* I originally wrote this column for Fan Fest News but kind of fell in love with it. Not going to lie, I think it might be one of the best television show reviews I’ve ever written. How could I not share that with my Geeklings? Becareful as there are massive Mr. Robot spoilers in this one. Tread lightly but also let me know what you think? Like I said, I’m proud of this one.*
All season long we’ve spent time here discussing what makes great television. Is it the acting? The characters? The story telling? The directing/cinematography? A perfect storm of things that leave you breathless once the show concludes? I think the answer is all the above. With so many shows at our disposal it’s easy to find the great ones because they rise above the others. For me, one of the clear indications that I’m watching great television is whether or not I’m talking to my screen as the show progresses. If I’m muttering swears or talking to characters then the fact of the matter is they got me. The show creators have me so heavily invested that the fact that the show is great is secondary because all that matters is the story and those characters. A recent example of this would be the Game of Thrones episode “Hardhome”. By now you know that last half hour is crazy town banana pants and some of the shows finest work. Not a debate just a fact. During that battle with the White Walkers I found myself yelling at Jon Snow as he got knocked down by one of the Others. “Get up Jon! Jon, get up!” I have no shame in admitting this. I live alone with my cat and pass it off that he was included in the “conversation”. I have no shame in admitting that I’ve read the books and know what happens to Jon Snow yet I still couldn’t help myself from speaking out. The emotions were running to high and if I didn’t say anything I might have exploded. Great television does this. It makes us act like crazy people, and for outsiders, that can seem a bit weird, but to us who are invested… it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Last nights Mr. Robot finale was the punctuation on the masterful story telling of this show and this season. I’m not going to get into what other people thought of this season as I’ve made those opinions know throughout my reviews. Season two of Mr. Robot was an excellent season and leaps and bounds above a large number of shows that are currently polluting your eyeholes. What was so tremendous about last nights finale was how we all seemed to expect something huge to happen. Something momentous that would change the board much like a magnet on a hard drive. And this isn’t saying there wasn’t some major momentous events but they were presented in such subtle and casual manners that it allowed you to really soak in the gravity of what was happening. In no way were these moments meant to be taken lightly but the nature of their occurrences had you wondering if they really happened at all. Which, when you think about it, is saying something considering Mr. Robot is a show about distorted reality. A show about broken characters trying to find their purpose or to feel special (if even for a minute) or feel normal or just find a way to exist at all. The show massively tackles extensional themes as well as identity issues making us question our own placement in the world. What kind of fragile bubble universe have we created for ourselves? Yet, why wouldn’t we pose these questions to these characters or ourselves? The narrator of this show has made us active participants, whether we went along willingly or not is a debate for another day, but we are as much a part of Elliot’s world as Angela or Darlene. That’s a special relationship to have with a show.
That’s one of the special things about Mr. Robot, it’s ability to blur that line between what is real and what is fiction. If any of you are like me then you’ve scoured over the internet during the season looking up theories and picking up on the little things you might have missed. Those strategically placed objects or nuances in the background that add a layer of depth to a show that already is overflowing with it. During your theory hunt you probably came across the popular time travel theory or how Tyrell is just another extension of Elliot’s broken subconsciousness or how Dom grew up with Elliot and Darlene. That’s another part of great television, the theories. Being able to discuss a show either with friends or faceless amigos on the interwebs. Great television sparks great conversation thus making it a continuous gift that exists long after the credits have rolled. Even with all those theories and endless possibilities this season finale just proved what we’ve always known about this show. A group of broken people, who need different types of validation, are trying to change the world in various different ways. It’s as realistic and simple as that. As for now there will be no time travel but there will be plenty of time spent on figuring out the plot or the next direction. Stage Three if you will?
Do you have the time?
One of the main questions going into last nights finale was what is Stage Two. We spent eleven episodes alluding to it and now it was time to figure out what exactly it was. I have to say I thought the plan itself was genius. Getting Evil Corp to file all of their paper records, which they need ever so badly since the 5/9 hack, in one location is a tremendous idea. Now mix that in with a bunch of faulty batteries, some sort of back door hack to overwhelm these faulty batteries, and boom. All those files are gone. The 5/9 hack becomes a massive success wiping the entire slate clean, forever. On paper it’s a tremendous idea. In reality though there are real consequences and those were the types of things Elliot couldn’t deal with.
The role reversal between Elliot and Tyrell was super interesting and slightly terrifying. It became abundantly clear that Tyrell worshiped Elliot. Not just as the mastermind behind the 5/9 hack but as a god. This is something that we’ve come to expect from Tyrell who seems to want to be a god himself (he did express that thought near the end even if he was sharing his godom with Elliot) but can’t exist without worshiping others. Think about it. Tyrell originally took commands from his wife or goddess before Elliot. He’s worshiped at the alter of E Corp. When it comes to worship it seems that Tyrell is a bit of a groupie and goes where the action is hottest. Elliot doesn’t need that though. In fact it’s Mr. Robot that wants this god like status, to bring the world down to it’s knees. Elliot’s immediate concern is how the explosion will kill so many innocent people. Some could actually argue that very action is god like (not Old Testament God though, that dude was angry) but Elliot doesn’t see it that way. He views himself as a person stuck in a situation where he can make the right choice. Where he can establish his own sense of reality by preventing the execution of the plan devised by his alter ego. The devil, if you will?
And where does this get Elliot? Shot and bleeding out on the floor. Mr. Robot, our crafty little devil, put a plan in motion to prevent Elliot from coming between Tyrell and Stage Two. That plan was a gun and a bullet in Elliot’s belly despite how much it pained Tyrell. I mean, how often are you forced to shoot the ideal of your affection? A conflicting moment no doubt but no more conflicting then Elliot thinking that everything in that room was just another projection of his mind. I love the juxtaposition of the Tyrell with the gun and how Elliot immediately reflected back to his time at “his mother’s” and instantly knew the gun wasn’t “real”. But it is real and it’s that gunshot that helps ground him in reality for maybe the first time since the series started. In that moment Elliot is finally sure. Tyrell is real. Mr. Robot has been pulling the strings all along. There is nothing to stop Stage Two from happening. And it’s all his fault because he couldn’t grasp the concept of reality in time to prevent it. Mr. Robot calling him “kiddo” as he glitches out rings bittersweet as we know Elliot doesn’t want Mr. Robot he wants a father. Someone to actually guide him not manipulate him. Then it fades to black.
The ending of the show gives a pretty clear indication that Elliot survived the bullet to his belly. The phone call between Angela, who now has some pretty big Dark Army role it seems, helps bridge that gap. No more cliffhangers here. Tyrell, clearly distressed by his actions, tells Angela that Elliot is waking up and she quickly gets ready to rush out of her apartment so her face can be the first he sees. A gesture to help ease him into this new world. Tyrell professes his love for Elliot and Angela hers. Going into season three Elliot is already put in a position where he can’t be himself, where other characters are still pulling on his strings looking for Mr. Robot but finding this alienated, lost human being who has no idea what reality is. Can Angela be the one to help usher him into this new stage? Maybe. But I think next season we’re going to get a different Elliot, one who knows what reality feels like and will do anything to get that back for himself. Will the Dark Army allow him to do that is yet to be seen.
Elsewhere, we learned that Darlene did indeed survive the shoot out and is being questioned by Dom. These were some of my favorite scenes of the entire episode as watching Darlene try so hard to keep that “I don’t give a shit” attitude while Dom remained steadfast and calm. Darlene’s arch this season was up and down. It was clear that the leadership role was too much for her to take on and she lost site of herself. Darlene is perfectly happy being a foot solider because it allows her to maintain her identity. Like most of these characters, Darlene just wants to feel special. Not in the Pretty Pretty Princess way but in the way that she feels validated for existing. That’s why her kidnapping story is so heart wrenching because she was taken from a family where she was only there, and taken by a woman that was willing to make her feel like the center of the universe. While that moment was brief it was enough to open Darlene’s eyes to the fact that it would never be in the cards for her to feel that way. Through that tough exterior is a woman who just wants to feel valued.
Dom had the best way to show Darlene just how important she is by taking her to the war room where the FBI had a map of everything concerning the 5/9 hack, and this Geeklings is the moment where I talked to my screen. Watching as the map unfolded a quiet “holy shit” escaped my mouth as it became clear that the FBI has been on to F Society this entire time. The. Entire. Time. They’ve just been waiting for the moment to strike because they knew they’d only get one opportunity and couldn’t risk not getting Tyrell. This map had everything from Darlene to Angela to Shayla (remember her? Elliot’s dead drug dealing girlfriend from season one?) to Elliot himself. Which is huge in a number of different ways. For starters it’s our first indication that Elliot is even on the FBI radar, which in itself is alarming, but it also goes to show just how awesome Dom is. She’s been ahead of them all this entire season and there was nothing that F Society could do to prevent that.
These self proclaimed genius hackers do the unthinkable, and change the world, but it seems that they’re discovered in a matter of minutes. That their well orchestrated plan left a number of bread crumbs that over 6,000 FBI agents were able to follow directly back to them. All of them. That’s a crushing reality. Where does Darlene go from here? Most likely to prison but knowing Dom, a fellow Jersey girl herself, there’s going to be a deal dangled. There is no way that Darlene doesn’t know she’s dead to rights. The bigger question becomes will she betray the rest of F Society and, more importantly, Elliot? Or, will Whiterose interject?
Speaking of the rest of F Society, how about that end credit scene. It’s looks like Mobley and Trenton (#stillshipping) were able to coyote themselves into new lives on the west coast as techs at a Best Buy like store. They have new identities and new lives, but Trenton can’t seem to give up on their old one. She believes that she’s found a way to change everything back to the way it was before 5/9. A reversal of the hack itself I would imagine. As she pleads with Mobley to look at it someone approaches them off camera. A certain Seinfeld loving someone. As Leon stands in front of them, fresh out of prison, he has just one question. Do you have the time?
Does this mean Trenton and Mobley are dead? I don’t know. The lack of explanation on Trenton’s idea is important and will lead to people jumping back into the time travel theory (I say have at it guys cause I’m interested in it), but also leads me to believe they won’t be killed. I think that plan is Elliot’s key to redemption. Reversing what he did will not only ease his conscience but maybe put Mr. Robot to bed as well as make him the hero of this story. Who doesn’t love a good redemption arc?
Some other quick things before I let you guys go:
- When Angela hung up the phone did you guys notice that all those brown outs finally caught up with the city as the lights went completely out. Is it because of the brown outs or could it have been caused by an explosion off camera? I don’t know but it does feed the theory that Stage Two was committed after all.
- The use of music this episode was fantastic. From the opener to Darlene’s slow motion walk to the war room (“The Moth & Flame” by Les Duex Orchestra). All season long this show picks the most perfect tunes. Worthy of slapping together a playlist if you ask me.
- I loved that meta moment in the interrogation room where Dom’s partner tells Darlene she’s not a character on a television show. This is not Burn Notice. All this helps to drive home the reality of this universe. I love meta moments like that.
- Seeing Elliot act as Mr. Robot was incredible and just underlines how gifted Rami Malek is. That Emmy win is so justified. Plus you get that fun little easter egg learning that Elliot’s notebook, “Red Wheelbarrow”, get it’s name from a poem Tyrell’s father would recite in English.
- Everything with Tyrell’s wife was super disturbing and upsetting, but she now has her loophole to get Tyrell back in her life. Using her play toy to change his story will put a certain murder on Scott Knowles, the one whose been sending her gifts and phone calls all season.
There you have it Geeklings. Thus concludes my final review for this second season of Mr. Robot and I’m already itching for season three so I can get back into this rabbit hole with you guys. I have to admit, since joining Fan Fest I’ve reviewed a number of different shows, but working on Mr. Robot has been hands down my favorite experience. Thank you guys for hanging with me this season and I hope you enjoyed these columns as much as I enjoyed writing them. In the meantime keep an eye out for Elliot’s notebook, being published in November, which will give an even deeper insight to the mind of our favorite hacker. I’m just curious to what reading it will do to us. I’m willing to brave it for another taste of this universe.
Thanks guys, I’ll be back reviewing Luke Cage and The Walking Dead at the end of the month and October respectively. Until then…
Images from USA