Mr. Robot ‘Ones and Zeroes’ Review: The Illusion of Choice


When a series starts off with a superb pilot that sets expectations incredibly high, there’s always the fear that it’s not going to be able to keep it up for the rest of the season. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Mr. Robot. Keeping the same pacing, ‘Ones and Zeroes’ invites us to discover more about Elliot, his family, his morality and his definition of freedom.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

We pick up where we left off: in a wide room with men in black sitting down a round table. Tyrell Wellick, the man who is doing the speaking, has been chosen as CTO of ECorp, and he offers Elliot a higher (and corrupt) position for a lot of money. He gives a speech in which he talks about power and says that “power belongs to the people who take it”. In a brilliantly shot scene that reflects our main character’s nervousness perfectly, Elliot declines.

On his way home, Elliot bumps into Shayla, who is beeing harassed by a creeper. He asks her for more morphine and she gives it to him only under the condition that he won’t take too much (a promise he won’t keep). When elliot gets home, he hacks Wellick to investigate him but but something feels wrong: it’s too easy to hack him. He suspects that he already knew and he starts freaking out and destroys all the evidence.

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During work, Gideon tells him that Fsociety has sent a video threatened to delete everything they have in their motherload if they don’t free Colby. I guess I’m not the only one who got Anonymous vibes with that video. Elliot is visibly confused and decides to cut ties with Fsociety but as soon as he gets home he finds Darlene, one of the girls from Fsociety, in his shower. She takes him back to the Fsociety lair. It’s important to note that Elliot keeps seeing these men in black following him in several places. While being in the subway, Elliot wonders whether Darlene sees them too.

Once in the lair, Mr Robot tells him the next plan, which includes blowing up a gas pipeline and killing people. “This is war. People will die”, he says as he proceeds to he explain life in a binary way to convince him to kill. Doing something makes you a 1. Doing nothing makes you a 0. He says that his father was a 0 and died for not having done anything about the situation. That doesn’t convince Elliot, who leaves the place as he’s told by Darlene that they can do it with or without him but that he’s still a part of it.

This makes Elliot ponders on whether he should turn them in or not, considering that he is now a part of it. He goes to Shayla (presumably to pick up his dog) and finds the creeper from before inside. He convinces Elliot that Shayla, who he claims is in the bathtub, is fine, despite our fears. After he gives a self-hatred speech and states that Shayla is the love of his life, he leaves, which allows Elliot to enter the bathroom and check on Shayla, who has drugged and passed out in the bath. And yes, raped while unconscious. Elliot faces here an important decision. He has to pick between being a 1 or a 0. He had already hacked the guy and confirmed that he is a horrible person. On the other hand, he is Sheila’s supplier so if he turns him in, he loses the drugs. He ends up picking her over drugs, allowing us to find out more about Elliot’s morals.

While at therapy, we can clearly see how all these recent events have been affecting Elliot and making him more chaotic than usual. Krista is visibly concerned and demands to know what is really going on because she can see him getting worse.

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How do we know if we’re in control? That we’re not just making the best of what comes at us and that’s it? And trying to constantly pick between two options like your two paintings in the waiting room. Or Coke and Pepsi. Mc Donalds or Burger King. Hyundai or Honda.

Another character that is currently worrying about Elliot is Angela. While Angela and Krista took the female spotlight during the Pilot, ‘Ones and Zeroes’ was more about Shayla and Darlene. Angela should also be worrying about herself, thought. For one, her boyfriend is cheating on her. And if that wasn’t enough, they have hacked their laptop’s webcam and can now see her naked. This reminds me of Rami Malek’s important advice on putting tape on your webcam. And I’m willing to bet anything on the fact that the CD they bought from the street is the cause of the hacking and the person currently spying on Angela is the street rapper.

The episode ends with Elliot meeting up with Mr. Robot and telling him that he has that doesn’t involve killing anyone. However, Mr. Robot says that he’s no longer a part of the operation and asks for details on his father’s death instead. After Elliot’s touching explanation and the strange fact that Mr. Robot caressed his back (Elliot doesn’t like being touched), Mr. Robot pushes him off the railing.

Besides the heavy freedom/binary system theme that flooded this episode, ‘Ones and Zeroes’ also made it clear that, as lonely as he can feel sometimes, Elliot works better as an individual. To be honest, I don’t think that we are going to see him actually being friendly with someone from Fsociety and/or having a team that he can truly rely on a hundred percent. One of the biggest charms of this series is the fact that Elliot talks to us because we are the only ones that he can trust. If he started bonding and trusting other people, he wouldn’t have much reasons to keep talking to us. In conclusion, Mr. Robot is much more about Elliot than about FSociety as a whole.


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24-year-old TV journalist. I especialize in fangirling over TV shows and anime. Currently fighting for fan studies to be recognized as a valid academic field.

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August 20, 2015 4:31 pm

[…] it might trigger some bad memories from his mother. We go back to that conversation in ‘Ones and Zeroes‘ about his father pushing himself off a window. Apparently, at the time, Elliot felt guilty […]