Wowsers! After what I was saying about last week’s snooze-fest only laying out story beats, containing zero fantasy sequences and being no fun whatsoever, Mr Robot S02E06 definitely “Got Ready for a Word Up Wednesday” by providing us with a sixteen minute sitcom cheese-fest and a techno-thriller spy mission.
Let’s start with that dream sequence… Remember a couple of weeks ago I said I’d love to see Elliot turn to the camera and start rapping like The Fresh Prince, well; we got the next best thing!
Instead of continuing where we left off, finding out if Elliot was alive after his beating or the fate of Agent Dom DiPierro, we launch straight into Bad 90’s Sitcom World. It gets capital letters cos it’s a real place. I know cos I used to live there, my jeans on backwards like Kriss Kross n’ everything!
As ever, in the best show on television right now, everything was played perfectly. For several minutes, as Elliot’s “bug eyes” grew buggier in wild eyed-amazement so we, the audience, experienced the exact same bewilderment he felt.
From the canned laughter that only Elliot could hear to the Full House title card and theme song “Imagine a world gone insane”. The 4:3 aspect ratio, 35 year old Rami Malek looking 15, the badly composited green-screen. Everyone will rightly be citing Full House and its Funny or Die parody Too Many Cooks, but this also had the darker shades of Natural Born Killers’ show-within-a-show “I Love Mallory”
While the first special guest appearance of S02E06 had me audibly saying “What the fuck?!” the next two had me laughing out loud. ALF’s appearance will go down in Mr Robot history and running over Gideon was a stroke of surreal genius, cross-network clearance and a perfect example of how to brilliantly direct bad TV. Check out these four crash zooms as ALF’s BMW ploughs into Gideon Goddard to see what I mean!
It’s not easy to direct “badly” – an amateur can’t just pick up a camera and do it. No, it’s the tiny, highly nuanced, just-off-kilter details that make it an art-form like in bizarro Brit comedy Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. The only thing that was slightly off was Christian Slater’s comedy timing.
+5 Cool Points if you clocked the nod to The Truman Show when Tyrell Wellick (“The Man in the Trunk”) hopped straight into the green-screen and LOL’d as loud as me!
Just as the sitcom was in danger of outstaying its welcome, Edward got all sentimental and existential on us, revealing he was trying to protect Elliot from the beating by showing him yet another world… and admitting that it was a world that was yet another lie – just like our world!
But his speech about how “everything is here for you” made it feel like Elliot this was not just a 1990’s bad sitcom dream sequence, but that we were witnessing a near death experience (people often report seeing their family members) or that Elliot had died and gone to some sort of heaven, even uttering the lines “You’ve won… I’m buried here.”
Too Many Cooks might not be your idea of heaven but think about it – Elliot was totally out of place and discombobulated amongst the pastel shades of this sitcom world, just like everyone who arrives in movie-afterlife is always portrayed as lost and confused.
This place could have been Elliot’s vision of a perfect childhood; his nuclear family still together and on their annual road-trip, even if his Mom was a violent Peggy and his Dad a wisdom-spouting, businessman-kidnapping Al Bundy!
As Sam Esmail gets to do whatever batshit insanity he likes with his show, my only worry is that it may become too clever; too post-modern and self-referential. Or that Mr Robot unpeels too many layers, confusing the crap out of the audience so they switch off in their droves like they did with Lost.
All in all, this sequence was so delicious, if I could eat it, I would.
I could go on (and often do!) but we’ve gotta check out the rest of this episode.
After being guided there by a Guardian Angel-like Mr Robot, Elliot awakes, battered, bruised and with what sounds like a collapsed lung in a hospital bed only to learn he is now pwned by Ray.
Meanwhile, Trenton, Mobley and Darlene have one day to teach Angela the Hacking Kung Fu she needs for her mission while in the city’s most beautiful but deserted library, The Cisco Kid takes delivery of an already-infiltrated-by-The-Dark-Army femtocell with accompanying needle to the fingernail. Ouchy!
Only half way through S02E06 do we learn that FBI Agent Dominique DiPierro is alive and well and facing the mandatory FBI “psych eval” cop-show TV trope, which she can only ignore anyway! A potty-mouthed Phillip Price can’t get Mr Speaker to bail E Corp out and with a line straight outta Twin Peaks, Dominique buys the best damn turkey sandwich in the Tri-State.
And then our second televisual treat of the evening begins!
Transitioning from all-out comedy to tense heist-thriller is not easy and it’s testament to Esmail and writer Adam Penn that they made both genres work within such a short space of time. In a role Carly Chaikin surely relished, while Darlene turned blonde femme fatale and gloriously stole her way into a hotel room with a view, it was actually Portia Doubleday’s Angela that was given the chance to shine.
With The Suffers’ 1960’s soul-inspired song “Gwan” providing the Guy Ritchie-esque spy-theme, and some beautiful steadicam work (though nowadays more likely a $650 DJI Osmo!) Angela became Agent Angela for her very own Mission Impossible.
While Bad 1990’s Sitcom World had the characters leaving reality and entering a fantasyland, this spy-thriller section both paralleled and flipped this by having the fantastical enter Angela’s reality… before she was stopped in her tracks by sleazeball/momma’s boy Agent Ross Thomas.
From the techno-thriller flyaway through the desk enabling us to witness to Angela’s bomb-disposal wire-cutting moment, to her installing the mini cell phone tower and wiping down her prints, this whole sequence was handled with such aplomb that until Elliot was dragged from his hospital bed, I realised I’d actually forgotten about him for 20 minutes! And in a show that’s often criticised for suffering when its protagonist ain’t on-screen, that takes some great storytelling.
Having used girl-power to shake off common-all-garden, easily-surmountable douchebag-barrier Agent Dick Wad, and now back at her work terminal, Agent Angela is interrupted by a real threat in the form of another well-written, strong female character; Dominique DiPierro. Her reveal definitely left me with a sharp intake of breath.
In the two most emotive scenes in S02E06, we saw Elliot finally open up to Mr Robot. Arguably, one of the most important story elements in Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey” is Atonement with the father and we definitely saw that when father and son embraced in the warehouse.
Though touching, the final scene only really taught us two new things – that Elliot chose the name for the shop and that his father promises he is “Never gonna leave” him.
As S02E06 sadly comes to a close, Elliot finally accepts his dead father as a part of his life and not as some interloper that needs to be disposed of or conquered.
And with Mr Robot acting as Elliot’s protector, it looks like it really might be a case of One for Alderson and Alderson for one…