Mr. Robot has proved to be many things during its relatively short run. It’s the most accurate filmed depiction of hackers (and hacker culture) ever put to screen. It’s a beautiful and nightmarish depiction of the horrors that accompany someone’s struggle with mental health. It’s the story of a (very) unconventional hero and his pursuit of normalcy, goodness and family.
The one thing that I never conceived Mr. Robot of being is an uncanny portrayal of every amusingly appalling family sitcom from the 90’s. Yet that is exactly what this episode of the bizarre drama delivers. More than halfway through the season is a bizarre time for Mr. Robot to literally become a different show. In the end, it’s hard to deny that it was worth it just for the entertainment factor alone.
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Elliot’s Return to Dreamland
Don’t worry, things eventually get back to normal … or normal-ish. There is just no other way to cut it though. The first 19 minutes of this Mr. Robot episode are legitimately the best opening to any TV episode that has aired this year. As Elliot recovers from his (very serious) injuries at the hands of Ray’s goons, he drifts off into an elaborate delusion where his life is a terrible 90’s sitcom on USA.
It is a pitch-perfect parody that has everything a terrible sitcom of the era included within the frames. There’s the fuzzy picture. There’s a laugh track that accompanies Mrs. Alderson punching Darlene unconscious (though that last bit is obviously a Mr. Robot original injection). There are even multiple Alf cameos. Even the commercials get in on the action. The promo for Suits is particularly inspired.
Mr. Robot, unlike most of Hollywood however, has no interest in spending the entire episode drowning in nostalgia, so the dream sequence eventually ends. Elliot comes back to reality in a hospital, barely alive from Ray’s attack. Ray essentially tells Elliot that he did all this to Elliot to teach him a lesson. If Elliot steps out of line again and disobeys Ray, he will die.
Elliot stays conscious from his injuries just long enough to have a conversation with Mr. Robot. It’s a very touching father and son moment, if you forget for a second that this is all happening in Elliot’s head. Mr. Robot tells Elliot that he didn’t “mean” to take over Elliot’s mind and submerge him into the surreal hell of a sitcom. He was just trying to take some of Ray’s punches for Elliot. It’s as a heartwarming scene as Mr. Robot ever delivers, by which I mean that is very, very unusual.
The Heist Hack of the Century
As if that wasn’t a sobering enough jolt into reality we move on from Elliot and go right to Ms. Wet Blanket, Angela. Luckily Angela is keeping up her streak of being just interesting enough that she doesn’t immediately make you want to pass out from boredom. Angela is working hard with the remaining core members of fsociety to try to pull off their next big Evil Corp hack.
If the opening was fabulous tribute to cheesy sitcoms the sequence that follows is a fantastic send-up to a heist film. Accompanied by a jazzy music backing, Angela (with Darlene and Mobley’s help) gets into Evil Corp HQ and start going about the hack. There is even a very amusing diversion where Angela has to distract and subdue (or more accurately seduce) a very eager FBI agent whose interest in Angela is not exactly business-like.
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It looks like everything is about to work out and fsociety will be able to cover their and Angela’s tracks of the initial Evil Corp hack. Unfortunately it only looks that way. This is Mr. Robot. The show that opened on a soul-crushing delusion of a slightly funnier Full(er) House parody. Nothing ever goes well.
Something goes wrong with the Wifi and Darlene tries to talk Angela how to fix it. Angela types the code that Darlene is feeding her through a phone call. Someone nervously typing digital characters on a computer screen has never been so tense. Angela has just about got everything finished when she is interrupted by none other than Dom.
Dom, who has survived the shooting of the last episode, is back at work. Dom highly suspects that she is onto something in her investigation and the shooting was merely a distraction. Little does Dom know that she has unwillingly caught a prime suspect in the case. Angela, on the other hand, certainly knows she is in trouble.
While Angela’s awkward meeting with Dom is the cliffhanger of the episode it is not the actual end. Instead, we close on a flashback of young Elliot and his father. As always, it is fabulous to see the real Mr. Robot and not the delusion that exists in Elliot’s head. Christian Slater, who is occasionally too much like Christian Slater as Ghost Mr. Robot, really shines in connecting with young Elliot in the flashback.
The flashback tells the story of how Elliot found out his dad was dying from cancer and how the father came to own the Mr. Robot store. It turns out that Elliot was the one who named the store Mr. Robot in the first place. It’s also clear from the respectful, kind and compassionate way that Elliot’s father talks to him, why Elliot has kept his father’s memory alive inside his own head. It’s hard to remember with all the gloss and delusions but Mr. Robot really is the story of one very troubled guy and the love he has for his deceased father.
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 10pm on USA.
(Image courtesy of USA)