This episode features the show’s characters playing chess games, trying to maneuver around others (or themselves) and find peace underneath all the muck. On the subplot side of things, we have Angela going up against Phillip Price and Joanna going up against Scott Knowles, and on main street, we have Elliot actually playing chess against Mr. Robot. It’s not just chess for chess’s sake, though; the episode is using this game to comment on its main character’s desire to unburden himself, to find peace by settling this once and for all. “I can’t hold this in any longer…it’s eating away at me,” Elliot expresses early on, and the rest of the episode is about him grappling with this inner turmoil.
The hour tackles this question from a variety of viewpoints. His therapist tells him that Mr. Robot is a part of him that makes him who he is, that “annihilation is not the answer.” Elliot’s voiceover has a cogent response: “we destroy parts of ourselves every day…curate our identity, carve it, distill it. Annihilation is all we are.” Another way of looking at it: maybe we change. Yes, we are in a perpetual state of molding ourselves into different shapes, but does that require annihilation of who we really are? Ray makes a point at the end about prophets and how they listened to their inner voices, and by doing so, he implores Elliot to listen to that voice. Out of the mounds of new story that we’ve been treated to at the opening of this season, the Ray-Elliot relationship is perhaps the most fascinating. Ray understands Elliot and is in the same boat as him, but there’s also something intimidating about him underneath that exterior.
And so, through relationships and moments like these, this season of Mr. Robot is posing overarching questions about existence (which is “dope”). Here, we dive into what it means to fight for the future, what it means to change the path one is on and improve life. In arguably the most beautiful moment on television this year, Elliot lives his “future fairytale” set to a lullaby cover of Green Day’s “Basket Case”. It’s a scene about connection and peace and contentedness in this world…in other words, a fairytale. It’s something wonderful to work toward and something worth fighting for, but cynicism usually wins out in the end. Elliot finishes his chess game with Mr. Robot in a stalemate, the latter expressing that fighting him is a waste of time. It’s an inevitable slap in the face for Elliot, but it’s true that fighting yourself can be a futile effort.
Perhaps there’s another way to go about it, Mr. Robot asserts. Perhaps there are different ways to fight for the future you want. In the end, maybe it comes down to acceptance of who you are now before you look at who you want to be.
-Whiterose sighting! I don’t have too much to say about the stuff going on plot-wise with the Dark Army and ECorp, as it hasn’t fully developed yet. Whiterose and Price will always be intriguing characters, though, and I enjoy watching them. One thing: “Berenstain” is such an annoying way to spell it. “Berenstein” is perfectly fine, show.
– “It’s always good to have dreams.”
-Along with stuff like Hannibal, this is a show that luxuriates in its self-indulgence and can sometimes be better off for it. However, they need to be careful not to stray into Sons of Anarchy self-indulgence with their 90 minute episodes here.
-More religious references at the end there with Ray.
Photo credit: Mr. Robot, USA Network