Darlene survives at least a few more hours — hours Elliot can use to complete the hack. She also just happened to have fixed things so she and Darlene could well end up being taken directly to the likes of Whiterose, at say, the Deus Group meeting, where she, a Fed (or … more?) would be well-positioned to identify — to even arrest — the evilest, most conniving scumbags the world has ever known.

Back to the acting! Rami Malek has a capacity to emote through Elliot’s colder, more detached moments that is honestly untouchable but even as I say that, I can’t help but wonder how much of what we saw this week really was our Elliot.

If it was him … I am worried about Elliot. He’s reached a point of such profound emotional detachment that I don’t think he’s capable of ever coming back. As Robot talks about the impact of crossing our own moral lines it’s clear he’s not just worried what Elliot might do to others, but what Elliot might do to himself.

And I don’t just mean for the mission. I’m worried, increasingly, about what might happen after, when all is said and done. Even if Elliot succeeds and defeats Whiterose, saves Dom and Darlene, clears Trenton and Mobley’s names and goes back to apologise to poor Bill … it’s not like Elliot will just wake up the next day without his mental health issues, particularly not his Dissociative Identity Disorder and whatever else he may be living with. He’s been living with them since childhood, they won’t just go away because he wins The Big Game.

I hope I’m wrong about where I’m going, but I’m afraid for Elliot. He’s so far gone.

Or is he? Was … honestly, was that Elliot in that apartment? Robot gave no indication it wasn’t, but that moment at the door is lingering with me. In previous weeks there have been moments when Rami lets Elliot’s expression fall so slack and cold that it can be a little chilling. Are we seeing glimpses of the third? Did we see them tonight?

Before I finish, let me again just reiterate my absolute GLEE about the return of Leon. I’m curious that Elliot would ever think to call him, given the last time they met Leon had a direct line to Whiterose that superseded even Grant.  Yes, Leon killed Grant, saving the Aldersons, but on Whiterose’s orders. Would Elliot call him? And then the news he’s gone one hundred percent freelance is absolutely fascinating. Whiterose isn’t exactly known for letting people just … walk away, is she? Leon did. Just Leon. Maybe Irving, too? Where does she find these people (assuming they don’t just materialise from the ether whenever Whiterose tests the Project …), and do Irving and Leon get to live? While I’m here, who all else noticed Leon just made himself Elliot’s baseball bat, right as Elliot might need to smash a bully upside the head.

Next week, Elliot confronts Vera and we all check ourselves into a nice, quiet retreat for STRESS and ANXIETY.

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

You may also like...