“Do I even exist?”
The “Who is Mr. Robot?” question has lingered over the show since the very first episode, constantly toying with our minds and making its way into myriad interactions. And that’s a lot of what the show is about: the human mind itself and how it functions, how it forgets, how it distracts, how it frightens. In this episode, there are several huge bombshells dropped about Elliot Alderson’s mind, and we gain more insight into a pained, yet fascinating, character as a result. It’s the most intriguing and well-crafted hour of the series thus far, and it kicks things into high gear before the final two episodes of season one.
Near the beginning of the episode, Elliot goes on in his voiceover about people being “too afraid to peek over the walls for fear of what they might see”, and during his conversation with Angela, he states the following: “hackers…inherently trust no one, including each other. There will always be this divide, my wall she can’t look over, and she knows it.” This is an idea that he’s delved into before when talking about himself in relation to the rest of society: he’s at a distance, looking at things that no one else wants to look at, isolating himself as everyone else lives their generic lives. He’s found connections at times, but there’s always been a sense of distance.
So, while this idea isn’t necessarily a new one, what makes this episode so interesting is its use of major revelations to expand on it. Take the sister reveal, for example, which adds a new layer of intrigue to Elliot’s mental condition. Is the fact that he’s forgotten about Darlene-as-sister multiple times partly a result of his job? Is his hacking a result of his mental state? Is it a combination of the two? How exactly were these walls, these divides, developed in his mind? The fact that he tries to pursue a connection with someone whose true connection to him he’s forgotten about–I know, you probably have to read that again–is paradoxical in a way, as is Elliot’s voiceover about paranoia. “She’s infected me with her time paranoia,” he says. “We’re all living in each other’s paranoia. Is that why everyone’s always trying to avoid each other?”
On the topic of paranoia, this episode is full of it. The show gets nifty with the camera work here, drawing Tyrell and Elliot together through close-ups as paranoia overtakes them. And with the final reveal of the episode, the scenes the two have shared become so much more fun to ponder; if Mr. Robot is a projection by Elliot of his dad, then Mr. Robot is essentially Elliot, and Elliot is actually in bed with Tyrell. Everything we know–and everything he knows–is suddenly uprooted, and he’s now questioning his entire existence as a result. Even if Elliot Alderson is physically here, how here is his mind?
-B.D. Wong is awesome as White Rose. Plus, that conversation touches on a lot of the themes I’ve written about over the past seven weeks: vulnerability, time, uncertainty, waiting, etc. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Wong does with the character.
-Lots of talk of distractions in this episode. Elliot mentions it several times, most notably during the actual distraction–the FSociety video–at Allsafe. Early on in the season, Gideon and Elliot shared a sweet moment at the dinner, but now, the tension between them is rising. Everyone’s living in each other’s paranoia.
– “Why can’t the world just take care of itself?” “The world is full of stupid people, and I get paid a lot to be smart.”
-Elliot breaks the fourth wall a ton in this episode, even going so far as to knock the camera down. I love this show.
Photo credit: Mr. Robot, USA Network