Three weeks after the attack on E Corp, the dust has begun to settle, and now it’s time to assess the damage. Elliot Alderson has helped orchestrate the largest ever terror attack on US soil. This week’s episode examines how he’s coping with his guilt over his role in the death of thousands. In a word: poorly. After three high-octane episodes, this one slows things down to tell an intensely personal story about Elliot’s decision to kill himself, and then his choice to live.
Elliot interfaces with the world in the language of technology. He invariably uses computers and hacking as metaphors to explain events, themes, and the workings of his own mind to the audience. The keyword this episode: deletion. After the deaths of Trenton and Mobley, Elliot deletes all of his files on them, burning them onto discs to add to his collection. Then he “wipes down,” destroying all record of his activities. This ritual has always allowed Elliot to detach himself from the people he’s hurt, as well as those he’s lost. In this case, it’s both. As far as Elliot is concerned, the blood of thousands, including his friends, is on his hands. But no wipe down will free him of that guilt, nor erase the consequences of his mistakes.
Elliot admits to Darlene that the only reason Mr. Robot exists at all is because some part of him wanted all of this to happen – enjoyed it, even. His only option, he decides, is to “delete” himself, ridding the world of Mr. Robot once and for all. There’s a certain symmetry to that – the episode’s opening may very well have showed us the creation of Elliot’s alternate personality, with a young Elliot stealing his dying father’s “Mr. Robot” jacket and talking to an invisible friend. In the present, Elliot throws away that jacket, planning to delete Mr. Robot by ending his own life.
Looking to resolve unfinished business before his death, Elliot visits Trenton and Mobley’s families to take responsibility for his failures, and to tell them that their loved ones are innocent. Mobley’s brother wants nothing to do with him, believing his brother to be a terrorist. Trenton’s father is more receptive, thanking Elliot for his kind words. With his final task complete, Elliot heads to Coney Island, where fsociety began. Sitting on the beach, he’s about to take a lethal dose of morphine when he’s interrupted by Trenton’s brother Mohammed, who followed him there.
After repeated pestering, Elliot puts his suicide on hold to take the boy home, where he finds his parents’ missing. Mohammed badgers him into taking him to the movies, where Elliot mixes M&Ms into Mohammed’s popcorn, just like we saw his father do for him. In a small way this suggests forgiveness for his father, as well as Elliot re-embracing some of the joy and optimism he’d lost in his youth.
They discover that today’s nothing less than Back to the Future Day: October 21, 2015, the day that Marty McFly travels to from the ’80s in Back to the Future Part II. Waiting on line, two cosplaying fans correct Elliot’s explanation of the movie. One man describes the intricacies of how time travel works in the film. A woman corrects him, telling him it’s about “how one mistake can change the world.”
Obviously this applies to Elliot, as his mistake has changed everything. But the discussion is also another in a series of hints that suggest some form of time travel is a part of Whiterose’s ultimate goal. This serves as foreshadowing, as well as a meta-message to the audience. As the woman says, “it’s much simpler than that.” It’s almost as if she’s telling us that we’re focusing on the wrong things by cooking up time time travel theories and trying to figure out the next big reveal. It’s not the intricacies of the narrative that are important, but rather the underlying themes of the work. This particular episode’s emphasis on Elliot’s personal journey, as opposed to the overarching story, underlines this point.
During the movie, Mohammed disappears. While looking for him, Elliot encounters an Orthodox Jewish man driving an ice cream truck. The juxtaposition of religion and frivolity seems absurd, especially after we learn he’s also listening to the radio drama version of War of the Worlds. Yet the man proves wise. The story’s message, he says, is not one of doom, but rather of human perseverance – a poignant observation considering the recent terror attacks. He helps Elliot find Mohammed at a mosque, where they talk about his sister. Then they head back to Mohammed’s home, where Elliot finally realizes that he wants to live.
Elliot’s whole trip with Mohammed feels surreal. He leads Elliot to the exact places he needs to be to decide he’s not ready to die. Though the episode leaves it up to the interpretation of the viewer, to me it seems clear that Mohammed was a figment of Elliot’s imagination. Not a Tyler Durden-style alternate personality like Mr. Robot, but rather a hallucination conjured up by the part of him that wants to live. His inner child, perhaps – the part of him that still sees hope for the world and for his own future.
There’s plenty of evidence to support the idea. First of all, Mohammed appears seemingly out of nowhere, just as Elliot is about to kill himself. He disappears just as quickly in the theater. We never see him talk to anyone but Elliot, and he always seems to know the right thing to say to make Elliot reconsider his perspective. All of the personal information he shares, especially the fact that his sister took the name Trenton after his birthplace, could have been in Elliot’s files. And If this were really Trenton’s brother, would his overprotective parents, who just lost a daughter, leave him alone and travel hours away? He and Elliot end up in a house of worship just as Elliot needs to rediscover his faith. Elliot has been thinking about Back to the Future Day for years, and now a strange boy happens to lead him there. It all lines up a bit too perfectly.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if he was real or imaginary. Just as the woman explained about Back to the Future, it’s not the details of the plot that are important, but rather the message they convey. Whether Mohammed was real or not, it doesn’t change what Elliot took away from the experience. To him, Mohammed represented the happiness and the hope he’d long since abandoned. Rediscovering that part of himself, he begins to cry as he finally sees that he might have something to live for. At the beginning of the episode, Elliot promised Darlene they’d watch a movie the next day, fully intending to be dead before then. Now, Elliot’s promise to take Mohammed to the movies is one he intends to be alive to keep. The lollipop Mohammed gives him is a small joy. It’s the first thing he can appreciate as part of his new lease on life.
From there, he goes on to reclaim and reaffirm the best parts of himself. He returns to Mobley’s brother, demanding that he have a funeral for his friend, and using hacked information as leverage. This is Elliot at his best, hacking for justice. He leaves the morphine he was going to use to kill himself behind, no longer having any use for it.
Then, in one of the series’ most beautiful scenes (played out like the end of an ’80s movie), he goes to see Angela. Elliot’s forgiven her, just as he’s forgiven himself. He talks to her through the closed door, knowing she can hear him on the other side despite her silence. Elliot recounts a game from their youth, when they would make wishes about their future. He finally gets her to speak, reminding her of the mantra they’d always repeat: “No matter what happens, we’ll be ok.”
It seems like Elliot really believes that now, and fate seems to agree, as the jacket he’d thrown away reappears in a pile of trash dumped on the curb. “That’s the thing about deletion, ” Elliot says. “It’s not always permanent.” His decision not to delete himself is rewarded as he opens his email to see the file Trenton had arranged to send upon her death. “Don’t delete me” is its subject – the title of the episode. It says that there may be a way to undo the hack. Last episode, all seemed lost. But now Elliot sees there’s hope: “Maybe there are still things left for me to do.”
In one of Mr. Robot's most powerful and emotional episodes, Elliot journeys from his lowest point to a place of hope for the future. After the major action of previous episodes, this intimate story narrows the series' focus onto Elliot once again, to show us how events have truly affected our protagonist. This episode carries an important message: things can and will get better.