Written by Matt Haviland
Mr. Robot Season Two Finale Part One Plot Summary:
Elliot (Rami Malek) gets closer to reality. Angela (Portia Doubleday) is questioned and answered. Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) engrains himself more deeply into government. Dominique (Grace Gummer) takes a breather.
Oh, it’s good to hear Tyrell’s (Martin Wallström) laugh. That haughty, nineteenth century royalty inflection has been missing from the show all season. While Tyrell seemed to be dead, and I prematurely wrote here that he was, he now seems to be alive, rolling with Elliot towards their future in the first part of the last episode of this crazy second season, which has been so off-the-walls that Elliot (Rami Malek) has to yell at the cab driver (Efraiem Hanna) to make sure he’s not the only one there, Tyrell having given their very destination after getting inside. As if Elliot’s subconscious might have (and it very well might have) only spat out the directions after producing a symbolic image of Elliot who knows where they’re going (who might also be the symbolic image who knows what Stage 2 is supposed to be after he forgot enough to think that he was waiting on the Dark Army to tell him). Many fans suspected that Tyrell’s death was no more final than anything we know about Mr. Robot. Which, by this point, seems to be a lot, or rather, there seems to be a lot we know that might not be true.
Let’s start with Stage 2. Ever since we learned Elliot is the one who planned Stage 2, that the Dark Army has been waiting for him to tell them what to do, the macro plot has been thrown into the air. Mix this with the meetings between Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer) and other bigwigs regarding his walk under umbrellas with Whiterose (BD Wong), and we are not even sure what not to be sure about, or rather, this might all be Elliot’s devising. If the Dark Army is working with Phillip Price, and if they’re waiting on Elliot’s orders to enact (and even know more about) Stage 2, rightfully capitalized, doesn’t that mean that Elliot is supporting E Corp?
If Elliot is working with the Dark Army to sabotage E Corp but E Corp is working intimately with the Dark Army on some sort of grand plan that they’ve been developing all this time, one prior CEO being killed in a plane crash in the process of almost screwing that plan up—so we’ve gotta assume it’s been going ahead how Whiterose wants it more than E Corp—that means either the Dark Army is working against Price, Elliot is fooling the Dark Army, Elliot is working for E Corp’s benefit, or Phillip Price doesn’t care about E Corp as much as becoming the first most powerful man in the world, even if that means the world according to Elliot Alderson (and could Elliot’s apartment be one of the two rooms Price considered himself dwarfed in?). (Price’s pushing Ecoin with Washington seems an act of engraining E Corp into society fundamentally, so it seems that Price plans for E Corp to stick around.) And the way that Whiterose described her plans to Angela (Portia Doubleday) before seemingly swaying her (or brainwashing her, or perhaps her deceiving them), that group seems to think they’re being philanthropic with all this, moving society forward, which is what Elliot thinks, right?
Maybe E Corp is going to crumble by Dark Army design, and Price might be sensing that, and maybe now it’s a battle between the agencies, E Corp versus the Dark Army, with the world governments in the middle. Elliot would seem to fall with whatever is morally right, his guiding line when even the reality of the guy sitting next to him is shaky enough that he has to scream whether the driver sees him, and when you don’t know that, you might have created one hell of a plan, but how could you ever count on yourself to carry it out? Elliot is functioning highly in some senses but basically nonfunctioning in the sense that he can’t trust the world around him to keep itself together. And that means we can’t either, and we’ve seen big changes this season at the drop of a hat. This show has shifted so much that it seems like the Rubik’s cube coming back to solid colors before someone says, “Hey, there’s no game here,” and messes it up again. Another question—have we heard Tyrell laugh before? It feels like he’s been laughing all along.
But there’s some deeply psychological stuff going on here, there’s some incredibly profound content being explored, and when a show goes so deeply into exploring whether anything is real, from your persona to your perception of the entire world, while also exploring the battle of good versus evil institutionally through the lenses of a thousand facets of society, or at least a few big ones (corporations, government corruption, Internet society, etc.), the results would have to be formless, indescribable in their mushiness to come close to representing what topics they’re talking about simultaneously. Mr. Robot has become about as crazy as Elliot’s daily life because to really dive into whether anything is stable while also questioning whether personal will is real (or how far it goes) and whether doing anything is worthwhile when it’s all in service of dreams of heroism and salvation, when we’re dealing with this macroscopic setting and story while being totally real about the world being a set of shared dreams between people about how things are and should be, there’s no way that a show is going to be anything else, nothing more solid than a funhouse where you walk through and stuff bounces and flashes out at you and then you leave with questions rather than certainty.
Because we’ve been hacking the structure of reality, and if we follow Elliot as our character, as our window into this world, then there is a lot to explore. Who is our Mr. Robot? Who else but we are driving our life stories—but then, who is driving us? With such a mess of institutions and growing technology around us every day, how could we hope to help except by either tearing it down or following our passions blindly and letting them lead us to be the best whatever we can be, and then where do we clash with society when we do that (because it’s not antagonism that drives, say, Dom [Grace Gummer] when she seems to try to stop our heroes from doing what they know is right, it’s her duty to what she knows is right—and even Phillip Price and the Dark Army people are doing what they are good at and following their passions and what they think is right—nobody is right, right? It’s just how they bounce off each other and mold their shared world). This show has been almost careless with how ethereal everything is, but that’s because to really get into this stuff, the world has to collapse consistently. And luckily for us as people and viewers and the characters as anything, there are two guidelines they can follow through all of this: goodness and truth.
Everyone’s building their worlds and reaffirming their values and missions, but like Elliot said after Ray’s (Craig Robinson) tearful speech about how he was wrong about it all being one big fall (and like Ray said in that speech), it’s about recalibrating while standing for what’s deeply right for you—and when everyone does that, we see what happens in the space between them. There’s nothing here for anyone. There’s nothing really right, but there is suffering and there is grace (the former boundless here, the latter showing up with Ray’s redemption, Elliot’s refusal to betray his values, Angela’s ongoing quest to make things better, Dom greeting her with food rather than handcuffs), and that seems to be what we can count on, what Elliot can count on, what makes Price and the Dark Army negative and Elliot, fsociety, Dom, and Angela (and maybe Tyrell, though who knows about him, even whether he’s alive) positive, what we can count on. There is nothing to count on but goodness and truth. And what is truth? The truth shifts, but you know when you’re lying, most of the time. So Elliot follows what’s true enough, shouts and persists to find truth when not sure (which is increasingly the case, and as an aside, we saw our first eerie moment of Mr. Robot [Christian Slater] totally alone, Elliot briefly gone); he follows what’s good and sheds falseness, and there’s nothing else to guide him.
We’ve followed this show through a thousand hurdles and side paths and musical interludes and whatever else, and it remains great (despite some thin-feeling moments when it tries to be more of a USA show, when things get broad, sometimes coming close to becoming the pile of clichés that Suits seems to be whenever I catch it before the show comes on; what a contrast, and an uncomfortable comparison when there is one), this show remains worth it, because it keeps goodness and truth firmly in mind, and the truer you get, the more deeply you perceive what’s not true, the more peels away, the shakier everything relative becomes, the more solid you get in not knowing. The truer this becomes, the more mindboggling it will be, because this is like Freudian psychology on acid, this is like sitting there with Zen masters and following the question of “What am I?” until there’s nothing but silence and uncertainty and change. This is like watching the world self-detonate while characters maintain that even on the continuously shifting tiles of the walkway not only we but everyone around us paves, there is good and bad, right and less than right, truth and the widening mass of everything else. We’re going to end this series on a blank screen and the absent snoring from Radiohead’s “Daydreaming.” We’re heading there smoothly as we can.
Episode Score: 9.0/10 (Astonishing)