Last week’s Mr. Robot episode, “br4ve-trave1er.asf” ended with the most “Game of Thronesian” moment of the show’s first season. It was the kind of episode that, if the show was more popular, would have lit up the Twittersphere with analysis and insight within moments of its conclusion. However you break down last week’s many twists and turns one thing is for sure; Shayla is dead and it was largely, if not completely, Elliot’s fault.
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“Man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them.”
In a scene near the end of Michael Curtiz’, 1942 classic movie Casablanca, the main protagonist Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) meets with Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), in a scene that ultimately sets up the end of the movie. Dissected from the rest of the film, this scene seems rather improbable: Rick proposes a scheme that requires the buy in of other players. This is, of course, totally and completely irrelevant to the plot, and yet leads into one of the best and most quotable final scenes in film history.
Indeed, the plot of Casablanca was just a necessary element to allow the characters to react to each other. Episode seven of season two of True Detective, “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”, serves the same function. Writer Nic Pizzolatto needs to merge as many of his loose strings together as possible to lead into the season finalé.
“I, Elliot Alderson, am flight. I am fear, I am anxiety, terror, panic.”
Thus begins episode six of Mr. Robot, “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf”. Last week we saw Elliot in what turned out to be his most triumphant moment in the series so far. Having successfully infiltrated the “impenetrable” Steel Mountain, Elliot, still on a visible high from his caper, calls his girlfriend Shayla to, well, just talk. It is one of the first times in the series that we see Elliot both completely sober, and seemingly content. Even Shayla remarks that he sounds different and new to her.
I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s *really* hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet. You’re not sure where he’s coming from. Okay? You’re a bad man. You’re a bad man, Mikey. You’re a bad man, bad man.
—Vince Vaughn as Trent, Swingers, 1996
It took until the sixth episode, but True Detective’s writer and creator, Nic Pizzolatto finally got around to giving his audience the single thing that engaged his viewers in season one; strong chemistry between two of the lead characters. The thing that drove season one was the complex relationship between Matthew McConaughey’s detective Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s detective Marty Hart. With the exception of Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon, this lack of chemistry is, in part, due to none of the characters knowing each other prior to the beginning of the series. Additionally, Pizzolatto concentration on the character’s backstories has limited the amount of time for them to bond. While there were a few moments that popped, the exchange between Velcoro and Rachel McAdam’s Detective Ani Bezzerides at the start of the episode finally indicated that these three had a little bit of chemistry, but there were just as many moments that did not ring true. In episode four, Velcoro gives an existential angst-filled pep-talk to Taylor Kitsch’s Officer Paul Woodrugh, in which he comes off sounding like a self-important stepdad trying to cheer up his stepson after a little league loss.
“It’s been 66 days since the alleged murderers of Vinci City Manager Ben Caspere engaged police in one of the deadliest shootouts in state history. The so called Vinci massacre was determined closed by Attorney General Geldof, who used the conference to announce his candidacy for governor.”
In audio from a local news story spoken over the opening of the fifth episode of HBO’s True Detective, new director John Crowley borrows a trick from Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, 1941. He uses the press report to provide some of the important details of the story. This helps because writer Nic Pizzolatto seems heavily influenced by director Roman Polanski and writer Robert Towne’s 1974 classic Chinatown. He has layered and cross pollinated corruption, blackmail, lust, incest and environmental terrorism.