Mr. Robot: 403 Forbidden
October 20, 2019 9:24 PM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Whiterose has the feels. Elliot gets owned by his own hack; an old foe waits.
posted by roolya_boolya (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a little displeased with this season so far. It seems like it's creating more mysteries instead of concluding them. I'm starting to get that telltale LOST feeling where I realize they never had an explanation for the Smoke Monster after all and we're not going to get the answers we want.

I thought the Whiterose flashbacks were a bit heavy-handed but maybe it will all mean something.

Elliot's motivations are somehow less clear than they've ever been. Does he want to stop eCorp... from what? Get revenge on Whiterose for killing Angela? Stop Whiterose's mysterious machine from activating? Does Elliot even know the machine exists?

And now we're dragging the psychiatrist and the drug dealer from Season 1 back into the picture? WHY?

I did like the chemistry Elliot had with the Century Bank girl, it was a reminder of a different show that could have been, where Elliot gets some help and learns to have a semi-normal life. I hope they do something with her other than the obvious "Elliot's actions get her killed."

I guess my biggest problem is that the previous seasons have been Elliot vs. Elliot's mind. Who is Mr. Robot? What does he want? Now that Elliot and Mr. Robot are working together, it just seems like an awkward situation where two actors are working together to play one character, and that character's goals (Defeat the nebulous enemy! Prevent the unknown thing from happening!) are a lot less interesting than watching him fight for his sanity.

I hope I'm wrong and there's a lot more going on than i've realized. Maybe Elliot IS still fighting for his sanity. (There's a definite possibility he's still dying of the heroin overdose from Episode 1.) Anyway, I hope there's something deeper coming than "Elliot's old drug dealer reappears and threatens to harm his old psychiatrist."
posted by mmoncur at 3:13 AM on October 21, 2019

I agree with most of your concerns, but not all.

I'm worried Olivia's razor is Chekhov's razor, especially after Chen's suicide in the beginning of the episode, and Olivia's comment on the razor blade being "If I hate myself enough to start using again, I might as well kill myself."

I'm worried that Vera will torture Krista to get details about Elliot. "She knows something I gotta know." Vera said he doesn't want to force Elliot to become his brilliant architect, but he also uses violence as a casual tool. I see Vera's re-appearance as a way to increase tensions, where Elliot has two enemies to face at once, who have differing (and potentially conflicting) goals for Elliot, so even if he was to appease one, he'd upset the other.

I'm unclear on how robbing the Deus Group will stop the mysterious Congo project (and I'm also not sure Elliot knows what Whiterose is doing with that project, but making Whiterose "lose everything" seems like motivation enough for him).

From what I recall, Mr. Robot's position has shifted to be counter to what Elliot wants, depending on what Elliot wants. In the beginning, Elliot didn't want to harm anyone in the Steel Mountain plan, where Mr. Robot was all "success at any cost." Now Mr. Robot is the one with the soft touch, where Elliot has taken the old Mr. Robot point of view. After the show is over, I'm tempted to binge it, to track this change over time.

Given that Esmail planned for this to be a movie, I imagine he has the grand narrative mapped out, but seeing as it's extended from a rough 2 hour timeframe to more than 30 hours (45 episodes x 45 minutes = 2025 minutes), it seems he might have created some sub-plots that fizzled or fell out. I don't feel he's getting into Lost territory, but maybe I'm being optimistic.

And I found Whiterose's backstory to be touching and tragic, but I realize I'm a softie for emotional stories. I also liked seeing the origin of Whiterose's watch.

Other random observations and amusements: I liked that the USA Network's bumper did double-duty, as a sign of America, Land of Opportunity, and a retro shout-out to Mr. Robot's current network. "USA celebrates the arts with music and performances that you'll never forget. Be a part of the great American network." And that tagline, following a clip of the trailer for John Carpenter's The Thing, which features a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates then imitates other organisms, was amusing.

I just hope Esmail wasn't calling Whiterose "The Thing," though it seems this is the case. As the villain, her commercial and cultural adaptation is a good parallel to The Thing, but by also presenting Whiterose's gender identity earlier, the trailer for The Thing seems like a shitty parallel.

Also, I don't know if it was intentional, but seeing Chen's bride lighting the cigarettes of so many men, after her own wedding, then seeing Darlene lighting her own, as she recognizes the threats before her, was a nice bit of skewed mirroring.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:41 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

And I agree with the first stray observation from the TV/AV Club review/recap:
Even for Wellick, that was dumb. Elliot is literally trying to physically silence you, and all you can do is pipe up about how the top-secret and potentially deadly espionage you’re engaged in is good to go? Come on, now.
And that's after he kicked in Elliot's door. Has the death of his wife changed his character so drastically? Maybe so.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:46 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

A Roundtable of Hackers Dissects 'Mr. Robot' Season 4 Episode 3: ‘Forbidden’ -- Technologists, hackers, and journalists recap the third episode of the final season of the realistic hacking show. (Vice Motherboard)

Come for the HTTP cats (403) and yak-shaving reference, stay for really deep detail geekery, including hints at what might come next with getting cell service permissions.

(Even the reviewers are unclear on Elliot's plan, which is not a good sign for this season, at least at this point.)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

+1 on the score.

Weirdly, while I’ve been a big critic of this show threatening not to pay off some of the big mysteries (or at least spinning them out for way too long), this has been my favourite ep for a while. It was amazing to see so many Chinese-speakers on screen in the cold open, it means a lot to me personally. And I liked Elliot and Olivia. I guess it’s nice when it feels like the show has something else to say other than weird creepy shit.
posted by adrianhon at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I forgot what an amazing actor Rami Malek is. That scene with Olivia in the bar, his face just did some amazing things. It almost made me cry, watching him crack open like that.

It also can't be an accident that she reminded me so much of Shayla, and was in the episode where Vera returned. But I actually don't know if we'll even see Olivia again - she also kind of reminded me of Mohammed last season.

I wonder if we saw his third alter at all in this ep. I was kind of wondering if he took over when he ran after Olivia and then had sex with her - the only other time we've seen Elliot have sex in this show is in the pilot, when he was pretty passive about it, and then immediately regretful. I've had him as possibly asexual in my own private headcanon.
posted by lunasol at 9:58 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, I feel the show is moving kind of slowly right now but I'm not really worried about it. This is the longest season yet, with 13 episodes. And Esmail sometimes likes to start slow. We're getting some good character moments right now, and lots of great set pieces.
posted by lunasol at 10:00 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

So, since it looks like we're doing http response codes as episode titles for the whole season, I took a look at what we can expect for future episodes. It actually has something of a baked-in narrative arc:

401 Unauthorized
402 Payment Required
403 Forbidden
404 Not Found
405 Method Not Allowed
406 Not Acceptable
407 Proxy Authentication Required
408 Request Timeout
409 Conflict
410 Gone
411 Length Required
412 Precondition Failed
413 Payload Too Large
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:02 AM on October 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

I liked this episode the best of the season so far.

Darlene asks Elliott if he’s ever going to change. Elliott says no. But he also told Krista he’s made progress. To me, giving Elliott a connection with Olivia plays on the viewers emotions/hopes that Elliot can change or maybe that the world/narrative structure he lives in can change, but I fear Olivia will be freezered and that Elliott’s claims to Darlene will be true.
posted by CMcG at 12:24 PM on October 22, 2019

If you'd told me they would be going with literal white roses covered in blood, at the end of the intro, I'd have said it would be heavy-handed beyond belief. But somehow it worked...? Maybe?

I assume the thing with Olivia being nearly suicidal was to show the alternative. Elliot strong-armed Freddy in 401, and Freddy killed himself. He was thinking of pulling something similar with Olivia, and now we don't need to wonder what she would've done with herself if he had.

As far as I can gauge Elliot's intentions, it's "rob the entire Deus group, hopefully rendering them powerless, and then let the Whiterose machine roast in development hell for all anyone cares". (Deus. Less and less subtle.) I note with interest that the machine's purpose was the one thing Philip Price refused to touch on, leading me to suspect that even he doesn't know exactly what it does, except that it's probably something insane. (Between the scientist in 301, the last words from Whiterose to Grant at the end of season 3, the thing with Angela wanting to see her mother again, and the show's basic premise, I imagine it involves letting the user commune with the dearly departed, or believe they are, anyway.)
posted by queen anne's remorse at 8:37 PM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a theory about Whiterose's machine. I think Whiterose has discovered/believes that we live in a simulation. He has figured out limited ways to hack the simulation, but the machine is crucial for hacking it over all.

What if the whole show is Fight Club meets the Matrix?
posted by CMcG at 7:15 AM on October 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

He has figured out limited ways to hack the simulation, but the machine is crucial for hacking it over all.

She. Whiterose is a woman, she even said so in this very episode we are discussing.
posted by lunasol at 11:17 AM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

I'm totally torn on the Whiterose stuff. Their relationship was super sweet and genuine, even if Whiterose put her ambitions over it. I'm into the significance of the watch and even the white roses. The Thing reference definitely made me wince. It felt super cruel and blunt. I don't think it's meant as a comment on her so much as how she fears she is or would be perceived. It's kind of real but easily can come across as cruel.

So I liked it mostly, I'm just so, so tired of queer tragedy. Everything that happens in a story is a choice. I need to see people making better choices.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:26 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

You are totally right, lunasol. I’m sorry for making such a careless mistake and will be more thoughtful in the future.
posted by CMcG at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Still struggling to like this show, but since it's the final season I'll stick with it.

But I did genuinely like the long flashback story about Whiterose. I know queer tragedy is a cliche but I still like it, the histrionic excess is part of my own queer identity in a way. (Yes, Suddenly Last Summer is one of my favorite movies.) Also BD Wong is so perfect for this, it's impossible not to see echoes of M. Butterfly in his performance. He's got lots of range and can do other things but he's very, very good as Whiterose.
posted by Nelson at 9:53 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Still struggling to like this show, but since it's the final season I'll stick with it.

I admire your multi-year endurance. I would be curious to hear, at the end of it all, how you feel about it.

I'm writing this on my fourth rewatch. The whole thing is great. Season 2 is a bit bogged down, but is still interesting. So looking forward as I watch this all roll toward its end. It's really one of the best piece of Literature As Television (Or maybe Television As Literature) that I can point to across my entire lifetime.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 PM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

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