As I was rewatching episode five of Mr. Robot, it dawned upon me that this episode focused primarily on all the “exploits” that we have as human beings. While infiltrating Steel Mountain was the primary objective for the protagonists as well as the main focus of the episode in the narrative sense, with this show there is oftentimes more than what you only see on the surface. It is always an exercise in taking a deeper look at what it means to be human, especially with all the flaws and brokenness that being alive brings.
As always, I’ll start with a brief summary of the events in the episode to set the backdrop before diving into the more interesting elements presented. Episode five starts off with Fernando Vera in prison. Elliot’s anonymous tip has managed to put Vera firmly behind bars. However, Vera is more insightful than he first appeared and figures out Elliot’s hand behind all of this.
While this is happening, Elliot and crew manage to successfully infiltrate Steel Mountain despite some setbacks. Along the way, Elliot runs into Tyrell Wellick which turns into an impromptu lunch date. Elliot excuses himself to the bathroom where he successfully installs the Raspberry Pi hack into the climate control system to later increase the temperature in Evil Corp’s data backup facilities and destroy the tapes.
Back at the F Society hideout, the Dark Army has backed out of the plan completely, despite Darlene’s attempts to convince them otherwise. Unable to move forward without the Dark Army’s assistance, the crew decides to take a wait and see approach. Angela has broken up with Ollie and moved back temporarily to her father’s place.
Tyrell and Joanna meet Scott and Sharon Knowles in an attempt to secure a position as Scott’s right hand man, as he is appointed to become the next CTO of Evil Corp.
And then the episode ends rather dramatically with Shayla’s presumed kidnapping.
Overall, it appears to be a normal heist episode with minor subplots being moved forward. Upon second viewing however, and it’s incredibly rare for me to rewatch a show, I am always surprised at how it oftentimes takes a deeper look into the human psyche.
Steel Mountain is not just a fictional analogue to real world Iron Mountain, which is indeed a real place that actually has it’s own road system and fire trucks as explained by Bill Harper to Elliot. Steel Mountain is a representation and extension of the human psyche.
While this claim may seem to require a leap of logic to believe, it is more accurate than it seems. How closely do we guard our own selves from outsiders, letting only a trusted few individuals with “clearance” in? We might even make exception for people of fame or riches, like Bill Harper did for Sam Sepiol, Elliot’s fake identity as a multi millionaire tech CEO. How often do we store up and guard the inner most parts of ourselves because we are afraid of someone stealing it, damaging it, or using it for nefarious purposes? We are our own Steel Mountains, seemingly impenetrable, determined to never be hurt or taken advantage of again.
And like the Steel Mountain of Mr. Robot, there are always exploits, the people surrounding Steel Mountain. No matter how strong your defenses are, no one can truly thrive alone and the strong desire for connection with other humans will result in possible “exploits”. The episode, properly titled ‘Exploits’, features a series of people’s weaknesses being exploited. We see poor Bill Harper, a lonely man striving to survive, beaten down by Elliot with the harsh truth that no one would probably care if he died. We see Trudy’s, Bill’s manager, worst fears being used against her. We see Elliot use Tyrell’s hubris against him, to use him to get to the secure level of Steel Mountain.
Outside of Steel Mountain, we see Angela expertly drive a knife into Ollie’s heart with the realization that she activated the virus using his ID and computer, and deservedly so. We see Tyrell and Joanna trying to find a weakness to exploit in the Knowles family. We see Darlene desperate to make things work, and blames herself for the plan failing, even though things were out of her control. And finally the episode ends with Vera finding Elliot’s one weakness, Shayla.
After Elliot’s successful deployment of the Raspberry Pi and on their return drive home, we see a touching phone call between Elliot and Shayla. They have a normal exchange for once, talking about how their day of work went, and Shayla wanted to share more once Elliot returned home. We observe both Shayla and Elliot, who have both gone through hard times, return to a moment of normalcy in their lives that most take for granted. This is all shattered when Elliot returns to an empty home, with Shayla missing.
Things take a turn for the worse and Elliot’s response is to push the remaining people in his life further away, not wanting to have any more possible exploits that could be used against him. Closing yourself off from the world never works.
I will end once again with this quote from Elliot. I used it for the last episode as well but it’s too good not to use, especially here.
“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…Elliot Anderson
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.”
I hope for all of you out there fearing your own possible exploits, that you don’t give up on finding the people out there who will truly love you. There’s not many, but there will always be a few, and that’s all a person can ask for.
Created by Sam Esmail. Season 1, Episode 5 released on July 22, 2015 (USA) Written by David Iserson, Directed by Jim McKay Starring Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, Christian Slater, and many more. Full Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4730012/fullcredits/