Wednesday, September 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Elliot Executes the Hack on Evil Corp and Embraces His Reality in 'eps1.9_zer0-day.avi'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 1.10 "eps1.9_zer0-day.avi"

Mr. Robot and Tyrell are MIA. A past hack haunts Elliot.

Mr. Robot has always been a very off-kilter show. The lines between what's real and what's imaginary have been blurred significantly. So much of the story is being told from Elliot's point-of-view but one that has drastic starts and stops to the point where he doesn't even remember crucial details about his life. This is a show that has had a phenomenal first season. It had so much confidence in the way it chose to depict this story. It didn't always work but the effort was very admirable. The originality of the piece and the storytelling is what made Mr. Robot so refreshing this summer.

This finale could be seen as frustrating. Elliot and the audience are literally dropped into a situation without any real barring on what's happening. The action doesn't immediately pick up with Elliot and Tyrell plotting their next move at the fsociety headquarters. Instead, the finale begins three days after that with Elliot executing the big hack of Evil Corp but having absolutely no memory of what he did or why he did it. He's just as confused by this new world as the rest of society. He's trying to make sense of what happened and how much control Mr. Robot has over his life. This finale features Elliot asking a ton of questions about his existence and reality. It only delivers a small handful of answers. But that works so well because of Rami Malek's mesmerizing performance.

Elliot has come to understand that he is Mr. Robot - and vice versa. Every action that Mr. Robot does is actually Elliot with no control of his body and no recall of his actions. This episode does highlight how that exactly works - with the video showing him fall off the ledge and the quick cuts of Mr. Robot picking a fight but Elliot being the one beaten on the ground. Elliot is realizing what this relationship actually is. But is it something he can accept as his reality?

Everyone is panicking about what the hack at Evil Corp means for the money throughout the world. Evil Corp is a conglomeration that controls the majority of the world's money and debt. Crashing their system eliminates many people's money problems but it also puts numerous peoples' jobs and lives at risk. Allsafe is practically destroyed because of this hack. The executives of Evil Corp are uncertain if anything can be done to fix this situation. It leads to one executive actually committing suicide - which is the scene that forced USA to delay this episode a week do to the similarities of the tragedy that happened in Virginia last Wednesday. Everyone is spiraling in this new world order. The chaos and uncertainty of it all is wonderfully captured here. Gideon is faced with the crumbling of his business. Angela has to deal with the trauma of seeing a man kill himself in front of her. Darlene and the rest of the fsociety team are completely wiping the whole operation while not knowing what the future brings for all of them.

But this has always been Elliot's show. He is the emotional center of the narrative and the thing that holds everything together - in its own weird way. He is successful at hacking Evil Corp. His mission for creating fsociety was achieved. But he is not happy about getting such a victory because he can't associate anything of true personal meaning to its execution. After the Mr. Robot reveal two weeks ago, Elliot was more adrift and alone than he had ever felt before. He didn't know if the mission should go on. Tyrell forced Mr. Robot into action. This is the day fsociety has been planning for. A new world has been created. But it's also one where so many people are feeling exactly like Elliot - alone and uncertain about how to live in the world. That's not a feeling that Elliot enjoys living in. He said so himself in his last therapy session. He wants to feel something. A connection to something bigger in life. He wants more than to just hack people.

All Elliot has though is his illusion of Mr. Robot and his family. They are living happily in a world that has been changed. A world that is no longer bogged down by troubles and social trends of the present. That's not something Elliot can escape from. Even though Mr. Robot made all of this happen, Elliot still has to exist in this world. He is not the man in charge. Mr. Robot is. He tells Elliot what he needs to do in order to survive. He needs to go back home and enjoy the comfort of seeing what he did for the world. He hacked the world. That's a victory he should be proud of. And that's exactly what Elliot does.

But a knock at the door has the potential to unravel everything that has just happened. Elliot has made sense of what happened during those three missing days. He doesn't have all the answers. In fact, it sets up even more mysteries for the upcoming second season. But he does have a certain amount of clarity in the end. The person on the other side of the door could be Darlene wanting to celebrate with him for everything they've accomplished or it could be Lenny and the police who have the evidence to convict him of his cyber crime. Or it could be someone else entirely - like Tyrell or his wife with a new plan altogether.

Because even though this was a victory for Elliot, the audience is aware that the chaotic world as it seems is not all that it is. This show started with Elliot talking about the top one percent of the top one percent controlling the world. Evil Corp existed as the main identity of that theory. Taking them out opens the gates of what the world can be under the control of the people. But as the post-credit scene actually alludes to is a world where there's still people at the very shadowy top running things. They may be a bit more unnerved because of what fsociety did. But they are still living comfortably at a low key social gathering without too much worry about the subject. Interestingly enough, White Rose is the prominent member of this collection of people. Phillip Price may also be featured. But that final scene is all about White Rose and showing how everything is not always what it seems. Everyone has their own personal agenda that makes everything much more complicated. A brilliant and beautiful way to end the first season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "eps1.9_zer0-day.avi" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail.
  • The finale actually opens with a great callback to the premiere with Elliot's first hack of the series, Krista's cheating boyfriend Lenny, trying to pursue a criminal investigation with what Elliot did. Something that could create a problem for Elliot if the big hack of the season actually forces several governments to crumble.
  • That scene between Elliot and Joanna was crazy good. Two characters meeting for the first time and showing each other just how formidable they are when it comes to figuring out just how much the other knows about the situation.
  • It was hard to tell if the Angela story was just a weird tangent or building up to some big reveal. It's purpose was showing just how good Michael Cristofer is as Phillip Price. He was a character seen before but this really was a fantastic episode that made him an important part of the overall puzzle.
  • The only bad scene of this finale was Angela going shoe shopping. The dialogue that came out of the shoe salesman's mouth was just too cliche and stunted to be taken as a serious plot point.
  • It remains so eerie just how much this show continues to mimic real-life. Of course, the Virginia comparison is so tragic. But the show also slips in a line about the recent Ashley Madison hack as well as depicting an event that crashes the stock market just as a scare happened a few weeks ago.
  • That's all for this season. Again, it was just so phenomenal to experience this show every week. It will probably be even better watching it all over again from the beginning with the knowledge of the later twists. That sounds really enticing right now. But also, Season 2 needs to happen as soon as possible.