Hello friend. Welcome. Last week, I mentioned Mr Robot’s Rabbit Hole and tonight we well and truly went Through The Looking Glass into fairy-tale fantasy. More on that in Part 2.0 of this shorter, two-part review. That said, even with the adversarial chess games leading to my craziest theory yet and another uplifting dream sequence, S02E04 felt much more grounded and plot-based after last week’s bonkers episode.
We opened with what we all hoped was the answer to who was banging on Elliot’s door on the night of 5/9. Instead we were presented with Darlene, which if you’re anything like me, you found anticlimactic. It’s Halloween night in an unspecified flashback year and Elliot and his sister smoke bowls and watch their favourite 1980’s slasher horror movie –
The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie.
Which you can watch the opening 8 minutes of here…
Darlene – “I’ll just leave this trail of breadcrumbs for the FBI on my Instagram account.”
The Careful Massacre is about a brother and sister; the polar opposite of Elliot and Darlene, who as kids probably cheered on the serial killer. More importantly, it’s where the F_Society mask came from. While watching, Darlene reveals that she suffers too by saying this movie is the cause of “all our psychological dysfunction”.
This scene turns Elliot’s basic, dimly-lit apartment into a room in a Sorority House.
And who lurks outside Fraternity Houses? Masked serial killers…
In Top Hats
The title of the fake film is a massive wink to Luis Buñuel’s 1972 film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – a film featuring a freedom fighter/terrorist in which impossible, illogical, bizarre events and dream sequences are totally accepted by the characters as reality – just like S02E04.
Esmail loves the surreal but that’s not the only reason I mention Buñuel’; His later film, The Phantom of Liberty opens with a man disorganizing items on a mantlepiece. The man and the film’s first line is perhaps Sam Esmail’s favourite phrase – “I’m sick of symmetry”
“I’m sick of symmetry”
While Elliot and Mr Robot can often be found center-frame, Esmail’s shots usually flout the standard Rule of Thirds convention. This creates a universe which unsettles and alienates both the characters and we viewers. Add to that subway commuters wearing gas masks, surgical masks and immersed in their Beats headphones and Oculus Rift VR glasses and we’re really dealing with a world out of kilter.
Why focus on long-dead Spanish surreal filmmakers? Because one day, one of Esmail’s homages to his favourite films might inadvertently give away all the mysteries…
Back to Elliot’s place. The beautiful usage of Holst’s Neptune from The Planet Suites added some sci-fi to proceedings as Elliot donned his father’s jacket and Darlene’s slasher mask. The monster wasn’t outside trying to get in, he was inside waiting to get out. Yes, Mr Robot trashed the servers when Elliot lost time, but this is the moment Elliot became Mr Robot. Seconds later and the Trojan Horse hacking plan is also born!
In a mesmerising scene and powerful performance, Elliot/Mr Robot realised the power of being anonymous. When he took the mask off, to become a “normal” kid again, he was visually shaken by what had just taken him over. When Darlene utters two genius lines “I can’t tell if you’re joking behind that mask” and “You there?” we don’t know any more if she’s talking to her brother or the ghost of her father. More on that in a second…
And then, a blast of Gustav Holst’s Mars: The Bringer of War brought a Sci-Fi vibe and 1980’s horror vibe into full blown, Greek tragedy melodrama! Seriously, have a listen to Holst’s Planets and you’ll think you’re listening to Star Wars. The only way to improve on this musical choice would be Earthworm Jim jumping out of my screen and farting his way through Night on Bare Mountain.
The Killer Inside Me
In the present day, Darlene visits Elliot at their Mom’s/ Norma Bates halfway house that he “asked for” (so you can tick your prison theories off that list, if not the asylum theory… yet) and here Darlene refers to “you guys” doing the hack – she couldn’t have meant Mobley, Trenton et al as they were her guys. At first I thought she maybe meant Tyrell but as the episode wore on, it’s clear that Darlene knows about Mr Robot, which is hugely interesting.
When reveals are underplayed, the show is trying to misdirect us and that’s precisely when you gotta be paying attention. Darlene knowing about Mr Robot is HUGE and potentially changes everything! This isn’t like Elliot confessing his existence to psychologist Krista. Nope; Darlene has known Mr Robot for a long time. Does that mean she has been visited by him too?
Is it just me or does Darlene look like Johnny Depp’s Madd Hatter here?
Darlene suffers from panic attacks, so could she also suffer from more serious ailments like Elliot’s Dissociative Identity Disorder? Is she Mr Robot? Is she an imaginary sister similar to Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s sister Dawn? Could she exorcise Mr Robot from Elliot and let him haunt her? A later scene certainly suggested so…
So yadayadayada… the FBI search the arcade and while we see a little more of them, they’re largely forgotten in this episode; not having enough screen-time or presence to convince us that they are worthwhile predators… in S02E04 – it’s almost as if the writer and director is only happy when dazzling us with masterful cinematography or is fucking with our heads. The more traditional, breadcrumb-following and exposition scenes suffer from this low priority.
S02E04 could have explained better that this evidence is how the FBI are on to Darlene
After Joanna pays off the car park attendant that obviously has information about the hack and watching Angela witness Jim Chutney and Sol Weinberg arrested on her evidence, in another delightful moment in Ray’s office that leaves us scratching our heads (could Ray be Elliot’s conscience?) before Mr Robot challenges Elliot to a game of life or death…
Thanks for reading & sharing MR ROBOT S02E04 ReCAP: Part 1.0: Unstoppable Force…
To read the second and final Part 2.0: Immovable Object, click here