BY TONY MANFRED
[WARNING: The following post will spoil all of Season 1 of USA Network's "Mr. Robot."]
The season finale of "Mr. Robot" — USA's surprise breakout hit of the summer — was as much about setting up Season 2 as it was about wrapping up Season 1.
The economy-collapsing "fsociety" hack that the entire season had been building toward happened off-screen, as does the major development of Angela taking the job at E-Corp. Instead of picking up where episode nine left off — with Elliot and Tyrell in the Mr. Robot arcade seemingly ready to either join forces (or become enemies?) — we fast forward three days, the hack has already happened, and neither us nor Elliot knows how we got here.
It's a confusing and fitting way to end a season. This is a show that's constantly staying one step ahead of its audience. Where another show would telegraph a character death for weeks and meditate on a major revelation for an entire episode, "Mr. Robot" barrels forward through its story, stopping for no one. In that way, it was kind of perfect that the show moved right past the hack itself and instead focused on the new reality that the hack created for the world of the show.
Still, it was confusing, right? We don't know what happened to Tyrell. We don't know where Elliot was in the 72 hours in which the hack went down. We don't know what thought process drove Angela to work for the company that's responsible for killing her mother.
For the sake of clarity, here's what we know for sure happened in the finale, and what it means going forward.
1. The hack worked.
Even though the show has made it dangerous for us to declare what's "real" and what's imagined, it's pretty safe to say the hack worked. We see people in fsociety masks running through the streets. We hear the AllSafe consultant/part-time CFO tells Gideon that losing the company won't be a complete disaster because fsociety wiped out all debt. The E-Corp exec shoots himself on TV, and the guy at the shoe store talks about it while admonishing Angela for working there. If the hack was imagined by Elliot, then the whole show is imagined by Elliot. And while Elliot is surely an unreliable narrator, there's no suggestion that the entire reality of the show doesn't exist.
Plus, Business Insider wrote about it in the show, so it must be true:
2. Whiterose is cozy with E-Corp.
This is probably the biggest thing that happened in the episode with respect to what's going to happen in Season 2.
Whiterose is the leader of the Dark Army, the Chinese hacking collective which fsociety needed to carry out the cyberattack on E-Corp. We first saw Whiterose in episode eight, when she meets Elliot and tells him he needs to hack Gideon in order to take out the honey pot he set up in E-Corp's server. It was one of the most memorable and strange scenes of the series so far, with this character we've never seen before talking about the concept of time and putting Elliot in a helpless position.
The next time we see her is in the post-credits scene at the end of the season finale. This time she's dressed as a man. The actor, BD Wong, did an interview with Vulture where he confirmed that Whiterose, a transgender person, is the one who has the episode-ending conversation with E-Corp CEO Phillip Price. It's also clear that it's Whiterose when her watch beeps right before the episode ends (it also beeped in the scene in Episode 8).
When you start to connect the dots here — the CEO of the company that got hacked is seemingly in league with the leader of the collective that hacked it — and consider the scene where Angela ominously asks Price why he's still so confident earlier in the episode, it's clear that the winners and losers of the hack aren't as clear as they seem.
3. Elliot can embody his hallucinations (a.k.a. "Mr. Robot").
This is a small but key detail to the show's internal logic. During the scene in the coffee shop, Elliot chokes Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and throws him against a wall. The next shot shows us the scene from a different perspective, and we see that Elliot is the one against the wall and he's choking himself with his own hand.
That means that Mr. Robot can be Elliot in a physical sense. This isn't a case where Mr. Robot is a ghost that follows around the real Elliot. The "real" Elliot can float between bodies.
This clears up those instances where Mr. Robot interacts with other "real" characters (because it's all Elliot). It also presents some different possibilities going forward.
4. Elliot is probably the one in the mask in the fsociety message, not Tyrell.
Someone on Reddit altered the distorted audio and found that the un-processed voice sounds a lot like Elliot's. While the man in the mask looks like he has blue eyes (and Tyrell is Swedish), the way the shots cut back and forth from the masked man's eyes to Elliot suggest it's him.
5. The popcorn gun is still at large.
Episode nine ends on an on-the-nose shot of Elliot, while talking to Tyrell, staring at the popcorn machine at Mr. Robot HQ. That's the popcorn machine, you'll recall, where Darlene hid the gun that she stole an episode earlier.
The popcorn gun and Tyrell don't appear in the finale, and Elliot wakes up in his SUV three days later. Coincidence?
So that's what we know. But when it comes to some bigger questions — Where is Tyrell? How does Tyrell's wife play into this? — we'll have to wait until Season 2. The show's creator Sam Esmail has said repeatedly that "Mr. Robot" was originally a movie script, and Season 1 is only the first act. Based on the finale, the second act will be largely about who really orchestrated the hack, and how Elliot got in the middle of it.