Mr. Robot, S01E04 – “Daemons”
Episode Number: S01E04
Original Air Date: July 15, 2015
Time: 45 minutes
Synopsis: As Elliot is wracked with hallucinations while he attempts to quit morphine cold turkey, the other members of fsociety work to finalize the plan to take down Steel Mountain. Angela has an eye-opening day with Shayla and makes a fateful decision.
Lamenting that he’s almost out of morphine, Elliot explains the hack to the other members of fsociety: they are going to destroy Evil Corp’s tape backups, currently being stored in the underground bunkers of a data storage facility called Steel Mountain, by heating up the tapes and destroying the data stored on them. They’ll install a special circuit board that gives them remote access to the HVAC systems.
Notes: Elliot describes the Evil Corp tape backups by describing the medium they are stored on: “linear-tape open standard 9, temp value between 61 and 95, iron oxide in mag tape-it sticks to polyurethane with a binder.” If they can get the tape backups warmed up to above 95 degrees, the adhesive will “mollify” or become unattached, rendering the tape data unreadable. Steel Mountain’s facility is located in a 145-plus acre former limestone mine in the Adirondacks. The facility sports 24/7 armed guards, three-ton steel gates, closed circuit cameras, and NOC (network operations center) staffing.
Terminology: Linear tape is the physical tape backup system used at Steel Mountain. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition, a standard industrial term for the centralized heating and cooling systems in most buildings. An asymmetric back door into a computer system uses a single private key known only to the attacker to access the system. A Raspberry Pi is a unique, single-board computer developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the United Kingdom.
At home, Elliot does the last of his morphine. He’s broken his own rules about not abusing the drug—he’s out of Suboxone, which he used to control his addiction—and now he knows the withdrawal symptoms are coming.
Notes: The path Elliot imagines his morphine took to get to him: biosynthesized in some lab in Mexico, packed into a pill, shipped to the States where it was packaged with a logo and taxed by the government, stolen by a bribed guard, sold to a Vera henchmen, oversold to Shayla and then to him.
Back at fsociety headquarters, Romero has some bad news for the rest of the team—hacking Steel Mountain won’t be enough. Evil Corp is physically copying and shipping backups to facilities in Nashville, Colorado, San Jose and Tallahassee. The backups will move on May 1—in just three days—and Elliot decides they need to implement their HVAC plan immediately. Like, they have to leave right now. And Darlene will need to coordinate with the Dark Army in China.
Terminology: A SCADA network is a “supervisory control and data acquisition” system for remote monitoring and control in industrial situations.
Romero and Mobley steal a minivan by hacking the alarm and ignition systems, and they head north with Elliot and Mr. Robot. But Elliot’s withdrawal symptoms kick in, so they crash at a hotel to give him time. Elliot’s hallucinating and going through withdrawal while the others wait. Romero complains that this is a waste of time—they should be heading back to NYC to come up with a plan B.
Romero gets frustrated and leaves, and Elliot convinces Mr. Robot that the only logical thing to do is more morphine, enough to get him through the hack. They find a dealer’s house and Elliot stumbles inside—but they only have liquid morphine for shooting up.
There is a shooting inside and the girl kissing Elliot is shot twice on the couch right next to him. Then Elliot is shot and falls to the floor, bleeding. On the TV, an fsociety video comes on, then cuts to a scene where Elliot is watching the video being filmed. Mr. Robot gives him a key and another mask. An Evil Corp commercial comes on, followed by Elliot walking down the street where he grew up. First his house is there, and then it’s gone, replaced by a sign that reads “Error 404.”
Elliot hallucinates Wellick in Elliot’s apartment, and then Qwerty, Elliot’s fish, starts talking to him. Next he dreams about eating dinner with Angela but they’re seated at cubicles like those at their work. Angela is eating a black fish— Qwerty—on a bed of colorful aquarium gravel. He also sees his mother feeding him as a child. Elliot is served raspberry pie and it also contains the key. Angela thinks he’s proposing and she says “I do” and the restaurant applauds. Then he’s at fsociety in a nice suit and Angela’s in a wedding dress and she asks him if he’s really going to change the world. She says he’s afraid of “his monster” and gives him the key. Next, he’s in the room where they film the fsociety videos and puts on the mask. He wakes in the hotel room—it was all a hallucination.
Notes: In the hotel room, Romero and Mobley are watching a scene from the infamous 1995 movie Hackers starring Angelina Jolie. And Romero says he bets that somewhere there’s a “writer working hard on a TV show that’ll mess up this generation’s idea of hacker culture.” Could he be talking about…Mr. Robot, the TV Show? In the dream, Elliot says “hello friend” to the girl on the scooter—this was the title of the pilot episode. The girl and he both sing “Frere Jacques,” a nursery rhyme about a man who has “overslept and urged to wake up.”
Characters: Qwerty the fish is voiced by Keith David, who also appeared in the film Requiem for a Dream. According to IMDB, the 2000 film revolves around the “drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.”
Quotes: Qwerty (the fish): “When you live in a fishbowl, ain't no such thing as change. My entire life's been spent in this thing, my whole world's on your side table. I look around. Same shit, different day. The lighting, the furniture, even the sounds. Always the same. I'm on a loop. And it won't stop unless my life does. I'm exhausted with this world.” Elliot: “Daemons. They don't stop working. They are always active. They seduce. They manipulate. They own us. And even though you're with me, even though i created you, it makes no difference. We all must deal with them alone. The best we can hope for...the only silver lining in all of this...is that when we break through, we find a few familiar faces waiting on the other side.”
Back at fsociety, Trenton and Darlene head out to see her Dark Army contact. They wait and he finally makes contact—there’s a big limo waiting for them. Inside, two men in masks make the women turn over their phones, then drive them to her contact—it’s Cisco, the guy that’s blackmailing Ollie and Angela. He’s also the guy Darlene was dating and broke up with after he proposed to her. He agrees to talk to the Dark Army and move up the timetable.
Filming Location: According to Untapped Cities, the Dark Army scenes were filmed at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, a former performance space, game room and market that recently closed.
Angela gets the hack CD from Ollie’s briefcase and visits Elliot, but he’s not around. Shayla tells her he’s out and invites Angela to walk with the dog with her. Shayla gives Angela some of her Ecstasy. Later, they are in the bathroom at a club and a stoned Angela realizes she’s missed several calls from Ollie—and that she has to be at work in four hours. They talk about Angela’s propensity for worrying too much—and then they kiss.
Quotes: Angela: “You're not worried?” Shayla: “Worried about what?” Angela: “I don't know. I always get worried before starting a new job.” Shayla: “No. I am definitely not worried. Worry's a waste of time. I mean, shit didn't work out at one job, so I got another. That's all! You worry a lot, don't you?” Angela: “Yeah.”
Angela arrives at work and uses Ollie’s key card to get in. She goes to his computer and uses it to upload the virus, barely avoiding another AllSafe employee arriving early. Elliot speaks directly to the audience, saying he missed us. He asks “did you leave, or did I?” The members of fsociety climb into their stolen van and get back on the road, heading to Steel Mountain.
Notes: In the final of the episode, the road and mountain in the background form a triangle with a white line going up the middle. This is a callback to the first scene of the episode, where Elliot’s last line of morphine is shown on his glass table, stretching out in an identical triangle shape.
This episode is insanity, bottled and captured and put on display. The illusions Elliot suffers through as part of his withdrawal illuminate aspects of his personality, but the through-line of the dreams is Mr. Robot and a key that keeps appearing and reappearing. The fever dreams are frenetic in nature and drop hints about other aspect of Elliot’s life that we haven’t seen yet, including his boyhood home and the street where he grew up. And, interestingly, he’s imagining getting married to Angela, but Shayla’s the one in this episode actually kissing Angela. Better step up, Elliot, if you’re ever going to make that dream a reality.
I enjoyed Shayla and Angela’s day out—it felt like a nice, tension-free aside from the main story. I’d love to see a whole episode with these two, just wandering around, walking the dog and talking about Elliot. Maybe they could run into Darlene and all go out and get their nails done together at some nail place.
When he wakes to find himself alone in the hotel room, Elliot experiences real fear—until Mr. Robot appears and reassures him that everything is fine.
The title comes from the word “daemon,” an old world spelling of the word “demon.”
NOTE: All sites accessed on August 31, 2016.
Mr. Robot Wikia. http://mrrobot.wikia.com/wiki/Mr._Robot_Wikia
Untapped Cities, NYC Film Locations for USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.” http://untappedcities.com/2015/07/29/10-nyc-film-locations-for-usa-networks-mr-robot/
Wikipedia, several pages. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page