How does one even begin to discuss the Season 1 finale of Mr. Robot? So much happened, in so many ways, providing more questions than answers, that attempting to do it in a straightforward narrative doesn’t really make sense. It feels more appropriate to jump around a bit, like the show did, to see if we can keep up with it by playing its own game. So, let’s do that. Here are 10 mostly scattershot thoughts about the finale that will hopefully help us all make sense about what the hell just happened.
1) Mr. Robot is a show about chaos, built on chaos. Strip away everything but the actual plot, and it’s about a team of hackers attempting to throw the world into a state of financial panic. That, by itself, isn’t super groundbreaking, because it’s the plot of every movie about hackers ever made. (Many of which you’ve probably watched at 2 p.m. on a Saturday on, ironically, the USA Network.) But then Elliot’s personal and psychological issues are layered on top of it and it creates more unknowns and odd angles, both for the characters that interact with him on the show and for the viewing audience, which has now been conditioned to question whether everything — or anything — is real.
Which would be a lot, on its own. But then the show goes another step in the presentation by taking leaps in the narrative when you expect baby steps, and doing things with camerawork and perspective that knock you off balance and disorient you a bit. All while consistently coming at you from the side just when you think you have it squared up. It’s anarchy piled on anarchy, for everyone, real and fictional. And it’s terrific.
2) With that in mind, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that the show spent most of the season setting up the Elliot vs. Tyrell showdown/team-up only to skip right on past it to get to the aftermath. I mean, Tyrell — arguably the second most important character on the show, and the one whose downfall brought the whole plot to a head — didn’t even appear in the finale. Neither did the gun Darlene hid in the popcorn machine, which the show had been nodding to for a while. If you want an idea what kind of confident maniac storytellers are running this operation, there’s a pretty good tip-off. They’re just out here burning off content and blowing past your assumptions, and they’re putting it on you to follow along. Try to keep up.
3) Crazy theory time: Did… did Elliot kill Tyrell with the gun? Maybe? Skipping the payoff in the finale certainly doesn’t mean it’s forgotten, even if it is fun to think about creator Sam Esmail reading Chekhov and mumbling “This guy was an IDIOT.” So if the next season opens with Elliot suddenly remembering the days he lost, and he flashes on killing Tyrell and disposing of the body, it would explain Tyrell’s disappearance and all that gun-related foreshadowing. This would tie things up very neatly, and therefore has no chance of happening at all. Disregard this entire paragraph.
BUT, let’s also note the scene with Elliot and Joanna…
… which, between the driving siren-y music in the background and JOANNA’S EYES OH GOD, made me physically uncomfortable while watching. And while we’re noting it, let’s also remember the scene from a few weeks ago where Tyrell met with Christian Slater’s version of Mr. Robot in the car. There appears to be some history there, and she’s clearly on to him, and he knows it, but he — and we — don’t know why or how. This is bad for Elliot because Joanna is TERRIFYING.
4) The scene with Joanna illustrates another point, which is that Mr. Robot uses music as well as any show on television. The finale alone had that scene, the one where Elliot wanders through the Evil Corp. building as funhouse music plays, and my personal favorite, the harpist in the post-credits sequence playing “Nearer, My God, To Thee” in the billionaires’ party. Remember the bit from earlier in the episode where Elliot’s old boss at Allsafe said he felt like he was rearranging the chairs on the Titanic? Yuuuup.
5) It was nice that the show, in the midst of everything else that was happening, including a graphic depiction of suicide (which explains the decision to postpone the episode last week), gave us a feel-good breather in the middle about renegade hackers freeing dogs from a puppy incinerator. I appreciated that.
6) As the story goes, Sam Esmail originally conceived Mr. Robot as a feature film, and the reveal about Elliot’s dad was going to happen at the end of Act I, around the 30-40 minute mark. This is more or less impossible to picture at this point, now that we’ve seen it develop at a frantic pace over 10, 42-minute episodes. It also means, as he’s said, that the big beats of the story — including the ending — are already set. There’s something comforting about this. All the moving and shaking parts in the show make it feel a bit like we’re sailing in uncharted, slightly dangerous territory, so it’s nice to hear the captain insist he knows where he’s going. Yes, making a boat analogy moments after a Titanic reference was probably a bad idea. I stand by it.
7) A special season finale shout out to Lenny, Elliot’s doctor’s philanderous former flame. Let’s quickly run down his big plan:
- Contact former mistress who he had been leading on under a fake name for weeks/months without informing her he was actually married.
- Lure her to a restaurant by lying about a cancer diagnosis.
- Complain that her patient — and the Ashley Madison hackers, which was a nice touch — ruined his life by revealing his affairs, plural, as though he was talking to a doctor he hadn’t deceived for an extended period of time and just lied to about dying.
- Cry about his dog.
- Attempt to get former mistress to break doctor-patient confidentiality and risk her career to, essentially, do him a solid.
8) A brief note about Angela, and a subplot I have chosen to refer to as The Ballad of Angela’s Shoes.
In addition to the hack and the disappearance of Tyrell, the narrative leap also skipped over Angela accepting Terry Colby’s offer of a job at Evil Corp. When we first saw her, she was on the train on her way to work, nervously shaking in a close-up of her heels.
CUT TO: The same shoes covered in the blood of the Evil Corp executive who committed suicide on live television right in front of her, as she meets with the CEO who appears to be grooming her for… something in the company, which may or may not be related to the fsociety hack and her relationship to Elliot and Allsafe.
CUT AGAIN: Angela belittles the shoe salesman who is attempting to make her feel guilty about her role at Evil Corp., saying “I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I’ll try the Pradas next.”
In the span of one work day, she basically went from a jittery Bambi to a blood-soaked capitalist tyrant. Busy day for old Ang.
9) Elliot knows about his Mr. Robot alter-ego and chose to bring him back anyway. That scene in the cafe was really something, as it was (a) our first glimpse of what other people see when Elliot is interacting with Mr. Robot, and (b) a window into how the show might handle Elliot’s delusions and issues going forward. The speech Christian Slater gave about him being Elliot’s prophet and Elliot being his god clarified their relationship (“their” “relationship”), and then that was all driven home by the very prophet-like speech he gave about capitalism and marketing and social media during Elliot’s Times Square meltdown.
10) And then the whole dang thing went and ended on a double cliffhanger. Elliot had his happy-ish ending interrupted by a knock at the door and a quick cut to the credits (it says a lot about this show that “anarchist dead dad alter-ego telling you to chill out and watch the world collapse from the comfort of your living room” can be in any way construed as “happy”), and then after the credits we saw Whiterose — Dressed as a man! In a suit! — meeting with the head of Evil Corp. at a secret mansion party, where the head of Evil Corp. said he knows who was responsible for the hack. This show, man. This show.
All in all, it was a great ending to a great episode that closed out a great season. If entertainment is supposed to surprise you and fascinate you and make you think, I think it’s safe to say Season 1 of Mr. Robot was a rousing success. Catch y’all in season two.