BY KAIL O'ROURKE
I really love heist movies, and for the first few minutes of this week’s episode of Mr. Robot, I thought we might be dealing with something similar. Certainly, that’s the plan anyway, as the members of F Society gather with Elliot (Rami Malek) to work out how exactly they’re going to break into Steel Mountain and destroy Evil Corp’s files. But then Elliot’s morphine withdrawal rears its ugly head.
“Daemons” doesn’t hit its theme, namely the daemons – or as Elliot puts it, “action without user interaction… primal urges, repressed memories, unconscious habits” – nearly as hard as the past two episodes hit theirs, but the withdrawal is one of Elliot’s daemons. And one that is incredibly poorly timed, not that Elliot had any control over that since he ran out of drugs with no way to get more after turning in Shayla’s supplier.
So, what the withdrawal does is completely mess up the plan to infiltrate Steel Mountain ASAP. The ASAP part is critical here. In a few days – on April 1, which I feel like someone should remember is April Fool’s Day in case this is a big joke – Evil Corp will ship copies of its files all over the country. At least according to Tyrell Wellick. But Elliot and F Society have to take his word for it because in theory, he didn’t know Elliot could use that information to bring Evil Corp down.
What this means is that the Steel Mountain operation – which amounts to raising the temperature in the facility just enough to burn the data tape – has to be implemented right away because it’s March 29. F Society has a ticking clock, a device that re-introduces the tension and urgency that the show has been missing since its pilot. Taking time out to deal with Elliot’s withdrawal isn’t on the group’s agenda, and on a wider scale, it could have slowed “Daemons” down, given that hallucinations start about halfway through the episode.
Fortunately, the hallucinations are fascinating, and the last time we were this deep into Elliot’s head was in the pilot. The pilot’s close connection to Elliot was one of the things I praised about it, but the last couple episodes have taken us a couple steps away from being that close. With no strength to hold his mind together or to keep us from seeing inside, “Daemons” puts us back in that highly subjective POV.
Of course, everything that we see is filtered through the lens of morphine withdrawal, and a lot of it doesn’t make logical sense. The Allsafe office is somehow both a restaurant and an office building, Elliot’s fish talks to him, the head of F Society (presumably Mr. Robot) offers Elliot an exact copy of his own mask, etc.
So, it’s hard to say exactly what any of this means. People have theories, of course. In the interest of keeping you potentially spoiler free if you want to be, I’m going to discuss this down below. But I imagine the side-trip into Elliot’s head wasn’t simply a fun, diverting way to spend half the episode. With a show as deliberately and meticulously constructed as Mr. Robot, it has to have meant something.
Another effect of Elliot’s withdrawal is that Mr. Robot recognizes we can’t spend a solid 30 minutes in Elliot’s hallucinations. And since Elliot is out of commission otherwise, it means we get a lot of welcome time with side characters.
One of the problems I’ve noted with the show is because it spends so much time with Elliot, the other characters haven’t been fleshed out much. And so far, this burden has fallen on F Society since Elliot only recently truly joined up. While Romero (Ron C. Jones) and Trenton (Sunita Mani) don’t get a lot of characterization beyond angry at Elliot and nervous, respectively, it’s more than we had before, and with Elliot spending more time with F Society in coming weeks, I hope this continues.
Angela (Portia Doubleday) also gets screen time this week as she tries to decide whether she’s really going to breach Allsafe’s system. Ironically, here is where we get the most heist-like action after she decides to do it and has to get in and out of the building without the secretary seeing her. And it’s nice that we get some shading on the character with Shayla’s (Frankie Shaw) discussion of how Angela worries all the time.
Ultimately, “Daemons” is simply another piece of Mr. Robot’s slow but steady push forward. We don’t get a lot of new information and not much actually happens, but with deadlines and tension hanging over the characters and a nest of questions unlocked by our trip inside Elliot’s mind, it’s the most intriguing piece since everything started.
- The word “daemons” always makes me think of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and I guess if you wanted to, you could make the case for Elliot’s fish functioning briefly in that role.
- I am always all for “fake” commercials and having the show bleed into otherwise uneventful time, so I enjoyed the Evil Corp transmissions a lot.
- It’s looking like we get the pseudo-heist next week!
Potential Spoilers Section:
The main theory that’s been circulating is that Mr. Robot isn’t actually real à la Fight Club with Elliot as the true leader of F Society. It’s something that I started thinking about as a serious possibility last week, and the trip inside Elliot’s mind seemed to bolster that theory. We got several shots of what looked like Elliot alone but Mr. Robot lurking somewhere unseen, the running theme of what Elliot’s “monster” is, and the whole Elliot putting on the F Society mask thing. I’m torn between finding this an intriguing idea for the show to play with and feeling disappointed that if it is the case, it was so easy to spot.