The boy was perhaps a bit too much the precocious font of guileless wisdom, a favorite trope of filmmakers, and his surprise appearance and cutesy pestering of Elliot also verged on cliché. But he was also endearing. His remarks, in the mosque, about being the only person in his family who could be President pointed up the arbitrariness of one’s place of birth — and all the judgments that are based on that — and reminded us that American citizenship can offer little protection for minority Americans. “If I were president, I would be able to stay here in the house we live in,” he said.
The growing bond between the lad and Elliot, and the experiences they shared, provided the emotional ballast for what was otherwise a curious hour full of pop culture references (“Back to the Future II,” “War of the Worlds”), odd characters (cosplayers, Hard Andy, Richard Masur’s orthodox ice cream man) and magical coincidence (the returning Mr. Robot jacket), as Elliot took a fantastical voyage into despair and back.
I imagine few viewers thought Elliot might actually delete himself with that bag of pills. The point was that the struggles with Mr. Robot, the guilt over the E Corp attacks and the deaths of Trenton and Mobley had blinded Elliot to the possibility of a future, before an unexpected human connection turned him toward hope.
It was the most dramatic of several signs that despite its dark imaginings and increasingly frightened and militarized setting, “Mr. Robot” still believes in the people’s ability to turn things around.
“Things get a little fakakta for a while,” the treats truck man noted. “But at the end, humans actually persevere.”
For Elliot, that included beginning to repair his relationship with both the utterly undone Angela — “No matter what happens, we’ll be O.K.” — as well as perhaps Mr. Robot.
We actually opened with what looked like the early days of his alter ego, a flashback that found a young Elliot coldly rejecting his dying father and claiming the signature jacket for himself. After ditching said jacket as part of his suicide preparation, it returned to Elliot just as he was receiving the email Trenton set up before her death, containing the reboot plan she first mentioned at the end of Season 2. The scheme would appear to call for a hack of N.Y.P.D. and/or the F.B.I., which could be just the thing to spur a more productive partnership between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
We talked a couple of weeks ago about how this season was largely about Elliot working through the stages of grappling with your alter ego. With two episodes left and Elliot’s new conclusion that there are “still things left for me to do,” perhaps something like acceptance is coming soon.
A Few Thoughts While We Party On
• The “Back to the Future” movies weren’t the only time-traveling classics referenced this week. “In Time,” the soaring anthem that closed the episode, originally appeared in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
• After carrying much of the early part of this season in emotionally intense fashion, Darlene has turned into someone who shows up at people’s apartments, gives quick pep talks and then disappears. There’s only so much screen time to go around, I guess.
• The M&M-popcorn trick was new to me, but Google suggests my movie snack game has been lacking.
• I remembered “Shallow Grave,” the movie the Aldersons planned to see in the flashback, as the breakout film for both Ewan McGregor and the director Danny Boyle. But I’d totally forgotten, until I watched this trailer, that one of the flatmates was played by Christopher Eccleston, so great as the Rev. Matt Jamison in “The Leftovers.”
• “‘The Martian’ has 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes,” Mohammed noted. “Because most critics have [bad] taste,” Elliot replied. Words hurt, Sam.