Mr. Robot: Season 2, Episode 6 - "m4ster-s1ave.aes"

Sean Fennell

"m4ster-s1ave.aes" balances psychological introspection and action in a bizarre but effective installment.

Mr. Robot

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
Cast: Rami Malek, Portia Doubleday, Christian Slater, Craig Robinson, Carly Chaikin, Azhar Khan, Grace Gummer
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 6 - "m4ster-s1ave.aes"
Network: USA
Air date: 2016-08-10

Mr. Robot is a lot of things. It’s extremely, sometimes overwhelmingly, dark. It's bizarre, constantly morphing, and defies many of the easiest classifications. There is, and now forever will be, a distinct uneasiness among viewers concerning what’s real and what’s not. In short, Mr. Robot is a story of revolution wrapped in a nightmare, in which the search for security seems all but futile. All of which makes the opening of episode six, "m4ster-s1ave.aes", feel like some necessary tonic for both Elliot and the viewer, even it comes with its share of bizarro wretchedness.

Series creator Sam Esmail is nothing if not brave and so maybe, as a rule, the unexpected should be something we come to anticipate. Still, no one could've predicted, after last week’s action packed episode, that this week would start with a 17-minute dreamlike sequence in which Elliot (Rami Malek) is the star of his very own '90s sitcom.

If there was a time when Esmail was worried about throwing his audience for too much of a loop, that time has long since passed as the opener, which perhaps goes on for a bit too long, fully commits to the premise. Equipped with everything from a snappy intro to a blustering laugh track, we get a fully stylized version of the Aldersons as they embark on a mysterious road trip. Sure, Mrs. Alderson (Vaishnavi Sharma) is still an abusive mother, Mr. Alderson (Christian Slater) is still maddeningly cryptic, and Elliot is still clearly insane, but everything, in classic sitcom tradition, promises to be solved by the end with a nice wrap up speech by the family matriarch.

Even this, the typical Bob-Saget mastered final act, is put through the warped world of Mr. Robot, spitting out a less-than-reassuring moment. You see, this world isn't real, and Mr. Robot is finally willing to acknowledge this to a stressed and bewildered Elliot. He assures him, however, that this entirely artificial word is a pretty good alternative to the nightmare in which Elliot typically exists. You know, the one that last ended with Elliot the victim of a brutal beating at the hand of Ray’s (Craig Robinson) thugs. Mr. Robot, as he seemingly always has, is trying to get Elliot to embrace the madness and let go the concern of reality versus imagination. For the first time, we kind of see his point.

This is especially true when Elliot finally escapes the sitcom dream world only to be thrown back into the real world, which finds him badly hurt and a prisoner of Ray and his men. Here we see Craig Robinson go full evil, in a role that he wears surprisingly well, as he gives Elliot a not-so-subtle speech about the incredible power he now holds on him, and what could happen if he steps out of line. No fatherly speech of reassurance will get Elliot out of this jam before episode's end, that's for sure.

In addition to the typical weirdness going on somewhere in Elliot’s distressed and fractured mind, "m4ster-s1ave.aes" continues a common theme that’s been present in flourishes throughout the show’s run. As I've said, this is a show that defies classification but every once in a while they will delve deeply into a specific genre, such as the caper and, like Steel Mountain before it, the FBI proves hard nut to crack, even for these master hackers.

The difference between previous caper sequences is this week puts Angela (Portia Doubleday), rather than Elliot, at the forefront. In a whirlwind hacking lesson, with help from Mobley (Azhar Khan) and Darlene (Carly Chaikin), Angela learns the basics of how to infiltrate the system. Once inside, things go predictably haywire, and she must act quickly and slyly to avoid, amongst other obstacles, Wi-Fi problems and an overly flirtatious FBI agent only, to find herself face to face with none other than Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer) by the episode’s conclusion, leaving us and Angela unsure of what will happen next.

This sequence, like former heist moments in Mr. Robot, works pretty well as an antidote to the constant panic and strife of most of the action, adding a bit of fun to a show extremely devoid of such overt flashiness. It also serves to bring together Detective DiPierro and the F Society gang we know and love, making a stand-off a high possibility as we move further into season two's story arc.

Ultimately, "m4ster-s1ave.aes" was one of the season’s best at balancing psychological insight and analysis and pure action, making the moments of existential crisis interesting rather than laborious. This makes the final sequence, which brings us back to the moment when Elliot's father first shared with him the nature of his illness, instilling him with the secret of his cancer. What are meant as reassuring words from father who comforts his son with the promise that he'll never leave him comes across as a truly fascinating look into the origin of Elliot’s madness. As does ending the flashback just as Elliot is given the job of naming his father's new computer store, and thus sealing his fate forever.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.