Mr. Robot: eps1.9_zer0-day.avi

“You’re losing it, kiddo. I’m only supposed to be your prophet. You’re supposed to be my god.”

Like most season finales, “Zer0-Day” provides us with set-up for the next season and leaves us with plenty of questions until that comes to pass. Not a whole lot actually happened in this episode, yet it was still as compelling and fascinating as the rest of the show so far.

Elliot wakes up in Tyrell’s car a couple of days after the two walked into fsociety’s arcade headquarters. He finds that not only is Tyrell missing, but that the world is in an early meltdown stage since the two apparently initiated the hack to wipe away all the debt, bringing fsociety’s plans to fruition.

Of course, Elliot doesn’t remember any of this, and is aware that his Mr. Robot alter ego is responsible for his newfound disorientation. He spends most of the episode trying to find either Tyrell or his own split personality, all while the world slowly burns.

Thanks to Elliot/Mr. Robot, fsociety has finally won. Though, whether that means they have set the world free or paved the way for its utter ruin remains to be seen; there was plenty in this episode that suggested the latter was the case.

Tyrell couldn’t have been fired at a better time it seems. The people at Evil Corp are truly losing their minds over this turn of events. Angela discovers this firsthand when the man she’s aiding, Mr. Plouffe, blows his brains out right before her eyes during a live TV interview. Perhaps one of the most haunting suicide scenes I’ve watched, very Full Metal Jacket; more on this scene further below.

Angela’s future at Evil Corp really interests me. At first I thought she picked the worst time to take a job there, but now I’m thinking that maybe she could be in a prime position to get revenge on them now that they’re in a state of disarray. Then again, maybe she will become the monster she was fighting; remember, one of her first scenes has her inadvertently helping a mugger escape with someone’s wallet.

While this new, indefinite financial crisis definitely strikes a mighty blow against Evil Corp, there’s no telling how the rest of society will deal with this. People these days are always excited to get in on the next movement or revolution, but that fervor eventually wears off. Darlene seems to have bought into the victory as much as fsociety’s new legion of followers. Her partners-in-crime are less optimistic, least of all her own brother.

When Mr. Robot finally does reappear to Elliot, he doesn’t answer any questions, like where Tyrell is or if Elliot/Mr. Robot killed him. Instead, he goes to great lengths to illustrate to Elliot that he is no longer in control. In his state of depression and psychosis, Elliot was not only making a twisted substitute for his father. He essentially created a big, twisted family reunion, bringing him and Darlene together with his warped mental projections of their father, mother and his childhood self.

Mr. Robot’s frenzied, insanely cynical rant in the middle of Time’s Square is an even more jaded version of Elliot’s imaginary rant to Krista in the first episode. Despite what that massive crowd of newly converted anarchists seems to believe, fsociety does not mean “Free Society”. It means “Fuck Society”.

And that is what Elliot has done, or rather what the monster he built has done. We end the season knowing, as Elliot knows, that he is a slave to his own madness, and that he is destroying the world we know.

There is a cliffhanger with someone pounding on Elliot’s door, with the credits rolling right as he opens it. Naturally we are supposed to wonder who it is visiting Elliot. At first, I thought, it must be Tyrell. For awhile, I considered Angela or Darlene, come to talk to Elliot about their uncertainties. Upon watching the series again, though, I noticed that several episodes have endings which reflect their beginnings. “Zer0 Day” begins with Lenny, the philandering asshole Elliot exposed in the first episode, failing to convince Krista to help him go after Elliot, only to go home and have a pointed reaction to the news about fsociety’s triumph. So now I’m assuming it’s Lenny who has come to confront Elliot. Maybe when the next season begins, we’ll find out if Elliot really is a murderer or not.

There is also an after-credits scene. A one-shot sequence following a man into a remote mansion, where inside appears to be one of those meetings Angela talked about ending a few episodes back, only on a grander scale. Very important men of different nationalities calmly chat in an opulent setting that features chiaroscuro lighting and women playing music on elegant lutes. The man sits down with Evil Corp CEO Phillip Price by the fireplace. Here we find that the air of unshakable confidence that Angela noted in him was only that: putting on airs. Price is as disturbed by the current situation as anyone else, even though he claims to know who is behind it. The man we’re following turns out to be White Rose, the enigmatic leader of The Dark Army, who is truly calm and waxes poetic about Rome burning.

And so ends the first season.

Bits and Pieces:

* Sam Esmail has done an admirable job with Mr. Robot. He wrote and directed this episode masterfully, and I would like to point out why I loved a few scenes specifically.

* I have to talk about the “dead puppy oven” scene first. I was on the fence about fsociety’s plans all along, but it was this part that made me realize these guys are as self-righteous and shortsighted as any other extremists. The fsociety crew (sans Elliot) goes to this animal shelter to burn all the wares they used to bring about the end of the world. After they’re done, the gang releases all of the caged dogs. I get it, they are appalled that strays are being cruelly locked up, put down and not given a chance. They probably believed they were saving those dogs from senseless deaths. In reality, only a few of those dogs will actually find new owners or homes. The rest are more likely to die in pain on the streets. It’s like a cute little metaphor for their cyber-terrorism. Darlene judges the employee who illegally let them in for working at a place where such a thing happens... after her and her friends helped ruin the lives of countless people. I don't think it was a fluke that Jim Carroll’s “The People Who Died” played over this scene.

* The part where Elliot meets Joanna Wellick was amazing. Only a show like this could produce a scene that is so equally beautiful and terrifying. Besides it just being a thrill to see another main character other than Tyrell interact with her, it was Joanna’s best moment yet. In the middle of it, a creepy tune plays that is eerily reminiscent of the “Death” track from the Under the Skin soundtrack; if you’ve seen that movie, you know why that’s bad. At one point the sunlight perfectly brightens her face, making her cold, emotionless eyes shine brilliantly. Puzzling over what she said to Elliot in her own language, the only translation I found was: “If you did something to him, I’ll kill you.” Looks like Elliot (and perhaps even Ollie, whose name Elliot used) might be in Joanna’s crosshairs come next season. Not good.

* Everything about the suicide scene was well-executed. It really put you into the victim’s shoes. We see this guy who’s clearly unstable, trying to keep it together and be professional. Then he has to assure everyone that everything’s going to be okay and that “this can be fixed” while staring into a black hole (the camera lens). When the black hole tells him how unlikely that is, he loses all hope, admits defeat and kills himself. We don’t see anyone’s reaction to this. We only see the black hole staring back, unchanged.

* “Sound & Color” by Alabama Shakes. Like Neil Diamond’s “If You Go Away” in the first episode, this song captures Elliot’s state of mind in the end.

* There are so, SO many questions that need answering. Good thing this show wasn’t cancelled.


Elliot (narrating): So this is what a revolution looks like. People in expensive clothes running around. Not how I pictured it. I wonder what stage they’re at? Denial, muttering to themselves, “No, this can be fixed.” Maybe bargaining, forcing their techs to work overtime to try to decrypt our data. Or have they come to the realization yet that Darlene encrypted everything with 256 bit AES and it would take an incomprehensible amount of time to crack? That all of their data is gone for good?

Mr. Robot: The market’s opening bell this morning will be the final death nail of Evil Corp. We hope that as a new society rises from the ashes, that you will forge a better world. A world that values a free people. A world where greed is not encouraged. A world that belongs to us again. A world changed forever! And while you do that, remember to repeat these words, “We are fsociety! We are finally free! We are finally awake!”
Yes, instead of relying on creepy psychos who wear suits and use money, we now follow the tune of creepy psychos who wear hoodies and use computers. Hooray.

Joanna: What did you say your name was?
Elliot: … Oh, I’m Ollie.
Joanna: And what were you working on with my husband?
Elliot: (narrating) You’ve gotta help me out of this. There’s something about her. I feel like she can hear us.
With this line, Joanna became scarier than Tyrell, Fernando Vera, and the megalomaniacs at Evil Corp altogether.

Darlene: (laughing) You guys are acting like we’re walking towards Doomsday here!
Mobley: Well… it does say here, “End of the World Party.”
Darlene: Figure of speech.

Angela: I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I’ll try the Pradas next.
Damn, girl. I know the shoe salesman was being hypocritical criticizing Angela for serving the people at Evil Corp while he is in the middle of serving a person from Evil Corp, but that was still cold.

Angela: You’re sure that you’re going to get through this. Why?
Price: People did this, right? Aliens didn’t invade our planet. Zeus didn’t come out of the heavens to destroy us. Zombies haven’t risen from the dead. No. Whoever’s behind this, they're just people, like you or me. Except, of course, I have the full weight of the biggest conglomerate in the world behind me. You’ll come to realize that when you have that, matters like this… tend to crack under that weight.

Elliot: I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
Mr. Robot: I’ll tell you exactly what you’re gonna do. You’re going to start listening to us. The world is a better place because of what we did, Elliot, and you’re going to realize that, one way or another. Now here is what I want you to do. You’re going to walk to the subway. You’re going to get on your train. You’re going to get off at your stop. You’re going to go home. You’re going to sit at your computer, watch and enjoy the beautiful carnage that we’ve all created together.

Thank you all for reading. This show is excellent and I’ll definitely be keeping up with it. Four out of four parakeet ladies on trains.


Billie Doux said...

I wasn't completely sure what to make of this episode. It was almost like the previous couple of episodes were the real finale because they gave us answers. This finale gave us more questions. That's okay, I guess. I'm certainly ready to watch the next season.

I had exactly the same reaction you did to them releasing the dogs from their cages. I'm sure it was intended as symbolism for what fsociety just did to the world. Will everyone be free and happy? I doubt it.

Congratulations on completing your reviews of the first season, Logan. This show is so fascinating and complex, and your reviews do it justice. That's saying a lot. I'll be looking forward to what you have to say about season two.

Logan Cox said...

I feel exactly the same way about this episode raising so many questions. I labored on this review for awhile trying to decide what to address until I finally just decided not to focus too much on the questions and sticking with what appeared the clearest to me.

Thank you, Billie. I appreciate your feedback, and I'm glad to be writing for you guys. I too am waiting eagerly for season two. I also look forward to eventually writing reviews for Game of Thrones and other material in the future.

Mallena said...

I watched this show because of Christian Slater. He was so wonderful in "Heathers" and I always felt it was a shame that he never got to be a big star. I liked most of this season because of the appealing cast, intricate plotting and it's exploration of mental illness and social alienation. It's a very dark show and some parts were hard to comprehend, like Tyrell and his wife. Are they both psychos or just pragmatic? Looking forward to the next season. Is it apocalypse now, or not? I was'nt sure if just debt was erased or everyone's savings, also. Thanks for reviewing this, it can't be easy. How about reviewing Syfy's 12 monkeys? That's a good and twisty tale.