Written by Matthew Haviland
“I don’t want to be in denial anymore,” Elliot tells Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) in this midseason episode. That gets to the heart of the issue. Elliot spent last season awakening to himself, and this season, he’s given the chance to accept himself. Like his warning to Darlene (Carly Chaikin) about their progress after Five/Nine being harder than the hack itself, awakening was easier than resolving his emotional baggage. Mr. Robot calls Elliot a leader in this climactic episode. Where others might follow money or pleasure, Elliot’s strength has been following his conscience, which makes him truly stable. This voice told him to preserve Mr. Robot’s message in the hacked code before he knew about fsociety, and it’s been leading ever since.
This season has been a delightful metaphor for coming to terms with both good and bad in your persona. Watching Elliot ignore, struggle against, work alongside, and even love Mr. Robot has made for affecting personal contemplation. It’s also been a slambang exploration of how crazy Mr. Robot can get stylistically, whether employing a sitcom-styled cold open threatening to last the whole episode, dark exhaustion after the shiny beginnings of an Adderall binge Elliot uses to “stay awake forever” so that Mr. Robot never emerges, or the background transforming as we realize he’s been in . . . but wait a second, hold on.
Season two has been big for characters coming to terms with themselves, and this is the perfect episode to dovetail into the midseason report, because with Elliot saying he doesn’t want to be in denial anymore, the world opens for him like it’s sighing. Everything falls together, with Elliot passing various tests to maintain his newfound peace. He asks Ray (Craig Robinson) for mercy, basically choosing life by way of James Bond delay tactics (“What about a game?”). Because he shows the will to live, which he’s been back and forth on this season, Elliot gets Door Number Two (Chess Confessional with Ray) instead of Door Number One (Go Downstairs and Get Killed by Lone Star). Then he remains strong when threatened by gang members after shutting down Ray’s website, showing that he’s not denying his actions. Then he makes good with the chaplain (Bernadette Quigley), after which Mr. Robot stands turned away, as if he’ll let Elliot rest forever if he chooses. Elliot’s has paid his debts, so many that he seems not to have been bothered by his undead father for weeks.
This episode felt like a season finale, in many ways. Elliot’s personal struggle is eased, Ray has been stopped, fsociety has owned the FBI, deleting countless breadcrumbs, and Angela, she’s back. Angela seems to have become so clinical, so reptilian, but we see now that she’s been good all along. She’s rectifying her mother’s death, stopping E Corp’s corporate lack of conscience from claiming more lives—while her father (Don Sparks) doesn’t believe her about the internal safety checks after dropping that statute from the lawsuit E Corp would have otherwise kept in limbo, Angela goes into Phillip Price’s (Michael Cristofer) office and demands a lateral move. “That’s how you choose to squander the capital you’ve just earned?” he asks. She chooses correctly; Risk Management is where she can stop other people’s parents from dying. That’s worth more than the respect she might gain with a promotion, maybe someday becoming Tyrell Wellick and beating homeless men because of how miserable she is.
She takes this job because she’s really, truly, good. “You guys always thought that you were smarter than me,” she tells Darlene after helping them own the FBI, and this could double for, “You always thought you were a better person.” Angela has been playing the role required by her evil secret agenda of goodness. Now she’s got her affirmations, her iron resolve, and her central role in the company. Her boss (Jeremy Bobb) even seems like a pretty good guy at first. (His company-man darkness emerges, however, when he muses on protestors at the window, opposite a framed photo of a construction worker panicking on a metal strut, dozens of stories high, his support beam yanked away. One of Mr. Robot’s most startling images, season-finale-ish, hailing from the Mad Men school of powerful, climactic wall art during big episodes.
What else? Tyrell Wellick is dead. That’s a season-finale plot point if I ever heard one, dropped unceremoniously, without blinking away from the dungeon in Ray’s house. Moreover, Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) gets Derrick (Chris Conroy) divorce papers from Tyrell for his birthday. Tyrell’s widow, sealing her romance with the bondage boy toy who has legitimately shown her that money (Mr. Robot’s root of all evil since Elliot said, “I don’t give a shit about money;” money, the influence that made Ray and his wife, ostensibly peaceful people, overlook their crimes as they “let the market dictate” their business) isn’t everything. Tyrell’s death even has Elliot breathing easy; perhaps his debt there was the rotting flesh underneath the bandage, with Mr. Robot’s intensity matching the intensity of Elliot wondering if he killed Tyrell, and now, because he acknowledges it and takes responsibility for holding the gun, Elliot is free. Poof.
So this episode, chronologically past the midseason point and therefore at no special place in season two, has tied up not only the loose ends of the story (except for the whole Dominique-investigating-fsociety-while-they-try-to-save-the-world thing) but major emotional quandaries, giving characters huge, arc-changing redemption, setting Angela up as the goodhearted knight, Elliot as the resolved leader of fsociety, Mr. Robot as the supportive inner drive, and everyone else as having fallen away. Now is a great time to stop and marvel at what Mr. Robot has done. If this were the season finale, minus the last few scenes, things would feel complete. Instead, it’s the seventh episode, Rami Malek himself having said that he couldn’t understand what was going on in an especially mind-boggling later one. Talk about finale vibes—Ray thanks Elliot for saving his soul, gets raided by the police, even retracts his passionate speech about stumbling, saying, “I should have taken a fucking stand.” This is climactic, series-ending stuff. What comes after this? “What if the destination is you?” Elliot says, burning his journal and backing away, Mr. Robot standing beside him. “What if it’s always you?”
Of course, this isn’t the end, and with the final few scenes, Mr. Robot takes all that resolution and tears it away. When you strip away illusion, there’s so much more underneath that’s now unexplained. Mention must be made of the background silently switching to his mom’s house when Krista (Gloria Reuben) says Elliot hasn’t been there. Devastating. So this is where Angela visited him, Darlene. That’s why he’s been going to all those basketball games, why he and Leon (Joey Bada$$) are such fast friends. But what was all the Ray stuff? The letter Leon mentions after killing the (prison) gang members to save Elliot’s life seems to be a release letter, so Elliot has paid many debts. We also wonder what Angela can actually do with her new position. She’s got a more menacing boss, who seems nice until she asks to be in the directors’ meeting, where sudden coolness turns into outright malice. Now she’s outed as the good person in a company that really is evil, full of wolves who don’t take vacation and just want their shrimp cocktail at the meeting. The stakes are higher, and while we know that Angela is strong enough and good enough to make changes from inside, she’s opposing seemingly everyone to make their safety inspections be anything more than a facade to serve E Corp’s, as Phillip Price puts it, repeating Angela’s words but no less serious, “Evil secret agendas.” And again, Elliot’s in prison. We’re not in denial anymore, but now we’re here. There’s plenty to resolve.
Episode Score: 9.0/10 (Conclusive)
Midseason Score: 9.5/10 (Incredible)