WHAT A RIDE. The Mr. Robot finale had pretty much everything you could want from it – twists! Turns! Masks! Amnesia! Suspiciously absent major players! Social revolution! Games of chicken with hallucinations! Apparent one-off characters returning to shake up an already-bruised status quo! Bloodied high heels! – so it seems a shame to have to wait a year to find out what happens next. To stave off my own temptation to just wail and gnash teeth until it returns, I’ve been compiling a list of personal favorite scenes and storylines that I think mark a series of individual turning points for the show. In some way, each entry in this post either foreshadows or outright reveals something new to come in the narrative, so put on your fsociety masks and let’s get to analyzing:
– Angela’s continued attempts to not give away too many pieces of her soul in her interactions with E Corp have been fascinating, but nothing was so arresting as her scene in a shoe store with an employee who takes her to task for working there. His words about her being a sellout are clearly in line with her own fears, which pushes her just enough to snaps, “I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I’ll try the Pradas next.” It’s the kind of coldness the series has clearly been building towards with her – with all the questions about ethics and sacrifice in her arc, we’ve been set up to expect some flash of cruelty in Angela as a sign that she’s truly in a downward slide towards becoming what she hates.
However, there’s thankfully more nuance to it than just “working for the villains makes you evil.” Angela clearly doesn’t like being a part of E Corp’s culture, or internalizing its ruthlessness in her day-to-day interactions. She’s openly horrified when Phillip Price tells her how convenient their EVP’s suicide was before going on to publicly mourn him at a press conference. And, despite her own moral qualms, Angela does have a good point – she’s not making shallow excuses when she says, “I just needed the job,” no matter how much the shoe salesman tells her otherwise. Mr. Robot has always been clear about the life-ruining effects of capitalism and debt on its characters, and I think it’s too smart to be the kind of show that would expect the audience to take the salesman’s black-and-white perspective very seriously. It’s a thin tightrope to walk, and Angela should be careful not to give away too much of her personal code just to survive, but to do that she has to survive period. It’s easy for someone on the outside to call her cold for going shopping after witnessing a suicide. She could slide downhill, potentially even into Tyrell Wellick territory, but those extremes are much further away than any judgmental onlookers might think. There’s still a line between reasonable compromise and destroying your former ideals – as always, Mr. Robot is very carefully secretive as to where exactly it may be.
– Truly: I love the places fsociety has gone within the story more than I can possibly express. They’re fractured and messed-up in their own way, to be sure, but in the middle of everyone else’s mental breakdowns and power plays, the group provides a kind of collective optimism that’s refreshing in the middle of all this bleakness. Throughout the season, I’ve never been very sure how to describe the show to people who don’t watch it – it’s dark, yeah, but is it nihilistic? Is it about human beings inevitably hurtling towards corruption and tragedy? Or is it about persevering inside of those things, seeing who falls to the idea that humanity is fundamentally doomed and who refuses to take no for an answer, believing that there will always be ideals that matter? Does it skew more towards cynicism or hope (albeit a very gritty, world-weary kind)?
I think that the fsociety crew has offered us our answer. They’ve turned out to be the most stable and functional faction on this show, with a subplot this episode that could be called downright feel-good. They take down E Corp, throw a party, and find time along the way to liberate some puppies that are scheduled to be put to sleep. Their actions will undoubtedly have unforeseen consequences that may not be all that pleasant, but they believe wholly that whatever happens will be a better fate than the world existing as it was. As Darlene says, this was never about what they’ll do later; it’s about what they’ve done in the here and now. In such a morally ambiguous story, they’re the closest thing we have to heroes in the traditional sense.
Plus, that scene where they set the dogs free was adorable.
– So how about that White Rose twist? I enjoyed it as a moment that was unexpected, but not shocking; it makes sense that such a powerful, mysterious character would be revealed as someone who pals around around with the CEO of E Corp. It remains to be seen what her true motivations are, but for now, I like the idea that she’s the kind of person someone like Angela wants to be – a revolutionary who’s figured out how to subvert the system from the inside, all while still enjoying apparent wealth and success. Whatever her backstory will turn out to be, White Rose is certainly a character to keep your eye on while waiting for season two to draw nearer. Since this is ultimately a series about ethical dilemmas and what parts of ourselves we choose to carve away, for better and worse, it will be fascinating to see what the most authoritative player on the board has to lose.
Of course, the person at the center of all this is still Elliot. While his storyline in the finale wasn’t so much about twists – his missing time, as well as what happened between him and Tyrell, go unexplained for now – it was still perfectly executed, with thematic goals stretching all the way back to the first episode. It says a lot that one of the most symbolically effective moments on a show full of visual metaphors was Elliot desperately attempting to shut everyone and everything out. Before, his isolation was barely tolerable to him, the result of a mental illness that he fought and often failed (through no fault of his own) to overcome. Now, he embraces it in an effort to push Mr. Robot away and to cut himself off from every voice that psychologically haunts him. Robot’s still one step ahead of him, though, pointing out that Elliot will never succeed at this as long as his heart’s not in it. He doesn’t want to be left alone. He wants to connect to others, and right now, he isn’t capable of resisting the personas he’s invented to do that with. With his own personal future about as uncertain as the external turmoil of the world, I can’t wait to see where he will go in the future. Mr. Robot has proven itself as a breakout hit of the summer with its status as the #2 cable series of the season. After delivering so many swerves and secrets, it’s going to be a long hiatus of speculating how we’ll get the rug pulled out from under us next.