‘Mr. Robot’ Ended Its Second Season With A Bang

The second season of Mr. Robot was a bit of a mixed bag. The first half or so dragged as we spent time inside Elliot’s head while he was “staying at his mom’s house,” which turned out to be the prison a sizable chunk of viewers suspected it was from the beginning. Things got weird. Alf killed a guy. I really don’t want us to forget that. The action picked up after his release, though, thanks in large part to a heavier focus on Angela and Darlene, and how Elliot’s actions and absence impacted them. Stage 2 started rolling, whatever it was, and the Dark Army and the FBI continued circling each other like cobras. There were many questions to be answered.

And the second part of the two-part season finale answered… some of them. It wouldn’t be Mr. Robot if it answered them all, though, so that was to be expected. The last hour moved fast as it careened toward its ending, with both Elliot and Darlene finding themselves in very different kinds of trouble. It was really quite good. Still a little messy, sure, and not quite the mindblowing experience the first season was, but the back half of the season — especially the final three episodes — were a reminder of just how good the show can be when it hit its stride.

Here are 10 thoughts and takeaways I had about this week’s episode and where things might be headed.

1. We finally learned what Stage 2 is: A plan involving malware, hydrogen gas, and a kaboom big enough to take out an entire building that E Corp is using to house its physical records after the hack. We also learned that Mr. Robot has been plotting this all season with Tyrell and Whiterose, which is really weird to think about because it means Elliot has been sneaking off kind of a lot to put all of this together in the time we haven’t seen him. He’s basically been spending half the day as a supervillain and the other half as the one trying to bring himself down. That’s a full day.

2. Oh, also, Tyrell shot Elliot and Elliot collapsed on the floor of their warehouse hideout, with Mr. Robot flickering in and out of existence as Elliot’s world faded to black. The relationship between Elliot and Tyrell has been strange from the jump, and we spent a fair amount of the season wondering if Elliot shot Tyrell in an abandoned arcade, so Tyrell shooting Elliot in an abandoned warehouse ain’t that big of a leap. The bigger deal is that Elliot started questioning his own mind about Tyrell’s existence and wondering if the gun in this situation was just like the gun Mr. Robot “shot” him with earlier in the season. And the biggest deal is that Mr. Robot appears to have given Tyrell the gun to stop Elliot in case this very thing happened, which is a lot to wrap your head around if you stop to think about it for a few minutes.

Two things are worth noting here: One, as crazy as Mr. Robot is, and as much as the show thrived this season when it got out into the world with Darlene and Angela, there’s really no way they kill off Elliot, and the phone call from Tyrell to Angela seems to put any thought about that to bed. Two, I’m not sure how far down the “What if Tyrell is fake?” rabbit hole Elliot went in that moment, but if that had been true about 100 other dominoes would have fallen after it. Like, Joanna would have to be fake, since she recruited Elliot to find Tyrell. Huge chunks of E Corp would have to be fake, too, since he couldn’t have worked at both AllSafe and E Corp in season one. Basically his entire world and everyone in it would have to exist only inside his head. Which, I suppose, is still a possibility. I would not like that. (UPDATE: This didn’t take into account that Elliot could have conjured up Tyrell only after “killing” the “real” version. I am truly, incredibly sorry for the error. It will never happen again.) (It will probably happen again.)

3. The second most important thing in the episode was the “patient predator” reveal that Dom and the FBI have been onto fsociety for a while now, to the degree that they have an almost completely accurate organizational chart on the wall. (Tyrell and Elliot appear to be flip-flopped, but that’s it.) Agent Dom knows more than a little bit about the Dark Army, too, and got really suspicious about one particular clock-obsessed security official during her trip to China earlier in the season, so it turns out this investigation is a hell of a lot further along than we thought. I still haven’t backtracked and pieced together if and how it all adds up, but the short version is that Darlene is in a real spot right now, and I’m not exactly where she goes from here.

4. The “This isn’t Burn Notice” speech by Dom’s hardass FBI partner was maybe a little too meta and cutesy in an episode about a violent act of domestic terrorism, but I have chosen to forgive it because Dom gave Darlene the “We’re not so different, you and I” speech, which is my single favorite cop vs. bad guy movie cliche. I literally whispered “Yesssss” when it happened.

5. For the second season in a row, Angela came out of the finale as the most interesting character on the show. Last season it was her sudden transformation into an E Corp soldier and this season it was her sudden deep involvement with Tyrell and the Dark Army after meeting with Whiterose. And it seems like she has something up her sleeve in both situations. Showrunner Sam Esmail discussed this in an interview with Variety after the finale aired.

The great thing about Angela, it reminds me a little bit of Jackie Brown, where we never knew what Jackie’s true motivation was. She was always playing both sides, and not until the end, did you finally reveal it. It has a lot to do with Portia Doubleday’s performance. You can just never quite read her. She does it in such an exquisite fashion that we played up the notion where she’s a character that’s riding down the middle. On the one hand, you could feel that she’s flipped and turned to E Corp, and on the other hand, no, she’s trying to bring them down.

Want a fun visual? Picture Mr. Robot as exactly the same show, shot for shot, line for line, but with Pam Grier as Angela.

6. The thing about Joanna is that, if we’re being truly honest about everything, her entire arc this season was pointless, plot-wise. The calls were not coming from Tyrell but from Scott, the E Corp CTO from season one whose wife Tyrell killed, and who just wanted to screw with Joanna to try to make her sad. It had nothing to do with the hack, or Tyrell, or the Dark Army, and it’s not like her elaborate plan to frame him for his wife’s murder will make things that much better for Tyrell, because he’s still on the FBI’s big conspiracy board for the hack. The whole thing ended up being not much more than a ploy to give a cool character something to do all season, unless there’s a plan to make it all matter next season.

But also… fine. Joanna is fascinating, and terrifying, and her plan for revenge involved shouting horrible things about a fetus so a man would attack her, and then using her bruises to convince her dope boyfriend to frame him for a murder her husband committed. I don’t think I particularly care if there was a point to any of it. More shows should cram elegantly dressed evil psychopaths into their plots.

7. Sam Esmail’s decision to direct all 12 episodes of season two seemed like a suicide mission when it was first announced. Running a show and being its creative force is plenty of work on its own, without tossing in extra tasks. I have no idea how he did it or if/when he slept. But I also know that there were about five thousand moving parts this season and he might be the only person in the world with a grasp on all of them, so having him helm everything on-set probably created as much continuity as possible. I bet the dude sleeps for a month now, though.

8. Do you ever wonder if Mr. Robot takes over to go grocery shopping and then Elliot opens the fridge and sees that he bought the yellow American cheese instead of the white and then just has a fit? Or like if he deletes all of Elliot’s shows on the DVR and fills it up with weird conspiracy-theory documentaries? Sometimes I do. I think of them as mismatched roommates. This is very stupid.

9. This marks the second straight year that the show ended with a scene after the credits. In season one, it was the secret billionaires meeting. This season, we saw Trenton and Mobley on lunch break at an electronics store, talking about reversing the hack until Elliot’s prison buddy slash Seinfeld aficionado slash trusted Dark Army hitman Leon showed up. Leon! I missed that guy. I mean, his sudden appearance is probably not a great sign for Trenton and Mobley, but still. I hope we get a web series about him between seasons. Just him watching, like, Just Shoot Me in between assassinations.

10. Questions heading into season three: Is Stage 2 still on after Elliot got shot? Does Dom’s “You are special” speech and overwhelming mountain of evidence convince Darlene to flip? What’s going to happen with Angela and the FBI now that she’s decided not to confess (apparently)? Do you think it’s weird babysitting for Joanna when she is out and about doing evil? What exactly is up with the plant that Whiterose and the Dark Army are going to such great lengths to keep open? Are Trenton and Mobley dead or are they being brought in to the plan? Where do we go from here?