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Mr. Robot - Series Finale Review: "All Good Things Must Come To An End"

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When reviewing a television episode, I almost always try to push my reviews out a few hours after an episode has aired. It works best because of my timezone, and also because I'm in the zone for that show, and things are fresh in my mind.

The two part series finale of Mr. Robot forced me to buck this trend. Admittedly, some of the reasoning behind that came about because of the time of year, but the vast majority of that reasoning was because the finale was truly remarkable and demanded I take some time to reflect, and refresh myself on what these past five seasons have delivered.

Showrunner Sam Esmail has said for some time that he had the series finale formulated long ago. That fact alone seems to be increasingly rare among showrunners, and is yet another reason Esmail is light years ahead of others in the industry. Sam Esmail doesn't strive for perfection - he achieves perfection. And what's even more remarkable is he achieves that perfection in so many areas. He's written 24 of the series' 45 episodes, and also directed all but seven episodes. That's an unprecedented workload, and despite that he's managed to produce one of the very best television series of the decade, and possibly all time.

So what happened in this two part masterpiece? The answer to that question can be summed up in two words: a lot. But there was so much more to it than that.

This doesn’t sound like my mom. This sounds like someone who loves their son. Everything’s changed.
In Part 1, we caught up with Elliot moments after the Washington Township nuclear power plant supposedly blew up. Only the power plant didn't blow up. Washington Township was a completely different place. The plant didn't exist, and the township was an idyllic neighborhood completely different to the one he knew from when he grew up there. This first part was essentially dedicated to Elliot exploring this reimagined neighborhood, and interacting with completely new versions of the people he loved and hated in the previous version.

Part of last week's episode was dedicated to this concept as well, and provided the lead-up to the two Elliots meeting from the perspective of an alternate Elliot. The Elliot we know followed his nose through this new world, stopping by his father's computer store, then his childhood home, where a neighbor recognized him, but had no idea who Darlene was. He then met his mother unexpectedly, and to his horror he found out that his bedroom didn't exist in its usual place. Then Angela's place in the puzzle was revealed.

This alternative world was truly fascinating, and beautifully crafted up to this point. But it continued to get better and better, with the climax that was the two Elliots meeting still to come. In search of Angela, Elliot visited her apartment, but she didn't answer the door. Instead, Phillip Price and his wife - Angela's parents - greeted him, and confirmed to Elliot that he and Angela were due to be married the next day. This was a fascinating scene on many counts. Seeing Angela's mother, for one. But mostly it was seeing Phillip Price in a completely new medium. He was actually being a father to his daughter instead of being the puppet CEO for the world's largest corporation. My only real regret here is that we didn't actually see him, his wife, and Angela together in the same scene. Across both hours, this is the one thing I would have liked to have seen most of all.

Moving on from that, however, we still had to witness the showdown between the two Elliots. But before that, Sam Esmail gave us one final hacking scene. Elliot entered alternate Elliot's apartment - the same apartment normal Elliot also occupied, though the decor was considerably different. Elliot was determined to learn as much as he could about alternate Elliot, and what better way to do that than by hacking alternate Elliot's computer. The cinematography here was simply superb. The camera whip panned between Elliot, the computer screen and the keyboard over and over again. As a technique it shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did, and it was a fantastic moment.

The hack revealed a hidden partition on alternate Elliot's computer. In that partition were multiple drawings of the characters in normal Elliot's life. The only person who could explain these images was alternate Elliot, and that was just about to happen. Alternate Elliot arrived home, and to his horror, he saw a lookalike - normal Elliot - sitting at his computer.

Up until now, this finale was relatively easy to keep track of, but with the two Elliots now together, the real complexity and mindfuckery was about to begin. Alternate Elliot said that the drawings were an imaginary world of his - the first real clue that the Elliot we have always known wasn't who we thought he was. The two Elliots touched, causing an earthquake. Alternate Elliot fell backwards and hit his head. But after answering a phone call meant for alternate Elliot from Angela, normal Elliot decided to kill alternate Elliot and essentially take his place. If things weren't already fucked up enough, they were about to be, because this was where Part 1 came to an end.

Part 2 was radically different to Part 1 because normal Elliot began to realize that, as much as he wanted to, he couldn't interact as he wanted to with the world that he and alternate Elliot now inhabited. This started when he tried to take alternate Elliot's body out of his apartment in a box and dispose of it. Having found alternate Elliot's car, normal Elliot tried to load the body into it unnoticed, but Dominique - now a police officer - tried to ticket him for parking illegally. Noticing blood leaking from the cardboard box, things took a drastic turn and normal Elliot was forced to leg it. He was at risk of missing his wedding.

What followed was perhaps the most important conversation the characters we know as Elliot and Mr. Robot have had in the entire series. In the latter part of Part 1, Mr. Robot was trying to get through to Elliot, but he wouldn't listen. However when Elliot finally made it to the beach - the supposed destination for his wedding for Angela - she wasn't there. The audience was wearing fsociety masks, and they clearly weren't real attendees. Finally, Elliot listened to Mr. Robot, and the muddied waters began to clear. The Elliot we know is not the real Elliot. The Elliot we know is as much the real Elliot as Mr. Robot is.

A conversation with Angela soon followed after Elliot saw her in the distance and chased her to the arcade we once knew as the fsociety headquarters. The scene here was a rehash of the one seen in the first season, only this time some previous unseen dialog was added, leading Angela to utter six very important words:
You're not Elliot. You're the Mastermind.
So, in addition to Mr. Robot revealing that the Elliot we know isn't the real Elliot, Angela reveals that the Elliot we know is actually what's now known as the Mastermind. My terminology going forward now has to change. The Mastermind gets a hell of a fright and backs out of the fsociety headquarters and chases after Mr. Robot this time. Hilarity ensues, however, when the Mastermind sees that everyone shares the same face as Mr. Robot. The visual effects here were just superb. Mastermind then finds Mr. Robot in the crowd, and turns him around, only to find that it's in fact Tyrell Wellick. Wellick then shoots Mastermind, but this must be a glitch of some sort because Mastermind doesn't die, and wakes up hours later, in the dark, on the beach. Someone then drags Mastermind into a hole, and Darlene's voice can be heard pleading with Elliot to wake up.

The glitches keep coming. Krista and Mastermind now share some dialog, and the final pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. It wasn't actually Krista here, but a version of her was the vehicle used to explain what was essentially real and what wasn't. She tells us that the real Elliot did in fact jump from the window, and Mr. Robot was created by Elliot to protect him. Elliot then created the mother personality, and the personality of his younger self, so now Elliot had a family of personalities. Krista also referenced us, the viewers here, which was a fascinating, but fitting inclusion.

In simple terms, what had happened was that the real Elliot created the Mastermind personality, but the Mastermind personality took over and suppressed the real Elliot's personality, and became obsessed with trying to create a better world for the real Elliot. Meanwhile, the real Elliot was trapped in a fantasy world created by the Mastermind - a world so good that the Mastermind ended up wanting to be in that world instead. Krista tried to get the Mastermind to yield to the real Elliot, but he wouldn't. The world then collapses, and Mastermind wakes up in hospital. Darlene finally appears, for the first time in this series finale.

The dialog Mastermind and Darlene shared here was quite tricky to conceptualize because it revealed essentially what was real about the things Elliot had done, and what wasn't. It's easiest to remember that Darlene represents reality. If she wasn't involved in it, it didn't happen. That's why she was missing from the world Mastermind created for the real Elliot. Or at least that's how I understand it anyway. Darlene did admit she knew something was up with Elliot, but didn't want to jeopardize the connection they had begun to build after Mastermind took over.

With mere minutes left in this amazing series, the question now was how Sam Esmail was going to wrap his masterpiece up. Fittingly, all four of the real Elliot's personalities ceded control over the real Elliot. They now knew and understood their place. And again, special mention was made to us, the viewers. Just as Elliot's personalities had to let go of him, we the viewers also have to let go of the series. Moments before that happened, some narrated dialog from Elliot served as one of the series' most important messages to viewers: that merely turning up and being present is enough to change the world:
This whole time, I thought changing the world was something you did. An act you perform, something you fought for. I don't know if that's true anymore. What if changing the world was just about being here, by showing up no matter how many times we get told we don't belong, by staying true even when we're shamed into being false, by believing in ourselves even when we're told we're too different. And if we all held on to that, if we refuse to budge and fall in line, if we stood our ground for long enough, just maybe... the world can't help but change around us. Even though we'll be gone, it's like Mr. Robot said. We'll always be a part of Elliot Alderson. And we'll be the best part, because we're the part that always showed up. We're the part that stayed. We're the part that changed him. And who wouldn't be proud of that?"
I think many of the same words can be applied to being a trailblazer, because that's what this series has been. Sam Esmail's own personal backstory is a testament to this to a degree, but he's applied that to the production of this series. How many things have you seen in this series that you've never seen before? Have you seen any other series include several minute long scenes after the credits have rolled? Have you seen any other series come out with an episode shot to look like one long take? What about an episode shot as a sitcom? Or one written as a stage play? I could go on, but my point is by pushing the boundaries and breaking new ground you can change the world. Even though Elliot said you could change the world merely by being present, that's definitely not the approach Sam Esmail has taken. And boy, am I glad he chose the approach he did.

The final couple of minutes of Mr. Robot were just beautiful. Mastermind stepped down from commanding the real Elliot, joining his fellow personalities in a theater, with the fantastic M83 track, "Outro" playing. The real Elliot can now take control of his own body and mind, and he finally wakes up to see Darlene in hospital. I couldn't think of a more fitting pair of words to see off the series than:
Hello, Elliot.
And that was the end of that. A truly fitting end to a fantastic fourth and final season of this captivating and trailblazing series. I really do have to wrap things up right around now because this review has taken me several hours to write, and it could take many more for me to share my theories and opinions on other aspects of this series, such as the purpose of Whiterose and Tyrell Wellick, or the meaning of this, that and the next thing. Another remarkable aspect of this finale - and also the series as a whole - is that despite having a clean and tidy ending, there's so much about it which can be left up to the viewer as an individual to interpret and draw their own conclusions based on what something means to them.

Every individual viewer will have had a different part - or combination of parts - of this series move them in a particular way. It could be more sombre topics such as mental illness, family troubles, addiction, abuse, or loss, among others, or interests such as technology, hacking, computer science, politics, activism, inequality and more. A run-of-the-mill drama series simply doesn't come close to the variety I've just listed - and there's many more I haven't mentioned. There's also plenty of in-depth discussion and analysis taking place online, such as the Mr. Robot subreddit, for example, and that discussion will continue for years to come thanks to the series' trailblazing nature. Mr. Robot may have ended, but because it changed the world of television it will hold a special place in the hearts of many fans. It won't be forgotten anytime soon.

After 43 reviews, and tens of thousands of words, it's now time for me to shut up shop. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Firstly, a huge thanks to the cast and crew of Mr. Robot, for obvious reasons. It's been an absolute pleasure to watch and engage with this series over the past 5 years. Secondly, to you, the readers! I hope you've enjoyed my reviews. I know I'm far from the best writer or reviewer out there, but hopefully it's been worth it for you to read what I think. It's been great fun engaging with you in the comments. And a final thank you note to the boffins at USA Network for providing the odd screener, and for also quoting my series premiere review on the Season 1 DVD and Blu-Ray cover. That's my proudest moment to date from my years writing at SpoilerTV. It's one of those things that no-one believes when you tell them it happened. It's definitely not something that happens every day.

Thanks for reading this far! I'd love to hear what you thought of this finale, this season, and this series for one final time, so be sure to share them in the comments below. I'll see you down there! If not, I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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