Mr. Robot’s fourth episode continued the paranoia and excitement, as the show begins to show how many intricate layers it really has. Peeling back each layer reveals a different side to each character, one that may or may not have been expected by the viewer, given how varied and diverse the show can be at times in both introducing different themes and executing these ideas. If the first episode introduces the show to audiences with its clear goal, the fourth episode, “eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4,” carefully depicts how different Elliot is as a junkie and a hacker.
The episode opens up with Elliot hallucinating as he goes through withdrawal symptoms. It reminds us that Elliot is someone who operates best from the shadows. He’s a hacker, but the show has no qualms with hiding away from the truth of the matter. These aren’t jewel thieves, with slick gear, good looks, and a natural charm. Their internet trolls on steroids, a cowardly lot that is easy to stamp out and eradicate, meaning the paranoia Elliot shows can easily be spread and exhibited to the other characters through fsociety’s attack on Ecorp.
I love the raw and gritty paranoia the show invokes, from simple acts as Elliot realizing Ecorp is following him, to his withdrawals and hallucinations that are entailed, and even the drug fueled party where Elliot attempts to better handle his symptoms. However, I found it very refreshing that Elliot is not a hacker who is safe from his own actions. He doesn’t live in a virtual castle, safe from any retribution of his own actions. Instead, Elliot, who put his morphine supplier Vera behind bars in the previous episode, struggles with his addiction.
This struggle may cause one to look on his or her own actions, but, as we see with Mr. Robot, true identities never remain hidden forever. Romero calls Elliot out, by saying he recognizes a junkie when he sees one, but, while this show does not move the plot along, it still provides some great character work. By fleshing out the rest of the characters, such as Romero, Mr. Robot himself, and Angela and Shayla, the show runners are playing the long ball, probing deeper into who these characters are instead of racing to the finish line. While this episode does slow up to an extent, it is for a good cause, as it allows viewers to like and relate to these characters.
As Elliot’s virtual invulnerability is stripped away and his mortality exposes a human with strengths, character flaws, and weaknesses. We’ve always known his deep dark secrets, like Ollie’s porn addictions or Christa’s insecurities. Slater reliably plays Mr. Robot as the crazy, deadbeat dad, who thinks outside of the dark, but still disapproves of Elliot pushing himself when he is such a shape as he drives to finish the task at hand.
Darlene, Shayla, Angela, and Trenton are also closely examined. We get to see how different Angela and Shayla really are, one who is in “pharmaceutical sales,” and the other who has a career. I like Shayla as both a character and a “girlfriend” for Elliot, but I also like Angela in the same role, as both young women are strong, yet realistically so, with their own flaws and insecurities that can be solved without the help of Elliot.
Darlene’s connections with Dark Army and the Chinese connection also add yet another level of suspense of the show. Dark Army doesn’t seem to operate with the same level of sloppiness as fsociety. They’re careful how they operate, who they’re in contact with, and the show seems to display them as shadowy hackers that prefer to have as little contact with fellow freedom fighters as possible. It’s a chilling take that raises several important questions, deepening the mystery of the hackers that inhabit this show.
Even though fsociety is a major part of a very interesting episode, it is still the weakest part of a very good show. They’re not as likable as the rest of the cast, and thus harder to root for. I wish I knew exactly why they’re trying to stop fsociety. Everyone needs motivation. If the characters are going to constantly complain about insurmountable odds, we should still be able to root for them. There should still be an amount of pathos established which we can turn to that allows viewers to relate to fsociety. Besides from the obvious David V. Goliath story, there isn’t a whole lot that establishes these characters as sympathetic or relatable.
In terms of production value, this show continues to ooze style, as the lighting and camera accentuate the theme and atmosphere of the story. Elliot’s violent drug trips bounce back and forth between real time events and Elliot’s crazy hallucinations. Malek’s hypnotic voice over further diverts fsociety’s job, as they deal with the effects of Elliot’s convulsions. The show’s music and ambiance is also very supportive of the sense of paranoia that spreads through each close call fsociety has.
Once again, the show also does the little things very well. Elliot’s voice over could be less mysterious and rewarding if the source of the audience was prematurely revealed. It isn’t, which makes the hallucinations even more rewarding, as you;re never sure if he’s really talking to the camera or his own head. Everyone refers to Evil Corp as ECorp as well. Are they just messing with us? Or is the corporation really called Evil Corp?
More things to note:
-Dark Army would make an interesting villain in season 2 if ECorp is really stopped, especially if the hacker group remains hidden in the shadows.
-With the exception of a major overhaul, this show really can’t go on in it’s current form without Rami Malek involved.
-Either go into each episode as blind as possible or really force yourself to look for the different metaphors and commentary on conflict in this show.
Mr. Robot’s fourth episode exchanges plot for characters, as we delve deeper into what makes these characters tick and why they’re so important. Truth be told, fsociety isn’t the easiest rebellious organization to root for and that’s the point, which is a plot point that may or may not be properly executed throughout the rest of the season.