Review: ‘Mr. Robot’ hits some anti-climaxes at the end of season 2

A review of the Mr. Robot season 2 finale coming up just as soon as I go find my manual…

“Ready to look at what we accomplished?” -Wellick

In my review of the first half of “Python,” I suggested the episode might have played better had the whole finale aired on the same night, because the first hour was all teases (plus that surreal interview with Angela and the little girl) for revelations that were presumably coming in the season’s concluding installment.

“Python, Part 2” did, in fact, reveal several things: That Darlene survived the Dark Army’s assassination attempt (but Cisco did not), that Dom has apparently known for quite some time that Elliot was the true mastermind of the 5/9 hack, that Scott from Evil Corp has been the one sending Joanna all the gifts and messages, that Wellick is really still alive and not just another personality inside Elliot’s fractured mind, and that Stage 2 involves turning a downtown building into a bomb to destroy the paper copies of Evil Corp’s banking records to finish what the 5/9 hack started.

You can’t say that Sam Esmail (who wrote and directed the episode) skimped on information, even if there are still missing pieces to the puzzle, like how and when Dom identified Elliot as her real target, or what Whiterose is doing in Washington Township. There were lots of major questions heading into tonight, and the episode answered most of them.

So why did the whole thing feel so anti-climactic?

A year ago, it felt like the smart play for Esmail to prioritize character over plot in turning the season 1 finale into an Elliot vs. Mr. Robot showdown rather than exploring the hack and its aftermath. The first half of season 2 arguably dove too deep inside Elliot’s head, to the point where it was almost a relief to get an episode without our main character a few weeks ago, and the more plot-driven recent episodes have been more satisfying overall than the war for control over Elliot’s psyche. But when you’re emphasizing plot – and specifically teasing out lots of questions over a long period of time (Wellick’s status, most notably), the burden becomes greater to have those payoffs resonate: to feel either so surprising, or so satisfying despite being predictable, as to justify all the build-up. And not a lot of the finale did that. Even with the usual bits of visual and acting wizardry, too many moments in the finale left me saying, “Yes, and… ?”

Let’s go point-by-point:

Darlene survived the assassination attempt. This was only vaguely a mystery to begin with, in that I doubt any fans of the show seriously thought she was going to be killed off this soon, and in this way. Definitely the revelation that would have been most helped by airing the two halves of “Python” together, so that it would barely feel like a tease at all.