Sunday, December 22, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Elliot Embraces a New Sense of Identity While Finding Closure With the Life He's Lived in 'whoami' & 'Hello, Elliot'

USA's Mr. Robot - Episodes 4.12 "whoami" and 4.13 "Hello, Elliot"

Parts one and two of the series finale.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series finale of USA's Mr. Robot.

"whoami" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail
"Hello, Elliot" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail

Mr. Robot used the premise of radical action that dramatically alters the nature of reality in order to tell a compelling story about identity. Elliot could easily come across as the perfect example of a person taking control of the world in the pursuit of making it better through swift and decisive actions. He was a complicated figure though. One who made countless mistakes that also had reverberations throughout the world. He may ultimately be seen as a hero because of exposing the Deus Group and stopping a nuclear reactor from melting down. However, he was simply the rage present within an identity that made all of these actions possible. That is the big reveal in this series finale. The protagonist the audience has been watching hasn't been the real Elliot Alderson. Instead, he is just like Mr. Robot. He is a separate identity who can take over Elliot's body from time to time. The entire series has been framed as his journey of taking action in order to rid the world of the evil forces that seem all consuming. It's a noble ambition. But it too comes with the realization that no amount of lying to oneself can ultimately make the past disappear. This new identity is referred to only as the Mastermind. He is the character that has long been present in the series. As such, the four seasons present a complete look at the actions he was willing to take while in control as well as the bonds he developed along the way. However, radical change can often be the most personal. He has to come to grips with that throughout these final two episodes. At first, he is plagued with questions about whether or not Whiterose's mysterious machine has actually worked. The audience may never get any true clarity in that regard. She died and so did her machine. Elliot's hack worked. The new reality Elliot enters here is simply a safe place he created in his own mind. It was a place to trap the real Elliot. He has been here living out a perfect life. It's one where Angela and his parents are still alive. Nothing bad has happened to any of them. It's a carefree and happy existence. It truly makes Elliot wonder if this is a life he wants to step into and enjoy for himself. The first hour concludes with him making that brutal choice by killing his alternate self in order to step into this story as its protagonist. This world was never intended for him to enjoy though. It's not real. It's just a figment of imagination. A place where the darkest secrets and monsters are what's happening in the real world. The reality that Elliot has helped create through his actions even if he lacked the courage to do so without these separations of his identity. At the end of the day, these personalities fundamentally want to help and serve Elliot. They see him as a key part of themselves. They have to take a step back and accept their place in the order of the world though. This version of Elliot has been in control for a year. It has created the illusion of this being his life to live. He doesn't want to give it up so easily. Mr. Robot and fake Krysta may present as well-meaning voices trying to get him to embrace the truth. However, only Darlene can succeed in the end. That too sends a powerful message of just how important she has always been. Elliot tried his best to protect her when they were children. She is forever his anchor to the real world. He can't lie to her. He can no longer operate as if he doesn't know the truth about who he is. He is just one part of Elliot's identity who helped him when he needed it the most. Life has completely changed since he took over. It's a fitting conclusion for the series because it honors and respects the audience with this reveal. It turns the narrative inward. It's less about some ideological debate about the way society operates. It instead offers a true retrospective on the value of identity and the various different roles we embrace in life. Elliot is segmented in numerous ways that do require therapeutic help. Krysta never realized she was talking to separate personalities all this time. She was afraid of them as well. Both Elliot and Mr. Robot did heinous things across the series. Elliot is willing to kill in order to embrace a happy life. However, a happy reality is whatever Elliot can have with his sister by his side. That's what makes it so powerful when the real Elliot wakes up and Darlene is right there to greet him. She may have to forge this relationship anew all over again. And yet, she has the resolve to do just that because of the strength she has also gained along this journey. It was traumatic for so long. And yet, Elliot can join the other personalities in experiencing the life of the real Elliot, who holds such a precious place in all their hearts. That is an expression of love in the end. Human identity is fundamentally about connections and the ways in which we lift each other up. Elliot has accepted that lesson in this final season. He was almost faced with no other choice. He can't lie himself out of that assumption though. There is always a choice. His choices weren't always right. He is flawed. However, these relationships have helped create a better sense of self. And now, life can move forward willing to embrace something new and equally special even if he has to cede some control in order to find that peace.