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‘Mr. Robot’ Season 4 Premiere Recap: E for Vendetta

In his own hunger for revenge against Whiterose, however, Elliot falls for a whopper himself. The contact provided to him by Lomax was bogus, and his obviously uninhabited apartment is a trap that leads Elliot directly into the hands of the enemy. These men in black drag him kicking and screaming right past the apartment building’s complicit doorman, who eats Fruity Pebbles cereal and listens to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” as if nothing were wrong.

Forced back to his own apartment, Elliot is held in place as an agent (played by Sam Esmail) spikes his vein with a fatal overdose of heroin. As Elliot struggles to reach his phone to call for help, he sees a vision of his father (a.k.a. Mr. Robot), his abusive mother and himself as a child, all of whom are preparing to fade from existence along with the mind that has conjured them up.

Elliot dies. Cut to black.

And cut right back, as the agents return and revive Elliot with naloxone. We then learn that they’re not with the Dark Army at all: They work for Phillip Price, who appears to want Elliot to join his quest to defeat Whiterose. Finally, something everyone can agree on.

Despite its abundance of plot, the episode moves with a taut and sinuous rhythm. Esmail knows how to block, shoot and cut scenes for maximum audience unease, with his unusual habit of “shortsighting” characters by placing them in the extreme lower corners of the frame being foremost among his techniques. He has an eye for bursts of lurid color, like the reds of the DiPierro’s Christmas decorations and those Fruity Pebbles.

And by killing off Angela, one of the series’s main characters since the start, in the very first scene, he makes Elliot’s “death” that much easier to believe. Yes, I was bamboozled into thinking Esmail was killing off his Academy Award-winning leading man in the season premiere, and I’m not ashamed to say it.

All of this played out against a steady drumbeat of grim news from the real world, lending added oomph to the thrills and chills onscreen. Like the song says, just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.

Random Data:

  • Joining the cereal-eating attendant in that apartment lobby is some guy loudly conducting a FaceTime phone call in a foreign language — with one exception. When Elliot tells the doorman which room he would like to visit, the guy clearly says “Pied Piper.” It’s a creepy, almost subliminal detail that gets more unnerving the more you think about it.

  • The composer Mac Quayle’s score twists, turns and twinkles throughout the episode, evocative of horror movies in which some awful discovery lurks behind every door. It’s the show’s way of heightening the tension without resorting to actual blood and guts, and it works beautifully.

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