Do not read on unless you’ve seen “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z,” the Season Two finale of “Mr. Robot.”
At one point, USA had planned to show last week’s episode of “Mr. Robot” and this week’s on one night, as a two-episode block. I’m glad that the network spread out the episodes, because there was a lot to process in each of them. Both of them together might have broken my brain. As it is, this week, thanks to a flood of season premieres and reviews that had to be filed (check them all out here), my brain is about as fried as a circuit board in a toaster. (Do not toast a circuit board to see what happens, just trust me on this — it’s bad!)
In any case, before you download my short-and-sweet take on the season finale, you should read Variety’s finale post-mortem with creator Sam Esmail. The interview fills in a lot of the questions I had about the finale, which was as disjointed and strangely transfixing as much of the season.
In the interview, Esmail said that there would be more collaborations and collisions among characters next season, which I’m looking forward to. Most characters were trapped in their own little hells for much of this season, isolated from each other and unable to find safety in numbers, and I get that that makes sense for a show that is largely about alienation and distrust. Early in the season, Darlene had some of the fsociety crew around her now and then, but for the most part, characters tended to follow their own individual trajectories, and met up with each other only occasionally.
The results were spectacular when certain people found each other or came together under difficult circumstances — it’ll be hard to find a more memorable scene in 2016 than Angela’s off-the-wall yet haunting experience in Whiterose’s safe house. But there was very little sense of the group fighting through their various problems together. (For instance, we now know that Wellick and Angela have been in touch, but how did that come about? How much do they know about each other’s circumstances, and did Angela’s new pal, Whiterose, put them in touch?)
Part of the wonderful emotional momentum of Season One came from watching how the characters related to each other in moments of intense crisis and growth. Think about that heartbreaking scene in which Darlene told Elliot that she is his sister, or the moment in the graveyard in which it was revealed that Mr. Robot is Elliot’s dead father. Think about how unique and unsettling Tyrell and Joanna Wellick were in their scenes together, and how much their strange bond loomed over both seasons. This season, we didn’t see them together once, and Wellick, a wild card and a key element of Season One’s success, was missing in action for most of these 12 episodes. Elliot was also usually far away from most of his friends, all of whom found themselves, for the most part, scattered to the four winds. Last season, it felt like everything led up to Christian Slater’s glorious tirade in Times Square, but this season, we didn’t have anything as grand and sweeping to hang the end of the season on.
Last season was a series of interlocking stories about relationships, and this season was much more focused on a series of interlocking plots. It was more of a puzzle-box of a season, and some of the pieces of that puzzle were dazzling. But as much as I enjoyed the strange trajectories and surprising segues, truth be told, I missed some of the human element from Season One in this year’s version of the show. We got some wonderful connections in a few great scenes: I still think about Dom coming to Angela’s apartment and trying to talk her into working with the Feds, Angela’s odd yet bewitching conversation with Philip Price, and some tender and scary scenes between Rami Malek and Christian Slater. Also Dom and Alexa seem to have established a pretty special bond. But aspects of this season and thus the finale just didn’t have the same impact that Season One did.
The show is certainly as impressive as ever from an aesthetic and thematic standpoint; if anything, the unity of tone and the fact that Sam Esmail directed every episode gave it the kind of strong foundation it needed in order to try some of its wilder experiments. (That sitcom! The heist! Both in the same episode!) But it was easy to guess, during the too-long “prison” sequence of episodes, what was actually happening, which meant it took a long time for the season to kick into gear. If “Mr. Robot” could unite the psychological intensity and drive of Season One with the formal rigor and batshit willingness to try things we saw in Season Two, Season Three might really be out of sight. (I just heard a Kenny Rogers song on the “Mr. Robot” soundtrack, please allow me to toss out some period-appropriate slang.)
All that said, I’ve been thinking that this season of “Mr. Robot” might be the perfect reflection of a year in which we can’t seem to agree on the basic meanings of words. This election season is particularly strange and surreal, and this past year has revealed huge disjunctions in how different groups of people see the world. It’s as if we are seeing entirely different worlds, and can communicate with each other less and less. Finding common ground, linguistically, socially and politically, seems harder and harder. What is a lie? What is the truth? What dark plots are in motion? What aren’t we being told about the activities and agendas of powerful people, corporations and governments? These are questions that dominate the news and social media these days, and I see so much of the same paranoia and dislocation in “Mr. Robot.” The Age of “Wake Up Sheeple” has gotten even sheeple-ier this year.
But the increased loneliness and isolation in “Mr. Robot” means there was less of a sense of emotional momentum as the season progressed, and I missed that. Basically, what I’m saying is that I want Mobley and Trenton to get the gang together next season so they can all go out for margaritas at Chili’s. Even Agent Dom should go. They all should get tacos and hang out. It would be fun!
All right, as far as the finale goes, there’s good news and bad news: Elliot has a real friend, a real, live, breathing friend!
His friend shot him — that’s the bad news. Expertly led by Esmail and the cast to assume that Wellick was yet another hallucination emanating from Elliot’s mind, I was shocked when Wellick’s very real gun put an all-too-real bullet into our hero.
Of course, I don’t think Elliot is dead. I know, that was quite the cliffhanger, but I think Elliot will be in one piece and alive when Season Three rolls around. When you have show that has won a Peabody Award and a lead actor who just won an Emmy, you typically don’t mess with the core elements that made that show a success, and a Rami Malek-free “Mr. Robot” would be nobody’s idea of a good time. Speaking of that, Malek’s Emmy was richly deserved, and I’m still laughing at the line he said on stage: “Please tell me you’re seeing this too.” We all saw it too, and it was good.
Back to the finale: Wellick is real, his wife might frame someone else for the murder he was accused of, and thus he may be able to come in from the cold — though that’s a big maybe, given everything else he was involved in and what Dom knows about his involvement with the 5/9 hack. However, Trenton and Mobley may be able to put the whole hack right again. Tons of people on the Internet (well, probably nine really obsessed people) have been talking about the season’s many “Back to the Future 2” references, and I’ll leave it to others to parse all those clues, including any that might have been in the finale, because I haven’t seen that movie in forever.
But it sounds like there’s a chance that some of the cataclysmic things that transpired in the wake of last season’s events could be undone. Of course, the world would still be changed — Elliot’s old boss would still be dead, for example — but what if Trenton and Mobley’s plan and Joanna’s crazy scheme work? Presumably the Dark Army would be upset about Stage 2 not going forward, but if that led to more scenes of Whiterose doing basically anything, that’s fine by me.
With Elliot injured, will Wellick carry out the plan to destroy E Corp’s data backups, and probably take many lives in the process? Will Darlene flip on her former associates in order to stay out of a very long stretch in prison? Is Elliot in a hospital? (It sounds like Wellick got him medical attention, but who knows for sure?) How long can Wellick stay off the radar? How long has Leon, Elliot’s prison friend, been working for the Dark Army? More importantly, what does Leon think of “Suddenly Susan”?
I look forward to finding out next year, on “Burn Notice.” Haha, I actually love “Burn Notice,” so the joke’s on you, Agent Santiago. See you next season, friends!