26th Nov2019

‘Mr. Robot 4×07: Proxy Authentication Required’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

WARNING: Triggering topics such as child abuse and sexual assault are mentioned in this review. If this will affect you in any manner then please do not read.

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For the most part, I’m covering my thoughts on the final season of Mr. Robot in roundups. I say it a lot but there are always exceptions to the rule and outside of the finale, this will probably be one of them. I don’t want to sugarcoat it. This is an episode that is emotionally devastating. It completely redefines many things that we thought we knew in a way that is incredibly haunting and disturbing. It’s one that will stick with you long after the episode is over and is one of the finest episodes of Mr. Robot to date.

Episode seven (titled ‘Proxy Authentication Required’) is a powerhouse piece that is structured into five acts. Each one proving to be more tense and emotional than the last. There are no commercials during this entire episode so the emotions continue to build which all leads to a sickening revelation about Elliot’s father. This bottle episode plays out like a stage show. All it has are two rooms and six actors who get to perform astoundingly thanks to brilliant writing. Elliot’s tortured mentality and history is on full display here. There is no more hiding from the extent of its horrors (for us and our lead) when the lights go out at the end.

It’s no secret that Elliot has dealt with a lot of psychological trauma in his life. He was physically abused by his mother, manipulated by practically everyone he knows, he’s clinically depressed, socially anxious and dealing with split personalities. It’s a miracle he and Darlene survived their abusive childhoods. Something that has remained a mystery until now is Mr. Robot’s origin. Why does Elliot need this other personality? What is Mr. Robot protecting Elliot from? In episode seven, we finally get the answers although like Elliot, we’ll wish we didn’t.

Throughout the season so far, Vera has been determined to find out what really makes Elliot who he is so he can emotionally break our favourite vigilante hacker down. It’s the reason why he went after Krista because he knows that Krista holds the cards to finding out the truth. Krista refuses to tell and Elliot (being prone to memory lapses) wants to know as things play out.

To cut straight to the thing that has gotten every fan abuzz, it is revealed that Elliot was sexually molested by his father as a child. In the minutes before Elliot remembers this, we know it’s coming but we feel that want to forget we know like Elliot does. It will make any sane person sick to their stomach and send minds reeling. It’s a scene where Elliot completely breaks and it’ll probably go down as one of the most upsetting moments in television history. It serves as further evidence as to why Rami Malek deserved his Emmy and Oscar win (all of the actors are brilliant in this episode). His acting during that scene is absolutely phenomenal. You can really see the horror set in on Elliot’s face as he goes from conscious denial to tragic acceptance and rage-filled, mentally breaking pain. He’s reliving those memories right in front of us. Elliot has been emotionlessly broken for this whole season so far. Nothing has really phased him which has made him braver than ever but he’s also the coldest he has been. The way he struggles to breathe and seeing tears streaming down his face is the harshest reminder of his humanity and in the end, it reminds us that he’s always been a victim of the worst things life can throw at a person.

Krista is also tear-filled during this as she knows that Elliot shouldn’t have remembered something as monumental as that in the way he did. It’s very cruel and even Vera who was egging this on suddenly switches to consoling Elliot having been a victim of sexual abuse himself. Although, Vera definitely had ulterior motives when he was saying all of that so thankfully Krista stabbed Vera in the back before Elliot’s fragility led him into the hands of someone else who would’ve hurt him.

A lesser show would’ve added this twist about Edward Alderson for the sake of being dark and tragic but this is something that has been built up well throughout the show. A lot of things fall into place upon finding this out. As sickening as it is, it makes perfect sense. We now know why Elliot left his father for dead in the movie theatre, why he hates being touched, why Elliot never wanted to go home as a kid. We all knew it was because of abuse but we didn’t quite know how bad it really was. If Elliot’s mother was so horrible to him then why wouldn’t his father be one step worse?

It also changes everything. The one person that supposedly cared about Elliot turned out to be the one responsible for Elliot’s severely damaged and broken psyche. It’s the person that Elliot has spent so much of his adult life trying to avenge. Elliot has always been an unreliable narrator so we shouldn’t take his word at face value about anything. He believed his father was a good man but there have been constant hints that something wasn’t right. The window incident being the biggest indicator. Elliot threw himself out of that window for a reason. He was scared of something. It was a psychotic break but what triggered it? As it turns out, it was to get away from a monster in the only way he could find. Mr. Robot has just been protecting Elliot by keeping those memories at bay and being the father figure that Elliot wished he really had. Elliot will never be the same again after this. It’s not even certain we’ll see Mr. Robot again because as he says, he can’t protect Elliot anymore before walking off-frame so he may no longer be needed. We’ll have to wait and find out.

It’s exciting that the show can still drastically alter everything we think we know in great ways when we’re so close to its end. There still is a lot of ground to cover in the next batch of episodes but what does this revelation mean for Elliot’s journey? Like Vera says, he may become the storm.

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