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'Mr. Robot' recap: 'eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt'

Finally — the episode where we learn the truth about… well, everything.

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Christopher Saunders/USA Network

Mr. Robot

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-14
seasons:
2
performer:
Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday
broadcaster:
USA
genre:
Crime, Drama

It’s the nature of the beast that is Mr. Robot that whenever a massive, earth-shattering twist comes along, a recap dissecting only the big shocker could never do an entire episode justice. A ton happened, so as tempting as it is to dive right into the revelations about Elliot and his deteriorating grasp on reality, there’s plenty to discuss.

But, it needs to be said: Y’all called that one.

And one additional but very important note: Next week, there will be an important scene that occurs after the credits of the season finale. (Think Marvel Studios.) I’m told that this extra bit is something fans will definitely want to see…

Apart from the crazy things we learn about the Elliot of today, the hour also sheds some light on who Elliot used to be. The year before Edward Alderson’s death in 1995, our hero was just a little boy — a mathematical prodigy, we learn later — playing in his dad’s computer shop, Mr. Robot. Of course, his version of play involves some light pickpocketing, but nevertheless, we can already see the seeds of who this kid will become and how his father’s influence left an impression. “Even though what you did was wrong, you’re still a good kid,” Edward tells his son in between coughs. “That guy was a prick, and sometime that matters more.” This sentiment, coupled with the tragedy waiting just ahead, is effectively Elliot’s  superhero origin story and the blueprint for his mission to “save the world” two decades later.

While the fun thing to do would be to point out that Christian Slater appears to be the same age in both the 1994 scenes and the ones set in 2015, the cold open’s significance is deeper than that. Mr. Robot has become increasingly addictive week to week because of where it places its big narrative bets — always on character. Even though we know by now that not everything is right inside the head of Elliot Alderson, it’s much more important for the character and ultimately the arc of the show that we understand why he would build fsociety. The slightly skewed morality instilled by the father who would take him to a movie during the middle of the day — paying stolen money — tells us something essential about who Elliot is by the time we meet him.

The series’ emphasis on people is also why we end up caring so much about Angela and Darlene, characters who on plenty of other shows would have been written off as bare-bones, sidelined female foils to our cool, male hacker hero. It’s particularly easy to imagine how a lesser show would portray Angela. Questioning Elliot and getting in his way would become her sole purpose, and yet here, she is defined by her actions, her decisions, her desires, and her emotions. When she’s faced with a dilemma like the crushingly believable one presented by Terry Colby — go broke or sell your soul — it means something to the larger story. Angela is acting as a counterpart to Elliot, working within the means of the legal system to take a swipe (albeit a seemingly futile one) at the massively powerful, but she’s not defined by that relationship.

Darlene’s big moment came at the beginning of last week’s episode. Up until we understood her connections to Elliot and to Angela, it was understood that something motivated Darlene, and that mystery was one of the dozens that fueled the series’ propulsive pacing. But it’s in the reveal that Mr. Robot has always defined itself, and the truth of Darlene’s prior friendship with Angela isn’t a simple shocker; it completely recontextualizes her, redrawing the map of allegiances, and adding color to an increasingly human story. The most recent episode follows through with that set-up by pairing Angela and Darlene together during their search for Elliot. These are two people who care deeply about a main character for different reasons. Because of that, they disagree on certain things, but ultimately care about each other and Elliot enough to put that aside.

All right, let’s do this. It’s crazy time…

NEXT: About that twist…

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