Whiterose’s plan finally comes to fruition in the last episode before the series finale.
This recap of Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 11, “eXit”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Mr. Robot has never been shy of its influences. In its first season, the common description of the show was something along the lines of “Fight Club with Occupy politics.” The comparisons didn’t end there. Not only did creator Sam Esmail made it clear that he was deliberately trafficking in the tricks of his cinematic predecessors, but that he is aware of the audience’s familiarity.
Knowing your audience has the same common knowledge of tropes allows you to then use those in interesting ways. For example, the Mr. Robot reveal of the first season becomes more powerful from a recent revelation from a couple of episodes back. Once we are aware THAT things are not as they seem, the question of WHY becomes more prevalent.
This hyperawareness on both the production and consumption end of the show is part of what made the first season feel so zeitgeist-ey (and the second season’s replication of familiar twists to go in different directions, likely accounting for ratings decline). Trading in references also has the effect of creating a shorthand for the audience, where signifiers of the source of the twist allow this hyper-literate audience to understand what is happening before the text of the show would reveal it. An example would be the use of the Pixies’ Where is my Mind before the reveal of Mr. Robot.
In Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 11, “eXit”, Mr. Robot’s biggest influence isn’t Fight Club, but that ur-mystery show, Lost. Sure, mystery shows existed before Lost but Lost created a swirling discussion that transcended fan-forums, and constantly threw in other twists as well. It’s no surprise, then, that Esmail would use Lost as more than homage, but as a reference point to signify the huge story turn he pulls off.
But before we get there, let me recap the first two-thirds of the episode.
We begin where episode 9 ended. Whiterose is putting on lipstick while her house is being stormed by the FBI. But the knock at her door is not the feds, but one of her minions. As she walks past the corpses of the FBI, one of them, gasping for breath, calls her Zhang. She responds, “Minister Zhang… is dead, there is only Whiterose.”
We then cut to the motel from the last episode. After Darlene and Dom leave. Elliot gets into a fight with Mr. Robot. Elliot believes that he can install malware into the Washington Township nuclear plant. “This is where it all started,” he says. But Mr. Elliot realizes that Elliot is driven by revenge “There must be something else,” he says, “this is an endless war, at a certain point you gotta move on.
But Elliot knows he has to do this, and he has to do it alone. Mr. Robot and the other personalities we saw at the conference room a couple of episodes ago gather to watch him go.
“Heroes and Villains,” by the Beach Boys, plays as Elliot travels to Washington Township. When he arrives at the power plant, he finds cars speeding away and the security box empty. Everyone seems to have left in a hurry. Except for the corpses, which clearly didn’t make it out in time.
Elliot attempts to install the malware and is surprised by a group of Dark Army people led by a man in a HAZMAT suit who seems more interested in eating his sandwich than with whatever plan he is tasked with.
He enters an odd-looking room containing a copy of Tolstoy’s Resurrection and a poster that reads “When a door closes a window opens”. Whiterose appears and Elliot tries to assert his resilience. He tells her “this brainwashing isn’t going to work on me.” Whiterose responds, “this procedure has never been about brainwashing. It is about helping you understand.” But Elliot doesn’t quite get it. Whiterose talks about all the pain of the world using, but Elliot thinks she wants to destroy things.
Whiterose lays out her philosophy; “We are the root of everything that is wrong… the world convinces us to hate each other,” she says. But Whiterose believes she “has sacrificed everything to make it better.” “I try to bring order from the chaos.”
Elliot then delivers a passionate speech about his own life. He realizes he is the one who hates people. He admits he’s been, “scared of them practically my whole life.” But some people “refuse to let you hate them… they love you in spite of it.” Minimalistic music swells as Elliot tells of the greatness of humanity; “we’re all told we don’t stand a chance, and then we stand.” He concludes by telling Whiterose, “I will not give up on this world, and if you can’t see why, then I speak for everyone when I say ‘F**k You’”
Creating a parallel world, as Whiterose plans, will cause the nuclear reactor to meltdown. Elliot scolds her for not giving people a choice. Whiterose responds that she is, and then shoots herself in the head.
Elliot is still trapped, but he’s not alone. Mr. Robot appears to help Elliot escape, but they realize they must stop the meltdown. So they sit down and boot up the computer that has been there the whole time. On it, there is a choose-your-own-adventure game. In the game, you are trapped in the room with a friend. They play through and win. But something is wrong.
They start over, this time choosing to stay with the friend. Having chosen compassion over self-interest (the choice Whiterose must’ve been talking about), Mr. Robot and Elliot sit down. “I love you,” says Elliot to Mr. Robot, who reiterates the sentiment. Having learned to reach out to people, and expressed the beauty of empathy to Whiterose, Elliot is finally at peace.
As the reactor goes off, the screen turns red…
The New World
Lost’s fifth season ended with an H-Bomb being detonated (and a fade to white). The sixth began with an alternate version of the show’s background where the plane never crashed. In Mr. Robot Season 4, Episode 11, “eXit” takes this sequence and combines it with Lost’s second season-opening (an all-time classic).
Elliot wakes up. He puts a record on (“Turn Up the Radio”, rather than “Make your Own Kind of Music,” by Mama Cass). Like Desmond in the hatch, he gets up, takes some pills, showers, does some pull-ups, etc. Elliot seems, dare I say it, happy?
Then the ground shakes.
No hatch has been opened. It’s simply an earthquake (caused by what?). Elliot gets a Skype call from Angela, still alive in this reality. We find out that they are getting married tomorrow (and also that Darlene doesn’t exist in this reality). Not only is Elliot’s father still alive, but they are on excellent terms (and they are keeping a surprise from Angela). Has Whiterose created a version of the world where all the bad things we learned in the show never happened?
Speaking of Whiterose, in this reality, she is a generous philanthropist. Elliot is the CEO of Allsafe, where he meets a stubbly Tyrell. Cracks from our reality start to break through (Elliot says ECorp instead of “FCorp”) — could this be a result of the earthquake?. He tells Tyrell about the mundanity of his daily routine. Tyrell is sold! “FCorp” is now a client of Allsafe.
Elliot returns from his ordinary home to a surprise. Elliot, the Elliot from the reality that the show has taken place in up until now is there.
Is this world real? Is it heaven (à la Lost)? Does Elliot have a plan to get out of there? And is it necessary? What would have happened if he had made the wrong choice back at the reactor?
All will be revealed (hopefully) next Monday in the two-part season finale!