I really liked “Mr. Robot” when it debuted, and I'm going to work it into the weekly blog rotation for the rest of this season (give or take interruptions for press tour and late summer vacation). Some thoughts on tonight's episode coming up just as soon as this building has its own fire department…
Like I did the last time I wrote about “Mr. Robot,” I'm going to bounce around on different topics that interested me with this episode:
* This week, in “Is Mr. Robot really Elliot's Tyler Durden?” (aka – and all credit to TV.com for this moniker – “Byte Club”): many mixed signals as to Mr. Robot's reality. At the coffee shop, for instance, another fsociety member nods to him, and he goes to steal the ID of a Steel Mountain employee, but Elliot is doing nothing in that moment, and that could be read as him. But Mr. Robot also cautions his sidekicks to stay put when it looks like Elliot is blowing it, and they listen, and both Elliot and Mr. Robot talk to Darlene after learning about the Dark Army's pull-out, and she responds to Elliot much better than she does to Mr. Robot. It could be just one person taking two different approaches – and it's also Elliot who gives the big leader speech about finding another way in – but this episode certainly offered the most evidence in favor of Mr. Robot being an actual character.
* The whole Steel Mountain sequence was fascinating because it was a “Mr. Robot” version of a heist movie, which involved a lot of twitchiness, social awkwardness, and outright cruelty, with Elliot's dissection of poor friendly Bill. (For that matter, the bogus texts to Trudy were pretty horrific, and also would likely raise alarm bells once she finds out the truth, given that she works for a computer security company.)
* So much of Elliot's identity is built around remaining invisible, but that's becoming more and more difficult. Not only has Tyrell Wellick taken an interest in him – and assumes he framed Terry Colby as revenge for his father's death – but Fernando has figured out that Elliot is the one who put him in prison. Giving your genius hero opponents who are extremely smart in their own way is the only sensible approach. If Elliot is just setting up a bunch of unwitting dupes, then it's “House of Cards” all over again.
* A few weeks ago on the podcast, Dan and I revisited “The Shield” series finale, where one of the most devastating scenes (seven-year-old spoilers coming) involves Shane helping his injured wife Mara go to the bathroom. So it was hard to watch Wellick walk in on his rival's wife – played by Mara herself, actress Michele Hicks – as she was relieving herself. That is a very weird niche in which to be typecast, and Hicks is a good enough actress that I hope there's a lot more in store for her than that. But the sexual weirdness of Mr. and Mrs. Wellick remains a core part of those characters, so we'll see if golden showers become a thing for Tyrell and his new target.
* While it was a bad idea for Angela to put the infected disc on the company server, at least she was smart enough to do it in a way where all the blame would fall on stupid Ollie. That her father already seems to be in deep financial stress only complicates her life, though the show still has some work to do to make Elliot-less Angela stories interesting enough to feel worth the time away from the more colorful characters.
* Also, you'll note a lack of episode title in the headline above. While I usually use those to differentiate one review from the next, the show's title style of naming episodes after computer files – here it's eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv – makes that into more trouble than it's worth. Maybe in the future I'll go with “Friends”-style headlines: “The one where Elliot breaks into Steel Mountain,” or “The one where Wellick binds and gags his pregnant wife.”
What did everybody else think?