[Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen the Mr. Robot tv series on USA Network, stop what you’re doing. Go find it, watch it and come back. Otherwise, serious spoilers ahead.]
Season 3 – Episode 8 (eps3.7_dontdelete-me.ko)
We’re into the final stretch in our episode-by-episode analysis of time travel references in Mr. Robot. We began this journey together eight months ago! And now, this month’s column is the final edition before Season 4 begins. As of the publication date of this post, there are only 12 days left to wait before the final season of Mr. Robot begins on October 6, 2019 on USA Network. We don’t know what the future will bring, but until the show declares that time travel is no longer a story-reality option, we’ll continue to examine the time travel clues!
Let’s dive right into our next analysis….
The title of this episode is “Don’t Delete Me,” and deletion is exactly what Elliot Alderson is actively and aggressively trying to carry out. Elliot can no longer tolerate the thoughts, actions and outcomes of his alter-self, Mr. Robot. He wants out, and he decides that ending his life is his best option. We watch as Elliot goes through the steps of settling out his life. He finds a home for his dog Flipper. He visits Mobley’s brother to testify to Mobley’s innocence. He visits Trenton’s father to share that his daughter was a good person and was also innocent of what she had been accused of doing.
Trenton’s final, posthumous email to Elliot was entitled, “Don’t delete me.” As the story unfolds, it’s Trenton’s brother Mohammed who effectively stops Elliot in his self-destructive tracks, by asking him if Elliot will take him to the movies.
Elliot agrees to take Mohammed to the movies, but as Elliot says, “We’re only going if something good is playing.”
So, they go to the movies. And the movie that just happens to be playing is Elliot’s favorite movie: Back to the Future Part II. The theater is showing all three Back to the Future movies in the trilogy, and it’s more than interesting that Elliot and Mohammed are arriving just in time to see Part II.
As the song, Mr. Sandman, plays, Elliot and Mohammed stand outside the theater in front of the movie poster. Mohammed doesn’t show much interest in Back to the Future. Elliot says, “You don’t understand. Today’s the day that Marty travels into the future. I’ve wanted to see this movie on this day since I was your age. So weird that it’s today.”
This is a once-in-a-lifetime movie viewing experience, and many of the movie-goers are dressed in costume as various characters and images from the film. There’s even a DeLorean parked out front.
As Elliot and Mohammed get in line, Mohammed asks, “So, what is this film about, anyway?”
Elliot says, “It’s hard to explain. It’s about going into the future to change the past, then coming back into an alternate present day.”
Someone else in line—dressed as Marty—jumps into the conversation. “No, uh, you can’t go into the future to change the past. It’s way heavier than that. He goes into the future to change the future. But that allows Biff to change the past, which changes the future again.”
Then, someone else—dressed as Lorraine—jumps in and says, “No, no, it’s much simpler than that. It’s about how one mistake can change the world.”
This group film discussion is interrupted by the overhead announcement saying, “Now seating for Back to the Future Part II.”
As Alan Silvestri’s “Back to the Future Overture” hits its crescendo, we watch from the theater seats as the DeLorean comes flying in for a landing. We cut back to Elliot and Mohammed, and a costumed Doc Brown sitting to Elliot’s immediate right. Doc Brown asks Elliot, “Would you mind holding my Flux Capacitor for a second? I…I gotta clean my glasses.” Let’s pause here for a moment. For three seasons, the Mr. Robot storyline has been teasing the possibility that time travel or time manipulation is a component of the story reality. And here in this movie theater, while we’re watching Back to the Future Part II, Elliot is handed a Flux Capacitor. Elliot glances down at the device he holds; the thing in BTTF that makes time travel possible. Does he literally or figuratively have the possibility of time travel in his hands? In the next moment, Elliot sees that Mohammed has vanished.
Elliot leaves the movie theater in search of Mohammed and catches a ride in an ice cream truck. The driver of the truck just happens to have friends at both the area mosques where Mohammed may have gone. Blaring out from the ice cream truck’s loudspeakers is a recorded broadcast of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds—a 1938 fictional radio play about a Martian invasion that many people heard and believed was real. The radio play mimicked and used the familiar constructs of casual radio listening at the time, so those tuning in late experienced the play as a real news report interrupting the evening’s music programming. This gives us pause to reflect on the dreamlike unreality of this entire Mr. Robot episode. The unlikely coincidences, incongruities and contradictions are pervasive throughout. We’ve repeatedly heard the loudspeaker announcements from military vehicles: “This is a reminder that today’s city-wide curfew begins at 9:00 p.m. this evening through 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.” Yet, there’s an evening showing of the Back to the Future trilogy. Elliot talks with Trenton’s family as they’re packing their car to leave the city. But then Trenton’s younger brother Mohammed has been left behind? Elliot’s favorite movie just happens to be playing. The ice cream truck just happens by, ready to help Elliot find Mohammed? Everything in this episode plays like a dream. Does the presence of War of the Worlds serve to remind us that what we’re seeing isn’t real? Are we just deep in Elliot’s head? He created us (the viewer) so is that where we’re really at in this entire episode?
Season 3 – Episode 9 (eps3.8_stage3.torrent)
At 19 minutes and 18 seconds into the episode, there’s another parallel to Angela’s and Elliot’s Episode 1 meeting on the front steps of Elliot’s apartment. But much has changed. Angela is consumed with the “truth” that Whiterose revealed to her. While Angela has continued her descent into paranoia, she hangs onto the belief that some altering of time will bring her mother and Elliot’s father back from their deaths.
Angela says to Elliot, “It’s finally happening. We’re going back to the way things should be.” Elliot asks for some explanation of what she thinks is happening. Angela says, “I can’t tell you that. Only Whiterose can do that.” Angela goes on to say, “I thought that you wanted our parents back.”
Elliot tells Angela, “That’s never going to happen.”
Angela says, “That’s because you don’t understand.”
If Whiterose’s motivations are purely to manipulate outcomes in her favor, that would be easy to understand. But Whiterose repeatedly shows an emotional investment in the realization of a seemingly time-altering “project” that appears to be grounded in her deeply held beliefs.
At the 42-minute 26-second mark, Whiterose is having a royal fit because “not one box” has been packed to get her project shipped to the Congo. She expresses her outrage in a private conversation with Grant, her closest confident and advisor. Whiterose’s goals appear genuine and anchored by her unwavering focus. Is it Whiterose’s demonstration of her deep commitment that has convinced Angela that something so absurd to others could in fact be real?
Season 3 – Episode 10 (shutdown -r)
And here we are, at the final episode of Season 3. Our last glimpse of the Mr. Robot storyline before the start of the final season on October 6, 2019. Our last opportunity to decipher the time travel clues before the future—of the series—is upon us.
In this final episode, there’s a lot of drama going on. It’s definitely a cliffhanger, as character after character is put in peril at the hands of the Dark Army under the direction of Whiterose and her grand plans.
Angela has an intervention instigated by Philip Price in a Luke-I-am-your-father moment. Angela says to Price about Whiterose, “She has a plan.”
To which Price says, “Yes, I’ve known about her delusional plan for years.” He goes on to say, “The only reason you’re involved in any of this is because I had Colby hire you. I needed to manipulate you into dropping that contingency from your lawsuit. You were threatening her plant. And she would have done anything to stop those inspections, including killing you.”
The question of time travel or time manipulation in Mr. Robot hinges on Whiterose. Regardless of what others might believe about the veracity of her beliefs or motivations, we continue to witness Whiterose’s sustained devotion to her objectives relative to time, timelines and lifetimes. In the tense scene in the barn, where Grant and the Dark Army have captured Elliot, Darlene and Dom, Whiterose is talking with Grant over the phone. She says to Grant, “Your jealousy has always blinded you to Mr. Alderson’s value. That is why you can never see my plan through to the end.”
Grant fully understands the implication of what Whiterose is saying. Grant pleads with her, “You can’t believe him. He’s—he’s lying.”
What Whiterose says next is pivotal to the time travel theories in Mr. Robot. She says, “Know that I will find you as soon as our project is complete. But for the here and now…our time has come…to an end.” Speaking in Mandarin, Whiterose says to Grant, “I love you.” Grant does what he knows he must do. With a gun to his own head, he ends his timeline.
At the end of the episode and the end of the season, we see that Elliot and Mr. Robot have reconciled. They’re finally working together in cooperation. Mr. Robot gives Elliot the technical details he needs to undo the hack against E CORP. Mr. Robot says to Elliot, “On the night of the hack, I transferred the keys from the arcade…to a remote virtual machine on our box at home. I then burned it to a CD. You’ll find the seed data and the algorithm embedded in one of those pictures.” We watch as Elliot flips through the photos on the CD—various pictures of Elliot and his dad. Mr. Robot continues. “You’ll know the one.”
And the picture Elliot lands on? The picture with the encrypted keys that unlock everything and undo the hack? That photo is Elliot dressed as Marty McFly, and his dad dressed as Doc Brown on Halloween—a bag of candy between them, looking like they’re having the time of their lives. We end on this ever-enduring reference to Back to the Future. What is that telling us? The only answer we really have is that time will tell.
Thank you to everyone who has come along on this time travel analysis with me for these many months. It’s certainly given us something to do while we waited for season 4.
Now, we can stop looking back, and instead look to the future!