by Logan Cox
I really admire Sam Esmail for the competent, patient way in which he presents such wonderfully subversive material. I suppose it's his way of following "the Python approach" described in this episode. I honestly don't know if there is another show currently on that makes use of its time as well as Mr. Robot and actually feels as if it is free to do whatever it wants in its own time. There's never a moment or detail that feels wasted. It's that fine-tuned.
Men Who Play God
Case in point: We open with another alternate version of a scene from last season. The one where Tyrell is trying to broker an alliance between himself and Mr. Robot (before we knew the truth about him), only for the latter to brazenly rebuff him. Here, we see this moment for how it really is and take it a step further. We see Elliot under the control of Mr. Robot; just seeing Elliot talk and move exactly like his split personality was both cool and scary at the same time. But this time we also see Tyrell follow Elliot/Mr. Robot outside and confront him. Tyrell is confused when Mr. Robot vaguely suggests he look beyond the physical world. In a moment of vulnerability, Tyrell tells Elliot a poem his father always repeated and how he never wants to be like his father. This seems to change Mr. Robot/Elliot's opinion of Tyrell.
This is the beginning of Tyrell's delusions of godhood. It is also, in essence, the beginning of Elliot and Tyrell's infamous partnership.
We return to the partnership as it is renewed in the present. Tyrell brings Elliot to the location of Stage 2 -- a musky old warehouse -- or Olympus as Tyrell likes to think of it. Tyrell begins divulging all sorts of information to Elliot. Because it's all information Tyrell assumes Elliot is privy to. He reveals that they're mutual partner is indeed the Dark Army. He also reveals that he hasn't had any contact with his wife at all during his absence.
Joanna vs. Scott
That's because Scott Knowles was the one who kept contacting Joanna, pretending to be Tyrell. In a state of drunken sentimentality, Scott tells her that his late wife Sharon found out she was pregnant shortly before Tyrell killed her, and that he did what he did to do unto the Wellicks as they did unto him. Joanna appears to accept his pitiful apology, only to then endlessly, viciously curse him, his dead wife and their unborn child, prompting Scott to viciously attack Joanna, stopping just short of killing her. Of course, this was apparently part of her plan from the moment she walked through Scott's door, as was persuading her lovelorn boyfriend Derek to implicate Scott in his wife's murder.
Joanna seems confident, but her plan strikes me as a little flimsy. Sure, Scott brutalizing her will certainly make the authorities look at him as a suspect after he nearly killed Joanna the same way his wife was killed. But come on, Tyrell is the most wanted man in America. He's already blamed for the current global economic crisis. Why would they take his convenient murder of a corporate rival's wife off his rap sheet? I don't know.
Dom vs. Darlene
What I do know is that Darlene is alive! Yay!
She survived the Dark Army hit and is now in the FBI's custody. She is traumatized by Cisco's bloody death, but remains stone-faced and refuses to cooperate with Dom DiPierro, despite how similar the two women are. Dom tries to relate to her, and when that doesn't work she threatens her with the table of evidence they have against Darlene specifically. Finally, she convinces Santiago to let her try a ballsy tactic. After confessing how stressful and consuming the Five/Nine case has been for her, Dom takes Darlene out of the interrogation room and brings her into a room walled with dry-erase whiteboards. The whiteboards outline the FBI's investigation into fsociety, and it is revealed that Dom and her colleagues have put together a fairly accurate web of connections that link the events of the story so far.
The whole time Darlene thought she was one step ahead of the feds and Project Berenstain, but it turns out the feds have been onto her, Elliot, Angela and the rest for quite some time. Using "the Python approach", they simply kept everyone under surveillance and waited for them to panic. Which they did, following the mysterious shooting death of Romero -- which turns out to have been completely random, having nothing to do with fsociety, the Dark Army or Five/Nine.
I've got to say, Dom is one of my favorite additions to the show this season. This scene proves why. Here she demonstrates to Darlene that she's not as smart as she thinks, owning her, in a sense, and proving they are equals. She also proves to Darlene that she is special, since Darlene is truly the FBI's only chance of getting close to their main targets, Elliot and Tyrell; Darlene could conceivably aid the authorities in bringing down fsociety and the Dark Army. And Dom does this all in one bold move. So yeah, Dom's a badass as well as a fun and compelling character. I love that her and Darlene are now in a fragile alliance of sorts.
Of course, there's still room for error. For instance, Dom and the FBI still seem to be under the impression that Tyrell Wellick is the ringleader at the center of fsociety. Darlene knows that Elliot is the real man in charge. She might sabotage the FBI and forego her possible escape route by trying to save her brother. We've got to wait to find out. Speaking of waiting...
Mr. Robot wins
Now we have to wait to discover the fate of Elliot, Evil Corp and, perhaps, the rest of the world at large.
Spending time with Tyrell and Mr. Robot in the same room makes Elliot remember what Stage 2 is: it's the plan to permanently disable Evil Corp's financial database. They will do this by destroying the paper records being gathered in the massive storage facility across the street from their hideout. The femtocell that Elliot got Angela and Darlene to plant in Evil Corp not only allowed them to screw with the FBI, it made a backdoor into Evil Corp's computer mainframe. A backdoor which allows them to hack the storage facility, able to upload firmware that will cause a chain reaction and blow up the building. This could be the final blow left to strike against Evil Corp, the one that could burn them for good. It will also kill everyone in the building.
Tired of Mr. Robot's constant lying and insane reasoning for said lies, Elliot rebels and tries to put a stop to his out of control revolution before he hurts anyone. He tries to save the day by undoing the hack, but before he can, Tyrell pulls a gun on him. The same gun we thought Elliot killed him with. Tyrell and Mr. Robot both urge Elliot to stop what he's doing, but Elliot is stubborn and confused. He thinks Tyrell is just a figment of his imagination too, another of Mr. Robot's manipulations. He believes he's the only one in the room and goes to stop the hack.
Unfortunately, Elliot is incorrect and Tyrell shoots him for real. This was also part of Mr. Robot's plan, since he couldn't allow even Elliot himself to interfere with Stage 2. Elliot loses consciousness, with the knowledge that he's completely lost control.
Later, Angela gets an expected phone call from Tyrell. They arrange a meeting via the Dark Army, and Elliot is apparently still alive. In tears, Tyrell declares over the phone that he loves Elliot and so does Angela. She leaves, and the lights go out. The season ends appropriately, with the distant sound of a car crash in the darkened expanse of Manhattan.
We still haven't answered all our questions from last season, but this finale leaves us with a bit more certainty than the last. We know Elliot is alive. More importantly, we know that he is in the hands of the Dark Army, whom Tyrell and Angela are now aligned with. Angela might be his only way out of this sticky situation, and that's if she can even be trusted anymore.
That's another thing, a lot of power dynamics have shifted and none of the sides are clear anymore. Whereas Elliot and Angela are in an unsteady alliance with the Dark Army against Evil Corp, Darlene has apparently begun the transition from fsociety over to the FBI, who are working in accordance with Evil Corp. Things are so twisted.
The world is in disarray, a fact which megalomaniacal sociopaths like Phillip Price and Zhang/Whiterose are exploiting to their advantage. And men like Elliot/Mr. Robot and Tyrell appear to be in the perfect position to repeat history by replacing them, becoming the new cloak-and-dagger tyrants who violently shape the world the way they see fit.
Even if Elliot manages to overcome Evil Corp, the Dark Army, the FBI and the Wellicks, as well as his own alter ego, what hope does he really have of salvaging this situation? It's a question I'm dying to see the answer to. Sadly, like snakes in the grass, we must be patient.
Ones and Zeroes:
* There is a post-credits sequence featuring Trenton and Mobley, who weren't captured by the Dark Army like I thought. Instead, they relocated to Florida and got jobs at a supermarket. While on a lunch break, Mobley wants to maintain a low profile. Trenton is sure she's found a way to possibly reverse what fsociety did on Five/Nine and put the world back on track. As if on cue, they are confronted by Leon. He was dropped off by the black sedan we saw Minister Zhang (Whiterose) riding in during the last post-credits scene. Leon asks them for the time and the scene abruptly ends. This does not bode well, the implication being that the Dark Army is tying up these loose ends.
* This finale brought even more Fight Club homages: The plan to bring about an economic collapse by blowing up buildings. The protagonist taking control only to wind up getting shot and failing to prevent catastrophe anyway. The psychotic split personality fading in and out like a glitch. The homoerotic tension between Elliot and Tyrell. It's all there.
* I can't tell if Mr. Robot aligned with Tyrell because he really saw potential in him as a co-conspirator or if he's just manipulating him into the role of a scapegoat to protect himself. With a mind as messed up as Elliot's, motives are hard to decipher.
* Mr. Robot was likely planning Stage 2 since before the series even started. Remember in the second episode of the show when he tried to convince Elliot to blow up Steel Mountain in practically the same way he blew up a building here.
* Seems as if we have a weird love-triangle between Elliot, Angela and Tyrell now. I'm not feeling too strongly about this, since I want Elliot to have some hope of redemption, and neither Angela or Tyrell are on a path toward redemption at the moment. I miss Shayla.
* Cisco's real name was Francis Shaw. Mobley and Trenton are really Sunil Markesh and Shama Biswas. And Mr. Sutherland is Donald Hoffman.
* "The Moth & The Flame" by Les Deux Love Orchestra
Elliot/Mr. Robot: You're only seeing what's in front of you. You're not seeing what's above you.
Tyrell: "So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens..." My father used to say that to me all the time as a child. It was the only english he knew. Some silly poem. It meant very much to him. I use it as a reminder, a reminder of him and a reminder of what I never want to become.
"The Red Wheelbarrow" is a poem by William Carlos Williams. Many consider it to be simple yet meditative.
Santiago: (to Darlene) Yeah, you keep trying to invoke the 5th amendment, but there's this thing called the Patriot Act that a bunch of people signed into law. Do you know what that means? It means that you are not on some TV show. This isn't Burn Notice. There are no blue skies for you out there. Characters like you are not welcome here. As far as anyone is concerned right now, you are an enemy combatant. You don't have any rights.
Dom: (about Darlene) I know her. I am her.
Dom: So we sat back and waited. They call it the Python approach. They'll lie in wait for the right moment to strike. You know some can go up to a year without eating? A patient predator.
Elliot: This isn't what I want, I want it shut down.
Tyrell: But this was your idea!
This has been a taut, sleek, well-rounded season and a continuation of this show's brilliance. They kept the story's original elements fresh while adding new layers that were just as intriguing. Mr. Robot is still a creative goldmine and one of the best things on TV right now. Four out of four real bullets.