Mr. Robot starts this week with a 4:3 ratio complete with ’80s sitcom music and shot through a filter that mimic’s that ’80s feel. Pseudo adverts interchange with the Alderson family vacation. Canned laughter, ALF and “the man in the trunk” aka Tyrell Wellick (described by Elliot’s dad as “baggage”) all convey a message.
This quirky beginning is a dream, of sorts, one that Elliot; recuperating in the hospital from the beating that Ray’s thugs gave him, is having. Influenced by an ALF rerun on the television, the dream, or interlude, tells us in the theme song that nothing is as it seems. No one is who they seem to be and that Elliot has more issues than initially thought.
It is fitting that the setting for this week’s prologue is the mid ’80s. (Alf hit TV screens in 1986.) The computer as “home accessory”really started taking off at that time. Commodore 64, Apple and the Atari all became available and very popular around then. Essentially Esmail has taken us back to the beginning and not through a flight of fancy either.
Clues are scattered throughout the sitcom “dream.” (There are others later that indicate the fsociety are not the only players here.) The main message appears to be that Elliot and his other self, Mr. Robot, are in this alone. The secondary message is that none of this is real.
Darlene disappears from the back of the car during the “Wellick escape sequence” and Elliot’s father tells him that “sometimes lies help.” Elliot responds with:
“This whole place is a lie. Nothing is true.”
Another big clue appears during this sequence. Mr. Robot kills Wellick with a tire iron. Does this indicate that in the last season it was Robot who murdered Wellick and this is why Elliot has no recollection of the event.
(It could also explain why he can see Wellick and Robot cannot. Once again, this could be a “metaphorical” killing of Wellick as it is still not 100 percent clear that Tyrell is “real.” )
This opening sequence, explained as a coping mechanism for Elliot to survive the beating by Ray’s minions, appears to do a lot amid all that canned laughter and seeming nonsensical action. The scene also puts Mr. Robot firmly in charge of Elliot.
In this dream sequence, Elliot finally accepts Gideon’s death (The killing blow as by ALF in this alternate world. Esmail’s inclusion of the “double bump” over the man’s body was blackly comic.) Other things are touched on in the ’80s sitcom world of Mr. Robot.
Both the women in Elliot’s life disappear. Elliot’s mother maces Angela in the petrol station and, after being knocked out twice, Darlene vanishes completely. Later in the episode, Angela and Darlene are working together to hack the FBI cell phone data bank.
Does this signify a parting of the ways?
It has to be pointed out that Esmail also, apart from his big wink at 1980s comedy television, gives what appears to be a massive nod to Quentin Tarantino. The sequence with the blonde wigged Darlene, with 80s “hipster” music in the background, heading to her rendezvous with Angela was so Tarantino-esque that one expected Samuel L. Jackson to turn up.
The entire “ALF” sequence dominates the rest of the episode. It is tempting to dissect the episode opener frame by frame. Just the Wellick sequence alone is full of clues. For instance, reversing to the exec as “baggage” seems to indicate that Elliot needs to let the whole thing go. However, the rest of “Master Slave” has clues also.
The Chinese connection to the Dark Army is clearer in this episode. Price is having difficulty getting what he needs. “CD man” asks too many questions of his Dark Army rep and gets the modern day equivalent of bamboo under his fingernail as result. Later he is recognized by Angela and Darlene has no idea why.
This is a huge clue that the Dark Army has been working in opposition along side fsociety all along. This possibility changes a lot of things when looking back on last season’s attack on the storage facility.
Obviously Whiterose has a double edged objective and the main one is taking down E Corp as a means of allowing the Chinese government to slip in the back door. Price appears to slowing becoming aware that there is a weasel in the henhouse.
Anglea as hacker was intense and funny. Her face, throughout the entire FBI sequence, screamed guilt. When Dom approaches her, just before she finishes entering the last command to bring up the wifi, it her face is just priceless.
At the end of the episode, Elliot has given up fighting. He fully embraces his Mr. Robot persona. This is the clearest sign of things to come. Robot has always been the real leader, as he says himself, he is what people see when they look at Elliot.
The final flashback, where it is learned how “Mr. Robot” came to be was brilliant. By the end it seems that Esmail is reaffirming that the series is “Fight Club” on LSD.
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays on USA. Do not miss this “through the computer screen darkly” series.
- Rami Malek – Elliot Alderson
- Christian Slater – Mr. Robot
- Carly Chaikin – Darlene
- Portia Doubleday – Angela Moss
- Stephanie Corneliussen – Joanna Wellick
- Martin Wallström – Tyrell Wellick
- Michael Cristofer – Phillip Price
- Grace Gummer – Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
- Joey Bada$$ – Leon
- BD Wong – Whiterose/Mr. Zhang