BY KALI O'ROURKE
Although called “View Source” and featuring a scene in which Elliot (Rami Malek) imagines a world in which people could always see your “honest self”/baggage, this episode of Mr. Robot feels the farthest we’ve ever gotten away from Elliot. However, essentially, we had already utilized a “view source” on Elliot, particularly in the pilot, or at least on Elliot as he wants us to see him, so it makes sense that the episode is largely given over to other characters.
Plus, our distance from Elliot is appropriate in the light of Shayla’s death last week and the fact that Elliot says at the beginning of “View Source” that he hasn’t talked to us since then, which was a month ago in show time. A lot of what we know about Elliot comes from what he’s told us and what he’s allowed us to see, and if he hasn’t been and doesn’t want to be talking to us since Shayla died, of course we wouldn’t be as in-tune with him.
Stepping back from Elliot so far – based simply on his plotlines not being the central, hard-hitting plots of the week – gives many of Mr. Robot’s side characters room to take action. But the episode belongs to Angela (Portia Doubleday), who has gotten farther in her quest to take Evil Corp to court.
What she needs is basically a confession from Terry Colby (Bruce Altman) – remember him? – that Evil Corp knew about the toxic waste leak in her hometown and didn’t stop it. Colby doesn’t make it easy on her, sexually assaulting her verbally and being a generally awful person. Angela comes back hard, telling him he’ll become like her – by losing everyone’s respect – if he doesn’t agree to the deal.
It’s not quite clear to me how Angela lost everyone’s respect, presumably Mr. Robot’s beginning, because I don’t remember any scenario like that being discussed before. But it rattles Colby, allows him to see some mettle in her, or maybe he just rethought the offer because he agrees to testify. Which leads to another great showdown between him and Angela.
The only thing Angela asks Colby is what it was like being in the toxic waste meetings, the ones that led to her mother’s death. And when he tells her they were drunk and eating shrimp cocktail, she reveals why she wants this trial: so people like him won’t keep sitting in rooms together. It doesn’t sound as devastating as it is, helped by the vaguely nauseous look on Doubleday’s face throughout the scene and the little moments that Altman allows Colby to show contrition.
Last week, I wouldn’t have believed Angela’s plot could carry an episode of Mr. Robot or even be the best part of it. But “View Source” proves that wrong by combining these two talented actors with the story of Angela’s mother’s death, which is designed to gut you. It more than does its job.
For his part, Elliot also manages to gut someone by telling his therapist that he’s been spying on her via her computer. Although it’s a devastating blow for the therapist, largely because he tears her life apart, it looks like a breakthrough for Elliot.
I imagine that in the month since Shayla died, he’s been holding a lot of his emotions in, and like his boss says, it’s important that he opens up to someone. Though preferably without terrifying that person in the process. Since the episode ends right after that scene, it’s unclear if Elliot’s request for help will get him anywhere, but judging by the promo, it doesn’t look like it will.
Tyrell Wellick’s (Martin Wallström) gutting is literal when he actually strangles the new CTO’s wife to death. I’m not sure whether he and his wife planned her death. On the one hand, they have seemed willing to take any step necessary to get Tyrell promoted, but on the other hand, I’m not sure what this would get them. Regardless, the scene is a good one, with the music building as Tyrell’s control slips entirely, but once he realizes what he’s done, the music cuts out and leaves him a sobbing mess. Like many of the plot points in Mr. Robot, it’s not clear where this is going, but the show has proven time and again that it has a journey in sight, which makes it easy to wait and see what will happen.
As good as many of the individual pieces are, “View Source” is a disjointed episode of Mr. Robot. Part of this lies in our time away from Elliot, simply because he’s the character we know best. Part of it is because it features so many plotlines that never seem to line up. But like I was saying pre-Steel Mountain break-in, a major weakness of the show lies in F Society, and this is the most we’ve seen of them to-date.
Both Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and Romero (Ron Cephas Jones) get scenes with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), but they don’t add much to what we know about F Society – or Mr. Robot, who remains an opaque character at best. What this boils down to is the fact that I simply didn’t care about whether they reformed F Society or not, and the meeting with hacker whiterose is only marginally more interesting because of the danger it might involve.
Without Elliot, I don’t know enough about these people to root for them. Since they’re the only characters that I don’t find interesting, it means any screen time with only F Society members – and especially with Mr. Robot, who I simply find grating for personal reasons – automatically pulls me out of the flow of the episode. The scenes in “View Source” aren’t bad, but when put up against the strong work from every other area of the episode, it’s obvious where the disconnect lies.
- Before I realized we were in a flashback, I thought Shayla had a twin and spent a few minutes trying to figure out how that would change the story.
- It was kind of weird having The Cure’s “Disintegration” pop up in two different things that I watched within approximately two days of each other. (Note: the other one was Ant-Man.)
- Speculation/Potential Spoilers Corner: I’m not sure what to think about the Mr. Robot scenes with the F Society members in terms of the “Mr. Robot isn’t real” argument. Having other characters spend large chunks of time with Mr. Robot seems to make him more real – although the last couple episodes have hinted he isn’t – but The A.V. Clubactually argued the opposite, presuming the show follows a Fight Club-model.