BY TIM SURETTE
Let's do this. Afrikaa Bambaataa and John Lydon with a song more prescient than we knew when it was released in 1984. Turn it up
Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail originally envisioned his series as a movie, and the first season as the film's first act. And though Season 1 has been one of the best and most original television series debuts that I can remember, it's incredibly obvious after the Season 1 finale "eps1.9_zer0-day.avi" that there's still so much more to Mr. Robot and that Season 1 was just a stage-setting prologue—a fantastic one at that—to bigger things. Why else would a post-credits scene set in a rich man's lounge be full of smiling, grinning, powerful Illuminati while the financial world outside collapsed and the commonfolk celebrated an illusion of victory? More on that later.
The risky and daring decision to begin things with Elliot waking up days after Fsociety successfully hacked Evil Corp's data centers and erased their files was BALLSY but in line with everything Mr. Robot has already shown us. Wasn't the smashing of the keyboard button to execute the hack what we've all been building up to this entire season? No. Like the reveal that Mr. Robot was just a figment of Elliot's imagination (or worse) was brilliantly played just for Elliot rather than us the audience in the penultimate episode "Mirroring," "Zero Day" was all about how Elliot perceived the success or whatever it was of his plan and who was ultimately responsible for it. And it of course was not taken well as Elliot spiraled further out of control of himself. Once again, Mr. Robot swerved right when we expected it to go left, leaving us guessing and, this is important, engaged with what was transpiring before us.
There might not be any more twists the size of "I am Mr. Robot" left in the show, but there won't be anything more important to the series. Elliot's mental illness and dissociative disorder are the keys to the show, and this gap in time—in which arguably the most important parts of the show plot-wise took place—will reveal more about Elliot's true condition as he wrestles with Mr. Robot for what could be control of his mind. And Elliot will be right there with us figuring it all out.
I'm talking about the future of Mr. Robot because "Zero Day" was more of a rocket hurtling us toward what's to come instead of closing the door on what came before. But what happened in "Zero Day?" Visions of a world "liberated," Elliot wondering if he even did this at all, Fight Club madness as Elliot attempted to summon Mr. Robot to get answers. Let's skip all that. What was more important were the final scenes of Elliot with Mr. Robot in Times Square, with Mr. Robot's speech about how F'd we are in the A and how we're spiraling into a society that medicated ourselves on the shit that the rich and powerful fed us. It begged the question: how much of this was his dad's actual personality and, more likely, how much of it was Elliot's anger from a broken childhood and the death of his father manifesting itself in the form of something Elliot knew he would follow—a father figure, and one that he had a great deal of guilt over.
Elliot was able to tune everything out and clear his head of everyone... for a moment. The citizens of New York, Mr. Robot, and his family all vanished as Elliot was left alone. Until Mr. Robot, calm, even-toned, and speaking from an electronic billboard (curious choice), told Elliot that they would always be there with him. This was, for Elliot, a nightmare that he couldn't live without. His fear of loneliness, his mental uneasiness, his desire to lash out were all swirling around in his head and what he was left with was nothing but his thoughts, which also happen to be Mr. Robot's thoughts. We can't look at Mr. Robot as Elliot's dad anymore; we can only look at him as a segment of his mind. It's an unescapable partnership for Elliot, and it is what makes him both special and dangerous. Whether you think he's good for Elliot or not is another question that will be touched on in Season 2, I'm sure.
I've had conversations about this show with whoever will listen, and one thing that's come up more often than not is that my friends do not like Angela. And I'm like, WHOA dude and/or dudette, Angela is a GREAT character, particularly for this show. Angela represents a specific societal class: white and relatively privileged, free of most of the things that others face. With halfway decent decisions, she'll be just fine. (Though she is a woman in a male-dominated system, albeit a woman who Terry Colby thought would make a great addition to Evil Corp. But working your way up through a boy's club is no easy task, no matter the color of your skin or upbringing.)
You can see Angela wrestling with her decision to join corporate society, and from where she's coming from, the temptations were too much. It was so shocking yet not at all shocking that she took the job at Evil Corp (what happened to her in those three days to make her take it!?!?), just like it was shocking but not at all shocking that she ripped that shoe salesman a new one when he badmouthed her position at Evil Corp. Angela is right on the line between corporate living and the rest of the world, the world that Elliot lives in, and for Mr. Robot's take on this lifestyle (and an even greater exaggeration of that as we would see in the final moments), it's important to have a character like Angela right there on that line. Elliot has no chance to be corrupted, but Angela? It's a possibility, and when talking about these class societies, a character on the cusp of joining the evil elite is exactly what you want. This sounds like crazy talk, but of all the characters' paths in Season 2, it's Angela's that I'm the most excited about.
Moving over to Darlene, there's a very fascinating statement between her opinion of the hack and the rest of Fsociety. Change on this scale is SCARY; there's a sick myth of stability in the rise of corporate power in our world, and that's what the corporate powers want you to think. But there's truth to it; if the banks fell, total mayhem would consume society. What we saw was the result of Fsociety's hack was chaos, a joyous chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Where do we go from here? What do we do now? What happens to the global economy when there's nothing to drive it and the markets are empty? I got the feeling that the dream of a debtless society and a toppling of the creditors was a better situation than the reality of it, and maybe that's what the rest of Fsociety felt while Darlene partied her ass off. Did they do the right thing? Was this what they actually wanted? What they did was an act of terrorism, and depending on your perspective it was the good kind or the bad kind, but it instilled such sudden change that there had to be repercussions that Fsociety should have predicted and had solutions to, but they were so obsessed with the breaking point that they were unable to see what came after. I can't wait to see how things settle in Season 2. What will this world be like?
Or were things that different after all? Mr. Robot could re-achieve stability easily if the final scene was to be believed. There was Whiterose and Evil Corp CEO Phillip Price getting served snacks and bubbles in a room full of rich and powerful people from all over the globe who weren't the slightest bit bothered with what was happening outside in the real world. Was this the Illuminati? Was it the executive lounge at the 1 percenter's evil headquarters?
The point is neither of these guys were worried, and though I have my doubts and concerns on what Whiterose was doing there, seeing Phillip Price smiling—f*cking smiling!!!!—while his company was shredded and a top dude blew his brains out on live television was absolutely insane. This one percent of the one percent—the group that controls everything, as Elliot told us in the opening sentences of the pilot—appear to be very real and very, very, very powerful. Price's comment to Angela that the hacker attack was just done by "people" and the talk of hacking time could even be perceived as something more supernatural happening. Are these people perfecting time travel, are they time travelers, are they chasing immortality? At this point, everything is in play here and I wouldn't be surprised at anything.
But what it did say definitively was that we've only seen one layer—one incredible layer—of this freakishly great show. The real enemy is yet to be defined. The real enemies weren't the corporations, they are the entities that control the corporations. Or all this is in Elliot's mind. We just don't know, and it's fantastic.
- Instead of a single twist that existed in a scene, a three-day absence could be—with a little trickery—the entirety of Season 2. What happened in those three days? How did the plan to hack Evil Corp actually come into place and how was it executed? What happened to Tyrell Wellick? Like, seriously, what happened to Tyrell Wellick? How much does Joanna actually know? And elsewhere, how did FSociety get on board with the hack this final time and why the F did Angela take the Evil Corp job? Maybe it's just an episode's worth of stuff, maybe it's half a season, maybe it's a whole season. But it's a busy few days' worth of stuff that reflects back where it needs to: on Elliot.
- "You know, I've run all the scenarios of our little revolution here, but using a dead puppy oven was not on the list."
- There are some great interviews with Esmail out there, you can easily find them out there, but make sure you read this one by Vulture with B.D. Wong, who plays Whiterose. There are some interesting aspects of his character that come up in it.
- I'm still trying to figure out everything that was going on with Krista in this episode. But hopefully she comes back next season.
- I don't think that his was the best episode of the season; "Hello Friend" (the pilot), "Brave Traveler" (the one with Vera and the prison break), "Whiterose" (the one in which we found out about Darlene), and "Mirroring" (the reveal about Mr. Robot) all had more of an OMG feel that will really stick with me, but "Zero Day" was pretty perfect as a finale for Season 1 and a door opening into Season 2.
MR. ROBOT: WHAT DID YOU THINK OF "ZERO DAY"? (Click below to vote)