It’s rare for Mr. Robot to indulge in some old-fashioned, fist-pumping action. You know, the kind where the good guys get the edge on the bad guys, even if it’s for the briefest of moments. This is a show that has no compunction about killing off characters, or pulling out the rug from under the audience, or even just rubbing the audience’s face in dirt. It can be a miserablist show at times, presenting a bleak vision of the world even as it hopes for a better one.
This is a long way of saying that when the Dark Army took Dom’s family hostage, I was mildly expecting them to all end up shot in the head by the end of the episode, especially after Janice stabs Dom in the chest and punctures her lung. Since neither Dom nor Darlene were going to give up Elliot’s true location, it felt like an organic development, and another illustration of the Dark Army’s no-holds-barred attitude toward the people whom they manipulate. They use them until they’re useful and then dispose of the evidence.
So color me surprised when it turns out that Dom has been in cahoots with Deegan Maguire, the Irish mobster whom Dom interviewed in “Payment Required,” who has since been released. It was pretty thrilling to see Janice’s smugly sadistic façade falter as soon as she realizes that none of her men are answering their phone. It turns out that when Dom took note of the license plates in “Method Not Allowed,” it was to cut a deal with Deegan to protect her family. A master of “disappearing people,” Deegan takes Dom’s family to a safe house in exchange for his freedom. For the first time, something goes Dom’s way.
Then she removes the knife from her chest, disarms one of Janice’s henchmen, and then kills all three assailants in one fell swoop. It’s a “badass” moment that feels earned not just because Dom has been so powerless this entire season, but also because Mr. Robot indulges in so few of them this late in the game. It’s also mitigated by the fact that we last see Dom bleeding out on the floor, imploring Darlene to find Elliot and follow through on the hack so that they can stop the Dark Army once and for all.
Unfortunately, Elliot might not be up for anything so revolutionary right now, given that he’s reeling from a traumatic revelation. Outside the police station, Krista does her best to comfort Elliot, telling him that he’s not responsible for his father’s actions and that it’s better to confront the past than keep it permanently repressed. You can tell Elliot has been paralyzed by the truth, unsure of his own abilities or where he stands any longer. He can’t handle the fact that he shut down instead of fighting back, even if it was a perfectly acceptable response to the violence he faced. Worse, Mr. Robot has been replaced by a vision of his younger self, the one who ran away from home to hide out in the Queens Museum with Angela.
The opening flashback all but paints a roadmap for the rest of the episode, which finds Elliot returning to the museum to discover what he hid in the wall 20 years prior. The episode’s use of young Elliot as a conduit between present-day Elliot’s fear and his eventual acceptance feels hoary and obvious, if only because it feels like a cheap way to earn maximum pathos, even correcting for the sexual-abuse angle. Still, the reveal of Elliot’s childhood bedroom key is a nice moment, mostly because it’s a small symbol in the grand scheme of things. By hiding the key, he cut off his father’s unfettered access to him, and proves to Elliot that he did try to fight back against his father’s power, even if it was if by running away. It’s a neat way to reframe what Elliot perceives as cowardice into a version of strength.
Yet, it’s Mr. Robot’s apology that provides Elliot the most relief. He explains that he stepped in as Elliot’s protector after it became clear that his father failed in that charge. He tried to fill his mind with good memories of his father to keep him from the truth, but it only ended up making it that much more painful. Christian Slater delivers his monologue with stunning vulnerability, laid low by the damage that he partially caused, and culminating with an obvious yet necessary statement: Mr. Robot isn’t his father even if he took his form. Elliot and Mr. Robot embrace, finally accepting the clarity of their shared purpose.
But as time runs out, it’s unclear if Elliot wants to commit any more damage. He breaks down in tears, uncertain if he wants to go through with the hack. Yet, the wheels are already in motion and the plan has become bigger than his pain. The Deus Group is set to meet and the Dark Army will be hot on Darlene’s trail. Elliot needs to call on any reserve of strength he has left to finish this once and for all.
The one setback with the Dom and Darlene storyline is that we’re basically supposed to accept at face value that these two have a special connection. I’m not convinced the series did enough work to demonstrate that, so instead they keep repeating it as a reminder.
Peanuts and Javi are clearly the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the Mr. Robot universe, and their food discussion only highlights that fact. Javi thinks the Arby’s 5 for $5 deal is “fiscally responsible.” Peanuts prefers Momofuku.
In case you’re wondering, Deegan calls Janice a “flange,” which is Irish slang for “vagina.” Given her behavior this past season, that insult might be an understatement.