Elliot pushes himself to the limit in a triple-hostage episode of Mr. Robot.
This recap of Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 6, “406 Not Acceptable”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s hard to be a good person. Sometimes we aim for some large goal. But the ends don’t always justify the means, and along the way, we can end up hurting the very people we want to protect.
This basic idea is explored in Elliot’s segment of Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 6, “406 Not Acceptable”, which pairs off our characters into three hostage-esque situations that each illustrate different ways that we as humans try to gain power over each other. How far are we willing to go to get what we want?
“406 Not Acceptable” begins as the last episode left off. Vera tells a gagged Krista the “Story of a true Xmas Miracle.” He recounts a time of gaining power over a “nasty ass bully” with an “Aluminum baseball bat.” “I’m gonna break Elliot, and you’re gonna be my Aluminum bat,” he says. Not the master of subtlety, but the message is clear, if unnecessary. A lot of time has been spent on Vera, and it feels a little wasted at times. Krista gives in, telling Vera where to find her files on “Mr. Robot.” It’s still unclear how this will in any way help Vera. These scenes give us an example of the cycles of violence that are perpetuated when left untreated. The irony is that Vera probably needed a therapist like Krista after growing up with such bullying and violence as he described.
Meanwhile, Darlene is on the phone for Elliot, discussing the upcoming plan to defeat Deus. But as soon as she puts down the phone, she has a gun to her head. Dom is struggling to keep the gun up. Last season, Darlene tried to seduce Dom to get her FBI badge, but they both ended up kidnapped, which left Dom in her current predicament. Dom has the physical upper hand — she has the gun. But Dom is hurt. She does not want to kill Dom, despite their past. She pleaded with Darlene to give up Elliot and go free. Unwilling, Dom then tries to convince Darlene to kill her. Darlene still refuses, until Janice walks in and sees neither dead. She takes the phone, but Darlene has already wiped it.
It’s nice to see Dom finally interact with the other characters, but the trope of “unwilling hitman” is a familiar one. What comes through is the fraught dynamic between these two damaged people (hey, that’s pretty much the whole theme of the show). Despite Dom having the gun, it becomes clear that neither really has the upper hand — that would belong to the Dark Army.
Elliot returns to Olivia Cortez (from Episode 3). He walks in with Peppermint Mochas and says “What I’m about to tell you is gonna sound a little crazy.” Elliot explains the plan to call her boss at Cyprus, which will somehow allow Elliot access to the bank’s servers, and he can move all the money (if I’m following correctly). Olivia (as anyone would be) is upset and says no. In the process of taking down Deus, Elliot has become just another shitty man who takes advantage of a woman just to get something from her. And that’s before his full plan is revealed.
“What would happen if you failed your drug test?” Elliot asks. Olivia is confused; she hasn’t taken opioids for eight years. Then the camera pans from Elliot to the Peppermint Mocha, to Olivia’s horrified expression.
It’s fair to say that this is a new low for Elliot. Blackmailing and drugging someone he cared about, even if it is for a greater good, is a wrong he can never recover from. Mr. Robot, in his standout monologue of the episode, states: “When you cross a line you didn’t even know existed. Maybe that dread is a good thing. It means you still have one. But when those crossed lines are all behind you, up ahead is only darkness”.
The desperation and time-crunch have caused Elliot to lose sight of morality. Malek does great work depicting a walled-off Elliot. He is icy, pushing back against one of the few other people he has managed to connect to.
But it’s not over then in Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 6. When Olivia goes to the bathroom, Elliot hears a thump. He runs in to find blood everywhere and manages to bandage up her wrists just in time. The sequence is heartbreaking and realizes something the show often keeps in the dark; the consequences of Elliot’s commitment to an end. Olivia is more than that, of course, an excellently written character. She agrees to the call, but tells Elliot, “You know I may work for monsters, but you are one. And you’re the worst kind because you don’t even know it.”
As he walks away, Mr. Robot ponders “Did we change under pressure, or did this only reveal who we are?”. Has Elliot always had this in him? Or has he simply lost sight of right and wrong in the quest to take down the Big Bad? But before he can ponder these questions, Elliot is suddenly whisked away by Vera and his goons. There goes any chance for self-reflection!
- We get a single scene with Whiterose, where she asks her assistant to bring Elliot in. “It’s time he learns we are on the same side.” Sounds like the Washington Township plan is also a plot to bring down Deus! (But for real this lends credibility that the machine is a way of bringing back the dead, as both Elliot and Whiterose have lost many.)
- A familiar face returns in the form of Leon. Joey Badass is a delight in the show (particularly when he explains the Seinfeld). Now he’s a freelancer — “Only loyalty’s to the almighty paper.” Seems like that could come in handy…