Nope. No intro. We’re diving right in. Let’s go.
1. Yo, Mr. Robot really opened up this week’s episode, “Master Slave,” with a 20-minute Too Many Cooks-esque sequence inspired by old ’90s sitcoms like Family Matters and Full House. Like, a pitch perfect one, right down to Elliot’s striped Zack Morris shirt and the laugh track, which the show used in very inappropriate moments, including but not limited to Darlene getting punched in the face by her mother, repeatedly. I’m going to try to analyze all of this in more detail momentarily, but for now, let’s all take a few seconds and reflect on the fact that it happened. All of it. Give Sam Esmail and Mr. Robot this: They are not afraid to take huge swings. I bet you thought “Elliot having an anarchist dead dad alter ego and periodically trying to make out with his sister because he forgets they’re related” would be the weirdest thing you’d see on this show. Nope! Alf killed a guy!
2. Let’s also quickly note the extra details they hit in all of this. They even carried it over to the commercial breaks with a fake early-’90s E Corp commercial for the internet, an old Bud Light commercial they wrangled somehow, and a recut promo for Suits that made it look like the show that followed Silk Stalkings on USA’s old schedule. This last one was wonderful. I want to watch that version of Suits more than the one that’s on now.
My favorite part, however, was the opening credits, which took the Family Matters font and then proceeded to get weird as all hell. Look at Angela’s face. Er, faces.
3. Ahhh, but it wasn’t all fun and jorts, in reality. What we were seeing was a kind of self-defense mechanism Elliot apparently has in his brain, where his Mr. Robot alter ego can take over and throw him into a ’90s funhouse if, say, a bunch of goons are beating him into half a coma for being too nosy about their illegal dark web business. Which is… nice? I mean, I don’t want most of Elliot’s mental issues. They do not seem fun. But if I’m getting the hell beaten out of me and my brain is like “Off to The Sandlot, buddy!,” I think I’d be okay with that. (Please do not beat the hell out of me.)
4. The trunk thing. What do we make of that? The obvious answer is that the “baggage” metaphor they kept hitting is something Tyrell-related that Elliot is carrying around with him, locked away in the trunk of his brain, and that Mr. Robot will go to great lengths to keep him from finding out more about it. But do we have anything beyond that? And why is Mr. Robot being secretive about it. And where was Joanna this episode? That last question doesn’t have much to do with anything. I just want to know.
5. Now, there’s a flip side to this coin. While some might say the opening was fun and ambitious and a way to delve deeper into Elliot’s internal push-pull relationship with Mr. Robot, others might say, not unfairly, that it was a little gimmick-y, and another example of the show trying to figure out just what the hell do with Elliot this season. I think where you come down on it depends on how much leeway you’re willing to give the show as it moves through the season. Because if all of this is leading to something important that pulls it together, it’ll be worth it as a whole. If not, it was still a fun little television experiment, but it’ll feel a little emptier.
6. On the other hand, the stuff this season with Darlene and Angela has been great, and that continued last night with their great hacking caper in the FBI section of the E Corp building. I loved the ’70s, almost Ocean’s Eleven feel of it. And it’s interesting to see Angela getting involved in the way she is. Like, if I had told you “Darlene is gonna organize a hack of the FBI and break into a hotel room while wearing a bleach blond wig,” you’d have been like, “Well, yeah.” But if I had said, “Angela is going to use her feminine charm to throw a nosy FBI agent off her scent after hacking the FBI from the ladies bathroom,” you might not have gone along with it right away. Or maybe you would have. I don’t know. The point is that I would watch an entire show about Darlene organizing heists and/or capers and then attempting to pull them off while wearing wigs and designer suits.