I’m going to do something a little different than usual from summarizing the entire episode and adding some commentary. I would like to shift the entire focus of this post to the hallucination Elliot has while suffering from withdrawal from his morphine addiction. There will be spoilers, including events leading up to the end of season four, so be forewarned. Also I would like to credit redditors here for some of the more obscure information, including users bwandering and one user that was deleted.
Before we start, here is a brief synopsis of what happens in this episode. Elliot and crew start their heist to break into Steel Mountain in order to hack their climate control system. Once hacked, they can remotely raise the temperature on the storage facilities containing Evil Corp’s physical tape backups. The tapes will be rendered useless in higher temperatures. Evil Corp, however, has put into motion their own plan to make backups of their tapes and ship them to four new locations in the matter of just a few days. Knowing they don’t have time to spare, Elliot moves up the execution of the plan to that day. On their way to Steel Mountain, Elliot suffers severe withdrawal symptoms and the team is forced to stop and help Elliot recover. He goes through a very surreal series of hallucinations but recovers at the end. The episode ends with Angela inserting the CD from the Dark Army into Ollie’s computer, unbeknownst to him.
I really appreciate the amount of effort and artistry put into the script of Mr. Robot because upon rewatching the show, I notice how neatly each episode fits within the other, and how every episode seems to have something to offer on multiple levels. Episode four stuck out to me in that there seemed to be no real theme or emotional thread that seemed obvious. What did stand out to me was the hallucination scene because of how strange and surreal it was. It seemed a little out of place and almost a little out of character.
Upon further examination however, this entire hallucination foreshadows almost every aspect in future seasons of Mr. Robot, including the ending. It is brilliantly written because it gives nothing away upon first viewing, but upon repeated viewings you see how well each piece fits into the grander puzzle of the narrative.
Let’s take a dive into the hallucination scene. This entire hallucination has three reoccurring themes, waking up, recovering lost memories, and exorcising demons as narrated by the masked man in the F Society video.
The theme of waking up is heavily tied to the key in the hallucination. The key the masked narrator hands to Elliot represents two things, the revelation of Elliot’s monster, as well as the representation of the leadership of F Society. The narrator tells Elliot to find his monster and turn the key, only then can he can truly be awake.
They key is a very emotionally heavy item for Elliot. It is the key to his childhood bedroom door. It is the very same key his father had, and had used to enter his room to abuse Elliot. Elliot had fought by back the best he could as a child, by stealing his father’s key and hiding it in the museum, as revealed in season four. This is the monster that Elliot had to fight, the awful, painful truth that left him so scarred and damaged. The truth that had Elliot had run away from and did everything in his power to forget, from taking morphine to creating alternate personalities to help cope with reality. This is also foreshadowed in many other scenes, from Elliot’s extreme dislike of being touched, to his constant struggle with depression and anxiety, to his disconnection from reality and the inability to trust and form a connection with another human being. The only way to move forward for Elliot was to realize and let go of his past.
The key also foreshadows the roles key individuals will play in Elliot’s life. The key is first handed to Elliot, who is the mastermind personality the real Elliot created to help cope with feeling powerless. He now holds the power to run Elliot’s life, Elliot’s own personal daemon, a process that runs in the background without user interaction required. In the next scene with the key, we see young Darlene pick up the key and hand it back to Elliot. This is the phase where Darlene temporarily takes leadership of F Society when Elliot is missing. She returns the leadership role back to Elliot upon his return. The show implies heavily that the young girl is indeed Darlene. This is Elliot’s own description of his childhood memories of her:
“Darlene and I’d hide in movie theaters all day. Darlene would sing Frère Jacques. She rode her scooter in front of our house.”
She was indeed riding a scooter while humming Frere Jacques. She mentions that she is not his friend when greeted as such because they are family. The song itself also ties into the theme of waking up, as it is about a monk who is expected to wake others but he himself was asleep. The real Elliot was asleep, with the Elliot standing before us unable and unwilling to wake him up. Darlene was the only one with the power to wake up Elliot. And this is what happens at the very end of Mr. Robot.
The next person we see is Tyrell Wellick in Elliot’s apartment. He is holding the key and note here that he does not return it. This foreshadows Tyrell’s future partnership, and separation, with Elliot.
The final person we see with the key is Angela. Elliot willing gives it to her in trust, she has possession of it, and returns it later in the F Society hide out. This foreshadows Angela’s later involvement with and deception of Elliot. This is not too farfetched if we note Angela’s appearance and tone of voice in the restaurant scene. She has the same hair, makeup, and dress when she starts working for Phillip Price at Evil Corp. Not only that, her tone of voice becomes more robotic and less emotive as the season progresses. That is all reflected here in this one scene, this one interaction.
She also returns the key, and notes that it does not fit because the Elliot we see now, is not Elliot, and is in reality the mastermind personality. The F Society scene where Elliot and Angela talk also takes place in the alternate reality loop that the mastermind Elliot created to trap the real Elliot in. That scene mirrors the scene in the final episode of season four. Mr. Robot also later refers to this specific hallucination in season four, where he notes that the mastermind Elliot had accidentally slipped into the loop he had created as a prison for the real Elliot after taking too much morphine.
All of this ties into the theme of recovering lost memories. In order for Elliot to wake up, he had to find what he had lost, his memories of the past. Once he found his memories, he could finally exorcise his demons, and his daemons, and move on with his life. How does one move forward with life when carrying something so heavy. We look to Elliot’s heart filled answer to White Rose in season four.
“But then, there are some people out there, and it doesn’t happen a lot, it’s rare. But they refuse to let you hate them. In fact they care about you in spite of it. And the really special ones, they’re relentless at it. Doesn’t matter what you to do them, they take it, and care about you anyway. They don’t abandon you, no matter how many reasons you give them, no matter how much you’re practically begging them to leave. And you wanna know why? Because they feel something for me I can’t…
They love me.
And for all that pain I’ve been through, that heals me. Maybe not instantly, maybe not even for a long time, but it heals.”
What an episode, what a scene, and what a series. Before I end here, I’d like to briefly mention some other things of note during this scene. The scene also foreshadows the Dark Army being the true manipulator behind the scenes as the masked narrator notes the mask is made in the Orient, just for Elliot’s head.
QWERTY, voiced by Keith David, foreshadows the loop the real Elliot is in, as well as the prison sequence in season two. Betta fish in dreams represent repressed memories that are starting to surface because the individual is prepared to face them. Two Betta fish can represent a conflict with yourself or another. There are two Betta fish in the restaurant hallucination, which has servers as the backdrop. We see Angela trying to help repress Elliot’s memories, while in the background we observe Elliot’s mother force feeding QWERTY to young Elliot. His mother is one of the sources of his memories being repressed; she refused to accept the reality of Elliot’s abuse.
Also in this scene, the waiter is played by Mark McGann, who was the first assistant director for the first season.
What a dense block of visual story telling. I know it’s certainly not for everyone but I can’t help but come to love and appreciate the tight narrative elements as well as the imperfect but real characters that inhabit a similarly messed up world as ours.
Created by Sam Esmail. Season 1, Episode 4 released on July 8, 2015 (USA)
Written by Adam Penn, Directed by Nisha Ganatra
Starring Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, Christian Slater, and many more.
Full Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4659980/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast