This review contains spoilers.
Whammo. Talk about a distraction-hack. We’ve spent all this time debating the mystery of Mr Robot’s true identity, we never questioned who Darlene really is. It took Elliot pulling a Skywalker and planting one on her for the revelation to come: she’s Elliot’s sister, and Mr Robot is (was?) their dad.
Perhaps we should have seen it coming. With their bee-stung pouts, Rami Malek and Carly Chaikin share an if-you-tilt-your-head-and-squint physical resemblance. It also explains Darlene’s seeming over-familiarity with Elliot, breaking into his apartment, showering there and borrowing his clothes as if she had a right to.
The sibling relationship makes sense of earlier events in the episode, too. Why else would Darlene have pushed a stolen gun into Elliot’s hands, reminding him of the need to protect the two of them and not just fSociety? Why was she the one to help him access Gideon’s phone, or a fortnight ago, to get involved in the prison break? It obviously also explains Darlene and Angela’s friendship, as revealed in the cold open.
Looking back, Darlene being Elliot’s sister neither breaks with the show’s continuity or our credulity. What it does change, fundamentally, is our perspective on Elliot. We always knew he was an unreliable narrator. Just how unreliable is the surprise of this episode.
Elliot’s amnesiac psychosis (without a medical dictionary to hand, I’m going with that) is so severe that he managed to forget he had a sister? And not, judging by Darlene’s words, for the first time? That casts a new light on every single thing he’s told us. Before this episode, the men in black and Mr Robot were the sites on which Elliot’s illness centred. Now, the radius of his instability has expanded to cover everything we think we know about him.
Which leads us to a question not yet asked in these reviews: what in the hell happened to Elliot before the series began? We know (or think we do) about the drugs, depression, grief and childhood abuse. That’s enough to send anyone off the deep end. But some event must have occurred with the authorities that obliged Elliot to have a year’s worth of state-mandated counselling appointments. What did he do?
The same can also be asked about Mr Robot, or perhaps more properly, Mr Alderson. There are now so many question marks hovering over the head of Christian Slater’s character, it’s enough to make you nostalgic for the good old days when only his existence was up for debate. In addition, if we accept that he’s Elliot and Darlene’s father, we also have to ask why he isn’t dead, why he hasn’t aged, and why he’s still wearing a jacket from decades ago? Add to all that the “dirty little secret” teased by Tyrell Wellick in yet another of the week’s revelations—oh, Mr Robot and Wellick are in cahoots by the way—and everything begins to blur.
Perhaps the only real question to ask at this point in Mr Robot’s first season is whether the show can actually handle this volume of revelation and twist without sacrificing coherence. This time in two weeks, we’ll have the answer to that at least.
Whatever Mr Robot’s secret is, it can’t be much dirtier than Wellick’s own, the murder he’s attempting to avoid being caught for with the stealth of a circus clown in a pair of particularly cumbersome shoes.
Wellick went into the office the morning after strangling his boss’ wife looking guiltier than a guilty thing on Guilt Sunday. Sweaty and paranoid (very much the look of this week’s episode), he made a scene in the lobby, ducked out on the cops, and left it to his heavily pregnant wife to save him by administering her own membrane-rupture-by-pickle-fork (unless, please God, that was just pickle juice on the floor). Will labour prove the diversion Wellick needs not to be arrested? We’ll see.
Those two represent a whole bundle of questions in their own right, chief of which is: why all the fuss over a simple promotion? Who needs another storey and a pool that badly? There must be more to the sexed-up, Scandi version of Macbeth they’re playing out on the Upper East Side.
All that, and we haven’t even mentioned the appearance of Whiterose, the mysterious transwoman (played by Law & Order and Jurassic Park’s B.D. Wong) who heads up uber-powerful hacking syndicate The Dark Army.
Like an exaggerated villain from a demented Bond movie, the Whiterose meeting was bravura stuff; outlandish and entirely gripping. Even if this bold, strange, expressively shot show doesn’t manage to keep all of its many plates spinning, it’s already provided a string of memorable TV moments, that scene being chief among them.
So now, we wait. Elliot and his father need to talk, and as the incoherent mess of interrogatives above proves, we need some answers.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, View Source, here.
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