I wondered last week when the shootout at Whiterose’s house actually took place.
We start there, with Whiterose finishing her flawless makeup, listening to her goons nuke the FBI before someone knocks at her door. Escorted by men in combat gear, she strides through the carnage, gunshot feds laying dead or dying on the expensive marble, the fixtures, even those arching high ceilings spattered in blood. Whiterose pauses over one wheezing agent and tells him there is no Minister Zhang. He’s dead. There is only Whiterose. The Fed is killed.
We jump back again to Elliot and Darlene’s last hug, with Elliot’s line about Sour Patch Kids. We stay with them this time, seeing that it was Elliot who wouldn’t end the hug, telling Darlene he’s been through a lot and thanking her for never giving up. Darlene clearly senses something is wrong but knows she can’t say much. They part ways and she ‘sees’ Mr. Robot watching her leave, tells him he grew on her when he stopped being a dickhead. I’m …going to assume that was metaphorical but uuuuuuuh.
Robot joins Elliot, worries over the mission, points out Whiterose’s machine is in a nuclear power plant and will cause a meltdown if they fuck it up. Elliot can write code that shuts it down for decades. Robot thinks it would take forever to write the malware but Elliot’s already written it. Robot doesn’t want to go, claims it’s over — they won, they did it — but Elliot snaps back ‘That’s where all this started!’.
Robot thinks Elliot just can’t let the mission go and it’s an endless war. He says they have to move on and Elliot looks over, sees Magda and Young Elliot nearby. He suggests Robot go with them and Robot thinks he’s being shut out. Elliot says he just wants to do it alone.
Elliot walks off, disappears under a bridge, his family watching him leave.
Cut to him arriving back home, walking through what was once likely a model town, is now like so many small towns, run-down and exhausted, homeless people sleeping on benches and barely a surface free of graffiti. Elliot watches two white vans scream out of the grounds of a power station but when he approaches the security offices outside the building, they are suddenly, and from the looks of it, violently abandoned. This …is a nuclear power station. Elliot walks freely into the empty power station.
Inside there are yet more signs of a Dark Army sweep, the vast lobby abandoned, a Christmas tree and various chairs overturned as if people ran out of there in a damned hurry. Once again, Elliot just walks his ass freely through the place, clearly expecting to be caught at every turn. He finds his way into one office, ignores the signs of the Dark Army clear out (THIS IS A NUCLEAR FUCKING POWER STATION! WHERE IS EVERYONE?) He sits at a desk, plugs in a USB containing his code and just sits there, letting it run. If my heart weren’t in my mouth I’d giggle because …that’s it, he just walked in, plugged it and left. Obviously it’s not going to be that easy but how great would it be if Esmail did us like that? What if it ended there and the next two and a half episodes are just …the Alderson kids opening a coffee shop with Leon and eventually returning Dom?
Rami Malek’s little nervous moment watching the code go live is adorable. And then he’s done. It’s just done. He just sort of shrugs and starts to leave but something makes him pause, and when he turns he sees a body — a man shot in the head. And then the cops arrive. Elliot realises he’s fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked but spots … Hey! Dark Army Sandwich Guy! From the loft! Please dear God, Sam, bring back Bill before the end. Please.
Sandwich Guy and masked Dark Army gunmen escort Elliot through the plant turned tomb, bodies littering the hallways and offices. He’s taken to a door in the basement, passes a series of CEO portraits with their faces painted over and then enters a room. Just like Angela in that house.
The space inside doesn’t look like it should be in the basement of a power plant. There are a desk and a computer, like from the house, and a built-in fish tank, though it is recessed into a huge concrete wall that looks like it might be part of the, you know, reactor? What looks like Qwerty swims around inside. The desk again contains a computer, phone, and book; this time it’s Resurrection by Tolstoy. The wall poster reads, ‘When a door closes, a window opens’. (Whiterose, girl, that’s just bitchy.)
Angela’s book was Lolita, her poster, ‘Hang In There’.
Whiterose enters in (that gorgeous breathtaking) dress and sits at the desk. Elliot points out that the computer is his from home, the book was Edward’s, and he points out Qwerty. He tells Whiterose she can’t brainwash him, but that isn’t her intention. She wants to help him come to an understanding. She lays a box on the table and speaks of her pain growing up, unable to be who she was, losing the love of her life, the life and world she deserved.
Elliot’s like ‘Cool, what’s in the box?’ though Whiterose ignores him and speaks of trying to end the dysfunction of the world and deliver a better one. Elliot says she hates people for what was done to her and Whiterose is incandescent with rage at the suggestion. She rails about the ugliness of the world and how much she loves its people who suffer because the world just isn’t a good fit for them and blames them for everything and makes them hate themselves. She speaks of her own loss and grief and is so deeply offended by Elliot’s words, throwing them back at him, pointing out the name of his group and you know, his whole deal. BD Wong is, it almost goes without saying, murdering it and raising SERIOUS questions about why his house isn’t FULL OF AWARDS.
Elliot accepts her admonishment, agrees he does hate people. People have done their absolute horrific worst to him, so yes. Fuck Society. Fuck everyone in it. But, he says, and clearly meaning Darlene and Angela and Krista and who knows who else, he tells her some people in society love you in spite of how much you hate and hurt them. They’re relentless in it. No matter how much you practically beg them to leave, they won’t. The reason why is because they feel something for him that he can’t for himself; they love him.
‘And for all the pain I’ve been through, that heals me. Maybe not instantly maybe not for a long time. But it heals. And yeah there are setbacks and we do fucked up things to each other. And we hurt each other and it’s messy. But that’s just us, in any world you’re in. And yeah, you’re right. We’re all told we don’t stand a chance. And yet we stand. We break. But we keep going. And that is not a flaw. That’s what makes us. So no, I won’t give up on this world, and if you can’t see why, then I speak for everyone when I say: Fuck You’
Right as I’m somewhere between sobbing and leaping out of my chair, an alarm sounds and the lights change. Elliot, deeply aware he’s in the bowels of a nuclear power station, leaps out of the chair and asks what’s going on. Whiterose explains her machine needs power and water. Elliot can’t believe she turned it on and explains his malware as Whiterose hand-waves the fact the machine was already on when he installed the bug. Elliot tries to explain that doesn’t actually matter (uh oh) but Whiterose is trying to tell him all the ‘murders’ she’s accused of won’t be in vain, or in fact, murdered, because the world around them will transform into a parallel one, where they were meant to be all along. Elliot reminds her it can’t run here and trying will cause a meltdown. She’s all ‘Yes, hence why Congo! But you ruined that!’ and goes on about how wonderful the world will be.
Elliot argues she’s not giving people a choice while Whiterose promises she is, and that’s why he’s here. She’s going to show him what she showed Angela. She opens the box and draws a gun and explains that their paths were irrevocably linked, bringing them to this moment. Elliot begs her not to do it and Whiterose says she’s giving him a choice, and just when it seems like she’ll shoot Elliot in the head she …shoots herself instead.
My ‘WHAT THE FUCK?’ was audible from space. Elliot tries to get out of the very securely locked room and panics, so Robot appears and explains they need to figure out the code to the door. Elliot tries the phone and a voice reads ‘Zero five zero nine’, (the date of the hack) and Robot unlocks the door. Elliot pauses to check the Tolstoy book and finds an envelope marked ‘eXit’, worries that if they leave the meltdown will destroy the town. Robot is freaking out about how that means they should run very far away but Elliot has found a floppy disk and starts to play the text game he finds within.
The questions are clearly reflecting their current situation, putting Elliot in a locked room with a friend, venturing down a secret tunnel until the friend becomes too weak and can’t go on, passing on a note Elliot never gets to read. The building is shaking, the alarm ever-present, but Elliot is too invested. His adventure leads him out of the tunnel to a beach, to a boat, which he boards, and the game tells him he’s won and will travel to a new world.
The alarm and shaking don’t stop and Robot wants to leave the GIANT NUCLEAR BOMB THEY’RE STANDING INSIDE.
Elliot knows something is wrong though, so he replays. This time, he speaks to the friend first and reads the note he couldn’t before. The note asks not to be left behind and Elliot is asked ‘Leave or Stay’. He picks ‘stay’ and after a moment of uncertainty hits enter. Everything powers down, or seems to, and then there’s a huge shake and thump and rattle. They unlock the door Elliot entered through and outside the corridor is just …fire. Robot realises it’s too late. They can’t leave. Uh, what?
They sit down at the table as the building continues rattling and shaking around them. Elliot tells Robot he loves him and Robot says it back and Uh. What? Elliot doesn’t look afraid as he says ‘It’s an exciting time in the world’ and the building is falling apart around them. And then, then it happens — the room glows and flashes white and we flash to red and then …
… We come back. On a cell phone waking someone from sleep at 5 am, in their very nice, well decorated, but familiar apartment. They turn on an Apple Mac, plays records to wake up to, are clearly just A Functional Adult. It’s Elliot’s apartment, y’all and our boy, or a version of him, listens to upbeat music to start his day. He pauses to have a brief flash of pain and what looks like a moment of deja vu. In the shower, Dork Elliot dances to his pop music and then dresses in a sweater, a shirt with a collar, slicks his hair back. He pops some Advil for the headache that isn’t going away and then something like an Earthquake rattles his apartment. He gets a Skype call … from Angela. And I BURST into tears.
Fuck you, Whiterose.
They’re clearly An Item in this universe and she asks about a project he was up all night working on. She notices he’s yet to start packing to move in with her. He gets an email from Edward, about getting into work soon, and Angela calls him an only child. Say what now?
She asks if he’s keeping anything from her and she says he seems different. He blames his migraine he woke up with and they say they love each other; it’s actually the day before their wedding.
Guys, it’s Darlene. It’s always been Darlene. She’s missing for a reason. Something is wrong.
Elliot calls and we see a middle-aged Edward (Slater) at his store. He stresses Angela ‘knows’ about something but it seems like some kind of adorable surprise he’s planned. Edward is Best Dad and my heart is in pieces. Whiterose is cruel. Edward ends the call to go and greet a customer but outside, no one is there. Instead, his cell phone, which he’d lost, is just on the floor.
Elliot goes back to work at Allsafe and we check in with a few familiar faces from Season 1, other Allsafe employees including Fucking Ollie.
Damn you, Esmail.
They have a big meeting with ‘F-Corp’ and Elliot’s migraine makes him call it E-Corp (!!!) and then Ollie is just …douchey, all over everything about getting in on the F-Corp deal and then is off to be gross and weird somewhere else. Elliot sees an F-Corp advert flicker to E-Corp. The news discusses Zhi Zhang, a ‘legendary’ philanthropist who runs Deus Giving, the world’s biggest charity. In this universe, Whiterose is the name of her foundation. In a counter to the Deus Group montage showing Minister Zhang glad-handing warlords and villains, Zhi lives, you know, her Best Life, giving Ted Talks I can only assume are SPECTACULAR, supporting everyone, all the time. The world seems so nice. But Darlene isn’t in it. Why? Where’s my girl.
Elliot, we learn, is CEO of Allsafe in this universe and then later, he’s leading the meeting for F-Corp. We see the end of his presentation and it’s revealed he’s delivering it to… I mean, guys, to TyrElliot. To Tyrell, in a hoodie and jeans and a five o’clock shadow, looking …exhausted. Just empty. Tyrell doesn’t think they’re a good fit and asks Elliot what the worst thing is in his life is right now. Elliot says the worst thing is the best thing; he wakes up, listens to records, gets coffee, comes to work. It’s a boring, safe routine and sure, he’s wished it was a bit more exciting, but he knows he’s lucky to be where he is. Tyrell says he feels the same about life at F-Corp, which is his company. He speaks proudly of how much people trust F-Corp, but is concerned it could be the cause of the world’s undoing if they make a mistake. Elliot promises that the worst will never happen with Allsafe. Tyrell asks how he can be sure and Elliot mysteriously says ‘I’ve seen what can happen to your company’.
Tyrell, and we go ‘??’ and Elliot speaks of predictive projections they made. Tyrell just wants to know he’ll be there.
Cut to Elliot at lunch with Edward who has brought a signed, first edition copy of ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’, by E.L Konigsburg. It tells the story of two children who run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and discover a cheaply acquired statue is an actual Michaelangelo. They track down the woman who sold it and learn she gave it away, ostensibly in the hopes someone would investigate and track her down.
Elliot realises he’ll need to drop it with Angela’s mother to surprise Angela but when he tries to call her, she picks up and then promptly hangs up. Edward assures him she’s probably just with Angela, and Elliot realises he’s left his wallet at home, another anomaly. Edward again assures him it’s fine, just nerves, gives him money to get home and spare for flowers for Angela.
Over at Angela’s apartment, which is still the stunning one she got after working at E-Corp, only with pastels on the walls, and soft, rounded furniture (…I mean, if that dining set she had before was a mark of her downfall then watch me dive) Elliot speaks to Angela by phone as he drops off her gift. Are they just staying away because it’s the day before the wedding or is there a reason we haven’t seen her in person here?
He spots a broken glass and bloody towels in her bin, notes her dad drinks too much, and then they adorable at each other over getting married the next day.
Elliot gets a cab home and another upbeat pop song plays. Elliot smiles out of the window as the lyrics sing ‘Something must be wrong if everything’s so right/so turn up the radio’.
It’s Lego Movie. Whiterose done Lego Movied our boy. Y’all, we thought he was already in the Sim! Elliot arrives back to his apartment and walks inside. Sitting at his desk is another Elliot, OUR Elliot, black hoodie and jeans, that straight-up hair and as Happy Elliot asks ‘Who are you?’ we go to credits.
Do you ever think about how the end of Back To The Future is an existential horror show? Marty McFly comes home to find his actions in the past — not merely ensuring his parents fall in love but also changing the events of Prom Night entirely, preventing his mother’s rape by Biff, helping his father stand up to the bully in a way that decimates the man’s psyche for decades to come, ensuring both Marty’s parents go on to happy, successful, fulfilled lives? It’s a happy ending, sure, but it’s a reality completely alien to Marty, one he didn’t experience himself, or grow up in. He’s stunned by this realisation, so much so that in his first waking moments in this new timeline, he is struck dumb by shock and confusion. The rest of Marty’s life would be a series of endless Berenstein Bear moments, with his memories of countless life events, from birthdays down to simple family dinners, forever different than those of his family, confusing them, troubling him, potentially causing a huge disconnect with his sense of reality and identity. It’s only a film, you might say, but …come on, you watch this show.
I mention this because I’m trying to understand what it is Whiterose was offering people. To clarify, I don’t think she’s talking about time travel. Time travel might fix some things but not everything — not what Edward really was.
It’s a different reality, but its nature still eludes us. What was it she was showing people that convinced them to follow her, what made Angela think the dead would ‘come back’? If Elliot had agreed at the end there, would the Elliot we know have woken up in Happy Elliot’s body? Slotted into this existing Elliot’s life, but with his own memories? Can you imagine that? Imagine waking up and the world is all the good things you wished for but you remember all the horrible things it was? You see people you know but remember them doing, as Eliot said, their very worst to you? Elliot and his newly remembered trauma about his father learning the man is not only alive but very involved in his life would be …profoundly upsetting.
But that assumes this even is an alternate, better reality. It sure as shit felt a bit Stepford Wives-esque, even before Elliot’s reality flickers. The absence of Darlene was the strangest and most sinister difference, but it was Edward who has left me the most…thrown off. It’s easy to read Edward’s presence and closeness to his son in this Better World as everything Elliot has wanted. His father is alive, healthy, loving and attentive. But as Angela points out, in a gentle way, Edward …sure is all the way in his adult son’s life, isn’t he? And Edward has no end of reassuring things to say to make sure Elliot isn’t unduly worried about anything. It reminded me a lot of Robot, it really did. And later, Elliot is quick to comment on and then hide the fact Angela’s father apparently has such a severe drinking problem, he’s cut his hand on broken glass and left bloody towels in the bin. Something is wrong. Something is badly, deeply wrong and not just the fact Elliot’s reality appears to be trying to correct itself.
If this is an alternate reality, it is not what Whiterose has been promising people. It is neither as good and perfect as she claims, (I mean …Ollie is there. Come on.) or there is something wrong in how ‘our’ versions of people are meant to benefit from it. Either, they simply don’t, they are shown it, told they can get there, and then just killed when their purpose is served. Or they can get there, but doing so isn’t neat or smooth. They slot into a life that was never their own, take away someone else’s existence, have to carry their existing trauma and pain and work out themselves how to live with it all.
The other possibility is, it’s artificial. I’ve long suspected the reality our Elliot lives in is a simulation, it’s probably my personal leading theory of what is going on. Elliot’s mental wanderings have always discussed his reality in those terms, compared his fits of bad mental health to computer flaws, discussed Elliot in terms of code and programming. It’s mostly been analogous, a way to link the themes and narrative or discuss complex emotions in terms some people might genuinely find easier to follow, but as the ‘Sim’ theories have developed, it’s become harder to see it that way. By that train of thought …Darlene could be like bad code. Her coming and going from memory, the fact Reality 2.0 sees her stripped out, like a line of code they couldn’t fix so just dumped. This week, Elliot installed malware to prevent a programme from running, but since the programme was already running, it caused a literal meltdown. In the show’s mythology, Darlene returned to New York and almost certainly triggered the full emergence of Mr. Robot that we’ve been following all this time. The ‘real’ explanation is she triggered his memories of abuse and he repressed it all, and her, but …those comparisons have always been there. Now, we see a ‘reboot’ of reality and she’s just gone.
I don’t know what it all means. I’m not ready for the show to end but I am ready to understand what’s going on. Next week is the two hour finale. Let’s see where we end up.