This Mr. Robot review contains spoilers.
Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 8
The longest Christmas Day ever continues on Mr. Robot, as we all kind of maybe start wondering if this mythical Deus Group meeting – as well as Elliot’s proposed hack of the shadowy corporation’s wealth and even Whiterose’s endgame plan – is just something we all came up with during a shared fever dream.
Is the journey more important than the destination? This season of Mr. Robot would kind of indicate that’s the case, since it’s less clear than ever that we’re actually going anywhere of any significance. At least in terms of an overall narrative.
The thing is, much like the other installments in the middle section of this final season, it’s difficult to really dislike this episode. There are just enough shocks to keep us glued to the screen, along with some great performances and standout moments. It even feels like there’s significant narrative progress, as Dom and Darlene’s hostage situation escalates, we meet what is ostensibly Elliot’s childlike third personality, and Krista just walks into a New York police station covered in blood to tell them about the guy she stabbed to death.
Plus, of course, there’s Elliot, still reeling from the realization of his childhood sexual abuse and struggling to process several decades of trauma while pulling off a complicated and multi-layered financial heist. That he ends the episode in tears, sobbing in the embrace of the father figure he created for himself is maybe the only part of this episode that isn’t a shock.
But, does “Request Timeout” really move the story forward in any serious way? Not really. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe “Request Timeout” isn’t just the episode’s title, but it’s explanation, a statement that, for Elliot at least, this story needs a minute to reboot. Or at least to refresh the proverbial page, as our protagonist rearranges the central pieces of his existence into a new order.
Which, again, is fine, to a point. But on some level this story needs to go somewhere, doesn’t it? Even if that final destination is simply Elliot’s revelation that he can’t do this anymore, that the hack he thought he could pull off is beyond him in his current state, or that he simply needs some time to process and heal. After all, a lot has happened in the course of this seemingly endless 24-hour period. At the moment, though, so much of this story remains in a holding pattern, and we’re all waiting for something, anything to break it.
Maybe that something will be Darlene, now safely escaped from captivity at Janice’s hands, sent to find her brother by a wounded Dom, and more motivated than ever to stop the Dark Army and the folks that work for them. To Mr. Robot’s credit, almost every scene with Dom, Darlene, Janice and her flunkies is almost unbearably tense. From the moment Dom is stabbed to the revelation that she’d managed to come up with a plan to save her family, it felt as though virtually anything could happen and that everyone was truly at risk, if not for death, at least for serious bodily harm.
Was the fact that Dom didn’t bleed out during all this kind of miraculous? Yeah, a little. But then again, so was her expert marksmanship after severe blood loss. Is the return of Irish mobster Deegan Maguire kind of convenient? Of course. But watching Janice’s plans get thwarted was so satisfying that it’s hard to mind too much. Does this mean Dom’s family will get new identities – and presumably safety from the Dark Army – from Deegan? It seems possible, and an easy way to write Dom – who doesn’t necessarily have a central part to play here any longer – out of the story with a relatively happy ending. Though, if the tortured looks she and Darlene were exchanging are anything to go by, there’s probably some unfinished business there.
Speaking of unfinished business, child Elliot reappears this week, leading his older self to the Brooklyn Museum, where he and Angela used to play together as children. (RIP, Angela Moss, we miss you). The appearance of this alter, during a time when Mr. Robot is noticeably absent, seems to confirm that this is, in fact, Elliot’s third personality. Or does it? One has to wonder what kid Elliot might have had to say to Fernando Vera, if that is in fact the case. At any rate, the appearance of this personality seems to be tied explicitly to Elliot’s need to somehow both confront and forgive himself over what his father did.
There’s something quietly horrific in the idea that child Elliot so meticulously crafted a plan to hide his father’s key to his bedroom, in order to try and protect himself from more abuse. And it’s equally heartbreaking that our Elliot needs this younger version to tell him that he did the best he could to fight back, to resist in the ways that he, a child, was able to do. Much as he needs the older part of himself – in the form of Mr. Robot – to tell him that he is who he is because of the things he’s survived.
If last week’s episode was Rami Malek’s Emmy reel than this one is probably Christian Slater’s, as Mr. Robot returns in the episode’s final minutes to comfort Elliot, and beg his forgiveness for not being able to keep him safe when he needed him to, either physically or emotionally.
It’s certainly a relief to know that Mr. Robot did not vanish forever following the revelation of Elliot’s past abuse last week. Malek and Slater are simply too good together to lose, and the show at least makes an effort to explain both why Mr. Robot existed then, and is clearly sticking around now. (Thank goodness.) How he and Elliot will manage to continue to coexist while the latter is busy figuring out who he is – and where the Mr. Robot part of his psyche fits into his overall self – is another question, but one that I’m happy to let these two characters answer for me later.
Will next week’s episode finally bring back Whiterose? Is Tyrell Wellick still out in the forest bleeding to death? Could we finally meet the rest of the Deus Group? Here’s hoping.