22nd Nov2019

‘Mr. Robot’ Review Roundup: 4×01-4×06

by Xenia Grounds

WARNING: Massive spoilers for the first half of Mr. Robot season four.

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We’re halfway through the final season of Mr. Robot now and I can honestly say that each episode so far has been better than the last. It’s a relief because in a year when one of my other favourite television shows (cough, Game of Thrones, cough) was so massively disappointing in its wrap-up, Mr. Robot is going out all guns blazing.

From the start, it’s made very clear that no-one is safe by kicking off with Angela’s demise. The first episode even goes out of its way to troll us with Elliot nearly dying at the end by using a Sam Esmail cameo. Moving back to the point, as a character, Angela lost a lot of my sympathy in season three with how she used Elliot’s mental illness to her advantage. It’s understandable why she did it but much like every other character who has done horrible things in this show, it’s not enough of a justification. That said, her death was a real shock but it was an inevitable one to show the stakes in this fight against Whiterose and setting Elliot up for what he’s like when we see him again.

Angela isn’t the only massive character death to happen in this first half. Tyrell is also another or at least as far as we know. It was a little ambiguous near the end but we’ll see if that means anything. Tyrell was definitely a character who had lost everything in his pursuit of being at the top. His wife was killed, he’ll never see his son and Elliot never really cared for him either. Tyrell has largely been selfish but in his final episode, he went out doing the right thing for the first time by buying Elliot the time that he needs even if it cost him his life. After an episode spent exploring the Tyrell and Elliot relationship and what it truly is, there really wasn’t much else that I think Tyrell could’ve brought. His death is surprisingly heartbreaking but it’s a redemption for a character that has been complex and downright horrible but oddly sympathetic in the end.

As this season makes clear within minutes, Elliot is a man on a mission. He’s on a time limit to stop Whiterose. After he ceases to be of use to her, he knows he’ll be killed and he has less than two weeks to finish what he started. This rush is further reinforced by how Elliot isn’t the one talking to us directly, it’s Mr. Robot. Elliot is more detached than he has ever been and it’s unsettling to see the lengths he’s willing to go but more on that later.

Mr. Robot and Elliot are working side by side now after three seasons of internal struggling for control but their roles are reversed. Elliot is the one doing the morally dubious things while Mr. Robot is trying and mostly failing to keep Elliot from reaching new lows. It shows the massive character development that each personality has been through. Yes, Elliot is mostly this detached in order to deal with some pretty horrific things but he’s merely dodging something that he needs to confront. Mr. Robot knows this and so do we. However, a revelation in episode two of the season heavily implies that there’s a third personality in Elliot that we weren’t informed about. At the time of this writing, we still haven’t seen this third personality in action but there’s definitely more than enough for us to process in the waiting for it. Trust me, episode seven will be an interesting episode to write about.

The biggest low that Elliot stoops to has to concern Olivia. In episode three, Olivia is introduced as a means to an end for Elliot to hack into Cyprus. He’s originally planning on using her history with drug abuse to blackmail her into helping him. However, in a turn of events, the two end up sharing a pretty personal connection about their demons (after Mr. Robot for all intents and purposes pimps Elliot out.) It leads to a genuinely heartwarming love scene between them and one that I really personally loved to see because it showed that letting people in doesn’t have to hurt. It’s something Elliot needed to find out.

However, this is all thoroughly shattered by episode six as Elliot does follow through on the original plan by spiking Olivia’s drink with drugs to force her into doing what he wants. It’s up there as one of the most monstrous things Elliot has ever done which is saying a lot. It’s probably the first time in the entire show where I actually cursed at Elliot along with a character. Was it worth crossing that line? If Olivia’s suicide attempt afterwards is anything to go by…it wasn’t. She’s right when she says that Elliot is the worst kind of monster since he doesn’t realise what he just did to her. In the grand scheme of things, it can be easy to rationalise some of the horrible things we do for the greater good since we could be part of a righteous cause or fight. Everyone believes they’re the hero of their own story. It’s not until someone confronts us with some real home truths and questions that we recognise that we may actually be the villain. Elliot’s more than aware that he’s committed some horrible actions but they were always rooted in good intentions. This action, no matter how you look at it, was just horrible and most likely didn’t need to happen.

If there was a weakness I have to find in this first half of a brilliant season then it would probably be Vera. Having watched episode seven, I know what purposes he serves but until then, you are left wondering why he’s back. Prior to his sudden return at the end of season three, he was a loose end that never got a proper resolution. We know he’s a definite threat to Elliot as Vera is looking for a way to break him before making Elliot a partner which is why he goes after Krista. However, it takes a while for that plot thread to make any real tracks but the payoff is spectacular in episode seven.

If you’re a fan of Mr. Robot then you know that this series is not afraid to be experimental in storytelling. We’ve seen this with the sitcom episode in season two and the one shot episode in season three (or at least it looked like it was filmed in one continuous take). Season four does more to push ground such as the heavily dialogue-less and stunningly shot episode five. I’m jumping ahead to episode seven again but that one plays out more like a stage show than a television episode.

Mr. Robot is determined to make every emotion, revelation and devastating moment we see and suffer through with Elliot worth it. I can’t wait to see what happens in a second half that has already started incredibly strong.

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