BY GILBERT CRUZ
Seriously, though, who’s that knocking at the door at the end of the Season 1 finale of “Mr. Robot”?
Is it Tyrell? Elliot’s therapist Krista? The cops that Krista’s former boyfriend wanted to call on Elliot? Darlene? Or Angela? Did someone even knock on the door? Was that a real sound? What is sound, really? Do doors even exist?
This first season of “Mr. Robot” has been a twitchy, enjoyable, paranoia-soaked ride. The revelation, two weeks ago, that Mr. Robot, played by Christian Slater, was not a real person, fulfilling the expectations of many that the show was going to take a detour into “Fight Club” territory, made Elliot’s connection to reality even more tenuous than it had been before. And the nature of reality, at least in our digital age, was one of the concerns of this season’s finale. It was most obviously voiced by Mr. Robot himself in a rant in which Mr. Slater really pumped up the volume:
Is any of it real? I mean, look at this. Look at it! A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind-altering chemicals in the form of … food! Brainwashing seminars in the form of media. Controlled isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. Real? You want to talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century. We turned it off, took out the batteries, snacked on a bag of GMOs while we tossed the remnants in the ever-expanding Dumpster of the human condition. We live in branded houses trademarked by corporations built on bipolar numbers jumping up and down on digital displays, hypnotizing us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen. You have dig pretty deep, kiddo, before finding anything real.
Even after he witnesses the fruits of his labor, Elliot still has trouble accepting the reality. “Did it really happen? Are we really seeing this?” he wonders as he walks into E-Corp’s offices. “It” and “this” are the chaos wrought by his hack which, in a wonderful move completely in line with how the show creator Sam Esmail and his collaborators have played with expectations this entire season, occurs completely off-screen. We don’t even see the event that the entire season has been partly leading up to. By the time this episode starts, three days have passed, credit cards have stopped working, and Tyrell Wellick is nowhere to be found.
We’re clearly meant to think that Elliot, who is increasingly concerned about the creepy Nordic’s whereabouts, killed him. The last moment of last week’s episode (Elliot and Tyrell speak as the popcorn maker where Darlene hid a gun begins to pop) coupled with a brief shot in this week’s “Previously On” reel (Darlene secreting the gun) point towards that conclusion, though it’s not out of bounds for a series to use its “Previously On” reminder to mislead viewers. (Remember “Game of Thrones” and Benjen Stark?) Also, the episode’s extended opening, a conversation between Krista and her former boyfriend (real name Lenny, poor guy), who Eliot blackmailed, exists primarily to hammer home the idea that regardless of the ends, the means used by Eliot are terrible. He has a disregard for personal privacy. He is a vigilante. He is a bad person.
But then, this is a show full of many bad people. Eliot and his f-society cohorts are willing to destroy lives, companies, wealth and the entire system in order to achieve their goals; Tyrell is an evil snowman; his wife doubled down in this episode as the show’s creepiest character; Evil Corp’s C.E.O. is as cold-hearted as they come. I would say the wee baby Wellick is free from blame, but he’s probably a Damien waiting in the wings.
A few more thoughts:
• “This is what a revolution looks like,” says Eliot as he walks through the panicked halls of Evil Corp. “People in expensive clothing running around. Not what I expected.” More predictable, perhaps, are all the people running in the streets wearing f-society masks, à la “V For Vendetta” and Anonymous.
• We finally see Elliot go full “Fight Club” here, tossing himself up against the walls of a coffee shop.
• The title card in this episode might be my favorite yet. (For an interview with Mr. Esmail about the show’s distinctive title cards and title font, go here.)
• Great use of music in this episode, from the closing Alabama Shakes song to Shostakovich’s “Suite For Variety Stage Orchestra,” which was memorably used in the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”
• What did Tyrell’s wife say to Elliot near the end of their conversation. Anyone speak Danish?
• Finally, how about that post-credits scene?