BY KALI O'ROURKE
For the first 15 minutes of “Brave Traveler,” I wasn’t that impressed. Sure, the opening credits were fantastic, and yes, the opening scene managed to fool me into thinking somehow Mr. Robot had time jumped to when Elliot (Rami Malek) had already rescued Shayla (Frances Shaw). But that first 15 was largely build-up. Of course, the build-up paid off stunningly throughout the rest of “Brave Traveler,” so it clearly wasn’t a waste of time.
Really, Elliot’s entire plotline worked this episode, even in that first 15 minutes, because it was held together by the prospect of breaking Vera (Elliot Villar) out of prison – and what’s more, doing it by that night. Maybe it was a tiny misstep to thread Angela’s (Portia Doubleday) plot – trying to find out more about the toxic waste dump that killed her mother and Elliot’s father – in here. Angela’s quest, while admirable, is nowhere near as urgent as Elliot’s attempts to hack the prison, so her protracted scenes, particularly with the lawyer, slow the action. But after she meets with the lawyer, Angela’s scenes get shorter and less obtrusive, giving Elliot’s plot the room it needs to shine.
With Shayla in Vera’s clutches – or more accurately, those of his lieutenants – Elliot fights to save her from the very beginning of the episode until the very end. The kidnapping plot inherently holds tension, like last week’s break-in, but Mr. Robot did its job and kept upping the stakes with Elliot’s problems getting into the prison’s system, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) becoming another potential victim, and the reveal that Vera’s brother was the one who wanted to kill him.
Plus, the Angela plot finally paid off when it collided with Elliot’s. While Elliot was trying to hack the prison, Angela showed up on his doorstep, which was basically the worst timing she could have. But I’m pretty sure that Elliot’s decision to just get rid of her by telling her what she wanted to hear is going to come back to bite him before Mr. Robot’s season finale.
Also nice was Elliot deciding to take charge of the situation. Largely because he had to in order to try and make everything work out the way he wanted it to. Just when it got repetitive seeing Elliot react to events, “Brave Traveler” switched it up by making Elliot the one who was setting events up. It works because we’ve never seen an Elliot who wasn’t playing some kind of angle, and it makes sense that, especially with someone he cares about as much as he does Shayla, he would have a few tricks up his sleeve.
It all leads up to that daring prison escape, and although I expected something to go wrong, I wasn’t sure what it would be. Vera shooting his own brother wasn’t too much of a surprise, but boy, Shayla having been dead pretty much the entire time Elliot was working to free her stung hard.
Thinking about it now, it’s hard to see exactly what Mr. Robot is going to do with this. Shayla’s death will affect Elliot deeply, and the show will have to bring that out in the next couple of episodes. But what does this have to do with Evil Corp? Or Mr. Robot and F Society? But while we watch Elliot grieve at the end of “Brave Traveler,” it doesn’t matter. We are completely in that moment with Elliot, even though we aren’t hearing his thoughts. Instead, we’re seeing them cross his face.
The sequence is moving, and one of the best things Mr. Robot has done to date. The show definitely isn’t resting on its laurels as it moves into its last four episodes, and for its audience, that’s a great thing.
As much as I enjoyed the final sequence of “Brave Traveler,” my favorite moment came in the midst of Tyrell Wellick’s (Martin Wallström) plot. After losing his advantage with the new Evil Corp CTO, Wellick came back to his house and smashed a bunch of stuff. But the shot delightfully doesn’t focus on this but on his wife in the foreground. It’s one of the many, many examples of Mr. Robot’s amazing cinematography, and I was riveted.
Another great aspect of Wellick’s plot is that we finally see Wellick out of his element. He’s usually polished and put-together, but here, his hair is splayed all over and his eyes are wide. Wellick is an unknown element with ambitions, which is in its own way as dangerous – especially on TV – as the CTO’s threats.
With “Brave Traveler,” Mr. Robot gives a new aspect for the rest of the season to respond to. While it’s unfortunate that this aspect is Shayla’s death because I really liked Shayla, the episode handles this development with aplomb, something I expect the show to carry forward as it moves forward in its season.
- More hacking explanations for you (and me)!
- “I, Elliot Alderson, am flight. I am fear. I am anxiety, terror, panic.”
- If you just google the meaning of the name “Elliot,” you get several sources that relate it to God, but the motto of the Scottish clan with the name is closer to Fernando’s “brave and true” meaning. “Fernando” is easier to find the meaning of.