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Mr. Robot - eps1.9_zer0-day.avi - Season Finale Review: "Beautiful Carnage: A Dazzling Finale"

3 Sept 2015

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It was preempted a week, but the wait was well worth it. The season finale of Mr. Robot certainly didn't disappoint.

"eps1.9_zer0-day.avi" was written and directed by showrunner Sam Esmail. I cannot praise this guy's work highly enough, not just for the finale itself, but for the entire season. It's been one hell of a ride, and Mr. Robot sits firmly atop all its freshman rivals that have screened over the past year or so.

I suspect I wasn't alone in not having any idea what to expect from the finale, though the tragic news reports out of the US last Wednesday had me suspecting that someone would die while on live television. Other than that, I was going in blind.

Incredibly, the finale, which had a bonus 11 minutes tagged onto the end compared to a normal length episode, with an unprecedented four of those minutes coming after the credit roll, actually began with Elliot's psychiatrist, Krista. In a sneak peek released earlier yesterday afternoon, we saw her one-time boyfriend watching the news in horror as the media reported an all-out meltdown which was crippling the world. Earlier, Krista met with the man who had turned out to be the next best thing to a fraudster, having used aliases and been caught out in the Ashley Madison dumps. He revealed to Krista how one of her patients had hacked him and stole his dog, but Krista, despite clearly considering partnering with him to bring Elliot to justice, rebuffed the idea.

Elliot first appeared in the back of Tyrell Wellick's SUV, when a towie banged on the car window to wake him up. Rami Malek was stunning all night - I know of no other actor who can produce a dumbfounded expression as good as he can. It was then that it dawned on Elliot - and myself - that the hack had been executed and that Elliot had missed the whole thing - as had the viewers. I must say I would have loved to have seen the action as the hack was occurring, but that's the only fault I could find in this awesome hour.

Following her surprise meeting with former Evil Corp CTO Terry Colby, it turned out Angela had taken the man's offer for a placement at the company, though it was in the public relations department, not the technology area to which she was more accustomed. Kudos to the costume designers here who made Angela look just a tad uncomfortably overdressed, and somewhat stripped of her identity and style.

It was soon after that the controversial scene occurred - the scene that resulted in the finale's preemption last week. James Plouffe, the Evil Corp executive vice-president of technology, was clearly a loose cannon waiting to fire, having snapped at Angela moments before the television interview in which he fired a gun through his mouth. It was the only part of the episode I saw coming - and to be fair, it was the only part of the entire season I saw coming from a fair distance off. Angela was visibly shaken and reacted somewhat unorthodox to how one might have expected. But that reaction was exactly what CEO Phillip Price was looking for in an Evil Corp employee as he handed her a sum of cash to be spent on replacement shoes, and in a later scene, justified his caum and yet upbeat demeanor despite the chaos surrounding him:

They're just people.

In the arcade, Darlene appeared to take the lead in Elliot's absence as the fsociety clan spent much of the hour celebrating their achievements and keeping tabs on member growth and protests in Times Square among other places. Mobley, Trenton and Romero played along despite the odd spat, with the group initially focused on destroying any and all electronic media that could connect them to the hack. It was some clever symbolism by the creative team here to incorporate boarding kennels into this part, with the group letting a good dozen or so dogs free from their cages after using the incinerator in the adjacent room.

Despite the Evil Corp hack going down as planned, this was not what Elliot wanted. He spent much of the first half of the episode hastily trying to locate Tyrell, who he suspected had initiated the attack and incapacitated Elliot. It led him to Tyrell's former office where he hit a dead end, so he tried his home address, where his wife, Joanna, showed up unannounced having just taken her newborn baby for a stroll. Elliot narrated the audience through his thought processes in regard to the probing questions Joanna asked. I have to say that excluding Tyrell from the episode entirely was a brave move by the creative team that paid massive dividends, particularly in this scene as we saw Joanna operating autonomously for the first time. They are both extremely scary characters, and in a way, a single serving of either just once every episode is more than enough. It was Stephanie Corneliussen's strongest performance this season in her role here.

Still searching for Tyrell, Elliot began to call upon his (100% confirmed) hallucination, Mr. Robot, himself. The character has entered the fray late in most of the episodes this season so it wasn't surprising to see that trait continue. The title character turned up just as Elliot was going to get himself arrested via a 911 operator.

In emphatic fashion, it was confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Robot is indeed a hallucination of Elliot's. In an earlier scene we saw Elliot locate a memory stick inside a pair of sunglasses hidden in Tyrell's SUV. The sole file on board the stick was a web link to a Vimeo clip of some skateboarders pulling a few tricks while the lone figure of Elliot was perched on the railing in the distance, and is seen falling off the railing moments later. Unbelievably, that video clip does exist on Vimeo - you can view it here.

Further evidence to support the hallucination was Elliot fighting with Mr. Robot in a cafe, but to change things up somewhat, the roles were switched as Elliot played the part of Mr. Robot and vice versa during the scuffle. This was pretty cool, and very well executed. It meant Elliot was doing the rash antics while Mr. Robot watched on - not the other way around as we've seen occur since the premiere.

Things took a slight turn in the confusion department shortly thereafter, as Elliot and Mr. Robot stumbled into the middle of the celebrations in Times Square. Elliot was thrust up against a digital billboard featuring the stars and stripes, with the fourth wall virtually broken in a unique way as Elliot's cerebral pleads for help from the viewer were verbally rebuffed by Mr. Robot. His mother also showed up, alongside a younger Elliot as they told him he was hurting the whole family.

You're not real.
What? And you are? Is any of it real?

What followed that was one of the greatest rants I think television has ever seen:

A world built on fantasy,
Synthetic emotions in the form of pills,
Psychological warfare in the form of advertising,
Mild-altering chemicals in the form of food,
Brainwashing seminars in the form of media,
Cold isolated bubbles in the form of social networks,
Real? You wanna talk about reality?
We haven't lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century,
Turn it off,
Forget the batteries,
Snack on a bag of GMOs while we toss the remnants in the ever-expanding dumpster of the human condition,
Live in branded houses trademarked by corporations built on bipolar numbers jumping up and down on digital displays hypnotizing us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen,
You'll have to dig pretty deep kiddo, before you can find anything real
We live in a kingdom of bullshit,
A kingdom you've lived in for far too long,
So don't tell me about not being real,
I'm no less real than the fucking beef pattie in your Big Mac,
And as far as you're concerned Elliot, I am very real.
We are all together now, whether you like it or not.

That took ages to type out, but boy it's an eye-opening piece of dialog that was delivered perfectly by Christian Slater. The way Sam Esmail directed this scene was equally impressive, as the protest going on in the middle of Times Square seemed two dimensional as the younger version of Elliot and his mother stoold silently while Mr. Robot surged around the protesters and delivered that dialog.

If this scene didn't force home the theory that the entire series thus far could be a dream, I don't know what can. But what was confirmed seconds later, after Times Square went eerily silent, is that Elliot's hallucinated family is here to stay. They will not be leaving Elliot alone, and they said this in no uncertain terms to Elliot via one of Times Square's famous LED billboards. Mr. Robot alos reassured Elliot that the world is now a better place thanks to his actions and those of fsociety.

You're gonna sit at your computer, watch and enjoy the beautiful carnage that we've all created together

That comprised of a montage of real news vision of world leaders in pressure situations, making speeches, answering questions, and conducting meetings, alongside vision of mass protests and aggressive police action

Then a knock at the door. Elliot opens it. A moment later, cut to black.

The credits roll.

Then a spectacular long take. Long takes are my absolute favorite. A limo approaches a large estate. White Rose gets out, this time dressed as a man. The limo stops. He gets out. The door is opened for him as he makes his way into the function with a glass of champagne. Not stopping to speak to anyone, he makes a beeline for Philip Price and takes a seat beside him, an open fire roaring in the background.

Gesturing towards the harp player, the Dark Army leader says to Price:

The infamous Emperor Nero played an instrument very simular to the one she's playing, the lyre. Legend has it that he played it merrily as he ... watched Rome burn.

This can be interpreted in a huge number of ways. The subtext is rife. It's an absolute gem of a line to bring a spectacular season to a close.

I think it's fair to say that Mr. Robot has been somewhat of a revelation in television this year. It's a bold new direction for its home network, USA, and the subject matter is groundbreaking. Fictional, yes, but remarkably relevant in today's world. A huge congratulations needs to go the way of showrunner Sam Esmail for producing such a stunning work of art, and series regulars Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Martin Wallström for putting on such sublime performances week in and week out. I hope the team are rewarded in the next round of awards ceremonies. The behind the scenes teams have also been incredible, with awesome camera work, editing and cinematography. The music used throughout the season has also been perfect, with last night's finale an absolute standout. My Shazam app was working overtime.

And a big thanks to you, the readers! I've had a huge amount of fun reviewing this series, as well as engaging with those who share a comment with their thoughts and theories. I'll be glad to put my feet up for a few weeks before the broadcast networks swing into gear once more, where I'll be reviewing the sophomore season of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder, and a couple of shows due up early in the new year.

For the last time this season, be sure to leave your thoughts and theories on the Mr. Robot season finale in the comments below! There's so much to discuss about where things could be headed next. I'd also be keen to hear your thoughts on whether the finale should have been preempted due to its content. In any case, I'll see you all back here in 2016 for the series' second season.