Mr. Robot: whoami: Series Finale Part One

“Okay, this guy is definitely not me. And I am definitely not him.”

For awhile, I could not decide whether or not to write my thoughts on the two-part series finale of Mr. Robot as one gargantuan review or as two separate reviews entirely. But upon going over them again, I came to the conclusion that each of the two parts are so different from one another that it was best to go the separate route.

This first part is all about Elliot's introduction to the new world. This was more fun than I thought it would be, though still nightmarish. Elliot's presence makes the unambiguously happy and pleasant nature of the alternate reality feel even more jarring than it did in the previous episode. Naturally, Elliot tries to approach it all with his usual guarded skepticism. He, like many of us I imagine, refuses to accept that Whiterose was right about her better parallel world.

However, this belief is slowly whittled away as he is confronted with ghosts from his past, who come off like mirror versions of the people he knew. His father, Edward, is alive and well, a successful computer repairman, and a friend to his son. Similarly, Magda is a kind and loving mother, free of any sort of dementia. Oddly, Elliot is an only child and Darlene does not exist. And since it is supposedly a perfect world, are we meant to think that the world would be better off if Darlene had never been born? Of course, one of my initial thoughts on this was that it was a hint that Darlene was never real, just another split personality; she's one of the characters Alternate-Elliot later claims to have made up too.

Anyway, Elliot's attitude changes very quickly when he learns that, in this world, Angela is still alive and they are about to get married. He goes to seek her out, but ends up spending time with Angela's parents, Emily and Philip Price. It's here that he starts coming around to the idea of a world where he does what people who are happy do and gets a second chance at life. But even Elliot begins to realize that his grim presence is having a negative effect on this wholesome little world, as evidenced by the earthquakes that occur whenever he panics.

Finally, he realizes that an alternate version of himself already occupies this world. So he goes to his apartment and resolves to find the hidden flaw in his seemingly drama free doppelgänger. After a rigorous search of the apartment, he eventually discovers a hidden partition on his computer. Open hacking his way into it, he discovers a series of images. Drawings that depict... him. His world and the people he knew there. We learn that the other Elliot imagined a superhero fantasy version of himself, including an anarchist hacker group to lead called fsociety, out of boredom. And he is quite shocked when he finds himself confronted by this character in the flesh.

Not gonna lie, I was very skeptical of this idea as soon as it was introduced. This implication that everything we've seen in the show is some kind of fantasy scenario acted out by a bored tech nerd, as deliciously meta as it sounds, didn't sit well with me. It could easily have been an invalidation of everything that happened in this series all for the sake of self-aware irony.

It's what happened next that brought me back around.

The alternate Elliot is badly wounded during another mysterious tremor, leaving our Elliot to answer his phone when alternate Angela calls. It is here that we seem to be seeing what Whiterose meant when she told Elliot she was going to show him what she showed Angela, because Elliot finds himself hopelessly seduced by the notion of having a second chance to be with the woman he loved and lost. Just as Angela was driven over the edge in her quest to attain her better, happier life, now it appears Elliot has as well.

Throughout this series, I've been impressed at Elliot's refusal to ever cross the line and kill someone. Mr. Robot attempted to murder Tyrell, but Elliot is always unsettled with the prospect of killing people. He prefers to just take people down a peg, to own them, negotiating his survival not through brute force but strategic leverage. Not many brooding anti-heroes in today's media can get away with being a mostly nonviolent character. Elliot's violence is generally directed at himself anyway. With that said, it is incredibly fitting that the first person Elliot does murder in the series is himself. And a happier, drama-free version of himself at that.

Even more than alternate-Elliot's hidden partition and all the implications therein, this is definitely the most unexpected twist introduced so late in the game. Elliot claims he had no other choice, apparently rationalizing that the tremors were occurring due to there being two different versions of himself in one reality, but this was clearly a selfish act. Despite his resistance toward accepting this world as real, Elliot wants all that his other self has. The perfect parents, the woman of his dreams, the better world. And with his other self now dead, it's his for the taking.

Pretty shocking place to take this story right before it ends, but, as always, I appreciate Sam Esmail's willingness to take risks and follow through with his vision. It's a good thing these final episodes were released back to back. This is definitely the sort of cliffhanger that leaves you itching to see what happens next, right away.

Anyway, I'm kind of glad to be past this episode. Because now I get to talk about the finale, in which the truth behind all of this bizarre shit -- in the two previous episodes and the entire series -- is revealed.


Ones and zeroes:

* Should have known they'd eventually open one of their episodes with "Mr. Roboto" by Styx. Esmail, you cheeky bastard. Never realized how well the lyrics fit with Elliot's character; he is modern man, indeed.

* Mr. Robot himself does not appear in this episode, although the Mr. Robot computer repair shop does.

* Elliot learns that his alternate self doesn't have a sister from the girl on the scooter in his old neighborhood, who we saw during his morphine withdrawal hallucinations in Season 1; pretty sure she is played by the same actor, albeit older. Back then, I had assumed this girl was meant to be a younger version of Darlene. Guess I was wrong.

* Seeing Elliot and the alternate version of Price drinking and having a laugh together was actually kind of nice. I remember an early theory about the show back in Season 1 that suggested Elliot and Angela were actually married but had separated sometime before the start of the show. It would have been interesting if Price, the guy Elliot's whole revolution was originally aimed at taking down, had been his surprise father-in-law.

* The combination of music, cinematography and editing when Elliot was searching his alternate self's apartment for flaws was mesmerizing. I'm gonna miss this shit.

* I like that Elliot initially thought he found what he was looking for when he pulled out a hidden binder much like the one he used to store his cyber-vigilante discs, only to look inside and see it's just a personal family scrapbook that Alternate-Elliot made for himself.

* Gotta say, I dig Alternate-Elliot's secret drawings, which look like badass concept art for the show.

Quotes:

Elliot: (narrating) I know what you're thinking, but don't. That's impossible. Whiterose is out of her fucking mind. Yeah, yeah, I know, so am I. But still. There's no way her machine worked. Right?

Elliot: (narrating) My monster’s still alive.

Elliot: (narrating) This doesn’t sound like my mom. This sounds like someone who loves their son. Everything’s changed. Even… me.

Elliot: (narration) What are you thinking? Do you buy any of this? We started out wanting to change the world, but did it happen? Is this the world I fought so hard for? A world free of all the pain I went through? Am I actually considering this could be real?

Alternate-Philip Price: Mr. Alderson! Oof! Scared, huh? Well, you should be. After all, as far as you're concerned, I am evil incarnate.

Alternate-Emily: You know, Elliot, I am so happy to see the two of you finally tie the knot. Watching you grow up, I always knew there was something very special between the two of you. But, frankly, I was afraid she wouldn’t see it. Between us, she didn’t always have the best taste in men.
Elliot: … Yeah, I know.

Elliot: (narrating) I need to find out exactly who he is.

Elliot: (narrating) How does he know about me? Did he somehow hack my world? Am I… his monster?

Elliot: Why did you create this person?
Alternate-Elliot: I guess... sometimes I fantasize about being him.
Elliot: So you want to be him?
Alternate-Elliot: No, not really. Look at him. He's angry. He has no life. He's alone. He's not normal... Oh shit, man. I'm sorry.
Elliot: (narrating) He shouldn't be. He's right. I'm not normal. And I never will be. No matter what world I'm in—
Alternate-Elliot: What is that? Did you hear that?
Elliot: What?
Alternate-Elliot: It sounded like you were talking to someone.
Elliot: (narrating) Shit! He can hear us.
Alternate-Elliot: There it is again! How are you doing that?

Elliot: (narrating) You should probably look away too.

Five out of five hidden partitions.

2 comments:

NomadUK said...

Or ... welcome back, indeed!

The only thing I'm going to say is, did anyone else notice that all the cars in Elliot's current world are white except for his? This becomes even more evident in the opening scenes of the second part of the finale.

Logan Cox said...

NomadUK, I did notice the pure white cars and that was a lovely detail.