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Mr. Robot - eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt - Review: "Truckloads of Quality"

Last week's episode of Mr. Robot could easily have qualified as a season finale.

Last night's episode of Mr. Robot could easily have qualified as a season finale.

But there's still one more to come.

Creator Sam Esmail returned to the chair where he does his best work for last night's hour, titled "eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt". Esmail wrote the episode which was stunningly well directed by Tricia Brock.

While each of the nine episodes thus far have been among the finest in the world right now, last night's nudged above its predecessors in my opinion. The series as a whole has truckloads of quality, but there were an extra few bucketloads that made this hour the best.

Since the beginning, Mr. Robot has been all about Elliot, with the other characters acting mostly as satellites, orbiting the planet of Elliot's mind. What this season's penultimate episode did tonight was turn those satellites into equal sized planets, with no sun in sight. Each character now has a clearly defined purpose in the story, which may put some of the critics of various characters to bed for good.

The hour kicked off in the mid 1990's, merely months prior to Edward Alderson's (aka Mr. Robot) death on February 28, 1995. Edward ran a small computer store, named "Mr. Robot". A huge shout out to the set designers here who found a lot of period pieces to serve as props and displays. A man entered the store demanding the return of some cash that Elliot had allegedly pick-pocketed earlier that day. While Edward wasn't necessarily proud of his son, he didn't scold him either, instead preferring to utter these words of wisdom:

Even though what you did was wrong, you're still a good kid.
That guy was a prick. Sometimes that matters more.

In an enormously good touch of class by the creative team, instead of cutting to the next scene in present day, we saw a timelapse of the store front change several times over the 20 odd years, from a dry cleaners to a florist, then to a tattoo parlor, and finally, and rather fittingly, an Evil Corp branch. While there were numerous awesome moments in this hour, this would be in the top handful. It's such a unique and clever way of portraying time, and shows the effort the creative team put in here.

For Elliot, this was a brutal day or so. Fresh off learning his father was Mr. Robot and his sister was Darlene, he was lured by the promise of answers to follow his father to a series of significant locations in order to help recover his memory and snap him out of his delusion.

The first stop was a train platform, where Elliot would calculate the statistical probability of the safety of each car on the train, and then choosing to sit in the safest location possible with his father on their trips to the city, only to sit in the most dangerous cars on the way home because he liked the city so much.

The second location was the old house where Elliot grew up. Elliot recalled being pushed out the first story window by his father. In a tense exchange, his father, Mr. Robot, was the one who ended up on the ground below.

The pair then traveled to the cemetery where Mr. Robot is buried, and that's where things got interesting as Elliot's sister Darlene and childhood friend Angela joined them. Darlene and Angela had met earlier in the hour after Darlene pleaded for Angela's help in finding Elliot after he went AWOL when he found out the truth. They too had checked out a couple of locations Elliot might have retreated to, and slipped away unseen from the former family home before locating Elliot at the cemetery.

To Elliot's horror, he looked at the gravestone where moments earlier Mr. Robot had rested against, only to find him gone.

You knew all along, didn't you.

Viewers, not including myself, have speculated since the premiere that Mr. Robot was a hallucination, and they were finally proven more right than wrong. Yes, there is still considerable doubt from myself that Sam Esmail has made things this simple. This is because there are numerous examples throughout most of the season's episodes where the character has to exist in reality. Two examples that come immediately to mind include Elliot being pushed off the railing and ending up in hospital in the opening weeks, and Tyrell Wellick meeting the man himself in a car last week.

I hate being confused, so God only knows why I watch as much television as I do, and especially Mr. Robot, but strangely my dislike for being confused has never reared its head during the season thus far. It's a testament to the outstanding writing Mr. Robot has been gifted with, whereby there's enough there to be considered reasonable doubt without feeling like a loose end that makes no genuine sense. To me, Mr Robot himself must be real until he is proven otherwise by way of plausible explanation for the two events among others I just mentioned. That's not to be mistaken with me not being open to the possibility that Mr. Robot isn't real, however. One of the most useful traits of any series being played out in a character's mind is that things can be completely reimagined, and we've already seen that technique used in this series.

Before moving on to Tyrell Wellick and Gideon Goddard, it's worth mentioning Angela's interesting visit from Terry Colby. This was completely unexpected in itself, but it was even more surprising that Colby turned up at her home - the home she shares with her sick father. Despite the huge class action lawsuit Angela ignited against Colby and Evil Corp, Colby put that all aside, praised her qualities, and offered her a job high in the ranks of Evil Corp. This was nothing short of staggering, and yet another example of the last thing anyone expect to happen, happening. Angela firmly declined, but she's one to ponder heavily, so I've got no doubt this will be revisited at some point.

Onto Tyrell Wellick, who was this time on the receiving end of dirty politics having dished it out himself several times previously. The arrival of a son wasn't any source of happiness either, as Tyrell was told by wife Joanna that she would leave him if he failed his mission, which is presumably to become Evil Corp's CTO. The chances of that happening now look to be next to nil as Wellick was fired in spectacular fashion from Evil Corp. With the Colby scandal, Evil Corp wasn't prepared to endure another scandal if Wellick was proven to be responsible for murdering Sharon Knowles.

But as per usual, there was far more to come.

In the series premiere, we watched Elliot be lured into joining fsociety after finding a file left behind from a hack on his employer, Allsafe's, servers. But in last night's episode, we learned that Elliot founded fsociety, concocted the master plan to take down Evil Corp, and the plan was already well in motion, and, if anything, nearing completion. This fact was revealed through Elliot's conversation with Tyrell Wellick, in yet another extraordinary moment.

Wellick entered Elliot's apartment in the dying minutes of the episode, having lurked outside waiting for Darlene to leave.

You're the one constant in a sea of variables

Martin Wallström delivered an outstanding performance in this hour, and this scene was arguably his best work in this episode. Earlier in the day, he had ensured that the newly disabled honeypot server that Allsafe's Gideon Goddard had initially set up would remain vulnerable to attack. Tyrell insisted Elliot tell him his plan, utilizing latex gloves and the sotry of how he killed Sharon Knowles to sway him.

So, down to the arcade the two went, and scattered loosely around the room were several PC towers, slowly encryping all of Evil Corp's financial records. The encryption key would self-delete when the process was complete, leaving all of Evil Corp's financial records unuseable. Destroying the backups was an ongoing process, but one that was taken care of. The final camera angle featured the popcorn machine in the foreground, bubbling away, with Elliot possibly recalling the location of Darlene's gun, which was stashed there by his sister last week.

It was a weirdly beautiful way to close one of the finest hours of television I've ever seen. It's almost beyond belief how good this series is, and how fascinating the journey has been. In a weird way, I'm glad this season consists of just 10 episodes, because the amount of mental energy required to watch the show (and then write a review) is almost unparalleled. It also has the added advantage of making the series less time-consuming to binge watch when the second season rolls around next year.

The final word goes to Gideon Goddard, who is well inside an enormous rabbit warren courtesy of Elliot's actions last week causing the honeypot to be removed. It is only a matter of time before Allsafe is completely shredded and Gideon himself is a loose end.

As always, thanks a lot for reading! I'm so pumped for next week's season finale of Mr. Robot. Please don't forget to share your thoughts and theories in the comments below. Be sure to check out next week's promo here.

About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand, and works in the IT industry. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, Mr. Robot, Suits, The 100, How To Get Away With Murder, Elementary and Castle. You can visit his television ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.
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