Mr. Robot S4E5, “405 Method Not Allowed,” contains only two lines of dialogue. In this way it is reminiscent of what may be the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Hush.” But unlike in Buffy, where the inability to speak is intrinsic to the plot and related to the powers of the Gentlemen who invade Sunnydale, in Mr. Robot the “silence” is more of a conceit.
That’s not to suggest a problem. On the contrary, “405 Method Not Allowed” is a brilliant episode of television. The point is more that, while “Hush” grappled with the difficulties arising from an inability to speak, “405 Method Not Allowed” churns forward based on how much we can communicate nonverbally, or by text message.
Mr. Robot has always excelled at conveying this aspect of our modern lives. Whereas other shows have played with tricks, such as putting the text of a message on the screen as an overlay to keep the focus on the characters and the action, Mr. Robot has always simply shown the phone.
That is not simple when it comes down to it, however. It is a kind of cinematographic feat of brilliance to disrupt the action of a sequence with a shot of a phone in a way that feels seamless. The way in which Mr. Robot displays interactions by text message feels thoroughly realistic, to the extent that it took me a minute to realize that this was the “silent” episode that I’d heard rumors about.
Text messaging has become so pervasive in our lives at this point that to have virtually all of the communication that occurs in S4E5 happen by that means hardly struck me as bizarre, or contrived. I’ve gone whole days where I literally haven’t communicated by other means. I text my roommates, rather than bothering them by knocking on their doors. Somehow, at this point, that feels more polite.
But, again, how well they pulled this off is a testament to everyone involved in Mr. Robot. The only time when it really feels like they did something to avoid the necessity of dialogue was when Darlene clearly had to talk to Dolph Lawler (Calvin Dutton)—aka security guard with a water bottle who would prefer to be watching Die Hard. Here they cut to an external shot of Elliot to avoid giving us the exchange, but honestly, the thing was so well done and fit so well with the style of the episode, I pretty much didn’t even notice until I watched it a second time.
It’s Cool, Dude, We Don’t Have to Talk
The bulk of S4E5 is taken up by Elliot and Darlene’s infiltration of Virtual Realty. It’s a clever name, by the way, for a company that apparently trafficks in providing server space. This is, of course, not a real company in any way, and the name of the complex that houses them, “the parmenides,” is also fake. I find the latter to be the more interesting thing for Mr. Robot to reference, as I indicated last week.
The whole thing is slick, with pumping music and cuts that build the tension. It’s a little action movie—like Die Hard—built into an episode of Mr. Robot, and I enjoyed it a lot.
That being said, there were a number of things about this whole sequence that frankly struck me as rather implausible, even putting to the side the idea that Elliot and Darlene could pull this whole thing off and have the knowledge of what to do moment to moment. I mean, it seems like they know things down to the level of where equipment will be, and, well…I guess I’m just willing to put that down to them being excellent hackers.
But there are some other things I have a harder time swallowing if I’m reflective about it, as opposed to enjoying the action moment by moment. Whatever it says of my view of cops, it’s kind of hard for me to believe they wouldn’t have shot Elliot when he ran out of the building. Equally, although Darlene changing her look to get out of there might have worked, I have to think the cops would have stopped everyone leaving that building to question them at that point, and she manages to avoid even that.
Elliot getting away in general strains credulity, but in particular we have to grapple with the way that he gets hit by a car and such…and then just gets up and keeps running.
But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is the thing with the bus. I don’t think there is any way he could have pushed that door open. I say this as someone with a lot of experience with NYC buses. The deal is this: when you hit a bus stop, they release those doors. When you’re not at one, they’re almost hermetically sealed. You can push against them all you want, and all you’ll get is an automated voice that says “please move away from the doors.”
If a bus were stopped by the police, there is absolutely no way I can imagine that the driver would release the doors, and, indeed, we see no indication of that happening here; rather, it just seems as though Elliot busts his way out. Granted, I have never pushed such a door as hard as I possibly could, but this struck me as wildly implausible. There is a thing next to those doors to break in case of emergency so that you can unlatch it manually. Taking the extra second to have Elliot do that seems like it would have been a possibility, but Mr. Robot did not do that.
Now, we could wave our hands at this, but like the subway error back in Season 1, I wonder if that’s the right thing to do. This show has generally been very good about this stuff, and we’ve seen an attention to detail throughout, so is this nothing, or is it something?
Because I have one more thing to mention in terms of the implausibility of all of this, which is Darlene rolling up in the car to take Elliot away right where he jumps down the bluff. I know she was tracking him, but isn’t it a little too convenient that she would be there right at that moment?
All of this has me wondering about the theories I’ve read that maybe this is all some kind of simulation. Could it be that these little moments of implausibility are indications of something about this reality being off? Or perhaps there are many (infinite?) alternate realities, and we’re being presented with the only one where Elliot gets away? Or maybe I should just be waving my hands at these things and accepting that it’s a TV show.
Ode to Joy
Price gets the message from Elliot that Tyrell will not be coming to the Deus Group’s meeting as he sits at Bruckman’s restaurant, and he is not pleased. This strikes me as significant fallout from last week that one may or may not have been thinking about, depending on how much you were mourning the loss of our dear friend Tyrell.
A couple of episodes ago, Whiterose decided to acquiesce to Price’s request to step down as the CEO of ECorp and to promote Wellick to the position. Well, now he is presumably dead, so what does she do? And what will Price do?
It’s been made pretty clear that he needs the board’s approval for this to go through, and as much as his resignation seems to have been a gambit to get them all together per Elliot’s request, I think it is very much an open question as to what is going to happen at this point. (Also, note that the dry cleaner he goes to is called Murnau’s.)
And, about that: why exactly does Elliot want them all in the same place (which will apparently be Brentano’s)? I highly doubt that he intends to blow them up or something, both since his morality would seem to speak against that and because if that were the plan it would seem to obviate the whole break-in at Virtual Realty.
No, whatever the plan is, it involves taking the money away from Deus Group and Whiterose. I think Elliot has made this sufficiently clear, whatever the details. I also think that this plan is doomed to failure.
Elliot’s mistake is to think that money is objective; it isn’t. Money is all based on trust. It doesn’t matter whether it is a paper note, or a gold coin, or a digital number in a log. Money is money because we take it to be such.
And if the Deus Group really is a cadre of the most rich and powerful in the world, well, if you take their money they are just going to point at a piece of paper and demand to get it back. Get the FBI or whatever on it to investigate, but in the meantime the world economy has to keep going!
The governments of the world don’t control the money. The money controls them. And it is not absurd to think that, in a moment of crisis, everything must be done to keep the trust going.
So I see virtually no chance for Elliot’s plan to work. Even if he were to kill everyone in the Deus Group (which I doubt he would do), new people would just step in to fill that void. Isn’t this the lesson he should have already learned from 5/9?
What distinguishes capitalism from all previous social formations is that it has no center. It has no heart, as Elliot has put it. There is no King to be killed. But now, our friend seems to think there is a heart, and that he can take it out.
He is almost certainly wrong.
use your FBI credentials to intercept all intel and ID that body. thx!
It’s nice to see Dom’s story start to work into the main narrative of Mr. Robot once again, even if it is terrible for her. Janice remains a terrifying presence in a distinctive way. Her thumbs-up emojis in this episode, for instance, come across as downright menacing.
It’s a fascinating portrait of how someone can be this horribly anxiety-provoking presence in your life, while maintaining this demeanor or friendliness. And it’s clear that Dom is freaked out. She hacks the Pike’s Hollow police department, and notices white vans in her mom’s neighborhood when she takes the dog for a walk. The Dark Army is watching, and I don’t know what good scratching down those license plate numbers is going to do beyond confirming that fact for her, as if she needed any more confirmation that the threat to kill her family was real than she already has.
Dom is trapped in a situation it is hard to see her escaping other than through death. It is interesting to think about how she might feel at this point with regard to Darlene and Elliot in relation to this. It is meaningfully Darlene who got her into this mess by seducing her and attempting to steal her FBI log-in info. But, at the same time, she was already on a path that might have led to a similar result—Darlene was more the catalyst of what happened than the cause, if you think about it.
Further, we’ve recently seen Dom (trying to) masturbate to footage of Darlene’s interrogation. I maintain that this is creepy, but it is also human. The attraction at a physical level doesn’t go away because of what has happened, necessarily (although it is maybe worth noting that Dom fails to get off).
At the end of Season 3, Dom was clearly pissed and wished upon Darlene a fate worse than death. As she receives the text here in S4E5 from Janice at the end of the episode, does this remain her mindset? Or might she start thinking that Darlene and Elliot represent the only chance she’s got to potentially get out of this mess?
It’s Time We Talked
Throughout S4E5 Krista is planning her Christmas with her new boyfriend. We see them text as much as anyone else, as he sends her pics of himself in a couple of sweaters and frets about meeting her parents. He seems like a good guy, and I want them to have that evening full of Ben & Jerry’s (and presumably sex) that Krista planned.
But then Vera shows up. And I honestly don’t know where this is going.
It has been clear since his scene in “403 Forbidden” that Vera would be seeking out Krista, but he also made clear in that scene that he was not OK with the idea of forcing Elliot to work with him. So what’s his plan here? One might expect—were this any other show and any other villain—that it would be to threaten or perhaps even kidnap Krista to get Elliot to go along with his plans. But, as much as Vera seems to lack anything resembling a moral code, it’s hard to see him parsing a difference between something like that and his lackey’s idea offorcing Elliot at gunpoint. Unless maybe he views emotional manipulation to be on this side of the line when it comes to his concerns about coercion?
That’s certainly a live possibility, as the concern he expressed in S4E3 was more practical than anything. Elliot needs to want to work with him, but maybe this desire being based in a threat to someone he cares about is sufficient when it comes to how Vera views the world.
Alternately, I think we may be in for a very strained conversation between Krista and Vera about Elliot, where the latter engages with the former with his trademark style of menacing friendliness. At least, this strikes me as the more interesting possibility when considering where this might be going.
And I increasingly think Vera may be a key figure in the endgame of Mr. Robot to an extent I wouldn’t have imagined prior to S4E5. The plot with regard to Whiterose and the Deus Group seems to be coming to a head. Elliot has pretty well just made himself a wanted man, and it’s hard to see how his arc will end in anything but arrest or death at this point. He certainly can’t go back to his apartment on East Broadway given the Dark Army, right?
Things might not be resolved in S4E6, but it meaningfully feels like they could be. So what will fill the remaining eight episodes of Season 4? We’re not even halfway through. Vera is the wildcard in all of this. At first I thought his thread might be a side note, but with how the plot is progressing, and the connection between his arrival and the question of “the other one” I am beginning to think that it may be this thread that culminates into the end of the series.
I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.