I Want to Go Back to Forgetting: Mr. Robot, 408; ‘Request Timeout’

Last week on Mr. Robot;

No one, not one single one of us was prepared for what happened. After Elliot, without a moment’s hesitation, threw himself into danger to protect Krista, he was forced into an impromptu therapy session while Vera looked on.

It’s hard to decide when the emotional wounds started to be inflicted on everyone involved; Elliot’s desperate admission he needs Krista, Krista’s frantic attempts to curtail the session, out of fear for Elliot’s mental well being, or the moment when Vera got a hook into Elliot and let him know there was something else to examine, those hurt.

Without a doubt, the fatal cut came when Elliot, shaking and weeping, was forced to remember the long-repressed reason he created Mr. Robot, not a few short years ago, but decades back, in early childhood; it was so Robot could protect Elliot from Edward Anderson’s sexual abuse.

Between the devastation of this reveal and the sheer raw power of everyone, but particularly Rami Malek’s performance, there is no escaping that last week’s episode was one of the best of the season, one of the best on television in the last ten years.

What made it land even more powerfully was the simple fact the abuse was not added by Esmail to create drama in the last few episodes, but instead is the complex catalyst for all of Elliot’s behaviours and ideas that followed. It is why he created Mr. Robot, it’s why he remained detached and isolated from society, why he developed his unique understanding of the world; it’s what’s stoked his anger to act on his views. That, and the fact Esmail has been laying the groundwork for this reveal since day one made it all the more devastating. If you’re not already looking back at Elliot’s behaviours in a completely new context, then think on the scene from Season 2 when Elliot is attacked in prison by Nazis who make it clear they intend to rape him. It’s the only time in the history of the show we see Elliot, on camera, dissociate into Robot. Of course, by then, Robot had told Elliot he takes the hits, so we understood it at that moment … but not completely. Not until now.

When all was said and done, Robot had, for all an imaginary friend can, walked out, Elliot was an emotional husk, Vera was dead and Krista was the one who killed him.

Elsewhere on the show, there were other characters, doing other things, though I don’t blame you if you briefly forgot they exist; When we last saw Dom and Darlene they were being held by the unimaginably terrifying Janice, with few options and fewer ways out. It’s not even clear if Elliot would know where they might be and if he did, whether he’s in any state to offer them any help.

Let’s see what happens …

In another previously, we’re reminded that when Elliot and Angela were little, they would run away, travel into the city and attend Queens Museum. Oh, Angela. We open on a flashback to one of those adventures when a little bb Elliot, dressed exactly like Marty McFly (… Sam) is playing hide and seek with Angela in the closed museum. He runs through back corridors and comes across a door to a storage room that’s separate from the rest. Elliot ducks into the room and examines the eclectic collection of displays and figures; a giant statue of a robot he stares at, a ‘World of Tomorrow’ sign leaning against a wall. It becomes clear he was looking for this location as he takes a little wallet he’s carrying and, talking to an invisible figure, stuffs the wallet into an old crack in the wall, reassuring the invisible Robot that Angela won’t find them there.

He heads back into the museum proper and he and Angela chase each other, the music swelling beneath the sound of their laughter.

In the present, Vera lays dead and Elliot and Krista are in their own forms of profound shock. Krista wants to call the police, realises Peanuts and Javi are coming back and starts to gather their things to make a break for it. Elliot is catatonic, staring at a younger form of himself that Krista can’t see, ignoring her increasingly desperate pleas to leave.

Outside, Peanuts needs to pee and wants to head back inside, Javi meta-commenting we did all get left on a cliffhanger last week. Okay. I said ‘hehe’. Peanuts and Javi head upstairs and by some miracle, Krista has moved Elliot down the fire escape, so they take Vera’s wallet and book.

Out on the street, Krista is literally leading a dazed Elliot by the hand to a taxi cab and they leave for the nearest police station. On a screen in the cab, a presumably pre-recorded film of Tyrell wishes them a Merry Christmas From E-Corp … Sam, please.

At Dom’s mother’s house, her nephews play cards and hilariously bicker, and one is sent into time out. I love Dominique’s family so dearly so I know they are doomed. And yep, goons rush into the house, grab and bind the whole family. Goddamn it.

At Angela’s morbid tomb-er, apartment, Janice is being incredibly sinister and creepy, talking about cities were created when, twelve thousand years ago, a lightning strike created cement and changed the world forever. She needles Dom about her inability to kill Darlene, her feelings for Darlene, then rolls out a huge carry case of knives, leaving our girls shaking in genuine terror. Darlene demands Janice just get the torture over with since she’s not going to talk and just when it seems like Janice will cut her … she instead plunges a knife into Dom’s chest.

OH HOLY SHIT.

OKAY. OH SHIT. Dom, bleeding, wheezing, collapses, Janice talking calmly about how she’s probably punctured a lung, which is now collapsing, giving Dom maybe fifteen minutes to live, longer since Dom’s a fighter. She makes a point to say if the knife is removed, Dom will die faster as even more air will enter her chest cavity. So. Hang on to that. Janice lays it out; Darlene gives up Elliot or they let Dom die. Oh, my dear actual god.

Elliot and Krista are at the police station but he’s terrified to go inside. Krista doesn’t press him because she is a Good Person. Elliot hesitantly asks what ‘people like him’ do when they find out about ‘something like this’. Oh, Elliot. Krista gently tells him they try to keep going. Elliot does what every survivor does and wonders why he didn’t fight back. Oh, Elliot. Krista is Good and Brilliant and tells him he was a child. Elliot wants to go back to forgetting but Krista tells him he never did forget. It’s that itch at the back of his mind, the one he can’t scratch (reflecting Elliot’s own words back at him.). Elliot weeps ‘he made me feel special’. Krista tells him he is special, and what Edward did doesn’t take that away. She tells Elliot he’ll survive and promises she’ll call him the next day. Elliot apologises for getting her involved and doesn’t want her to take care of him anymore, but Krista wants to, wants to be there. Elliot looks off, sees his younger self, nods ‘I know’.

And then he reaches out and hugs her. He hugs her. The noise I made, guys. Have we ever, ever seen Elliot reach out and hug anyone? Krista hugs him like a mother, holds him close, asks him to take care, perhaps knowing she may not see him again, and leaves him to go inside, to safety. Elliot sees his younger self turn away, leading him somewhere, and of course, because he has to … he follows the boy to a subway platform and asks where they’re going.

We cut to Angela’s apartment where Darlene still isn’t talking, reasoning that Janice won’t save Dom anyway. Janice argues back she will, as Dom is a good mole, easy to control but Dom wheezes at Darlene not to tell. Janice talks about Dom’s mum, Trudy, who she’s grown to like, who is so keen to find Dom a partner she even tried to set her up with Janice, despite red flags. Darlene is all ‘Like your glowing insanity?’ but Janice just explains how when she got interested in taxidermy in high school her parents sent her to every shrink under the sun (way to take an unusual but probably harmless curiosity and make it a thing, parents!) but they never found anything wrong with her. She’s remarkably normal. She tells this little story as Dom wheezes to death in the background, which Darlene points out, only for Janice to remind her she can end it. Darlene starts to cry and Janice is genuinely shocked it’s taking so long. She reaches for her phone to start ordering Dom’s family to be murdered one by one until Darlene talks. Darlene finally breaks and asks for her phone, which she alone can restore, offering up Elliot so long as Dom’s family isn’t hurt. Janice looks happy but I’m holding out hope Darlene has a plan. Someone has to have a plan. Right? Guys? … Sam?

The thing is, it’s not even clear if Darlene can be any use because Elliot is at the Queens Museum asking his mute younger self why they’re there. Since he’s asking, this isn’t where he plans to be.

Little Elliot remains silent and Elliot, clearly just expressing his own thoughts, asks if the kid is making a point about how Elliot ran away rather than fight Edward. He apologises for ‘letting’ Edward hurt Little Elliot, for not fighting back, not protecting…himself. He screams his apologies into the silence but Little Elliot just says ‘that isn’t why I brought you here’ and then vanishes. He reappears further away, leading Elliot again, back to that strange old storeroom from so long ago. The robot that towered over Little Elliot is broken now, sits dismantled on a nearby box, and the sign from the wall that read ‘World of Tomorrow’ sits askew on the floor. Little Elliot digs in that space under the door where he hid something all those years ago.

Elliot takes the item, an old leather wallet or coin purse and shakes out the contents, a tiny key whose teeth look like ‘E’. (I swear to God, Sam).  Elliot remembers it was the key to his old bedroom and wonders why he hid it, and Little Elliot calmly tells him it was Edward’s key to their room. They took it to lock him out, thinking if they hid it he couldn’t hurt them anymore. They hid the key so the monster couldn’t get to them. Little Elliot asks ‘Don’t you see? You’re wrong. This wasn’t running away from him.’

Elliot realises coming to the museum was fighting back.

We cut suddenly to Krista’s apartment where the Dark Army henchman watches Vera’s body be removed, reports Elliot’s phone was left there but he’s still missing. Darlene doesn’t know what else to do, the phone is how they track each other, especially since Elliot doesn’t tell her anything. If he left his phone, something happened, or he’s actively hiding from Darlene. Janice calls her a liar but a weak, dying Dom backs our girl up, knows what Darlene looks like when she’s lying. Janice accepts this but will have Trudy killed anyway, just to make sure Darlene won’t change her mind. Dom argues Janice will kill her only bargaining chip which Janice knows and they all argue and bluff as the camera spins and turns around them, a dizzying whirl that ends as Janice dials the phone.

Which rings.

And it rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And keeps ringing. Janice redials. And it rings. And rings. And rings. And rings. We cut to the house where the phone is abandoned, soaked in somebody’s blood.

Dom gasps ‘No answer?’ like she knows something. Girl, whaat? She suggests Janice check her phone because someone has been trying to call her. Girl, what?! Janice checks the phone and there are fourteen missed calls from someone called ‘Lucky Irish Bastard’ and OH HOLY FUCKING GODDAMN FUCKING MOTHER FUCKING SHIT! DOM FOUGHT BACK! DOM FOUGHT BACK HARD! DOM WENT FOR THE FUCKING THROAAAAAAAAAAT!

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MY HEART IS BEATING SO FAST I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Janice dials the number and a gooooorgeous Irish accent answers, broguing his way into my heart as he gleefully tells what he thinks is Dom that her family are safe and well on the way to a prearranged safe house. Janice very understandably blurts ‘Who the fuck is this?!’ and we cut to the Irish guy Dom arrested a few episodes back, the one with face tattoos, whose file we saw her briefly revisit. Deegan asks who she is and when learning she’s Janice, knows about Dark Army and asks her to thank Dom for releasing him on a technicality so he could, ya know, go and save her entire family at the last fucking second. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I KNEW MY GIRL WAS PLAYING! I THOUGHT IT WAS FURTHER BACK THAN THIS BUT I FUCKEN KNEW IT! I KNEW SHE WASN’T DONE! YES BABY!

Deegan apologises for the ‘holy show’ he gave Janice’s lads, clarifying he murdered the absolute crap out of every last one of them with bullets, in their brains. Janice tries to bring the thunder but Deegan is an Irish mobster, he has negative fucks to give about the Dark Army, calls her a ‘flange’ and then rings off. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

I’m screaming. Literally screaming.

Dom doesn’t waste a second of the distraction, pulling the knife out of her chest, grabbing the nearest Dark Army guy’s gun and shooting both henchmen and Janice directly in the fucking face. YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSS DOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! She hangs on long enough to call in her own office in distress and insists Darlene run away before they arrive, go and find Elliot and take Dark Army down. Darlene doesn’t want to go but she does on Dom’s order and SAM, IF YOU KILL DOM I AM GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU STEP IN DOG POO EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE.  Darlene flees.

Back at the Allsafe base, Elliot is back on a computer and Mr. Robot finally reappears. There’s a moment of no more than a few seconds after Mr. Robot says gently ‘Hey kiddo’, and Elliot almost but doesn’t quite flinch at the sound of his voice, his father’s voice, where Robot just stands there, hat in his hands, uncertain and unsure. He moves to speak but thinks better, stands and waits. It’s a few seconds.

Slater should win … everything there is to win for that second alone. My heart just shattered.

Elliot can’t turn to look at him and awkwardly apologises for putting him in time out, says he now needs him back to work on a script for the hack, which will begin in one hour. Mr. Robot knows that’s not why Elliot let him back in and asks if he wants to talk about it. Slater’s voice, man. My heart. He’s never sounded like this. Give him everything.

Robot haltingly explains that the only reason he’s here is to make sure no one ever hurts Elliot. It was meant to be Edward’s job, but he failed, was too weak.  But Elliot was strong. He fought back the only way he could, by bringing Robot to protect him from Edward. Robot tried to keep him safe, only show him good memories, of when he and Edward were friends while storing the truth so Elliot didn’t have to see it or feel it. He admits it was because he didn’t want to see it either. He made a terrible mistake, out of fear of what it would do to Elliot, to both of them. But it was never his secret to keep and Elliot deserved better than to live in darkness for so long. He says he’s sorry, that he failed Elliot. He understands if Elliot can’t forgive him, or shuts him out for good. Just as long as Elliot knows, he’s not Edward. He never was.

We finally cut to Elliot, who nods that he knows. Robot is nothing like Edward, that’s why Elliot created him — to be the father he needed, not the father he had. Robot wishes he could go back in time and stop it, change it all, make it all go away (… SAM) but Elliot finishes ‘Then I wouldn’t be me’.

He turns, weeping and finishes ‘… then I wouldn’t have you’.

Robot embraces him and Elliot admits he’s just paralysed. He’s not sure he can do anything, not even complete the hack. He leans into Mr. Robot’s hug and just sobs and sobs that he can’t do it. Mr. Robot says nothing and just holds him and we fade to black.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go and cry for an hour, or, like …twelve.

I wish I had the vocabulary I feel like I’d need to explain how and why I love what Sam Esmail does. There’s a previously that reminds us of episode seven of Season three, the one where Elliot (probably?) escorts Trenton’s little brother, Mohammed, around the city on what turns out to be Back To The Future Day. In this weeks episode, we flashback to a young Elliot, dressed like Marty McFly. In both episodes, Elliot has a small child who he feels guilty for not protecting, who takes him somewhere quiet and peaceful and manages to find a way to help him process this new trauma he has to deal with.

And … The Robot statue in the flashback, giant and tall and strong and Little Elliot gazes at it, there are echoes of The Iron Giant that moment too. In the present day, it’s literally a broken pedestal that can’t protect Elliot anymore. The World of Tomorrow sign, when audiences know Back To The Future portrays a future timeline where everything has gone horribly wrong because of terrible crimes from the past (which, if we’re getting into this, includes the sexual assault of Marty’s mother at her prom).

Robot’s wish he could ‘go back in time’ and undo it.

And the amazing thing is, he … he can weave in these science fiction suggestive elements, without ever undermining the weight and severity of the characters’ trauma. It’s remarkable.

I just wish I could lay it out all neatly.

Esmail has done it again. It’s starting to feel redundant saying it was another Best Of The Season, but to be frank, the whole season has just been extraordinary. From a narrative sense, I appreciate that Elliot isn’t just bouncing back because he realised he did try to fight back. Some writers can balk at the idea of their lead being so completely wrecked and they often find their way back to something like ‘okay’ within the space of the next episode, usually, because someone says the right thing, but not this show. Our writers know you don’t just get over abuse because someone said some magic words and the fact we end with Elliot so paralysed by confusion and grief that he can’t do the next part is a bold choice, but one I respect.

To delve back into those science fiction elements, yes, okay, Robot discussed ‘going back in time’ but it was clearly a moment of wishful thinking. Besides, Esmail knows better than to cheapen what happened to Elliot in that way. But certainly, he wanted us to at least remember that element of the story.  I wonder if the direct mention of time travel at this time was just a little hint by Esmail that time travel is not what Whiterose project will be about. It’s been one of the theories for a while and Esmail has to start picking them off eventually. Was that line an incredibly cleverly coded way to just take that off the table?

Christian Slater devastated me in that last scene. He’s so often the intense, burning energy in the room, the fire to Elliot’s ice, the volatile kinetic one, even when he’s being quiet and still. As an actor he’s more often remembered for his more manic, wild performances, for The Heathers or True Romance, for portraying characters who always feel a little on the edge of mania, one or two bad days away from just packing in all civility and leaning into the crazy. Throughout Mr. Robot we’ve gotten to see the full breadth and wealth of his phenomenal talent but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as … vulnerable and uncertain as he was when he spoke to Elliot. Of the many, many things that made me cry in this show in the last few weeks, those few seconds I mentioned above? They’ll never leave me.

I could talk about Slater and Malek for days, to be honest. I hope beyond all hope that they work together again after this show. They are so good together.

I had a thought watching Krista’s last scene with Elliot, of how nice it would be if the whole show ended on them sitting down to a therapy session together. How full circle that would feel, how positive an ending it would be that, whatever else has happened, Elliot will have help, will have support, will have someone who understands and cares deeply for him. But then I flashed on another image, of Krista sitting down to an empty couch, crying, because Elliot didn’t make it. Either image could be so powerful a place to end things and it’s harder and harder to know which one we’re headed for.

I’m a mess of emotions over Dom and Darlene. Rule of television, Dom isn’t dead — she didn’t die on camera — our girl could still make it and she’s made it this far GOD DAMN IT. It looks really fucking close though, doesn’t it? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. While I appreciate a good ending, I would be 10000% okay with a copout of soft, happy, rainbows and puppies ending where everyone lives happily ever after. Dom can not die, Sam. Do you hear me? We’ll have words. Stern ones.

Especially, when she finally showed her teeth and she dealt a deadly, deadly blow to the Dark Army. She might have had more impact at that moment than Darlene and Elliot have had in years. They have no FBI insider, no leverage; Elliot and now, Darlene is in the wind, but it could be hours before anyone figures that out. Hours Dark Army just doesn’t have. Dom just completely and totally flipped the table.

The fact it was some random Irish mobster she just befriended, the fact he was more than happy to help, the fact he was a fucking delight he entire goddamn time? I was screaming. Pure joy, pure bliss, screaming the house down, scaring my cats. Flange! He called her a flange?! I died.

Obviously, that was planned, and brilliantly so, by Esmail. We needed a release like that. We needed a moment, we needed a win even if it came at the cost of Dom’s wellbeing and at the very least, sits her out of the final game. Poor Darlene, though. She’s been through so much, and she has no idea what state Elliot is in or what she might be about to walk in to. We know Robot can take over and finish the hack and to her, he’ll look like a functional Elliot, but after? What happens after? That’s what I keep wondering now.

Next week, Whiterose and Elliot finally talk and Whiterose suggests there may be something to be said about … Angela.

What does this mean? We will have to wait and see.

 

 

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.

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