This Mr. Robot review contains spoilers.
Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 10
Last week, Mr. Robot gave us its best episode of the season – an intense and stressful hour that saw Elliot and Darlene finally triumph over Whiterose and the villainous Deus Group. That the series chooses to follow up that installment with a meandering character piece in which Elliot only appears for five minutes is a perfect example of both the best and worst of Mr. Robot season 4 all at once.
As an individual episode, “Gone” is pretty solid. It’s focused almost exclusively on the series’ women, and provides some much-needed context to the emotional journeys both Dom and Darlene have been on this season. It’s the first episode that’s really incorporated anything resembling an emotional arc for Dom, and it gives Carly Chaikin and Grace Gummer plenty to do. But as a follow-up to last week’s “Conflict,” it leaves something to be desired.
Part of that is because Season 4 has paid so little attention to Dom as a character that an entire episode that’s basically focused on her feels strange. How much are we still invested in her as a character, at this point? That the story also hangs so much of its emotional center on her relationship with Darlene, when the two have shared almost no screen time this season apart from when they were held hostage together, well. The show is counting on that one night they spent together last season to do a lot of work, is all I’m saying.
However, Darlene’s almost manic insistence that Dom come to Europe with her does feel like an attempt to atone or otherwise make amends for the fact that she seduced then betrayed the other woman so long ago. In fact, a lot of this episode seems to be about atoning for Darlene – from her treatment of Dom to her obvious joy at being able to redistribute all of the Deus’ Group’s wealth back to the people whose oppression ostensibly helped them make it.
The sequence in which Darlene and Dom watch a crowd of people receive text messages alerting them to their surprise financial windfalls is surprisingly moving, as is Darlene’s glee at the fact that she and Elliot have basically “Robin Hooded” the Deus elites. But one has to wonder if this sequence might have been even more emotionally effective had it taken place between the Alderson siblings, as a culmination of everything the two have managed to achieve.
Instead, Elliot and Darlene’s farewell feels uncomfortably abrupt, and while the hug between them is sweet, it doesn’t necessarily convey everything that’s still unsaid between them. Surely, at some point Darlene needs to know about what a monster her father apparently was? One has to assume that her decision to remain in New York means that there’s still time for these conversations to happen.
The most satisfying and surprising moment of this episode turns out to be its end – so much so in fact that it almost makes the rest of this meandering and fairly uneven installment seem worth it. What begins as a ripped-straight-from-a-rom-com musical montage that involves Dom and Darlene separately agonizing over whether to get on a plane to Budapest and literally running through airport hallways ultimately ends not with sappy declarations of love, but with both women realizing they don’t need anyone else to become the people they want to be.
Darlene, who decides to stay, realizes that she’s capable of making her own choices and standing on her own, even talking herself off the ledge of a panic attack in the airport bathroom. Whereas Dom, who chooses to leave, decides that true freedom can only be found outside the confines of the restrictive life she’s built for herself in New York. The final shots of both – Darlene slowly releasing her death grip on the bathroom counter, Dom sleeping in a plane seat – feel almost triumphant in their own ways.
With three episodes still to go, we still have little idea about how Mr. Robot will choose to wrap up its story, or what that endgame will involve. But there are plenty of indications in “Gone” that this could very well be the last time we see either or possibly both of these women on this show. While this feels like a natural endpoint for Dom’s arc, it seems unimaginable that Darlene wouldn’t somehow be a part of the conclusion of her brother’s story. Yet, if for whatever reason this is the last time we see these characters, at least both of these women go out on empowering high notes, and get the chance to choose their own futures.
Did “Gone” tie up the question of the Dark Army too quickly and/or neatly? Probably. Particularly since they’re basically removed from the board by suddenly returned hitman Irving busy hawking his novel in an airport Hudson News (how the mighty have fallen, indeed). Dom’s visceral fear of a man who wrote a book entitled “Beach Towel” feels almost absurd at this point, and perhaps that’s on purpose.
After all, the once fear-inspiring hacker group now merits little more than an offhand announcement that they’re suddenly and conveniently no longer interesting in punishing our heroes. Though we still don’t know how Elliot’s renewed interest in Washington Township may or may not involve what’s left of Whiterose’s organization – or potentially even Whiterose herself – the idea of the Dark Army as an existential threat certainly seems over.
It is a fairly ignoble end for what was once such a threatening enemy, but by cleanly removing them from the primary narrative Mr. Robot is now largely free to deal with the larger existential questions at its center. Such as Elliot, the mystery of his various personalities beyond Mr. Robot, and the question of whether he’ll ever be able to learn to live a life that’s at peace with all the parts of himself.
He’s got three episodes left to figure it out.