Last week’s episode of Mr Robot, the season one premiere, 0hellofriend.mov ended with Elliot returning to the Coney Island arcade and finding Mr Robot and co gone. On top of that Evil Corp, under the guise of Tyrell Wellick, approaches Elliot prompting him to worry that the game is up before it’s even really started. In ones-andzer0es.mpeg Mr Robot begins with Elliot standing in front of Tyrell and 11 of the companies “most annoying lawyers.”
Wellick offers the hacker a job although, as the new CTO of Evil Corp explains, it is not a legitimate offer as they have an agreement with Elliot’s current employer AllSafe not to poach their employees. Tyrell does say that there is nothing stopping the security specialist from joining Evil Corp on his own. The promise is that within five and a half years, Elliot will be a multi millionaire.
The entire exchange, including the bit afterwards with “Mr X,” aka Mr. Sullivan, is full of threatening gravitas and weighty meaning. There is also the underlying thread of of foreboding, mostly in Elliot’s guilty mind but also the score. The use of music in the show’s opening this week is a goosebumps inducing wave of brilliance. Never has Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major Op 92. Allegretto been used so effectively.
After his unsettling meeting with Tyrell and all those lawyers, Elliot is let out of the car in front of his apartment. He sees his dealer outside with a “client” who is insisting she allow him upstairs. Elliot’s arrival stops the man in his tracks and Shayla tells Elliot that she only has his morphine. He wants to “re-up” and she reminds him that he made her promise to never give up the morphine without the Suboxone, the withdrawal meds. Once he talks Shayla into handing over “just the morphine,” Elliot goes up to his flat and hacks Tyrell’s personal accounts.
Looking at the social media images and emails in front of him, the hacker realizes that everything is too perfect and that something is not right. Panicking, Elliot believes that Wellick expected him to hack the accounts and he has been set up. Elliot trashes his system, destroying all his equipment and continuing to snort his morphine.
At work later, his boss has just given him a raise when the news shows that fsociety is demanding the release of Colby, whom they framed for last week’s computer hack on Evil Corp, and that if the company do not comply they will “kill them.” Elliot freaks out, this was not part of the plan as he understood it. However, as Mr Robot points out later, he did walk out.
Outside AllSafe, a hip-hop artist is giving away a fee CD since his album has “just dropped” and all he is asking for in return are tweets about his product. Elliot’s best friend Angela and her fiancee stop to invite Elliot out to a “Groupon” discount dinner. He accepts, while still freaking out, and Ollie takes a CD saying he will only tweet if he likes it.
Elliot heads home vowing to cut all ties with fsociety. He finds Darlene, from the organization, in his shower. After borrowing some of his clothes, and telling him that the dog “shat in your bed,” she takes him back to abandoned theme park to see Mr Robot and the rest of the crew who want to congratulate him for what he did. As the two are on the subway, she suddenly pulls him into another car just missing two men in black who are following them. Elliot’s asks himself, “Does she see them too?”
Going into the arcade, he sees the tiny group have assembled to pay homage to his efforts. Mr Robot lectures Elliot on being either a one or a zero, do something or do nothing. Elliot says real life is not that binary. Robot reveals that he wants the hacker to help him blow up a natural gas facility that stands next to Steel Mountain.
The head of fsociety reveals more of their plans to take down Evil Corp. Elliot is hesitant, he asks about the workers and people who live in the area. Mr Robot tells him that it is, in essence, a hard world and that people die every day. After a protracted argument, where the leader accuses Elliot of being a zero, “just like your father.” Elliot leaves the group again. As he walks off, Darlene shouts at him, “We’ll do this with or without you.” She also says that he is culpable regardless of his inaction and Elliot realizes she is right.
Elliot goes to see Shayla and meets the dealer she buys his morphine and Saxopone from Fernando Vera, whom he says is “the worst human being I’ve ever hacked.” The hacker learned that Vera uses his social media to buy and sell drugs and apparently to schedule hits. He also says that he’s thought of turning him in but that would dry up his drug supply.
After a one-sided conversation with the drug dealer, Vera leaves and Elliot picks the lock on Shayla’s bathroom door and discovers her in a bath full of water. It seems that Fernando raped the woman and then dumped her in the tub. Elliot makes a decision to turn the drug dealer in and go cold turkey.
At his therapy session he talks about choice and the real lack of it. While images of Vera’s operation being packed up by the police are on screen, Elliot says that everyone’s choices have been “prepaid” for them. Elliot shouts at the therapist and it turns out that the CD from the rapper/hip-hop artist doesn’t work, except it does. The man has used it to hack Ollie and Angela’s system. As Ollie leaves, the “performer” is watching Angela in the apartment via the computer.
Elliot goes back to the theme park and meets with Mr. Robot. The two sit on a fence at the edge of the pier. Elliot tells the head of fsociety that he can take down Steel Mountain without killing anyone. Mr. Robot reminds Elliot that he told him walking away would keep him out of the organization. He then asks the hacker to tell him about his father.
He tells about his father pushing him out of a window, breaking his arm, when he was eight. Elliot broke a promise not to tell his mother about the leukemia that was killing his dad. His father never forgave him. At the end of the story, he asks Mr. Robot, “Are we good?” Instead of answering, the man responds with “do you ever ask yourself if he was right?” He then pats Elliot on the shoulder and pushes him off the edge of the pier. Mr Robot finishes by saying, “You did not commit to the sacred pact,” and leaves.
The writing on this show is superior and full of the “now.” References to Groupon coupons, beside feeling a little like product placement of sorts, is a nod to the Internet based theme behind the show. Other topical and cultural references abound, Elliot’s David Koresh allusion, the mad leader behind the Waco incident, was another more obvious touch along with the “hip-hop” artist selling his CD for “likes” and social media mentions. Included in this clever topical usage is the exchange between Elliot and “Mr X” at the show’s beginning.
Despite the fact that Christian Slater may have a TV curse, one which makes every television project he works on go down the drain, his Mr Robot works well with Rami Malek’s Elliot. Carly Chaikin as Darlene and Frances Shaw as Shayla are two actors on the show who have jumped fully into their characters and impress each time they appear on screen. Malek sells his schizophrenic drug addicted hacker completely and we are behind him. We believe and support his apparent paranoia and his underlying urge to do good.
ones-and-zer0es.mpeg is all about making decisions, doing something; a one, or doing nothing; a zero. In this episode Elliot is between that proverbial rock and a hard place. Being offered the keys to the kingdom over at Evil Corp and still being wooed, albeit somewhat differently than Tyrell’s approach, by fsociety. This series delivers an intelligent discussion worthy tale that runs deep. Those with short, or deficient, attention spans need not bother with this one. Mr Robot airs Tuesdays on USA. Watch it if you like to think.