Saying Mr. Robot has been a pleasant surprise this summer is kind of like saying the ocean is a little blue and wet. I brought it up when I reviewed the pilot (and every time I’ve mentioned the show since, because I’m still not entirely over it), but the degree of difficulty on the show was basically incalculable. I mean, again, it is a USA original series about computer hackers that stars Christian Slater as a titular character named “Mr. Robot.” It has no excuse to be this good. It has no excuse to be ANY good. And yet, here we are in the middle of the season, and Mr. Robot might be the best show on television right now.
One of most pressing questions over the first seven episodes had been what, exactly, the hell was up with the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot. Or, to put it another way, “Is Mr. Robot trying to Fight Club us?” Elliot was as unreliable a narrator as you could possibly have, and there were plenty of scenes early on where other people in the room seemed to stare straight through Christian Slater’s character, so leaping to the conclusion that it was all in Elliot’s paranoid, drug-addled brain — either as an alter-ego or a figment of his imagination — wouldn’t have been too out of line. At one point, I was so convinced that Mr. Robot was imaginary that I released an audible, involuntary gasp when he bumped into a person at a bar. I am, apparently, very passionate about Mr. Robot now.
All of which brings us to the last 10 minutes of this week’s episode, when things went from zero to NUTS on the show. Short version: Darlene is Elliot’s sister and Mr. Robot is, uh… something father-y!
First, the Darlene thing. This actually makes so much sense in hindsight. She had always been very forward with him and all up in his business, to the point that she’s invited herself into his apartment and put herself at great personal risk to help him with his jailbreak. At the time, I filed all of this under “Huh, I guess Darlene is just a poorly adjusted brassy hacker who is developing an itty bitty crush on Elliot,” which appears to be exactly what they wanted us to think. That way, when she said “I love you” and Elliot leaned in for a very non-sister-y kiss, her horrified reaction — especially because this appears to be, uh, not the first time Elliot has forgotten Darlene is his sister — served as a trap door we all fell down, into a room with the truth painted all over the walls.
It also explains why Darlene and Angela met to do ballet and were chatting like old pals about Elliot earlier in the episode, although, if we’re being honest here, the “Darlene is the type of person who does early morning ballet” thing might be as big a shocker as the sister thing, because I REALLY did not have Darlene pegged as an early rising ballerina.
One other note about the Darlene thing. In the aftermath of the kiss and realization, the camera work on Elliot as he careened into madness was really incredible. The weird plot and frenetic pacing of the story is what drew me into the show, but it also does more to convey emotion with camera tricks and editing than any show I can remember since Breaking Bad. Poor Elliot. Poor Darlene. Jesus Mighty, poor Darlene.
But, somehow, things went and got even weirder when Elliot got home and shoved an unmarked CD from his hacks into his computer, because that’s when he realized that the man he knows only as “Mr. Robot” bears a striking resemblance to the father he watched die years earlier, and he’s just putting it together now. This opens the door to an almost infinite number of possibilities, including, but not limited to:
- Elliot has concocted the character in his mind.
- We ARE getting Fight Club-ed and Mr. Robot is his Tyler Durden.
- Tyler Dad-den? Oh God, no. Forget I said that.
- Mr. Robot is his dad and he faked his death and aged very well.
- MR. ROBOT IS A ZOMBIE. (Imagine how fun that sentence would have been before we realized this show was good.)
- Other things!
These developments are also fascinating because they take all of the things we thought we knew about the show and throw them straight into Lake Idunno. Like, if Elliot is so mentally unstable that he didn’t recognize his own father and sister over the course of a few months, then what does that mean about his interactions with Tyrell and Evil Corp., or Shayla, or any of the things with Vera and the jailbreak? Did any of that happen? If so, how much? Has he been detoxing in that motel room and hallucinating all of it? We are eight episodes in, and we know so much and so little at the same time. And with only two episodes left before the first season ends, it look like things are about to get really crazy, really fast. Until then.
First round is on me.