Mr Robot “Don’t Delete Me” review
When a young hacker loses Ctrl.
This season has been all about ground zeroes. 71 of them, by my count, thanks to the incineration of 4000 odd E Corp workers across America. Episode 8 brings this tally to 72 by revealing the ground zero which matters most; the one that caused everything. That's right, diehard fans, it's time for you and I to watch the moment when Elliot Alderson's brilliant mind spawned the anarchistic Mr. Robot personality.
Edward Alderson and his teenage son are in the lobby of the cinema, mixing M&Ms with popcorn, and deciding if Shallow Grave is a film worth watching. It's a somewhat prophetic choice. Elliot's busting his dad's balls, wanting to go see Jerky Boys instead, and it's clear that there's beef between the two moviegoers. The young boy's arm is in a sling, and his once abusive, dying father is desperately trying to make amends while there's still time. An apology is made. Forgiveness is begged for.
Elliot's answer is no, however, and Edward keels over, finally succumbing to his leukaemia.
Surprisingly, instead of going to his father's aid, Elliot cooly removes Edward's jacket (with a super cool patch that reads, you guessed it, “Mr. Robot”) and leaves his father to go see his preferred movie. It's pretty brutal. Soon after as this jerk of a boy watches his Jerky Boys, he turns to offer some popcorn + M&Ms to the empty seat next to him...
Fast forward along the dark path, and we're now in an America that's gone to hell in a handbasket, thanks to Elliot. His old hacker collective, fsociety, has had its links to Iran “exposed” by the media, due to the Dark Army's framing and execution of hackers Mobley and Trenton. Elliot refuses to forget them, though (he backs their dossiers up to CD and kills his PC). Soon after, Darlene spawns in to say what we've all been thinking since the last episode: Angela is on the edge of losing it over her role in 5/9. She needs talking to, but Elliot's care-factor sits at 0%.
He has his own guilt to work through. Three weeks have passed, but the young hacker hasn't allowed himself to blame anything on his Tyler Durden alter-ego, Mr. Robot. He hates the other half of himself and is at his wit's end after failing to evict this Mr Hyde from his mind. Medication, therapy – you name it, he's tried it. The only thing left is an exorcism, or... an exit, stage left. Self-deletion.
With his course decided, Elliot sells off his treasured Mr. Robot jacket to a street vendor and then goes shopping for the best drugs available from Hard Andy. Morphine's the poison of choice; the good stuff, too, straight from the manufacturing plant in Jersey. Our hero buys enough to kill a small herd of horses. Even Hard Andy thinks it's excessive.
Before shuffling off, Elliot opts to make a few pitstops. The first port of call is to see Mobley's brother, a jerk who's swallowed the news stories whole and hasn't even paid for his brother's funeral. Next stop is a visit to Trenton's place, where Elliot tries to profess her innocence. Her father miserably tells Elliot that it doesn't matter. “This country blames Muslims for everything,” he says, before ushering his wife and curious son, Muhammad, back inside.
Speaking of the little eavesdropper, he secretly tails Elliot all the way to his chosen end-of-the-line, a lonely beach on Coney Island. The kid spots the bag of morphine balls (that Elliot is about to scarf down, like a packet of Jujyfruits) and asks him if he's sick. It's a tough question to answer, as is the next one: why do you think my big sister is innocent?
The answers are skilfully avoided when Elliot insists that they get him back home.
However, when they arrive there, the door is locked and the parents are AWOL. Thus begins a daddy daycare shift in which Elliot take his young charge to the local movie theatre to kill some time. Sweet bonus, though: Back to the Future 1, 2, and 3 are on, because today is the fateful day that Marty goes forward in time to Oct 21st, 2015. Dumbstruck, Elliot murmurs that he always wanted to rewatch this movie, on this particular day, ever since he was little.
Halfway through the show, Muhammad smoke bombs out of the theatre, and Elliot eventually tracks him down to a local mosque that was mentioned earlier. As they both sit in an empty prayer room, the kid waffles on, in his innocent, child-like way, about how he's the only person in his family who's eligible to become president. His sister, Trenton, wouldn't have been able to, as she was born elsewhere, like his parents. Muhammad then lists the demands he'd make of every American if he was in charge – like making everybody like him, and everybody has to eat pop tarts for dinner. Elliot observes that what he's describing is a dictatorship. When the kid asks for clarification of the term, Elliot explains: “a dictator's like a bad president”. It's not hard to read between Sam Esmail's lines here.
When the two friends return to Muhammad's home, the cheeky little shit whips out a set of keys and lets himself into the house. He finally asks a dumbfounded Elliot what his name is, and if it would be ok if he could see him again soon. Utterly disarmed, Elliot agrees, and, when the kid leaves to go get him a gift, the floodgates open. Muhammad returns with a lollipop because Elliot's sick. Honestly, it's a beautiful moment in what has been an incredibly dark season up until now.
We're treated to another one soon after. Speaking through her apartment door, Elliot reconciles with Angela, by recalling about the happier times of their shared childhood. It's a kindness that will go a long way to helping her recover. On the topic of important recoveries: when Elliot returns to his cave and rebuilds his PC, there's a decrypted email waiting for him. Sender: Tr3nton. Subject: Don't Delete Me. It's a fail-safe measure, designed to auto-send out the motherload. Before she was eliminated, Trenton had a solid theory on how to undo the hack. Elliot's eyes light up. He's got work to do. Mr. Robot, season 3, continues to deliver.