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'Mr. Robot' Uncovers Its Biggest Mystery. Maybe It Shouldn't Have

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 19, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 19, 2019 |


This week’s episode of Mr. Robot was an hour-long, broken into five acts, and aired without commercials. It was a bottle episode, taking place entirely inside the apartment of Krista. There were only five characters in the episode, six if you count Mr. Robot. The episode was configured so that Elliot could have a therapy session with Krista because Vera believed that by rooting out the source of Mr. Robot, Elliot would agree under no duress to become Vera’s business partner in a vague plan to become the King of New York City.

The plan was a MacGuffin. Hell, Vera’s reentry into the series itself was a MacGuffin. It was never about Vera. It was always about using Vera to force Krista and Elliot back together so that Krista could elicit that one last secret, the one that started it all. It was the window. Did Elliot jump out of the window? Or did his Dad push him out of the window? And the answer to that question is: Both.

Elliot jumped out of the window, but fear of his father forced him out of that window. And why was he afraid of his father? What is it that Krista never wanted Elliot to find out? What is it that Mr. Robot was trying to keep from Elliot for all these years? What is the secret so big that Elliot jumped out of a window to avoid it and created an alternate identity to protect himself from it?

“Why were you afraid of your father?” Krista asks. “Were you afraid your father would ask you to do something you didn’t want to do?

“Yes,” Elliot says, struggling. Crying. Hurting.

“Do you remember what your father asked you to do?” Krista asks.

“Yes. I remember,” he says, as if physically recoiling from the memories.

“Did your father sexually molest you?”


The dam breaks. The poison comes flooding out, like a lanced boil, but as it oozes out, Elliot is retraumatized by the memories again, reliving that horror, afraid that he will not be able to go on with those memories inside of him. Vera — who also suffers from childhood sexual trauma — insists that Elliot can, that once he lets out all the sadness and anger, he can finally meet the real Elliot. He can be reborn. Vera feeds Elliot a bunch of bullshit about becoming a stronger person by “weathering this storm. You hear me? You. Are. The. Storm.”

“I see you now,” Vera says to Elliot. And then Krista stabs Vera in the back and he falls to the floor and dies. Finis.

I have conflicting emotions about this episode. Like, really conflicted emotions. I hate that childhood sexual trauma is used here as a sort of shortcut to explain the existence of Mr. Robot. It feels like a cheap, third-act revelation that comes out of left field. Best I can recall, this was never really even hinted at prior to this episode, and I don’t particularly like it when childhood sexual trauma is used as a catchall reason for dissociative identity disorder and other mental illnesses.

And yet, on the other hand, not to make this weird or awkward or anything, but I suffered from years of sexual abuse, and I didn’t remember a single damn thing about it until I was a teenager, and my brother walked in my room, and he looked at me in a certain way before collapsing onto the floor and writhing around as though an alien were trying to escape through his chest. It was like one f**king look, and I not only knew why he had collapsed, but every fucking horrible memory came flooding back all at once, and then I collapsed on top of my brother.

But I didn’t develop dissociative identity disorder and try to destroy capitalism because of it … unless, that’s what I unconsciously planned when I started this site. Is that why I hired Petr? Is the Pajiba staff my Dark Army? OH MY GOD. Is my online personality my Mr. Robot? Oh shit. Because if so, we’re doing a lousy job at bringing down institutional structures that keep the powers that be in place. We need a hacker.

In either respect, I’m still feeling unsure about the episode itself. It was well shot, and Elliot Villar delivers a strong performance in his final episode of the series, and it was effectively upsetting. However, I almost wish that Sam Esmail had kept the root cause of Elliot’s identity disorder a mystery because it’s too big to attribute to something real, and childhood sexual trauma is all too real. Yet, the monsters we create in our minds are always worse than the monsters themselves, and this episode of Mr. Robot feels like the final act of Cloverfield when we finally see the monster creature that had been hiding in the shadows the whole movie and we’re like, “Go back to the shadows, please. You were scarier there.”

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: FX