Did you figure it out before the end? Appropriately, without much fanfare, Mr. Robot delivered a brilliantly structured stunt episode that on the surface seemed to be a tribute to everyone’s favorite Christmas/not a Christmas movie Die Hard. And though there were elements of that throughout Elliot (Rami Malek) and Darlene’s (Carly Chaikin) storyline, the real headline was that — other than the very last scene of the episode — “405 Method Not Allowed” contained no dialogue.
Spoilers for Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 5, “405 Method Not Allowed” past this point.
“Every year we have kind of one of those special, different episodes that feel like a very creative, Sam [Esmail] take on things,” Carly Chaikin told Decider over the phone about the episode. “I also think people might not even realize what it is until the very end, even though it’s completely obvious.”
And yeah, there’s every chance you might smack your head when you realize what’s been going on — I certainly did — because despite the lack of spoken words, there are texts, music on the radio, and scenes that seem like they have dialogue when in fact they’re all delivered non-verbally. The final scene underlines what’s been going on, as the monstrous gangster Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar) approaches Elliot’s therapist Krista Gordon (Gloria Reuben) and says, “It’s time we talk.”
Mr. Robot isn’t the first show to attempt a dialogue free episode, of course. Buffy the Vampire Slayer famously responded to critics of creator Joss Whedon’s quippy dialogue by introducing monsters called The Gentlemen, who stole all the sound in the town of Sunnydale for a good half the episode. Even comedies like Frasier and Two and a Half Men have attempted chunks of their shows without dialogue. A 1960s episode of 77 Sunset Strip titled “The Silent Caper” and the The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” broadcast completely silent episodes, except in the latter case with one line of dialogue.
And this isn’t the first stunt episode Mr. Robot has attempted, either. Season 2’s “Master Slave” plummeted the brain broke Elliot into a surreal, sitcom inspired fantasia starring the actual ALF puppet from the show ALF. Season 3’s “Runtime Error” was an insanely ambitious “single take” episode that followed Elliot and Angela (Portia Doubleday) as they tried to make their way through a riot in the offices of villainous corporation E-Corp.
But what makes “405 Method Not Allowed” so special is how it doesn’t profess what it is, true to silent form. While Dominique “Dom” DiPierro (Grace Gummer) investigates some leads that will send her on a collision course with Elliot and Darlene, she texts her Dark Army contact and hacks into some police computers. Meanwhile, Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) works angles of his own, trying to bring about the destruction of the Dark Army itself, and in the background Christmas music falsely gives the impression that people are talking.
The Elliot/Darlene plotline is the main distraction, though. You expect a heist to be tense, the music throbbing in the background as they work their way inside a server room to discover information that will help them stop Dark Army leader Whiterose’s (BD Wong) plans. Die Hard is playing (sound off, of course) on one of the security guard’s monitors, and it’s that little slight of hand that pushes your brain (at least, it did mine) in the wrong direction: the reference here is a break-in, and the Aldersons are the Hans Grubers. And yes, that’s a touch-point as the duo pull off a complicated plan including hacked phones, 3D printers, and an incredible chase that ends with Elliot hilariously slipping across an ice skating rink before tumbling off a cliff to “safety.”
That’s what makes this episode special, though. Like “Master Slave” and “Runtime Error” before it, “405 Method Not Allowed” uses a showy stunt as the backdrop to an episode that propels the plot of the show forward. Last week’s “404 Not Found” left both Elliot and Darlene at literal and figurative crossroads as — among other things — they attempted to figure out if they could have a relationship with each other. Through this caper, and its final wordless moments where they drive off together, they reach a resolution. They can. It’s more powerful than having an argument, and ultimately a character like Elliot would shut down and block Darlene out with all his tics if she did try to have a heart to heart with him. Instead, without a word spoken, they reach the next phase of their sibling relationship, and are able to move forward.
Too bad Vera is here to make things get very loud, very quickly.
Mr. Robot airs Sundays at 10/9c on USA.
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