“We never know self-realization. We are two abysses—a well staring at the sky.”—Fernando Pessoa, The Book Of Disquiet
If you made a list of standard cinematic tropes in order to predict which ones Mr. Robot would be most likely to do a gloss on, “Person running through the airport to catch their romantic interest before they board the plane” probably wouldn’t even make the top 100. And yet here we are, only a couple of episodes left, and the climactic sequence of “Gone” features Dom racing back to the gate where she left Darlene waiting to board a flight to Budapest. Hell, there’s even a stirring emotional pop song swelling over the soundtrack (Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me”), shots of Dom’s legs furiously pumping to get there in time, and the extended pause at the boarding counter, Darlene prolonging the drama with her last-second decision. It’s all very Love, Actually.
And then Darlene runs to the bathroom for a panic attack, Dom just misses seeing her leaving, and the two end up with their roles reversed: Darlene doesn’t get on the plane, and Dom does—not only does she board and stay on without Darlene, but she falls sound asleep. The end. This is the rom-com that failed, because it may have done something much more important: Force these star-crossed lovers to confront their own biggest fears, then send them out into the world to overcome them.
As it’s done multiple times this season, Mr. Robot once more turns its attention to the fundamental need for human connection. But unlike most of those prior outings, here the message is more ambiguous, and less about the “people who need people are the luckiest people on earth” theme Sam Esmail has been running down so elegantly. Instead, “Gone” ends up being about how others can sometimes push us into dealing with our own weaknesses in ways we aren’t prepared to admit, and it does so using the conventions of a rom-com road trip.
Recovering from life-saving surgery, Dominique DiPierro stubbornly checks herself out of the hospital and heads back to her apartment, her overwhelming need for forgiveness from her family essentially putting her into a position where she’s patiently waiting to be killed by the Dark Army. So Darlene comes along and does what Darlene does: push her until she breaks, agreeing to flee the country rather than wait around to die. As the two make their way to the airport in Boston (driven by Leon, fulfilling his offer to help out Elliot whenever needed), they argue, they kiss, they redistribute the entirety of the Deus Group’s ill-gotten gains to the entire population. And once Dom’s chance encounter with Irving seems to confirm they no longer have to fear for their lives (“They don’t care about you two no more,” he assures her—they’re focused on something “more important”), each presses the other to confront their biggest problem.
For Dom, the problem is obvious: For the past five years, she hasn’t had a life, she’s had a job. She’s barely slept, meaningful interactions with people have been fleeting at best, and underneath it all is a loneliness so desperate, she’s formed more of a bond with her Alexa program than she has with the world outside. Darlene is the Molotov cocktail that explodes the walls Dom’s built up around her loneliness and isolation. Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances that led to their entanglement—and the brutal guilt trip Dom laid on Darlene last season, blaming her for everything that happened, from the threats to her family to the blackmail by the Dark Army—something about the damaged hacker’s pleadings get through to the emotionally walled-off woman. Dom realizes that Darlene is right: She needs to give herself a break, to let go of all the endless pressure and sense of responsibility that has crippled her and left Dom unable to move on with her life. Hence that sound sleep on the airplane: Dom didn’t need Darlene in that moment, she needed to let go.
For Darlene, the issue may seem more antic and unpredictable, but it’s no less fundamental. “I can’t handle shit solo,” she confesses to the woman she’s trying to convince to come to Budapest. “I’m no good on my own. I’ve tried.” She’s not lying. We’ve seen the results of Darlene’s failed efforts to be on her own. But the reason isn’t just because Darlene needs someone else around to latch on to; It’s because she uses other people as a way of not living with herself. Saddled by guilt, regret, and a lifetime of worrying about others in lieu of herself (she acknowledged as much to Tobias, the drunken Santa, earlier this season), Darlene has never learned how to care for her own person. She displaces her own identity, focusing instead on whoever is most available in her orbit—be it Cisco, Elliot, or now Dom. The very idea of being left alone with nothing but her own thoughts, her own needs, sends her into a panic attack.
But just as she provoked something strong in Dom, Dom pushed Darlene in equally provocative manner. Staring at her image in the airport mirror, Darlene finally sees herself: A complete being, capable of managing her life and staring it down without relying on another person to take center stage. Running away to Budapest can break Dom free, but it would just keep Darlene locked in stasis. She needs to embrace the fact that everything she needs is looking back at her in the mirror.
The rest of the world is slowly returning to everyday life after the holidays, a nice reminder that, despite the world-altering actions our protagonists took in the last couple of days, for most people, routines aren’t changed just because those at the top have been brought low. Only, in this rare case, it has changed—they just didn’t really know it until Darlene executed that program via her phone. Suddenly, the “greatest redistribution of wealth in history” goes through, and everyone has a massive amount of money placed in their private accounts, safe from the prying fingers of the government. (It’s actually one of the more plausible elements of the entire narrative: Studies have shown how difficult a time most people have comprehending just how much money a billion dollars really is, especially compared to the pittance most of us live on day to day and year to year. If you took out the real-world equivalent of every member of the Deus Group—the wealthiest men in human history—and liquidated their holdings, the amount of money available to divvy up evenly between the entire population would be staggering.)
The conversation between Dom and Darlene on the rest stop bench illuminates the intent that always drove Fsociety from the beginning: Do something to help the struggling many, by hurting the few who caused the unequal and inhumane stratification in the first place. Until Darlene explains it, Dom is still thinking too small, in terms of the law as the demarcation between right and wrong. But these men wrote the laws; they set up the system to be unfair in the first place, to reward the already wealthy and punish the majority by extracting all they can. “We just Robin Hood’ed those evil motherfuckers!” Darlene crows, finally not needing to worry who might hear. As these complicated and uncertain women face an equally uncertain future, they can take comfort in that moment: A pure victory, the results of all their sacrifice finally paying off—not just for them, but for everyone else, too.
- Even when he’s being his most genial, mild-mannered self, reassuring Dom that the Dark Army isn’t a threat, Irving still exudes maximum unsettling creepiness, particularly when Dom reminds him that he chopped up her former boss with an axe. “Oh, right…that was fun.”
- Also, Irving’s final title for his book is Beach Towel? That is a bad title, Irving!
- Leon does his small part to help Dom realize that everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, is pretending to be someone they’re not. “You think Leon’s my real name?”
- Speaking of which, I’m not entirely certain I believe Leon when he says he’s generally not a fan of ‘70s conspiracy thrillers. They seem very much up his alley, not just Three Days Of The Condor—though I get why Max Von Sydow’s amoral assassin Joubert would appeal to him.
- Yes, that is Gretchen Carlson with a cameo as the news anchor.
- Connecticut has a massive Dark Army presence, thanks to its being populated with so many RWAs: “rich white assholes.”
- Mr. Robot music cue: Leon is jamming out to Hall & Oates’ “Wait For Me” in the car.
- If you’re curious, Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional alter-ego Kilgore Trout would describe mirrors as leaks between two universes, so the expression “I’m going to take a leak” meant “I’m going to steal a mirror.” There’s a whole teleology behind it about how ideas, good or bad, eventually permeate society, but we don’t need to get into that to appreciate Leon’s reference.
- Elliot stayed behind to finish his promise to Phillip Price: Deal with Whiterose’s machine, still stuck in Washington Township. Guessing we’ll get into that next week.
- Elliot’s road trip snack recommendation: Sour Patch Kids.