‘Mr Robot’ is a very full show, and the first thing I do every week is attempt to decide what’s most important. It would be easy to go back to the pilot and re-assess how the narrative unfolds just by looking at the background details. For example, here’s the map that sits behind Price’s head in the opening flashback.
Drawn by a German cartoonist in 1914, the map depicts a Germany beset on all sides by European ‘allies’ determined to destroy a strong, unified nation. And since what followed this image was World War One, you can see why Price might find it a source of inspiration.
Esmail is very good at these environmental details. High status spaces feel large and oppressive, dwarfing their inhabitants, while the Arcade, Darlene, and Elliot’s place are dimmed, hints of warmer colours. In those places, people take up more of the frame, they can relax.
Think about how many conversations have happened on subway carriages this season. Perhaps its one of the few places where people still feel anonymous. And what was happening on Elliot’s face as Angela told him she was going to the cops? I’m sure the posters on either side of them with ‘PHASE’ written on them were in no way a clue.
There’s been background info like this since the very beginning, but this week Elliot asks the audience to look around, to see if there’s something that we’ve missed. We’re encouraged to look beyond the superficial, and as we know Elliot’s not to be trusted the answers may not be where we’re expecting.
So why does Mr Robot disappear in the electronics store? My feeling is he knows he’s being watched, that we’re close to something big. He’s already given Elliot his explanation for hiding Tyrell’s death- he wasn’t emotionally ready for that knowledge, and so much of what his done this season has been for Elliot’s ‘protection’ while keeping secrets of his own. Although Elliot has promised he won’t deceive us any further, that promise did not extend to Mr Robot’s behaviour. When that phone rings he disappears because it raises too many questions and he doesn’t want to be around to answer them- again, this may be due to his opinion of his ‘readiness’, but it also leaves us a clue. We see the phone ring in Elliot’s pocket, and at first glance maybe Mr Robot disappears because it’s him on the other end. But, as Elliot has already pointed out, even though he actually is Mr Robot, he can’t literally be in another place to dial himself. There’s somebody on the other end of that phone, and Mr Robot doesn’t want to be around to explain.
Elliot’s search for Tyrell brings up a house Joanna is familiar with, she’s certain he can’t be there but doesn’t explain why. Again, more information being kept from him. She presumably knows something about Mr Robot and Tyrell’s dealings, but not enough to know why he can’t seem to remember them- and to her it just looks like he’s protecting a friend. And is she wrong? Tyrell taking the fall for the 5/9 attacks at the very least bought FSociety some time. Time in which at least one of them has been murdered, sure, but that’s not enough to say he doesn’t want the same things they do.
Dom continues to be the smartest person in the FBI, and she’s the only one who won’t continually underestimate our heroes. Darlene and Cisco take a moment to be a normal couple, but this show doesn’t let people stay happy for very long. They get less than an hour before the BOLO sends the Dark Army to take them out and Dom finds herself in harms way at that very second. It’s a beautifully shot sequence, the lights disappearing as Dom runs off into the darkness alone, determined to find the real culprits of 5/9. And that final shot, fixed from a perspective just too far away to see any real detail. Obfuscation is one of ‘Mr Robot’s’ more annoying habits, but when it’s pulled off this well I can forgive the pretence of the another cliffhanger. Darlene and Dom will survive, I’m fairly certain of that, but Cisco’s attempts to get Darlene to relax might the thing that does him in the end. She may be right, she isn’t special in the way Elliot is, but its her relationship with him that may well have kept her alive this long -and this goes double for Angela). Whether Elliot can keep his remaining friends in one piece is a question that’ll have to be put off as we dive headlong into the finale.