Mr Robot season 2 episode 4 review: Init1
Elliot plays a game of chess against himself in the latest instalment of Mr Robot. Here's our spoiler-filled review...
This review contains spoilers.
For a moment there it really looked like we would see who knocked on that damn door.
init1.asec* begins with what appears to be the end of last season but in reality is a flashback to a particular Halloween. Darlene knocks on Elliot’s door wearing the now infamous fSociety mask. Elliot tries to send her off as he usually does but she intimates that she cannot be alone.
*Rather confusingly titled for the computer illiterate. I naturally assumed the phonetic episode title was to read “In It” before Darlene reveals that the first computer command Elliot taught her was “init1”
So brother and sister spend Halloween watching one of their favorite movies from childhood, the slasher Careful Massacre Of The Bourgeoisie. They catch up on the usual Alderson topics: Darlene’s panic attacks, Elliot’s anger issues and eventually, their dead dad. Elliot opens his closet and shows Darlene that he still has the Mr Robot jacket their father used to wear when he went to work. Darlene then adds the slasher mask from “Careful Massacre” and Elliot’s Mr Robot alter ego is born.
I’m not a psychologist, mental health expert nor knowledgable about dissociative identity disorder in any way. Still, I’m 99% sure that Elliot’s dissociative/schizophrenic-esque craziness has little to no resemblance to any real-life mental illness. Through one season and four episodes, Elliot has definitely proven that he is crazy and some sort of split personality or alternate ego lives within him. It’s not necessarily real-world accurate but that’s fine because Elliot’s particular brand of craziness fits in perfectly for the style and purposes of Mr Robot.
Therefore while it’s fairly absurd to imagine someone’s descent into craziness being triggered by a mask and a coat, thematically it works out perfectly for the show. Elliot has always had issues. He reveals to Darlene that he got fired from his most recent job for destroying all the servers in a fit of rage. But his acceptance of Mr Robot as a new personality into his body is something new entirely. Elliot’s always been dissatisfied and always had the potential to be destructive. It’s not until he puts on the clothes of his father and a mask from childhood does he realize that he wants to act on that dissatisfaction. Because in many ways he did just that.
Init1 is rife with epiphanies. Elliot’s epiphany into a Mr. Robot persona is just the first.
Angela has an epiphany about her role within Evil Corp. She follows through on Price’s tip about the men who were responsible for poisoning her hometown and they are arrested. After presumably dozens of hours of daily affirmation tapes Angela realizes why Price gave her that intel. It wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart. It was become he needs something from her and wants to create some leverage for her to give it to him.
Angela shares this information with her now back-in-play lawyer and later confronts Price with it as well. She demands an office on the 20th floor and Melissa’s job. Price says he admires her spirit but doesn’t know what she’s talking about. What could Angela possibly have that Price wants? Speaking purely from her position on the show her most valuable trait is her proximity to Elliot.
It may seem as though Price couldn’t possibly be that omniscient. But Init1 provides us with a second look of Price interacting with the Dark Army’s Whiterose (again played by BD Wong who all BoJack Horseman viewers know is a “big deal”) who has met Elliot. These dudes are still up to something. We don’t know what still but it involved “ecoins” and FBI investigations.
Speaking of FBI investigations, Darlene also has a rather unfortunate epiphany in Init1. She is pursued off the subway by a man in a suit before being intercepted by Cisco, her former Dark Army boyfriend. Whether through sheer cold logic or his relationship with Darlene, Cisco breaks through to her the severity of her situation. She now knows the FBI knows where fSociety headquarters is and that Romero has some uncomfortably detailed records. Elliot told her previously to abandon the plan entirely and she didn’t listen. But after a tryst with Cisco, she finally sees the severity and wants to flee. Of course she can’t because that’s what guilty people do.
Still, in the present Elliot has one more epiphany to go. There is a current fan theory circulating about season two of Mr Robot. Obviously, it isn’t confirmed or for sure but skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to risk any spoilers from conjecture.
That theory is of course that Elliot is in a psych ward and every character he comes across is just another patient or doctor in said ward. That would explain how Ray is so damn helpful. Ray correctly identifies that Elliot is struggling with voices in his head and correctly prescribes playing chess against himself as a helpful tool to coming to terms with it. That all seems perfectly plausible but I would hate for the show to make it so guessable early on. It’s for that reason that I’m thankful the show reminds us that Ray is first and foremost a badass gangster when Elliot finally agrees to help him with his computer problem. Ray says he’s a private guy and doesn’t want Elliot snooping in any of his business as he roots around in his computer. He also leaves some muscle behind as a silent reminder not to stray. Regardless of whether Ray is a hardened yet loquacious criminal or a charismatic orderly, what’s important is that he and Leon put Elliot on a path of self discovery.
Both Ray and Leon are instrumental in Elliot’s grand epiphany. Leon, fresh off seeing the series finale of Seinfeld tells Elliot that he shouldn’t be afraid to dream. He senses that he is unhappy and directionless and tells him
“Do you want to be here in the cosmic sense. Existence could be painful or it could be beautiful but that’s on you.” He then adds “You need to dream. You need to find out the future your fighting for.”
So Elliot does dream. Literally. As an all chime version of Green Day’s Basketcase plays, Elliot dreams about getting dinner with Angela, bro-ing out with the SafeCorp guys at a cookout, Darlene getting engaged to Cisco and everybody, I mean everybody: Tyrell, Ray, Darlene, Angela, etc., having a nice family dinner in a New York street while buildings collapse around them.
Elliot sees what he wants. He knows his final goal. But that computer brain of his also quickly works out the way to achieve those dreams.
Thanks to three straight stale-mate games of chess against Mr Robot he knows he can’t defeat him. And thanks to a frantic phone call followed by encrypted chat from Darlene, he knows all of his loved ones are in too much danger to make that dream a reality. So the heuristic-writing programme in his brain comes up with the only solution: go deeper, hack the FBI, Hit E Corp. again just like he said would be crucial back when he first became Mr Robot.
Read Alec’s review of the previous episode, Kernel Panic, here.