How do you come back from an episode like Mr. Robot‘s “407 Proxy Authentication Required“? In the hour, everything we knew about the series changed in a massive, emotional way, and it seemed like Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) was gone for good. Turns out as of this week’s “408 Request Timeout” he’s back, but not before a lengthy break to deal with the emotional fallout of everything else that’s happened.
Spoilers for Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 8 “408 Request Timeout” past this point.
Without dancing around it, during an under duress therapy session last episode, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) finally remembered the reason he created at alternate personality in Mr. Robot in the first place. The reason? He was sexually abused by his father repeatedly as a child, to the point where he jumped out a window to escape him. That’s enough for one person to deal with, but the thought — both for Elliot, and the viewer — of facing Mr. Robot on screen again is agonizing, because he wears the face of Elliot’s abuser.
So instead, Slater is completely offscreen until the last scene of the episode. While his sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and FBI agent Dom (Grace Gummer) deal with some horrific events of their own, Elliot follows another alternate personality, a child version of himself, to the Queen Museum where he hid a key. Like, a literal key, not a metaphorical one. In a flashback, we see young Elliot playing hide and seek with a young Angela, and taking a time out to hide the key in a Beavis and Butthead coin purse. Years later, the key is still there, and older Elliot realizes this was the key to his childhood bedroom. Specifically, his father’s key, which he hid in order to fight back against his predatory dad. One could certainly argue whether the key is real, since it’s shaped just like the “E” from E Corp, the conglomerate he’s been fighting since episode one of the show. But we’ll pretend it’s real, for the moment, because positing that nothing that has happened in the show is real and it’s all been in Elliot’s head is a can of worms too big for today.
When Mr. Robot does show up again, it’s hat literally in hand (more on that in a second) as he profusely apologizes for not protecting Elliot. It’s a crucial moment, as he earnestly draws the line — as does Elliot — between himself, and Edward Alderson (Elliot’s real father). He was a personality meant to protect Elliot, and he’s worried he did too good of a job by blocking him off from these dark memories entirely. It should have been Elliot’s choice, but he took that choice away from him. Ultimately, tentatively, Mr. Robot reaches out to Elliot as the latter sobs, unable to continue past this point. They end the episode with Mr. Robot behind Elliot, comforting but not cradling him, their bodies making — what else — the shape of an “E.”
Where last week was all about the lead-up to this bomb drop, and dealing with the end of insane criminal Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar), keeping everything razor focused didn’t give time to deal with the emotional fallout. That’s what we get here, an hour before everything that Mr. Robot has been leading up to will potentially end (though there are still five episodes left in the series), wandering the empty, Christmas lights filled city and pondering whether anything can ever recover. Can Elliot? Ever?
One clue is the aforementioned hat… A long-standing theory about the show has been that there are actually two Mr. Robots: an angrier, meaner one that wears a hat; and a kinder one without. It’s notable that the Mr. Robot who comes to apologize isn’t wearing a hat, and ties nicely into the conversation that was set up a few episodes back when we found out that Elliot needed to talk to “the other one.” If Elliot is going to move forward and save the world, he’s going to have to not just have the support of Mr. Robot, but face his father. If “the other one” is his father, and in order to gain resolution he’ll have to confront him — even in his mind — that would tie together a lot of the threads the series has been laying down since the beginning. It’s also going to be excruciating to watch; though hopefully, ultimately cathartic.
Five hours to go, friends.
Mr. Robot airs Sundays at 10/9c on USA.
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