This review contains spoilers.
So now we have it, proof of the theory floated by fans since episode one: Mr Robot isn’t real. He’s a construct of Elliot’s psychosis. Elliot is Mr Robot.
Contrary to expectation, having predicted the twist didn’t dilute its dramatic impact. That was largely thanks to Rami Malek, whose performance sold Elliot’s desperate disorientation with utter conviction. Props have to go to Christian Slater too, and moreover to whomever cast him in this part. I can’t think of a better choice to play a middle-aged malcontent lunatic hacker projected from the mind of his malcontent lunatic hacker son. Kudos.
It also helped that we were still reeling from the end of last week’s episode, which blew us all from standing up to sprawled messily on the ground. Distracted by the possibility that, like Darlene, Elliot had also somehow forgotten his father, the news that Christian Slater’s character exists only in Elliot’s mind still managed to pack a punch.
Which leaves a major question: now that we know the identity of Mr Robot, the origin of his name, and exactly how unreliable our narrator has been these past few months, what does this show have left in store for season two?
One tantalising answer came courtesy of Terry Colby, and his out-of-the-blue job offer for Angela. Her taking Wellick’s now-vacant position throws up all kinds of interesting possibilities for next year. I’d sign up for a season of watching her try to take Evil Corp. down from the inside while Elliot and Darlene do the same from the dubious comfort of their Coney Island premises.
Once they’d cleaned the blood off the arcade games and hidden the body, that is. I’m jumping the gun (pun intended), but genius avenger Elliot luring a self-confessed non-repentant woman-killer to a remote location where he knows his sister stashed a piece just days before, spells goodbye for Wellick in my book. Can you really see Elliot teaming up with him? It’s hard to see where else Wellick can go from here but weighted and to the bottom of the ocean. That, or prison. A murder charge can only be shrugged off for so long, especially when you’re given to making lengthy confessions in the possibly-bugged home of an acquaintance.
As well as the geek nostalgia of seeing all that mid-nineties tech (“This is the future” indeed), the flashback to Elliot’s childhood theft was key to forming the man we know. It was the day Edward Alderson shaped his son’s moral identity by teaching him that it’s okay to do bad things if you’re essentially a good person—and especially if the person you do the bad thing to is a prick. That explains Elliot’s blasé attitude to invading the privacy of those around him, and his Robin Hood plans to destroy Evil Corp.
The scene also kick-started the episode’s meditation on failure. That asshole customer’s jibes about Edward doing a job not worthy of a grown man were steeped in capitalist assumptions about what success, failure and masculinity really mean. We then saw two different sides of that argument, with Gideon’s husband assuring him that professional failure meant nothing when somebody loves you, and conversely, Wellick’s wife telling him to fix the situation or get out.
Will Elliot fail? That very much depends on what you’d characterise as success for him. Taking down Evil Corp? Getting back on his meds and ridding himself of his father’s ghost? Wherever this show takes him in next week’s season finale, it’s proved itself playful and expert enough in so many areas that there’s no chance I won’t be back for season two. As TV shows go, that’s a resounding success.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Whiterose, here.
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