Darlene And Elliot Try To Reconnect As ‘Mr. Robot’ Explores ‘Metadata’

A quick review of tonight’s Mr. Robot coming up just as soon as I enjoy Love Actually….

“Metadata” is the last of the four episodes I watched before the season began, because I didn’t want each recap to be too influenced by my knowledge of what’s to come, given what a plotty, twist-loving show this is. Of the four, it functions least well on its own, though that’s fine in an intensely serialized season like this. It’s a piece-mover episode, designed to advance various stories (realizing how much damage Elliot can do to Stage Two via his EvilCorp job, Angela persuades Pryce to fire him) and character arcs (Elliot and Darlene work to mend their broken relationship… again) incrementally, while saving the next batch of major fireworks in both areas for a later hour. It’s a useful bit of glue holding the season together, and the sort seemingly designed with eventual binge-viewing in mind, but not enormously memorable on its own.

So I’ll just hit a few bullet points, open things up for discussion, and then queue up my episode 5 screener:

* The show has evolved in so many ways from the early season one days where Elliot was doing lots of vigilante hacking and hanging out with Shayla (RIP). But he still lives next door to her now-vacant apartment, and still feels tremendous guilt for his role in her death, so it was a nice touch for him to invite Darlene to crash there while she attempts to follow him as Mr. Robot.

* Neither Dom nor Darlene have any friends, and the nature of their fed/informant relationship means they can never really be that for each other. But the scene where Darlene attempts to bond with her handler not only shed some new light on both women, but also shows how good Darlene is — with plenty of experience dating back to childhood — at handling and manipulating intense loners who can easily fall prey to tunnel vision. She needs some room to do whatever her plan is — a plan I fear she doesn’t expect to survive, based on the episode’s closing scene of her leaving the family photo on Elliot’s mantle — and she suspects getting briefly close to Dom may help with that.

* Darlene and Angela remain the only two people who can instantly recognize which personality is controlling Elliot’s body, but Tyrell now knows at least some of the situation, and he’s happy about none of it, having placed his life on hold and being apart from his wife (whose death he doesn’t know about) and baby to follow the vision of a man he no longer trusts. (“I once thought you to be a god — I loved you,” he tells Mr. Robot, who replies by calling him “Swedish scumfuck.”) The more people who are in on some part of the secret, the more fun the show seems to have with the ways it portrays the transitions, here with Elliot and Mr. Robot glitching into and out of one another when Elliot resurfaces in the middle of the meeting with Angela and Tyrell.

* Between the premiere’s reference to alternate universes, Angela’s suggestion that there may be a way to rewrite history so that her mom and Elliot’s father didn’t die, and the oblique Angela/Irving conversation tonight about Whiterose’s plan, it feels like the show is tip-toeing ever closer to some kind of science fiction concept. (When Angela asks if Irving believes in whatever it is Whiterose claims to be able to do, he replies, “Take a look at technology nowadays. It’s mind-boggling.”) I’ll be curious to see how close the show gets to whatever it’s hinting at, or if this will be a situation like True Detective season one, where all the hints of the paranormal invited far more speculation than was warranted by the finale.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His next book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.

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