The concept of a warring duality comes up at least once every episode, twice if they’re being consistent. Most of the time this is expressed thematically, but this week Sam Esmail and his team have taken the structurally novel path of dividing the episode in two. They were even kind enough to mention it in the title. ‘Mr Robot’ is a show that aims to impress, it wants you to believe it through everything. As sole director Esmail gets a rare level of control over the show’s look and feel each week, and is committed to getting the small details right. With that in mind, let’s look at the two shows we’re presented with this week.
Mr Robot as Sitcom
Elliot escapes to the banality of early 90’s multicam, a world of trivial plots and simple resolutions. Many people have already pointed out a similarity to ‘Too Many Cooks’, but the intent here is very different. The Adult Swim infomercial series is predicated on finding an ordinary aspect of television (in this case, the long sitcom intro) and pushing the boundries of that convention until it ends up somewhere absurd. The ‘Mr Robot’ sitcom goes for eerie over wacky, using the oppressively flat affect of a ‘Full House’ style show to comment on the mental and physical trauma Elliot is currently experiencing. If anything, it’s reminiscent of the ‘Natural Born Killers’ dinner scene, but with a much less hyperactive sense of framing.
While it’s a fun exercise in genre riffing, it’s also the first time we’ve seen the whole Alderson clan together at once, and it provides a glimpse into how they functioned as a family unit. The main takeaway here is: not well. Mrs Alderson comes off as violent and abusive, Darlene copping the worst of it. Elliot and his father have a closer relationship, even if Elliot spends most of the dream sequence trying to process why it’s happening. There’s also some playful meta in Tyrell being tied up and locked in the car boot. His banging interrupts the family trip, echoing the frustration of hardcore fans who want to know where he’s been all this time. This is a show that loves its thematic connections, which leads me to think the reason Mr Robot has been hiding Tyrell’s whereabouts all this time is that Tyrell is dead. During the three day time loss, Mr Robot killed Tyrell and is hiding the information from him to burdening his conscience with murder.
In the end, it seems clear that Elliot has finally accepted Mr Robot as a part of himself, and recognised the value in escapism. Until he’s ready to face the world on his own, and that’s probably going to be a while, Mr Robot is going to remain a part of his life.
Mr Robot as Espionage Drama
With Elliot out of the game for so long, the hacking-show-with-not-a-lot-of-hacking-in-it turns to Angela to get access to the FBI. She’s not great at it. Angela is rarely seen without those earbuds now, and for somebody who listens to as many self-actualisation tapes as she does that’s not a great sign. She’s becoming a tool- a device, even- giving in to the needs of others. Her mantras are replaced by Darlene’s instructions, and she certainly does her best, but she’s not a hacker and everyone knows it.
Having someone with a low level of skill do a difficult task was a clever move on the show’s part, if anyone interrupts the process it could ruin the whole thing- and that includes Angela. She’s an intermittently talented liar, as demonstrated by her almost ruinous flirting escapades, but it’s just enough to get the job done. Unfortunately, she’s not on Dom’s level of cunning, and even if she makes it out of that building unscathed she’ll give enough away (unintentionally) to help Dom get one step closer to catching FSociety. What she’ll do when that occurs, will have to wait.