(Editor’s note: This piece was originally published December 14, 2017)
Is anyone else taken aback we’re already at the finale? It’s been such a good season, so well paced and plotted that at times it hasn’t felt like a series, but one long movie I just keep choosing to watch in segments.
But, here we are.
After a reminder Grant wants Elliot dead and Whiterose’s apparent acceptance of this, a Dark Army hit squad busts into Elliot’s place. The camera floats around the room above the men which is often ‘our’ perspective when we don’t have Elliot or somebody else to tether us. Elliot is not there, but Grant is and he finds the Mr. Robot jacket, seems especially taken with it while the men tear apart Elliot’s apartment. Elliot is hiding in Shayla’s empty place, with Flipper, listening until the men leave. When Elliot re-enters his apartment, we float down to him from a high corner as if we had been hiding there. Elliot is more worried about Darlene than the state of his apartment, realises she’s in danger, too. He runs out to go and find her, missing the fact his infamous CD case has been opened and scattered all over. One plain white, unlabelled disc takes us into the credits.
Over at the FBI offices, Santiago arrives to drag Darlene out of the interrogation room about as violently as he can manage, without just punching her. Santiago, you are the WORST at this. Dom, FINALLY FINALLY SUSPICIOUS OF ALL THIS, is taking documents from Darlene’s arrest to Agent Anyone-But-Santiago to try to get them processed. She realises both Santiago and Darlene are missing, and she catches them in the parking lot. Santiago is the worst double agent about why he’s leaving with Darlene, but since Dom easily scares him by threatening to follow basic ass procedure, she quickly clocks on how bad this is. Poor Dom and her self doubts make her hesitate just a second long, enough for Santiago to slap her unconscious.
Elliot finds the arcade empty and realises Darlene might be with the Feds, and checks the Dark Army database to see who they own — thousands of people in New York alone, and Elliot is plunged into a violent panic attack. He smashes things and tips over an old game cabinet, regretting his every move and blaming himself. As he stares at his reflection, he remembers something. He goes over to that oh-so-important Ferris wheel where he and Robot seem to be able to talk. Robot is just raging about being cut out of things, even if Darlene is in danger. Elliot, talking to Robot like … I mean, you know, a person, admits he’s scared of Robot, specifically the part of Robot that is himself. Robot admits again he did not know about the bombings, and then Elliot asks the key question ‘If you did … would you have done it?’ Robot … says he would have found another way. It starts to hit Elliot that if Robot is part of him, he too is part of Robot — meaning Robot has the capacity to do good. Robot talks about the FBI mole.
Speaking of that fucking weasel dipshit, Dom wakes up in his car and — Imma try not to be mad it’s taken him punching Dom in the face for her to realise he’s a spy. He’s a terrible spy, Dom. I love you, but you should have raised questions after China. Which, incidentally is what she realises when she wakes up; that he hid in his room and let everyone die, or nearly die. She realises he helped Dark Army (DA) kill Cisco, helped frame Trenton and Mobley. Santiago tries to argue ‘his position’ and is just a massive, giant shit. Dom has no time for this, though he ‘reveals’ he didn’t’ tell DA that Darlene was an informant, and alludes to whatever it is the DA hold over him. He promises Dom she’ll understand soon enough. That … sounds ominous.
Robot has told Elliot what Tyrell shared, so the pair are at Santiago’s place to search for clues. While they’re working out a cipher on a Red Wheelbarrow flier, Irving … I mean basically just appears in the middle of the apartment. Where did he come from? Elliot thinks fast about what to do, but Irving shuts that down and makes them follow him.
Over at some very nice house, Angela is waiting for Whiterose, only to realise she has been picked up by people working for Price. A friendly ‘house manager’ who seems to know how to handle someone as mentally unwell as Angela currently is, feeds Qwerty and offers to make her pancakes.
Robot and Elliot are taken to the farm where Tyrell stayed. They look at the house … sort of knowingly, but are not allowed inside. Dark Army and Santiago have Darlene and Dom bound in the barn, Leon sits nearby, smiling in real glee when he sees Elliot. Santiago is giving Irving instructions of how to clean all this up and seems to have entirely forgotten his place as he starts throwing around orders and demands. Irving’s response to this ‘… Uh-huh’, should give Santiago the clue to start counting down to his own death but …. ya know, he’s dumb as rocks. Irving escorts Dom and Santiago outside, asking Leon if he’s ‘got this’; which is guarding the Aldersons.
We cut outside to where poor, poor Dom (Esmail if she dies bro, I’ll tackle you in public) is trying to appeal for her life, hilariously by calling out Santiago’s terrible, no good, very bad spying. All she has is her conviction that her abduction is on camera. Where is her friend? Agent Other Guy?
In the barn, Elliot and Robot are having a confab in his head, Robot thinking they have a chance of escape. Elliot, looking to a camera in the ceiling, wants to speak to Whiterose.
Outside, at Tyrell’s chopping block, Santiago suddenly gets cold feet and wants Irving to try and flip Dom to their side. She stubbornly refuses to flip but even as she is, Santiago is singing her praises as an extraordinarily gifted agent who could be valuable to Dark Army if they just take a little time. Irving, stripping to his undershirt and revealing that slightly schlubby physique beneath the suit is actually just some very solid muscle, has taken up the axe and tells her to look at the sky. He’s helping her breathe, Santiago is begging for her life now, and then HELLS GOD YES, IRVING AXE MURDERS THE ABSOLUTE SHIT OUT OF SANTIAGO.
Holy shit! Irving tells a shocked Dom she’s the new Santiago, their spy inside. She absolutely refuses, promises to arrest everyone. Irving calmly lists the names of her brother’s children, talks about their day to day lives, punctuating each name or description by chopping Santiago into tinier and tinier pieces. Blood soaked, not one hair of his perfect quiff out of place, he asks Dom for confirmation and then sends her back into the barn, so he can ‘centre’ himself … by which he means, finally take out all his considerable frustrations with Santiago, on what remains of the agent’s body.
Dom staggers back into the barn and takes a seat, utterly shocked. Robot worries again they’ll be killed, but Elliot knows the DA are waiting for someone.
And we smash cut to Grant arriving, to the soundtrack of a Cambodian language version of ‘Bang Bang’. Irving once again keeps people out of the farmhouse, breaks the news about Santiago, and then tries to leave to go finish his book. Grant demands he stay, and then the most curious thing happens. Irving, big dude that he is, closes all the way in on Grant’s personal space and grabs the other man around the jaw. He all but purrs the question of whether Grant still makes passes at Whiterose, if Whiterose has let it get that far, making it clear Irving has known Whiterose. Then just to be sure, Irv tells Grant ‘I was you a long time ago’. Grant’s expression makes it clear he didn’t know. Oh shit. Oh SHIT. Did he just say …? Oh My GOD.
And on that, while Grant and I scramble to regain composure, Irving leaves for his damned vacation.
At Price’s super-sinister mansion, Angela wants to leave. Price has noticed her weeks-long absence from work, saw the terrifying state of her apartment, and was just worried about her, so wanted to help. What?! Angela wants to be with ‘her’, Whiterose, but Price knows about Whiterose and what he calls her ‘delusional’ schemes. He tells Angela that he did only hire her to make her drop the contingency in the Township lawsuit, but if he hadn’t, Whiterose would have hurt or killed her. Angela’s like ‘… and you care, because?’ Ooh here we go; Price admits he met Angela’s mother. Emily, thirty-two years ago. They worked at Evil Corp together, dated for a while. He loved her, deeply, but never told her, was cruel to her. He admits it made him feel strong, to torture her, like … and the unspoken might be ‘like I did you’. So, when she told him she was pregnant, she didn’t want the monster to raise her baby. She married the man Angela grew up calling father. Price is telling Angela that he would have respected Emily’s wishes, had he not seen what Whiterose did to her. Whiterose, he says, can’t do what she promises, it’s a delusion, a trick to make people help her to build a ridiculous fantasy, at the cost of countless lives. Angela doesn’t believe him, so he just says the words, ‘I am your father. Biologically speaking, anyway’.
The music drops out, and the way the actual sound of birds and wind fades back in is incredible. Angela, sobbing, admits her role in the cyber-bombings. That’s what she was used for. She has to believe there was a purpose. She just weeps as Price shrugs ‘Pettiness. A dig at me. It’s … that small. Honestly.’ Angela can’t accept it, thinks Whiterose was going to bring her mother back. Price’s face goes hard. Oooh, Whiterose, you done fucked up girl. He moves to leave, and a slightly more focussed Angela says that whatever he will do to Whiterose, she wants it. He warns her she needs to accept she has been conned. She needs to find a way to live with what they did.
Grant enters the barn and tries to discuss ‘Stage 3’, and Elliot calls it bullshit, which they both know. Elliot wants Darlene to be set free before he’ll talk, but they see her as a bargaining chip for his compliance. Elliot reveals he’s hacked them and owns everything they own, and he’s fixed it so ALL their data will go public if Darlene is so much as given a dirty look. Grant thinks it impossible, and laments the lack of honesty. Elliot lists their ongoing hacks; hiring the Russians to hack the DNC, stirring up shit with South Korea, the whole Congo thing. Elliot asks if he’s being honest enough. Grant hisses ‘We can survive a leak, you can’t survive a bullet through your throat’. Dark Army doesn’t care if Elliot reverses Five/Nine, as it turns out it won’t hurt their project. Darlene is shoved to her knees. Elliot can also move whatever their other project is, he barks. MY BLOOD PRESSURE, IS QUITE HIGH, GUYS. He can move the township plant. Right then, (remember, Whiterose is probably watching on a camera) Leon gets some kind of message and holds a gun on Darlene, as Elliot shrieks that he can move the project. Grant notices Leon move. Grant demands to know why Elliot thinks he’s so special, why he thinks he, one person, is better than ‘An army of people just like you?’ and Elliot rightly points out he did in a day what took Dark Army months. He’s shoved to his knees too, and the Alderson kids are about to get killed, AND MY BLOOD PRESSURE.
Elliot begs Grant for a chance, but Grant explains that Elliot just played the wrong hand. Devastated, Elliot stares at Darlene. AND THEN! MOTHER FUCKING LEON BELOVED SAVES THE DAAAAAAAAAAY! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSS! HOLY FUCKING SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT! LEON! YES! LEON SHOOTS THE DARK ARMY GOONS AND SAVES THE ALDERSON CHILDREN AND I CAN’T STOP SCREAMING!!!!!!
Gimme a minute to climb down off the ceiling. Grant cowers. Darlene, Dom, and Elliot are in shock as Leon makes sure Grant answers his phone.
We see Whiterose in a bath, watching the scene in the barn on a tablet. On the phone, she tells Grant he’s been blind to Elliot’s value, which is why Grant can’t take over. Oh no. Grant is baffled. Whiterose emotionally tells him ‘Know that I will find you, once the project is done.’ Grant starts to cry as Whiterose pauses and whispers in Mandarin ‘…. I love you’. And, I am destroyed. Destroyed. Whiterose, please don’t do this. But, she doesn’t need to do anything. Grant drops his phone and speaks to Elliot in Mandarin. Reddit tells me he says ‘Take care of her’. Then, Grant shoots himself in the head.
Look, I know they’re the bad guys here but I just exploded into tears.
Leon, with a purpose, picks up a bag and opens up a laptop that was prepared in advance and offers it to Elliot. Robot appears to drag Elliot to his feet, and throws him at the laptop. Elliot does his thing, ensures the plant will be moved. Leon, calm as ever, gently reminds Elliot he’ll have to kill them all if Elliot is wrong. But, he’s always had faith in Elliot, so … Leon takes up the laptop and leaves. Robot asks what they do now and Elliot, entirely in shock and more than a little stunned, breathes ‘Undo the hack’. A little later, Dom and Elliot get into Santiago’s car. Dom, fighting tears, wordlessly logs into Sentinel, the FBI evidence programme. She gets out and Darlene tries to speak with her, but oh holy emotion, Dom is not here for it. She calls Darlene a terrible person, who deserves nothing but pain, who has taken everything from her. The backgrounds in these scenes are slightly out of focus stills. As if nothing exists at all except this moment, right now. I love this show. Darlene has nothing to say back as Dom walks off. She gets into the car where Elliot is using his deep personal knowledge of Romero to get into the relevant files. He asks us if this is it, the moment they can reverse everything they’ve done. He reads the screen and realises something — Romero didn’t build the information into the hack. However, he did install a keylogger that recorded everything in the arcade the night of the hack. Darlene asks if Romero didn’t do it … who did?
We cut to them riding the subway home, instead of giving me an answer, GODDAMNIT. Darlene asks about Elliot’s story that night a few weeks ago when he brought up the snowman. Elliot explains that was the day their dad pushed him out the window. Darlene asks what he means, and corrects him. It didn’t happen that way. Elliot had an episode of some kind, trashed the room with a baseball bat then … he jumped. He jumped out of the window, himself. Elliot mutters he doesn’t remember, and Darlene says she’s there to remember it for him. Because she has no idea how … much that incident has framed his entire life. Elliot, though, is shocked. Elliot’s entire reality is built around a fact that isn’t true.
Darlene gets off the train, leaving him to ride a while. Darlene says Trenton was right to trust him as Darlene does.
Alone on the train, Robot turns up, and Elliot asks to speak with him. It was Robot. Robot exported the keys to make it so they could undo the hack. Oh man. Robot wants Elliot to leave the data encrypted and says they are ‘so close’, but Elliot needs to do it — not for anyone but himself. He can’t live with what he did anymore. And Evil Corp won’t win, because one good thing came out of all this. The 0.000001% showed themselves, the ones in control, who play god. And Elliot will take all of them down. Robot …appears to accept this, asks one thing; that they keep talking, work together as a team. He can’t force Elliot, so he’s asking. Elliot admits he jumped that day. He asks if Robot knew.
We cut to … because Esmail loves to play with me, we cut to a shot of a crowd watching Superman, watching Kal-El/Clark Kent (secret identities, etc. blah) fly around the Earth to reverse the spin and turn back time. (…. Sam, pls,) as Elliot walks by.
We cut back to what Robot told him. Elliot asked why he did it. Robot says he wondered, what if they were wrong? What if they missed something, or they failed? But, the real reason is, it’s what Elliot would have done. There is a part of Elliot in Robot. He never told Elliot before because it’s not in his nature, or why he exists. Only Elliot knows that.
He speaks of that one blank disc from earlier in the episode, which is where the date is hidden inside a photograph, and Elliot will know which one. It’s of Elliot and his dad when Elliot was wee. The data is hidden inside a photo where Elliot is dressed as Marty McFly, and Mr. Alderson as Doc Brown — remember the other week when a Doc Brown cosplayer handed Elliot his Flux Capacitor (which is the gizmo that makes time travel — reality changing — possible). I’m losing my absolute mind over here with all of this.
Robot explains how to use it, and we see Elliot in his apartment, grinning in near childlike glee as he uncovers the codes and adds them to an email to send to Evil Corp, and make it like Five/Nine never happened. Elliot hesitates a second. Then, hits send.
I sit here, agape as we move into the post-credits. A magically beautiful car — is that not Leon’s car? — nearly runs over Darlene and a new friend who are lamenting how hard shit is right now. Darlene promises it might get better soon, but her friend astutely points out it’s the calm before the storm. Darlene says it’ll fix things, and her incredibly intelligent friend points out it’ll just bring back debt. Turns out our girl is a financial expert. Darlene asks what will fix it, and her friend says an act of god. Oooh, shit. They wind up outside Elliot’s place, but the friend books when she spots that beautiful car I keep thinking is Leon’s. Four men approach, and Darlene asks who they are. One of them says ‘Oh sister, only the North Stars and the cosmos can help a visionary like me. But, yes you can shine a light from the dark corner of my mind.’ Darlene asks who he is. The camera pans around and y’all, I literally shouted, ‘OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!’
It’s Vera. Shayla’s drug connection, and murderer. And he’s back.
…. act of fucking god indeed.
Guys. I am shook. That was astonishing. I’m one of those who is baffled that there were people who didn’t love season two of this show, but each to their own. I challenge anyone to find fault with these past ten weeks of television, and I am prepared to fight anybody who wants to criticise what I just watched.
The acting, the directing, the musical choices, the narrative decisions … I pride myself on being good at predicting things, and I’ve done pretty well this year but if there’s one thing I love about Sam Esmail, it’s that even if I can guess it? I can never nail down how. When Leon turned up in the barn, I thought he might help the Aldersons, and Grant might die as a result. But, I thought it would be because Leon just liked Elliot that much. I did not think it would be at Whiterose’s instructions, and that she’d do that to Grant. I expected her to lose him, but not … dispose of him.
That said, let’s look at Dark Army Hierarchy for a second. We thought it was roughly … Whiterose, Grant, Irving, Leon. I, myself have pondered the fact that only Leon and Irving have ever been shown to have direct contact with Whiterose, and I’ve theorised before that Leon’s particular loyalty is utterly to her. Not Dark Army, not the cause, just Whiterose. That was proved right tonight. But, it also means Leon ranked higher than Grant. Maybe he always did. Maybe Leon’s job in Vegas was not about escorting Mobley and Trenton, but monitoring Grant. The Dark Army power structure now is Whiterose, Irving, and Leon, as … the absolute top. That … fascinates me.
I knew Santiago was doomed, and I worried for Dom’s safety, but I thought she’d wind up escaping after Santiago was killed when Leon played whatever card he held. I expected her to have to keep it a secret and be firmly on team Alderson, helping them from within the FBI. I never guessed the poor girl would be dragged so much deeper. I don’t expect it to exactly take, though. Dom is a lot of things, but she’s damned serious about being a Fed. She’ll find a way to fix this, and it will be a thing to behold.
I absolutely did not ever expect Irving to just be a casual axe murderer. He turned up at the season opener with such a sinister edge, and that’s never really gone away. Cannavale’s performance of Irving, though, how he leaned into the hair and clothes, the nasal voice, skillfully wrapped that edge up in something softer, so much so we forgot it was there, even though it was still dangerous. Despite being a physically large and imposing man, every second he’s onscreen Cannavale managed to make Irving seem … smaller, just not a physical person at all … until that dress shirt came off and he stood up straight. We were chuckling about his book, his unrequited crush on Tyrell, just a week ago.
Angela and Price … hoo-boy. Not so much a twist as a confirmation for many. That Price is Angela’s father has been speculated since season two, and now we know. What makes it so important, so vital, is that Price … he may not have fought back for Evil Corp. He might have accepted that defeat. But, I think now? He will fight back, for Angela. Whiterose … well, to borrow Grant’s words to Elliot, Whiterose plays games. She may finally have played the wrong hand.
As for the Alderson family, I am so relieved Elliot and Darlene are back on … the best terms they can manage. The conversation on the train was incredible, and a great callback to the general theme of how … uncertain even our own day-to-day realities are. So much of Elliot was built around this idea that he was harmed by his father — so much of his anger, the anger that fueled … you know, the last three seasons of TV, was built around that. Think of how even we, the audience, have perceived Robot … a villain, a manifestation of an abuser this poor boy can’t escape from. But, he never was. Maybe it was just me, but I feel like in that last scene on the subway platform … the lighting, the way Slater played the whole thing … it was so different. Robot looked different; he looked less angry and cruel. He looked like the loving father we see in the flashbacks. It was just remarkable. Everyone in this show acts their heart out, but that scene on the station is why Slater is getting awards nods. He was beautiful.
Next year … it’s hard to even begin to predict. With the themes of resurrection or rewinding time starting to be so constant, Vera’s return is amazingly well-timed. Could we see Shayla return?
Season 4 has already been approved, thank the Digital Gods. Tune into Oohlo regularly for updates and news as we get it.