In Mr. Robot‘s final episodes, Elliot discovers the truth.
This recap of the Mr. Robot Series Finale (Part 1 & 2) contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Elliot Alderson is a superhero. He is a vigilante; his superpower is hacking, his black hoodie is his costume. Elliot goes after the powerful and saves the world. He seems like a fictional creation, which, of course, he is.
Mr. Robot knows this. For a moment, at the end of the first part of the two-part series finale, the show allows for the possibility that the Elliot we have been watching is fictional. This vigilante hacker is the creation of a real Elliot Alderson, who escapes the drudgery of his daily routine by creating sketches of the characters we know as members of fSociety.
But every superhero has a weakness.
They say our choices show who we really our. The more pressure we are under, the more our choice matters.
In Mr. Robot’s penultimate episode, Elliot makes the wrong choice. At least, the Elliot we have known for the whole series makes the wrong choice.
After beating Whiterose’s game in the plant last episode (choosing to reach out and help your friend), Elliot wakes up in a world where everything is ok. To the tune of ‘Mr. Roboto’, he walks through the town where he grew up, only to find the store his father owned. Both parents are alive, Darlene does not exist, and Elliot never jumped out the window. The world he is in is one where he never suffered abuse.
After seeing his parents and his soon-to-be in-laws (Price surprises him at the door, saying “As far as you’re concerned I am evil incarnate”), Elliot realizes that in this world, his life wasn’t plagued by all the problems our Elliot suffered from. Scrolling through alter-Elliot’s social media, he says to us, “Looks like he doesn’t have crippling social anxiety and paranoia. He’s good at parties”.
Alter-Elliot has a secret, of course. But his secret is our Elliot’s reality. This Elliot is so bored with his life, that he imagines the life our Elliot lives. When alt-Elliot comes home, our-Elliot confronts him. Alter Elliot describes the hacker figure he draws; “he’s angry. He has no life. He’s alone. He’s not normal.”
Is there a better way to describe Elliot?
As HBO’s Watchmen recently argued, anyone driven to do that kind of vigilante work must have some issues. And Elliot has lived under the constant knowledge that he is not normal.
The best part of this season of Mr. Robot has been how it has attempted to tackle the root causes of Elliot’s mental health problems. Too often do films and tv simply write off serious problems as “they’re crazy!” Mr. Robot’s fourth season has worked hard to emphasize that Elliot’s schizophrenia and multiple personalities are a result of the abuse he suffered as a child. And over the past few episodes, he’s learned more about himself. He knows the reasons he can’t be happy.
Coming through into this alternate reality, he sees his life as it could have been. And when given the opportunity, he takes it. The chance of a “normal” life, is what could drive Elliot to make the wrong decision.
An earthquake (caused by interaction between the two-Elliots) leaves alter-Elliot bleeding out on the floor. Our Elliot hears Angela’s voice over the phone. He decides to do it. To kill the other Elliot and take his life. This is a decision driven not by logic, but by the impulse of someone who has suffered for so long, and sees how things could be different. It’s heartbreaking. He can’t even look at what he’s doing.
He packs away the body, tries to take a shower, and meet up with the wedding party. After a run-in with Dom (a traffic cop in this life, I guess she still loves the law), Mr. Robot appears, fittingly, on the subway where we first met him. He tries to convince Elliot to stop, he knows that this won’t work. Elliot ignores him.
Arriving at Coney Island, Elliot finds the wedding guests all in fSociety masks, and Mr. Robot (or Elliot’s father) tells him the truth. This world is not real. Nor is it Whiterose’s creation. This world, like the personalities Elliot creates, is a refuge; a defense mechanism. But Mr. Robot tells him something more; he is not Elliot Alderson.
We follow Elliot as he chases Angela to the old fSociety headquarters, then to a Malkovich-esque sequence where everybody is Mr. Robot, then to Krista’s office, via a bullet from Tyrell. There, Krista begins to explain everything.
Elliot has several personalities; Mr. Robot is the protective personality, there to keep him from bearing the full weight of abuse. Elliot’s mother is the persecutor, that voice in your head making you feel guilty for all your suffering. Then the child, there to handle the abuse he couldn’t tolerate. Together Elliot has a family within his head, all a form of coping, of getting through the trauma.
But that’s not all. There’s one more. Elliot, the Elliot we know, has been an angry person. Angry at the world, and those who have mistreated others. This anger was funneled into another personality, the “mastermind”. This became all-encompassing, to the point where he has existed mostly unobstructed for years. This is the Elliot Alderson we know and have been watching for four seasons. Sometimes our rage can become us.
Elliot wakes up in a Hospital. A tv flashes the headline, “Minister Zhang Found Dead” “nuclear Meltdown Narrowly Avoided.” Darlene wakes up and tells him that he narrowly survived, managing to avert a nuclear meltdown while destroying Whiterose’s machine. Darlene has known that something’s been up, but she found herself moving closer to Elliot before. She explains that she wasn’t there for Elliot when she needed him, and has always regretted it. Elliot, the angry personality, tells her “Even though I’m only a part of him. I love you.”
As light fills the room, Elliot begins to talk to the audience. “This whole time you thought changing the world is something you did,” he tells us, “but changing the world is just about showing up… by staying true even when we’re shamed into being false. If we refuse to budge and fall in line. If we stood in the ground just long enough, maybe the world can’t help but fall around us.” Elliot joins in with the other personalities in the boardroom. There is no malice. They all worked to help a damaged human being.
“We’ll always be a part of Elliot Alderson, and we’ll be the best part. We’re the part that stayed. The part that changed him.”
Because that’s what help is. It’s being there for people. It’s reliability, and constantly being good.
So the anger finally leaves and joins the others in the movie theater. The images that flash from the projector pull back to the eyes of the finally awake Elliot. The REAL Elliot. Darlene looks at him, at US. We have been Elliot the whole time. Every time a character breaks the fourth wall, they have been talking to the real Elliot. In the show’s final moments, Darlene greets him.
When it premiered the show was praised for capturing the zeitgeist, for talking about “the way things are now.” It was about hacking! It was about fighting the rich! It’s about mental illness. And the show was about all these things. But the show had much more interesting things on its mind. Esmail’s beautifully constructed final season revealed the show to be about a person struggling with abuse and overcoming trauma. And the importance of reaching out. Darlene is there for Elliot. And Elliot is there for Darlene.
If you’d told me during any previous season of the show that the Mr. Robot Series Finale would bring me to tears I wouldn’t have believed you. The second and third seasons left me more confused than anything, so going into the final season I was doubtful that the finale would be anything close to satisfying.
I was wrong.
What Esmail pulled off in the Mr. Robot Series Finale is nothing short of remarkable. The few of us who stuck with Mr. Robot will always remember this wonderful final stretch.
It was never about the hack. Or maybe, the real hack was the friends we made along the way?