This Mr. Robot review contains spoilers.
Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 4
Happy holidays from Mr. Robot, which seems as unconcerned as ever with actually wrapping up any aspect of its final season’s story. In place of the answers—or at the very least, minimal forward plot progression—we likely expected here, “Not Found” instead offers us a bizarre holiday tale, in which Elliot, Darlene, Dom and Tyrell face down some demons of both the literal and figurative variety on Christmas Eve.
First, some facts. Even though Elliot stole Olivia Cortez’s Cyprus login information, she doesn’t have high enough security clearance to achieve the Alderson siblings’ goal of wiping out Whiterose’s financial holdings. It’s Christmas Eve, and the mysterious Deus Group is set to meet the next day, which means Elliot and Darlene are going to have to do a little breaking and entering to get on the necessary servers themselves. And Tyrell Wellick, newly nominated E-Corp CEO, has just spilled the beans that he and Elliot are working together against Whiterose to a listening Dark Army van outside Elliot’s apartment.
Basically, that’s all that happens in this episode, from a strictly plot-based perspective. Wellick does get shot toward the end, but this being Mr. Robot, he promptly stumbles into an unidentified glowing blue object which, let’s face it, will probably provide the miracle cure he needs at some point next week.
Instead, “Not Found” turns out to be a strangely moving hour that follows both Alderson siblings on two separate Christmas Eve journeys toward what ultimately turns out to be the same destination. Emotionally speaking, at least.
Elliot, believing Wellick killed the eavesdropping Dark Army agent, heads out of the city with him in the stolen surveillance van to dispose of the body. The Elliot/Wellick/Mr. Robot dynamic is as fascinating as ever, and it’s very easy to see why creator Sam Esmail keeps giving this trio reasons to appear onscreen together. That they all end up wandering, lost, through an upstate New York forest after their presumed dead Dark Army spy comes back to life long enough to drive off in the van they stole, well. It’s hardly the strangest position these men have found themselves in over the course of the series.
The three traipse through a hauntingly beautiful snow-filled landscape, complete with eerie lighting, strange noises, and a magically circuitous route that seems to constantly lead them back where they started. It’s all very Robert Frost, as Elliot and Wellick confront the choices that have brought them to this point, their status as outsiders, and their extremely messy but oddly compelling relationship with one another. Miles to go before they sleep, indeed.
Their spat has honestly been a long time coming, given that the two have been entangled in each other’s lives in varyingly mysterious degrees since Mr. Robot started. But at this point, Wellick seems like something of an open wound, listing all the ways in which he’s shaped his existence around the desires and expectations of other people. (It’s not entirely clear how this Tyrell meshes with the guy who used to beat up homeless people for fun, but let’s just go with it because Martin Wallström is selling the heck out of this scene.) For all that Wellick has essentially gotten everything he’s ever wanted, it means nothing in the face of everything he’s given up to get there.
His assumptions about Elliot are deeply flawed, though. Elliot’s hoodie is his armor, true; but he’s never been uncaring. Closed off, perhaps, but that’s generally because Elliot always seems to feel so much, virtually all the time, no matter which personality he’s wearing. That said, his confession that he can’t leave Wellick behind or stop fighting to try and save Darlene’s life is extremely moving, because it involves Elliot emotionally acknowledging how terrible he’s been to them both at various points.
However, the real star of this installment Carly Chaikin. Elliot’s sister hasn’t had a ton to do this season thus far, other than be varying degrees of upset over things like the murder of her best friend, the death of her mother, and the ever-present threat posed by Whiterose and the Dark Army. “Not Found” is the first time this season we’ve spent any significant time with Darlene, and Chaikin’s performance is wonderful throughout as her character wrestles with her fear, anxiety and generally justifiable anger where her brother is involved.
Her bizarre roadtrip with a drunk cancer center Santa Claus is both heartrending and hilarious, as Tobias drops nuggets of surprisingly appropriate pop culture wisdom and Darlene frets that this man she just met is secretly planning to off himself as soon as he arrives home.
Yet, as so often happens in Mr. Robot, things aren’t exactly what they seem. Tobias is just drunk, not suicidal. His wife merely threw her back out; she’s not dead. He’s been quoting various bits of books and films, not making dire pronouncements about the bleakness of the universe. (“That is Steinbeck. He’s a national treasure. Read a book!” is a solid candidate for TV line of the year.) But it’s easier for Darlene to assume the worst, because that’s all her life is at the moment—this encounter with Tobias just allows her to face how upset and afraid she is about it. Her emotional rant about being absolutely furious with Elliot and the way he treats her, but also so scared that she’s lost him already should probably be Chaikin’s Emmy reel.
“Not Found” appears to be largely about our characters reaching their perceived breaking points—Darlene in Tobias’ yard, Elliot and Wellick by the side of the road in a snowy forest—and finding they can go further than they ever thought they could. They have promises to keep, as Frost once put it.
Tobias drunkenly quotes Jimmy Stewart’s character from It’s a Wonderful Life at one point during his car ride with Darlene. A classic holiday movie, to be sure. But also a film about the power of the people in our lives, and the ways that caring about one another can change the world. And if that’s the true meaning of Christmas—and largely Mr. Robot, as well—I don’t know what is.