Mr. Robot: 401 Unauthorized

“Goodbye, friend.”

Endings can be sad, but I’d be lying if I claimed to not be intrigued to see where this crazy story is going to go.

I always figured Sam Esmail would be smart enough to not drag things out to an absurd degree. Figured it would take at most five or six seasons to finish Mr. Robot.

I was slightly surprised to learn that he intended to wrap it up with season four. That struck me as being a little too early, since it seemed like there was still a lot of ground left to cover at the end of the third season.

This episode seems to address this by immediately tying up one huge loose end both in and out of the story. That being Angela Moss. I had been told a major character was killed off in this episode, but I wasn't expecting it to happen within the first two to three minutes.

Although extremely sudden, the scene was effective because it made so much sense. There's no way Whiterose would let Angela just remain alive after she's served her purpose and discovered things that could potentially threaten her big master plan. And there was no way Angela, vengeful and ever tenacious, would back down from her course after what she'd been through. And Price proves that, for all his self-aggrandizing, he really is not much more than a pawn to Whiterose. A man who sees himself as a god, but finds himself forced to beg for his daughter's life and then meekly walk away and let her die when she refuses to submit as he has. As much of a sociopathic monster as he is, Price clearly cared about Angela and having her taken from him by the uncaring Whiterose has broken him.

It appears to have broken Elliot and Darlene as well. We jump a couple months into the future after the third season finale -- skipping past the return of Fernando Vera for now -- to Christmas 2015. Where Darlene is in a state of depression after Angela goes missing and Elliot is even more ruthlessly focused on bringing down Whiterose, because he knows Angela was killed by her.

In a unique turn of events, Elliot and Mr. Robot are back to working as a team, but there's a twist in that Elliot is now the one who is more driven, more coldblooded and obsessed with fulfilling their goals. This leaves Mr. Robot as "the good cop", the one who laments their old dream of saving the world, acts as the voice of reason and tries to keep in touch with their humanity. The imaginary friend has even begun speaking to we the audience, since Elliot refuses to. As a result of this, the line between Elliot and Mr. Robot has never been blurrier. They are becoming interchangeable.

This new dynamic can be seen in the way they handle their attempt at social engineering this episode. Blackmailing the pathetic pedophile, Freddy Lomax, for information goes very badly. Despite getting a lead, it ends with Lomax realizing that Elliot has screwed him either way and chooses to commit suicide rather than face the Dark Army's wrath or the possibility that Elliot reveals his secret to his family. So that's another person who dies as a direct result of Elliot's actions. Mr. Robot tries to talk about this, but Elliot isn't interested. He's trying to separate his emotions from what he has to do.

Meanwhile, characters like Darlene, Dom DiPierro and possibly even Tyrell Wellick seem to be totally consumed by their emotions and thoughts. Tyrell is finally CTO of E Corp, but he's already worn down by all his responsibilities as well as everything it cost him to get to that position he so coveted. Dom seeks shelter with her mother after the Dark Army compromises her, only to have Janice, one of their disguised agents, threaten her mother's life if she doesn't start playing ball. And Darlene has co-opted Angela's apartment, where she drowns her sorrows with heavy drugs and cradles herself to sleep with Angela's shoes.

The beginning illustrates that Whiterose is quite satisfied with current events. Elliot's secured her plans for the Congo, meaning he can soon be eliminated. Her rival Price has been deeply wounded and put in his place. Tyrell as E Corp's CTO and Dom as the FBI mole ensure that she is shielded from the fallout of... whatever the hell it is she's planning. Though I'm still of the mind that her ultimate goal is to find or create an alternate reality.

But anyway, her plans aren't as secure as she thinks. Not as long as Elliot is alive.

The show tried to scare us a bit by making it look as if Elliot was another of Whiterose's victims in the end. After thinking he's discovered someone who could give them access to Whiterose and the Dark Army's special bank, Cyprus National Bank, Elliot realizes he's fallen into a trap. Three men in black abduct him, bring him to a room and inject him with an overdose of heroin.

Of course, I found it unlikely that they would kill off the main character in the first episode of the final season. Which was proven correct when Elliot is resuscitated and we find out that the men who grabbed him weren't working for Whiterose. They were working for Price. For the first time in the series, Elliot and the CEO of Evil Corp meet face to face. However, I imagine there's a twist in that instead of being enemies, they will be allies. After all, both men loved Angela and hate Whiterose. I mean, Mr. Robot has already made some amends with Tyrell, so why not Price? The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

I'm eager to see where this goes, not just in regard to Elliot and Price's interactions, but with the story in general. How the hell is Elliot going to bring down Whiterose and the Dark Army? And more importantly, how is he going to change the status quo?

It's been repeatedly pointed out to Elliot and Mr. Robot that, no matter what they do, the haves will continue to thrive and the have nots will continue to suffer, and both will become indifferent to that reality. The point Elliot raises about people starting to forget about the Five/Nine hack (which was undone by him last season) is an eerily real phenomena. Our society has been conditioned to accept horrific things and just move on with business as usual. It's the same with wars, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, etc. People are inundated with massive problems that are out of the hands of even a collective group. When you combine this with the number of things that exist to distract us from all these real-world issues, it's really no surprise that these issues only get worse. Which is why it's easy to believe that everyone would just forget about the financial collapse, the social upheaval, the murders and suicides, the 77 buildings that got blown up and all of the thousands of American citizens who died as a result.

So with this in mind, Mr. Robot has a salient point. If petty vengeance against Whiterose has taken precedence over their goal of saving or changing the world, then what is the point?

Hopefully Sam Esmail can answer or address that somewhere in this final season.

Ones and Zeroes:

* A lot of unexpected appearances in this premiere. Jake Busey is obviously the standout, but there’s also Sam Esmail’s wife, Emmy Rossum, who shows up in a cameo role as a Christmas caroler. And Esmail himself appears in the last scene as a hitman working for Price, who nearly kills Elliot, but then brings him back to life.

* Whiterose has a new fiercely devoted assistant who, aside from being a woman, seems to be everything that her late assistant/lover Grant was.

* The fact that Janice seems like a completely nice, ordinary and unassuming woman makes her even more unsettling to me than any of the Dark Army’s other oddball operatives.

* During the party scene, Esmail takes a shot at Flat-Earth conspiracy theorists. Because of course he did.

* Elliot has left his dog Flipper in the care of his landlord, and Qwerty the goldfish apparently disappeared along with Angela. That’s too bad.

* There's a split-second flash of Angela's corpse as Elliot recalls the photo the Dark Army sent him. It reminded me of the end of Se7en.

* Edit: Apparently Conal Cochran of Silver Shamrock Novelties was one of Freddy Lomax's clients. Nice random reference to Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Wonder if that has any deeper meaning.

Quotes:

Angela: I won’t run.

Price: It’s all psychotic.

Whiterose: Just in time for the holidays.

Elliot: So fuck my feelings. I’m done with therapy.

Price: Welcome back, Mr. Alderson.

Not bad, but I get the feeling this last season is just getting warmed up. Four out of five missing pets.

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