“This is a zero sum game.”
At this point in the story, many characters feel like they have to make a decision, like they have to change something and move forward; yet, they’re still caught in a middle ground of sorts, in a state of indecision as they face their challenges head on. Angela, for example, is all about her plan to “change the world”, but she doesn’t really do much when she heads over to Terry Colby’s house. Tyrell’s been making moves to become CTO, but after he’s ripped apart by Scott Knowles, he ends up throwing a hissy fit in his kitchen and worries about “overstepping” (his wife states that he’s “spinning out of control”). Elliot grapples with his “flight or fight” response throughout the episode, and he mentions early on that he really should get on picking one of them. The problem, of course, is that it’s just not that easy to ‘pick one’, and that’s a prevalent idea across the show as a whole. Is life really “better when [we’re] numb?” Do we choose to be numb?
Regardless, the main idea the episode revolves around is survival. Fight or flight is all about survival, about–as stated by the handy tool known as Wikipedia– “a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival”. And as the episode demonstrates, we humans are certainly driven by self-interest. Sentences and phrases like “it’s in your best interest to keep talking to me”, “it’s in his self interest to kill everyone”, “your best option for survival is to kill him in prison”, “the only way for this to work in your favor”, and “your best chance of living” pop up throughout the hour, and decisions are oftentimes structured around what’s in these characters’ best self-interest.
Which is why Shayla’s death is so significant. No, the Elliot-Shayla relationship is not a Jim-Pam type relationship, but it’s one of the better ones Elliot has had and ever will have. Throughout the situation, he recognizes the fact that several lives are hanging in the balance, and he puts himself out there to try and ensure Shayla’s safety. To find out that all he did was essentially for nil is a devastating feeling, and Rami Malek beautifully conveys the multitude of emotions washing across Elliot’s face at the end. It’s the actor’s finest moment thus far in the series, and it’s a masterful example of the power of body language. It’s also a turning point for the character and for the show, and I can’t wait to see where we go next.
-The idea of savagery shows up several times in this episode as well, bookending the episode and tying back to the survival theme.
– “Don’t be trying any dumb shit, you dumb shit.” Glorious dialogue, I tell you.
-This episode brings another scene that suggests a “Mr. Robot is not real” interpretation, but the show has definitely done a nice job of playing both sides, of keeping us guessing. I like that Elliot repeats the “zero sum game” phrase told to him by Mr. Robot; you really start to wonder whether Robot’s in his head or not.
-Tyrell’s wife seems to be a Mr. Robot of sorts for Tyrell. Interesting connection in this episode: both Tyrell and Elliot are warned about being cowardly. Also, I like that Tyrell’s being brought back down to Earth now, as it makes him more of a well-developed and intriguing character.
-Five censored f-bombs in this episode. Still so strange to see this on USA. Did they trade a few f-bombs for fifty hours of commercials?
– “Um, I’m eating here.” -Tyrell’s wife
Photo credit: USA Network, Mr. Robot