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Mr. Robot - 406 Not Acceptable - Review: "Business As Usual"

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Following last week's spectacular silent hour, Mr. Robot was back with business as usual last night, with a harrowing episode which didn't move the story forward significantly, but was filled with a strange mix of emotion and tension. "406 Not Acceptable" was written by Amelia Grey and directed by Sam Esmail.

This hour took place entirely on Christmas day, as did the majority of last week's episode. Picking up on last week's closing seconds, this episode kicked off with a rather one-sided war of words between Fernando Vera and Krista had to listen as Vera explained how he found his power from flexing on a bully who bothered him during childhood. Unsurprisingly, Krista wasn't going to be able to deny Vera the info he wanted for much longer, eventually confessing to him that Mr. Robot existed, and was the way to 'break' Elliot. In the hour's dying seconds, Elliot received a phone call from Krista telling him what just happened, but before he could meet with her, Vera's men abducted him.

Fortunately, so much else happened before that point was reached, with almost the entire hour consisting of just two characters interacting at once. After confirming over the phone with Darlene that the Virtual Realty hack was a success, Elliot set about getting the next level of access required for the Cyprus National Bank servers. This required going back to Olivia and strong-arming her into getting her boss to log into the server, where Elliot would be able to capture the credentials and continue with his plan.

You know I may work for monsters, but you are one. And you're the worst kind because you don't even know it.
In much the same fashion which saw Vera dominate Krista, Elliot did the same to Olivia in what was an equally tragic and ruthless series of events. Elliot met with Leon in a coffee shop, which also doubled as a drug transaction. Said drugs went into the coffee Elliot bought for Olivia, which gave Elliot the leverage he needed to get Olivia to comply. Olivia was understandably distraught, and predictably tried to end her life, which Elliot managed to prevent. What eventually convinced her to comply with Elliot's directions was the fact that the Deus Group had allegedly been involved in her mother's death.

What I was most impressed with during this series of scenes was how in-character Elliot's actions were. He tried the verbal explanation approach, but when Olivia wasn't buying that he knew he had to up the ante, which was where the laced coffee came in. Despite Olivia rightly calling him out on his bullying behavior - which ran a lovely parallel with Vera's situation - Elliot had to stay the course, even if his assurances that she could not be connected to anything were very much hollow compared to the potential grief Olivia now finds herself in. I had hoped that Olivia and Elliot may turn into something more serious and long term but I'd say that bridge has been well and truly destroyed. We may not see Olivia again, but the character has run its course. It's now over to Elliot to grow from that, though as Mr. Robot's narrations seemed to imply, that's not likely to happen either.

It's rare for a TV episode to have multiple storylines portrayed in this format so evenly matched in terms of quality. Normally it's easy to pick a favorite and the most unlikable, and normally one takes more screen time due to its importance than the others, but I honestly can't pick a favorite between Vera and Krista, Elliot and Olivia, and of course Dom and Darlene.

The latter can easily claim the most rollercoastery storyline trophy, largely thanks to its scintillating ending, but its beginning was very good also. Just after Darlene got off the phone with Elliot, she found herself at Dom's gunpoint. Dom had somehow tracked down Darlene and entered her apartment, but how she did either of those things wasn't revealed. Dom didn't muck around informing the Dark Army's Janice that she had Darlene, and that Darlene wasn't revealing the location of her brother, so once her phone was secured, Darlene wasn't needed any more, and Dom was ordered to kill her.

However Dom simply couldn't go through with it, but credit does have to go to Darlene, who did a superb job saving her own ass through talking Dom down, at least partially. She brought up the night they spent together, which was under similar circumstances to Elliot's stint with Olivia a few weeks ago. Darlene managed to surface Dom's denial that she enjoyed their time together. With just minutes to go before Janice was scheduled to arrive, Dom began urging Darlene to shoot her, saying it was the only way to spare Darlene and Dom's family. However Darlene wouldn't do that either, and they were both discovered by Janice and two henchmen. Janice's initial reaction was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen, but bad became worse for her when she realized Darlene had formatted her phone, meaning she couldn't be killed. Dom isn't expendable yet, but her family is certainly now in far more danger. What follows on from this will have to wait until next week.

Tidying up a couple of odds and ends begins with Whiterose, who appeared briefly with his assistant, Wang Shu. She informed him of the leads which Dom was chasing down involving Elliot and Darlene's location. Wang Shu wanted to have Elliot killed, but Whiterose didn't agree, insisting his shipping hack was still valuable, and even going so far as to say he wanted Elliot brought to him.
It's time he learns we're on the same side.
These nine words are perhaps the most important words in this episode. It implies that everything is not as we've long been led to believe for the Dark Army, the Deus Group, and E Corp. I'm very curious to see how this plays out.

This hour leaves so much up in the air for next week, which is being promoted as a commercial-free special event that will change everything. Elliot is now in the hands of Vera, which is probably the last place the Dark Army will look for him, and Dom and Darlene are at the mercy of Janice. We still haven't seen the Deus Group meeting, which is surely going to take place next week - still during Christmas day, and the information Krista gave Vera will likely be used to test how strong Elliot and Mr. Robot really are. This season has been superb so far, and these final four episodes look set to keep on delivering.

Thanks as always for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode of Mr. Robot in the comments below. See you back here for the special event recap next week.

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