Mr. Robot: eXit

“It’s an exciting time in the world.”

Final three episodes in the series. Let's do this.

As is typical, Mr. Robot surpasses my expectations. While I've known for awhile that the series was building up to a final showdown between Elliot and Whiterose, as well as the concept of a parallel universe, I never could figure out how these events would or could transpire.

The beauty of how Sam Esmail pulled it off is in its simplicity.

Hero and Villain

When Elliot parts ways with Darlene and makes the journey to the Washington Township Power Plant, you might be expecting him to embark on his most daring and dangerous mission yet. At first, it's quite the opposite. Elliot finds the power plant deserted, allowing him to easily get inside and quickly run the program that will disable Whiterose's device. Only to realize that the Dark Army has already taken over the plant and activated the device, and only allowed Elliot's presence so he could be brought face to face with Whiterose herself.

The brief glimpse we get of the Dark Army cutting loose after being exposed for the international terrorist organization that they are was unnerving. A massive, heavily armed cult openly combatting the federal government and slaughtering their way to control a nuclear power plant would definitely be a nightmare scenario in our world too.

But I was pleased that the long-awaited second meeting between Elliot and Whiterose was treated with such intimacy. In most stories, it always comes down to a final bloody fight between the hero and the villain, usually ending with the hero killing the villain. Which is why this scene is so great, because their fight is centered around the deep emotions and worldly perspectives of these two unique individuals. It's a conversation, a great debate as Whiterose prepares to create her parallel world.

Whiterose throwing Elliot's own misanthropy in his face was kind of perfect. As was the fact that she basically reveals herself to be little different from him. She claims to be driven by her love for humanity, but in doing so reveals her insanely cynical hatred towards the world and its cruel nature in a speech that sounds remarkably similar to one of Elliot's rants. One could interpret that this was done deliberately in an attempt to manipulate Elliot as she once manipulated Angela and probably most Dark Army recruits, but I think this was a raw look into her actual personality and feelings for the first time. And it's scary. B.D. Wong gave his most startling performance as this character, going from bemused to raving to a hysterical mix of laughter and outrage to dead calm to suddenly shouting.

But I was even more impressed and touched by Elliot's response to Whiterose's little Joker moment as well as her critique of him. He finally comes to term with his hatred of people and his social anxiety, and how both compelled him to become this brooding cyberpunk avenger who rebels against society. More importantly, though, he realizes that the people in his life who care about him fuels the empathy he has for people regardless of his rage and pain, that they make the world worth saving. This, to me, is the show's most beautiful moment. Elliot, the outcast loner who started out hating society and hating himself even more, learns to appreciate the people in his society. To embrace the fact that he is loved despite all he's done and all he's been through. And with that precious knowledge, he denies Whiterose's worldview.

This felt like something the story has always been building towards. Upon finally confronting his greatest adversary, Elliot is met with the same embittered, pessimistic, anti-social notions that once fueled his revolution, and he's come so far that now he's able to reject that bitterness. He takes solace in the beauty that does exist in this lonely existence of ours.

Meltdown

Sadly, it doesn't get through to Whiterose. Her machine triggers a nuclear meltdown in the power plant. She claims that she is giving humanity a choice by letting Elliot be the one to make it. Certain of another world where all of her sins and sacrifices will be undone, Whiterose does what every Dark Army soldier does in the end: she takes a bullet to the head. After all, it's not really dying if you get to live in an alternate universe. I guess. Crazy.

Though Mr. Robot naturally wants to flee, Elliot remains behind to attempt to prevent the meltdown and save everyone. This involves him playing a weird, old school computer game. A game in which the player is trapped inside with a wounded friend and must escape. To escape and win requires the player to leave their friend behind and venture through a tunnel and onto a beach, where a boat waits to take them to a new world. Elliot, genius that he is, realizes that the way to stop Whiterose's machine is to lose the game. So he stays and refuses to leave his friend.

That Elliot figures this out exemplifies the difference between him and Whiterose. When annihilation comes, Elliot would rather die beside a friend than escape to a better life.

Losing the game seems to deactivate the device, but not the meltdown. As everything turns to fiery destruction, Elliot and Mr. Robot sit across from each other and wait for the end. And despite his struggles with self-hatred, Elliot chooses to die telling Mr. Robot (himself) that he loves him. Made for a tragic, hopeless yet oddly beautiful and comforting moment.

Of course, we're only a half hour in by this point and there are two episodes left, so we all knew this isn't the end.

Reflections

In fact, it appears to be a new beginning. When Elliot and Mr. Robot are consumed by a red flash, we suddenly find ourselves in the new world that Whiterose and Angela were so sure was real.

Here, Elliot is not as we know him. He is a well-adjusted person. He is normal. He is happy.

Not just happy, though. His life really could not be better. He's the young, stylish CEO of Allsafe, has just landed a sweet deal with F Corp by partnering with its CEO, Tyrell Wellick. He has a great relationship with his parents. And he's one day away from marrying Angela Moss, the love of his life.

Life's pretty good for this alternate version of Elliot. So good that the unabashed joy we see in him is pretty heartbreaking by itself, knowing what our Elliot has been through.

But life seems to be going well for everyone now. There is no childhood trauma to keep Elliot and Angela from being together. Whereas before she was the world's most enigmatic and diabolical terrorist, here Whiterose is not only accepted as a trans woman, she's also the world's most beloved and celebrated philanthropist. Tyrell rises to the top of F Corp, the world's most respected conglomerate, not by becoming a corporate shark, but by not caring so much about fitting in and being himself, an introverted tech expert in a hoodie; the idea that Tyrell's ideal version of himself is one where he's more like Elliot was rather poignant. I'm betting Philip Price is married to Angela's still living mother. Even our old "friend" Ollie is leading a better life, showing ambition at Allsafe and simply dating "Stella B" instead of having an affair with her behind a nice girl's back.

Of course, this Back to the Future world is not without its flaws. For one thing, despite the utopian feel, not everything is perfect. Ollie, for instance, is still a complete tool. We get vague hints that something is wrong with Angela's parents. Elliot and Tyrell both seem to question the nature of their reality, both loving and hating how perfect their lives are. Most notably, Elliot has a bad headache that seems to be tied to mysterious seismic tremors. Both of which seem to be reminding Elliot of the dark world he came from.

But all these glitches in the matrix pale in comparison to Alternate-Elliot's discovery at the end, which seriously complicates the whole idea of this perfect world. Sitting in the dark at his computer, he finds Elliot. The Elliot we know, with all his dark baggage ready to come crashing down on this pleasant little world. And the final words of the episode cut straight to the question that remains at the heart of this character, this story and Mr. Robot as a whole. Who is Elliot Alderson? How do we begin to define this man's identity, scarred and fragmented as it is? Who or what will our hero be in the end?


Ones and zeroes:

* “Heroes and Villains” by The Beach Boys and “White Widow” by Afterhours. Both songs perfectly fit Elliot, Whiterose and their final confrontation. And then you have Alternate-Elliot constantly listening to "Turn Up the Radio" by OK Go, particularly the lines "Everything is just right, everything is blue sky."

* In the Parallel World, Elliot has bought a copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg as a wedding gift for Angela. I haven't read it, but the summary does sound familiar. In the face of perceived parental neglect, a little girl and her brother run away from home and seek refuge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was apparently the inspiration for Elliot and Angela when they ran away from home as kids and hid out at the Queens Museum.

* So I think I understand why Whiterose has a habit of blotting out the faces on any photos she comes across. I think it's how she distances herself from her crimes. By erasing their faces, she's refusing to accept their identities. They are no longer real to her when she does this, believing their true selves are waiting in the next world. This might be why Angela started doing the same thing after she was consumed with guilt in the wake of the cyber-bombings.

* As with Angela in Season 2, the way Whiterose designed the meeting room to psychologically manipulate Elliot was interesting. It was nice to see Qwerty the beta fish again, and I think we saw Leo Tolstoy's Resurrection in a previous episode.

* Whiterose was a great character, but, like Philip Price, I'm glad her death was sudden and unglamorous. Although it might be meaningless since it seems that she was right in the end. The thing I always hoped wouldn't be true.

* F Corp is clearly supposed to be a merging of fsociety and E Corp. So I feel compelled to ask: Does this mean the corporation is technically called Fuck Corp?

Quotes:

Mr. Robot: You go down this path, it’ll never end. There will always be something else. Another symbol to destroy, more people to save. This is an endless war. At a certain point, we gotta move on.

Sandwich Guy: Hey. You’re in the wrong place.

Whiterose: (cracking up) Elliot, please. Don't make me laugh...
Seriously, this whole monologue was chilling.

Elliot: ... But then there are some people out there, and it doesn't happen a lot, it's rare, but they refuse to let you hate them. In fact, they care about you in spite of it. And the really special ones, they're relentless at it. It doesn't matter what you do to them, they take it and care about you anyway. They don't abandon you, no matter how many reasons you give them. No matter how much you're practically begging them to leave. And you wanna know why? Because they feel something for me that I can't... They love me. And for all the pain I've been through, that heals me. Maybe not instantly, maybe not even for a long time, but it heals. And yeah, there are setbacks. We do fucked up things to each other. And we hurt each other, and it gets messy. But that's just us, in any world you're in. And yeah, you're right. We're all told we don't stand a chance, and yet we stand. We break, but we keep going, and that is not a flaw. That's what makes us. So no, I will not give up on this world. And if you can't see why, then I speak for everyone when I say... Fuck you!
Beautiful.

Whiterose: I have learned to listen when time speaks. Our paths were too precisely linked to this moment for there not to be a reason. This is why. You get to decide.

Elliot: I love you.
Mr. Robot: … I love you too.
Me too, you crazy bastards. Me too.

Alternate-Angela: Can't wait to marry you tomorrow.

Alternate-Ollie: I hear we might be taking a swing at F Corp today, BMOC?
Alternate-Elliot: I'm sorry?
Alternate-Ollie: BMOC. The Big Man on Campus.
Alternate-Elliot: I don't think that's a thing.
Alternate-Lloyd: It might be a stupid thing.
Alternate-Ollie: Anyway, here's what's up. I'm awesome at talking to people. For real, though. Lunches, dinners, drinks. I can sell ice to an arab, sand to an eskimo.
Alternate-Elliot: Yeah, you're not helping yourself out there.
Alternate-Lloyd: Unless you're experimenting with some new form of racism.

Alternate-Tyrell: Elliot, I just want to know that you're on my side.
Alternate-Elliot: Always.

Alternate-Elliot: Who are you?

Four and a half out of five record loops.

1 comment:

Juan said...

Excellent review Logan! I too was static when I saw the new reallity. I though, No WAY! WR was rigth?! She did it! HOW?. I couldnt believe it. It sudenly felt too Sci-fi. Like a Star Trek or Twilight Zone episode. And then the two Elliots found each other, and all logic went out of the window. Just when I though Esmail couldnt surprise us any more, he just pull the rope under us again.

An importan detail is that Darlene was nowhere to be found in this alternate world, She wasnt even mention by her dad. Thats interesting.

Thanks for the review! Keep up, we are almost finished. I'm gonna miss this show so much.