Review: Can ‘Mr. Robot’ engineer a prison break?

Senior Television Writer
07.29.15 54 Comments

USA

Random thoughts on tonight's “Mr. Robot” coming up just as soon as I've had several glasses of water…

* Last week, “Mr. Robot” gave us a caper movie filtered through the show's psychologically dark sensibilities. This week, we got the “Mr. Robot” version of a prison break story, which of course ended in blood, not triumph, with the murder of Isaac and Elliot's discovery that Shayla's dead body had been in the car trunk the whole time. The show is so good at putting us inside Elliot's haunted, lonely point of view that it's vision of New York seems positively empty much of the time, and that played well here, not just in making us feel his anguish and paranoia, but papering over some of the implausibilities of the escape itself. (Among other things, hard to imagine Elliot standing that close to the fence for that long and going unnoticed.) Rami Malek is great, but the direction and the writing both play into the strengths of him and the character.

* Bye, Shayla. A good character, but there had to be a real cost to this, as Mr. Robot had warned (more on that in a bit) for it to not feel like stakes-less filler. 

* Interesting to see Elliot do such a good job psychoanalyzing his opponents (and Angela, for that matter). These days, the standard profile for any eccentric TV genius is to put them somewhere on the autism spectrum, along with the difficulty reading social cues that comes with that. But it's not that Elliot doesn't understand people; he's just not comfortable being around most of them. (Which, in turn, makes the Shayla thing hit even harder; this wasn't a great romance, but just finding another human he could be around without total panic was huge for him.)

* This week in Byte Club (aka, Is Mr. Robot Elliot's Tyler Durden?): Mr. Robot only appears briefly, and only interacts with Elliot. Certainly, the scene plays like a conversation going on inside Elliot's head. But since we don't see him reach out to contact Darlene in the first place to help with the prison break, it's not impossible that she in turn contacted Mr. Robot when we weren't looking. Odds remain high on the Durden of it all, but the show is keeping it ambiguous enough so far that neither explanation will feel like a cheat. (Part of me is almost hoping he's real, because the presentation feels so weighted towards him being a figment.)

* As I said last week, I like seeing Elliot's enemies being shown to have brains, and that extends to the enemies of his enemies. You don't want Wellick to just become Frank Underwood, casually manipulating a bunch of gullible fools. I'm sure in the long run, he's going to get over on Scott and wind up as the new CTO, but it's more fun if Scott not only knows what he's up to, but has the brains and charisma to make it very hard along the way.

* Angela's independent adventures remain less exciting to this point, but the suggestion that she has a plan to get revenge on Terry Colby and/or Evil Corp (I'm guessing Colby's ankle monitor will be involved in some way) seems promising. This is a show loaded with smart characters, and while Angela doesn't seem dumb, the context she's been placed in so far hasn't really given her an opportunity to suggest she's anywhere near the level of an Elliot or a Darlene. If she's got a real plan – and preferably one that complicates fsociety's – that's good for the character and for the show.

What did everybody else think?

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