"wh1ter0se.m4v" is highlighted by one huge twist, a twist that not only makes sense in the show's universe but also works perfectly to propel the arc of Elliot’s delicate psyche
Mr. RobotAirtime: Wednesdays, 8pm
Cast: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom
Air date: 2015-08-12
We officially have it, the moment that most of season one of Mr. Robot has led to: the twist. We may have had some awesome moments up to this point — the heists, the hacks, the reveal — but they all pale in comparison to last night’s landscape shaking twist. Most of the episode revolves around the first meeting between the head of the “dark army”, the only collective more secretive that F Society, and Elliot (Rami Malek). Mr. Robot and team hope to convince the army to help them finally take down Evil Corp.
We soon learn the nature of Cisco’s (Michael Drayer) shakedown on Ollie (Ben Rapaport) last week. His purpose was to unknowingly send Elliot to his meeting, a meeting which actually reveals almost nothing to us but plenty to Elliot. In both myself and Elliot’s accidental sexism, we make the incorrect assumption that “Whiterose” is a man, when indeed she is a middle-aged Asian women (B. D. Wong). Aside from this, she is exactly how I would have pictured the head of such a mysterious organization. She is aloof, abrupt, and supremely confident; she also knows more about F Society’s plan than even they do.
An important thing to note about Elliot’s conversation with “Whiterose” is her discussion of time. In previous posts I have addressed Mr. Robot’s use of in-episode ticking-clock narrative techniques. The episode will present a problem that will come with a specific timeline, one that promises to resolve itself by episodes end. “Every hacker has her fixation, you hack people, I hack time,” “Whiterose” reveals to Elliot. “When I set a timeline, there’s a reason.” This time the timeline is set at 50 hours and 23 minutes.
On a much lesser scale, we have another twist thrown into the mix in “wh1ter0se.m4v”. It turns out that Gideon (Michel Gill) is not as gullible as he has thus far appeared. Although he has seemingly been oblivious to Elliot’s involvement in the actions of F Society, it turns out that he has been at least somewhat suspicious of Elliot since the beginning. The dark army discovered this when they found that the server that F Society planned to attack was really set up by Gideon as a kind of booby trap. Instead of making it safe, he made it available, but also made it so he could see who did it. Gideon even goes as far as to approach Elliot later, when yet another F Society attack occurs just as Elliot is at his most suspicious. Time continues to be a factor in this twist; there is only a short amount of time by which Elliot has to reverse Gideon’s booby trap and make it possible for their plan to take action. This is not resolved within this episode (at least not entirely), but more on that later.
As I discussed last week, much of episode seven took the focus away from Elliot and placed it on the show’s side characters. Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) ended last week by killing Sharon Knowles (Michele Hicks) atop the E Corp building in what can only be described as a fit of rage. In “wh1ter0se.m4v,” he must deal with the fallout. In yet another moment of brilliant camerawork, of which the series’ has given plenty, we are introduced to this week’s panicked Wellick with one of Mr. Robot's patented in-your-face, claustrophobic tight shots. Not only is it clear that Tyrell has deviated from his master plan, but there are underlying signs that he may be losing grip with his own sanity. Wallstrom’s acting shines as he magnificently conveys this loosening grip using only his eyes. He is nearly in tears as he frantically explains to his wife why nothing they have been working for truly matters. Before he can explain what this really means, the couple is interrupted by a knock on the door from the police, and from there it's cover-up time.
Most importantly, I started this review talking about the twist. The twist itself is two-fold: the first is the reveal that Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is Elliot’s sister. What makes this realization so important is that it was not simply a secret from us, the viewer, but it was also a secret to us, the person in Elliot’s head, and in large part, to Elliot himself. “How can I forget an entire person,” Elliot asks himself, a question that has no easy or comfortable answer. In going back and rewatching “wh1ter0se.m4v" this reveal actually explains some of the hazier aspects of the episode. For instance “wh1ter0se.m4v” begins with Darlene and eventually follows her to a ballet class she is taking alongside Angela (Portia Doubleday), whom we have not seen her with before. The two talk like old friends and discuss Elliot with seemingly impossible familiarity, resulting in initial confusion for the viewer.
The second, and infinitely more important reveal, comes directly because of the first. Not only is Darlene Elliot’s sister, but the man he knows as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is really Elliot’s father. How this is possible, given that his father is supposed to be dead, remains to be seen, but the ramifications are none the less huge. This turns his father’s death from a tragic and sad turning point in Elliot’s life to an act of incomprehensible abandonment. It also ramps Elliot’s apparent insanity to a whole other level. He seems to have essentially erased his father from his memory long ago, or he surely would have recognized him that first night they met in the subway.
Although not the season finale, it seems unlikely that this season will have a bigger, more important moment. As I mentioned earlier, the timeline set out by “Whiterose” has yet to be resolved. This means that next week will see Elliot not only dealing with the appearance of his long-dead father, but also pulling off the biggest hack of his life. The stress of this alone would drive a man insane, but seeing as Elliot may already be insane, one can only imagine where his psyche will go from here.
“wh1ter0se.m4v” represents the best and most important episode thus far. These types of twists can sometimes come across as manufactured or forced; these were neither. It not only makes sense in the universe created by the show, but works perfectly to propel the arc of Elliot’s delicate psyche. Hats off to Sam Esmail and team for hitting this one out of the park.