Mr. Robot recap: A man's vanishing from his own sight
It’s not uncommon for sci-fi storytelling to grapple with the idea of a hero having the opportunity to change the world. Time travel stories are ripe with the possibility for change, and the potential catastrophe that comes with altering something in our universe, even if the hero’s intentions are pure. Mr. Robot has been building to two moments: the first was the Deus Group hack, the cornerstone of four seasons of anti-capitalist struggle. The second moment comes in “eXit,” as the teases about Whiterose’s potential time-and-space altering machine finally comes to a climax, and Elliot finds himself face-to-face with…himself.
Let’s back up though. Storming the headquarters didn’t work. Whiterose was never in any danger. This is still her game, and she’s still in control. She walks through the wreckage left by the Dark Army; bodies everywhere, blood everywhere, and one last life taken before walking out the door. The Deus Group may be done, but this story is far from over. Whiterose is still standing.
Let’s back up again. Elliot and Darlene are saying goodbye to one another. They’re sharing that hug we saw from Darlene’s POV in the previous episode. It’s an emotional moment. This clearly means a lot to Elliot. He’s come to understand a lot about himself, about the world, and about the need to have people in his life who can help him navigate all the pitfalls. “Thank you for not giving up on me,” he says. He’s come to realize that human connection is important, an integral part of not only living in the world but also living with himself. He’ll need that faith later.
Elliot says goodbye to Darlene and to Mr. Robot and heads to Washington Township on his own. He needs to do this one for himself, by himself. He needs to upload malware to the nuclear plant’s system so that Whiterose’s machine, whatever it may be, is taken offline forever.
Elliot does just that. He walks right into the power plant. It’s abandoned. Chairs are overturned, papers are strewn about, and offices are empty. The only signs of life are a few cars speeding away from the plant entrance. All of this should let Elliot know that something’s not right. I think he knows, but he’s simply not stopping. He’s singularly focused on finishing this once and for all, even though Mr. Robot warned him that this is a never-ending war that will always have a new target.
He uploads the malware, but it doesn’t matter, not in the grand scheme of things. He discovers a body in the office shot through the head. He hears sirens and a helicopter. There’s nowhere to go. He turns around and sees some familiar faces: the masks of the Dark Army and that one scientist who’s always eating a hamburger. They escort Elliot downstairs, passing rooms of dead bodies. Whiterose’s mission continues, and the bodies pile up.
Elliot is brought to the same room Angela was in all those months ago. A copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection sits next to the blue phone, which is next to the computer Elliot used as a child. The room is less mysterious this time around. We know more about Whiterose, about her plans for the future (or past? or sideways time?). Whiterose enters, and so begins a magnetic scene that features two true powerhouse performances from Rami Malek and BD Wong. As their characters muse on good and evil, corruption and hope, hatred and joy, and the human condition, Malek and Wong fluctuate between emotions with incredible precision. Wong imbues Whiterose with this terrifying and lively end-of-the-world giddiness. She’s ready for this moment, whatever it may bring. There’s nothing left to lose.
“It’s the world around us. I’m tired of it,” she says in her pitch to Elliot. He’s not ready for that though. He’s not ready to give up. He sees promise in this world, a promise evident in his heartfelt goodbye to Darlene, in his reckoning with his own trauma. “Some people refuse to let you hate them,” he says. He says those people offer him something that he can’t give to himself: love. Whiterose’s eyes well with tears. It’s a nice thought. She feels it deep down inside too. She knew that kind of love once, and she knows the kind of self-hatred that has trouble accepting it.
The scene strikes a hopeful note, but Whiterose is in too deep. She started her machine well before Elliot uploaded his malware, and now this is all going down. She says she wants to show Elliot exactly what she showed Angela. She puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. She collapses, brain and blood everywhere. Mr. Robot shows up to try to help Elliot escape. But he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stop the machine and the nuclear meltdown it will cause. He inserts a floppy disk into the computer and plays a game. He believes it’s an override that Whiterose left for him. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t work. Explosions ring out; a screaming comes across the sky. “I love you,” says Elliot to Mr. Robot. “I love you too,” he replies. Then, nothing but red filling the entire screen.
Elliot wakes up in his apartment. This isn’t the same apartment though, and maybe not the same Elliot. This apartment is furnished nicely and has a cozy, trendy vibe. He puts on a record and starts his morning routine, clearly done 1000 times before. Shower, shave, put on nice clothes, and head to work at Allsafe where he, the CEO, prepares for a presentation to FCorp. There’s trembling though, and a buzzing sound in his head. Something’s not right. Bits of unreality slip through. Something’s shifted.
Everything here, otherwise, seems normal. Or an exaggerated version of normal. Or maybe just happy? In this timeline, Elliot is one day away from marrying Angela, he’s convinced Tyrell to use Allsafe for all of FCorp’s needs, he has a loving relationship with his father, and he’s well on his way to surprising his bride-to-be with a sentimental gift. Nothing could be more perfect.
Elliot enters his apartment at the end of the day. He turns on the light. Sitting at his computer is…Elliot. The one we know; the “pipsqueak in a hoodie.” “Who are you?” asks non-hoodie Elliot.
It’s a good question.