Mr. Robot recap: Pulling off a daring, wordless heist
The nearly dialogue-free episode is masterful in its use of tension.
Waiting for Sam Esmail‘s special episodes of Mr. Robot is like waiting for Christmas. This time around, the special episode actually takes place on the 25th of December. In contrast to last season’s single long-take episode, “Method Not Allowed” runs 50 minutes and is almost entirely free of dialogue. There are two lines, and they both involve talking. At the top of the episode, when Darlene tracks down Elliot and picks him up down the road from the burnt van, she tells him they don’t have to talk. At the end of the episode, Vera shows up at Krista’s apartment and tells her it’s time they had a talk. Everything in between is the absence of words, but the tension is palpable. Bear with me on this one, as recapping a dialogue-free episode is a little different, so let’s just get to it and run down everything that happened.
After Darlene tells Elliot that they don’t need to talk, the camera pulls out and reveals a red light that Darlene has blown through. Attached to that is a red light camera, which will come into play later. Back at home, Elliot is really shaken. He almost died during that long, cold night. He sits on the floor by his sink but pulls himself up when Darlene comes out of the bathroom, wanting to show her that he still has it all together. He needs to be focused and confident because it’s time to pull off their daring heist; they’re going to break into Virtual Realty, access their servers, and get into Cyprus National Bank. Elliot creates an ID badge for Darlene — the classic Dolores Haze moniker — and she puts on a short black wig reminiscent of Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction to match the picture.
While Janice sends Dom to the scene of the burnt van to collect evidence, Elliot and Darlene get their break-in going. It’s Christmas, so the office is dead. The security guards are watching Die Hard on a laptop and barely notice Darlene coming into Virtual Realty. Then, her badge doesn’t work. She tries again and again, but no luck. She walks to the desk and we see this was the plan all along. She “accidentally” knocks over her bag, the security guard bends down to help her with it, and Elliot runs into the building and hops the security turnstiles. He dashes into the basement, gets into the security room, and accesses the computers, creating an account for “Dolores Haze” in the system. The security guard is none the wiser, assuming “Dolores” is an employee with a malfunctioning badge, and Darlene is let into the building.
Darlene also left her phone behind, and the guard picks it up. That gets his fingerprint on the clean screen. Darlene puts the phone in a plastic container with a hot plate and some water to steam the fingerprint, lifting the print and then using that to set up a scan for a 3D printer. Now, they have everything they need. Elliot hacks into the security system and triggers an update that turns the cameras off for 40 minutes.
The fingerprint gets them into the server room, and Darlene gets to work. Eventually, though, the one security guard realizes something is off. He checks the security log on his phone and sees that he accessed the server room a few minutes earlier. He tells his partner to call the cops, and heads upstairs to check things out. This is when things get really tense and the episode is at its best. The guard sneaks around the room while Darlene and Elliot work quietly. When the guard is about to find them, Elliot hacks into the electrical system and shuts off the lights. The guard keeps searching, and Darlene has to work fast, setting up an admin account within Cyprus National. They get the work done, but they’re found out. The guard chases them, and Elliot locks him in the room. They sprint down the stairwell, but the cops are at the main entrance. They go back to the stairwell but there’s nowhere to go. The guard sees Elliot, and the two of them struggle with the door. Elliot makes eye contact with Darlene; he slams the door against the guard and makes a run for it, drawing everyone outside.
What follows is a long, incredible, heart-pounding chase. The cops chase Elliot through the streets, down steep hills, across skating rinks, and eventually onto a public bus, all while Darlene manages to make it look like she’s an innocent person coming out of a spin class in the building. She gets in her car and immediately tracks Elliot’s phone. She races to catch up with him, and she does, just in time. The cops pull the bus over, Elliot makes a run for it and, having no other options, hurls himself off a bridge and down to the concrete below; and this is after getting hit by a car, getting up, and running some more. Dude is indestructible. Darlene is waiting for him at the bottom of the hill. The two drive away, Elliot panting, both of them looking scared. Then Elliot puts his hand on Darlene’s, and the camera focuses only on that. Perhaps this relationship is finally fully repaired.
There are other consequential happenings in this episode. Dom discovers the red light camera, and Janice uncovers the picture of Darlene and Elliot and tells Dom to find “these two troublemakers.” Phillip is sent all around the city via secret messages until he picks up a suit at the dry cleaners, and in the pocket is the time and location of the Deus Group meeting. Elliot tells him Tyrell won’t be making it…but are we sure? I’m not ready to write off a Tyrell appearance just yet. All of this is exciting stuff, but it’s the central heist that really drives this episode. This is truly nail-biting television and a great addition to this season’s incredible run of episodes.