Mr. Robot: Who is Keyser Söze?!

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***Spoilers for Mr. Robot through “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z” follow. Spoilers***

First and foremost, my most sincere congratulations go out to Mr. Rami Malek for his Emmy win on Sunday. This has been one hell of a season but, if one thing has remained consistent, it has been Malek’s intense, layered, and studied turn as Elliot Alderson. There could be no more deserving recipient.

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We talk a lot about how Mr. Robot makes much of Chekhov’s gun, the idea an X seen in the first act will somehow pay off in the third. But I don’t think we’ve ever appreciated just how masterfully Esmail can pull off these reveals.

I want you to think back to season one when Elliot, believing Robot had pushed him, jumped from the pier. When Elliot thought Robot shoved him out of a window, he threw himself. When he thought Robot was choking him in the coffee shop, we saw he was choking himself. Elliot hurt himself to manifest an injury caused by a what he thought was a real person. Once Elliot knew for certain Robot wasn’t real, Robot lost the power. He tried to scare Elliot by ‘shooting’ him but Elliot shrugged it off.

Remember those for me.

Do you see this gif?

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The old lady is Sam Esmail, the paint is Mr. Robot, and Joanna? Joanna is all of us after the end of the intense, disturbing, and twisty season two finale.

Joanna has gone to see Scott, who is swigging-from-the-wine-bottle drunk as Joanna tears down any feelings of power he has, then calmly asks why exactly it is he’s trying to drive her crazy with his gifts. We were right about him sending the gifts, and that the sonogram was Sharon’s. He tearfully tells Joanna she told him she was pregnant the same day of the promotion, the party, and her murder. He gained and lost everything in one fell swoop so he wanted to give Joanna the hope and subsequent hell that he’s lived with ever since.

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He’s sobbing and apologising and, for a split second, Joanna’s viper-like stare becomes something softer. She stands over him and cradles his face, wearing a beatific expression while he gazes up at her, smiling as he waits for her forgiveness. It’s very Madonna and Child.

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But … Joanna. So: “You pussy,” she sneers. “You piece of shit I hope you rot in hell like your wife. You’re mourning a woman who, after she found out she was pregnant, was gonna fuck my husband’s brains out. I’m glad she’s dead. Fuck her and her fetus corpse.”

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Scott explodes, drags her to the ground with his hands around her throat, choking the life out of her, but Joanna is not even a little bit done. She rasps out that it’s no wonder Sharon was about to cheat; that he’s so weak and pathetic that his child is lucky it’s dead. He beats the shit out of her, bloodying and bruising her face before he recoils. as if in shock at his own actions, racing to call 911 while she lays battered.

That was absolutely horrible to watch. A profoundly well-acted scene by two exemplary actors, but that will haunt me for a long time.

Later, her lover Derek is understandably furious about her injuries and wants to kill Scott, but Joanna is far, far smarter and more vindictive than that. She met Derek the night of that party when Sharon died, working behind the bar, so tells Derek if he wants to protect her, he’ll tell the police how he saw Scott come down from the rooftop after the party was over. Derek doesn’t want to lie but she completely ignores him to clarify more of the story he’ll give the police about why he waited to talk, then gives him one of those Looks of hers. He acquiesces and she drops the act and coldly makes him repeat the story.

Part of me wonders if she remembered him from that party because he might be useful to her for something like this. And I’m kind of loving the idea she’s framing Scott for murder exclusively because he lay hands on her, not from any desire to save Tyrell. Though if you think about it long enough if she can frame Scott for the murder, it’s not a great leap to frame him for 5/9, too. She might be working a long game here and her promise to divorce Tyrell for Derek may be yet another con.

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Darlene lives! Praise the Old Gods and the New! She’s in Dom’s custody and not saying a word, despite Santiago’s lame threats about the Patriot Act. Shut up, Santiago. Cisco didn’t make it and the grief reads only in Darlene’s deadened and dull eyes, but she won’t even change out of her jacket, soaked as it is in his blood.

I really liked Cisco. Damn. Poor, poor Darlene.

Darlene doesn’t buy Dom’s friendly cop act, even when she throws out Santiago and calls them both “Jersey Girls!”

Dom claims Darlene was outed by the captured hackers as their leader (Oh, thanks, you guys, real revolutionaries you are), but Darlene dismantles the friendly approach Dom has taken, managing to call Cisco the love of her life, and Dom a c*nt, to her face, in one breath. “Fuck” is blanked out, but That Word makes it through?

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While I don’t support her language, that is badass. Darlene is the absolute queen of my entire soul. Dom has the camera equipment, but no tapes, from Cisco’s apartment and threatens that Darlene’s DNA on the camera would be a problem. But Darlene counters that she has used the equipment, to make ‘freaky tapes’ with Cisco. Because: Queen.

When Dom breaks out the bullet linked to a gun Darlene is accused of stealing, though with no evidence she did, and just a claim she had a relationship with the owner, Xander, Darlene snarks about Dom slut-shaming her. QUEEN.

While it seems she should be at the end of her rope, Dom has one last approach. Santiago is desperate to get back in on the interrogation and I’m half-convinced it’s so he can jab Darlene with a hypodermic full of air, but it’s entirely possible he’s just a glory hound who wants his name on the books if and when she breaks. Dom wants to show Darlene they’re worthy of her cooperation. She claims this will get them “to the top” and talks about how they’ve lost three suspects to the Dark Army’s cleaning house. Cisco she knows, Mobley she suspects, and … Trenton or Romero? Interesting.

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Santiago wants to go in with her but Dom shoots him down and goes back to Darlene, saying they’re both special. Darlene disagrees but Dom calls her a lot more special than she thinks and escorts Darlene to a room in the FBI headquarters, through lines of watching Feds and while the lights overhead flicker from the brownouts.

Darlene is led into a war room, where Dom has gone full Beautiful Mind and created a spider diagram connecting juuuuust about everyone. She doesn’t have Whiterose, and I can’t spot Trenton clearly, though she might have been linked to Mobley.

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But she does know Tyrell, Angela, Elliot, and Darlene are all involved. She talks as if they’ve had a lot of this information for a while, maybe even known about Elliot for a while. Hell, they have the hacker handle he uses in the secret chat he used to reach Darlene. Dom talks about how the Feds have been intentionally waiting to make their move rather than pounce too early. She talks about how Romero’s death scared the hackers and scattered them like scared prey.

She doesn’t say it but we know it caused a great deal of fallout, paranoia, and distrust, which led to mistakes. Thing is: Romero’s death, Dom tells Darlene and us, was a freak accident. A stray bullet from next door.

Darlene is stunned. To quote Cindy, this is as much a reveal to us, the audience, as it is to Darlene. Suddenly, a whole lot of Dom’s scenes take on very interesting new context. It almost looks like she might have actually known, suspected she was being spied on. She has been privy to things we have not, and for how long is unclear. Unknown quantity. But, she still thinks Tyrell is behind it all. And she doesn’t have Whiterose.

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Darlene, either in dull shock or because she’s seeing something less troubling than we are; mutters: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

And now for Elliot.

In a flashback, we see ElliotRobot talking with Tyrell, see him as Elliot and not Robot this time around. Tyrell had threatened to spill a “dirty little secret” when he sensed Elliot wasn’t cooperating but is warned off by a cold and sinister ElliotRobot.

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Tyrell chases him and is told to look not at what’s in front of him, but above — an echo of something he said to Joanna. He looks up at an approaching storm. Oh, Show. Desperate to be included, he recites a simple poem:

So much depends
Upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens

(William Carlos Williams)

It was the only English his father knew and he’d say it a lot because it meant so much to him. Tyrell remembers it so he remembers never to be like his father. Was every parent in this universe a dick to their child?

In the “now,” Tyrell and Elliot walk through suspiciously empty streets to an abandoned warehouse, where a college-aged Dark Army kid lets them board the freight elevator and goes up a few floors. He doesn’t really acknowledge either of them but obviously immediately recognises one or both of them.

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Elliot wonders internally if he can trust anything he’s seeing and externally is asking if Tyrell lived in the dingy warehouse, which the man denies, though doesn’t actually clarify where he has been living. Elliot wonders aloud about how Tyrell can be so blithely walking the streets — the suspiciously, conveniently empty ones you just walked, Elliot? Tyrell again dodges the question and points out their computer setup, including the devices that will protect them from the power problems.

In these scenes, it seems like they are power surges; the lights glowing bright, rather than dimming out constantly. It’s reminiscent of the strange surges and flares that remained just out of frame in the Shayla VR simulation.

Tyrell can tell Elliot is acting odd but doesn’t seem to be aware of the Robot element, and Elliot is eventually filled in on Stage 2: Evil Corp is collating all their old paper records in one building across the road from the warehouse. They intend to use the paperwork to rebuild their database and restore order. Stage 2 involves hacking into the buildings systems, flooding it with gas, then forcing a power surge so the sparks ignite the gas. The building will be leveled, but Elliot points out: so will several city blocks and a bunch of innocent people.

Unseen to Tyrell, Robot reappears and we get some more religious imagery as the three stand together, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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Later, Elliot and Robot argue about why Elliot isn’t allowed to know everything, just what he can handle, but he quickly realises he’s being intentionally distracted while Tyrell starts the hack. He’s surely a bit premature, if the vans delivering the papers are only just arriving?

Elliot tries to stop it anyway, ignoring protests from both Tyrell and Robot until Tyrell, finally seeming more like the slightly unstable man from season one, pulls the gun. The one from the popcorn machine. Oh, dear.

Robot is begging Elliot to step away from the PC but Elliot turns to confront them both, adamant that Tyrell won’t shoot him because Tyrell’s not real anyway. Only Elliot is.

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Baby, he won’t shoot you because he’s in love with you. But, not that in love because Tyrell actually does go ahead and shoot Elliot.

For a second there it seemed like Elliot had finally had the psychological breakthrough he needs to get a handle on Robot and, perhaps, Tyrell.

But Elliot can’t have nice things. It is known.

Robot breathes, “No!” while Elliot slowly examines his bloody hands.

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More religious imagery, or just how bleeding works?

While he collapses, writhing, and bleeding, Tyrell talks about the day Elliot gave him the gun and made him promise to use it on anyone who tried to stop them. He knows now that means Elliot, too. Robot, who is flickering out of existence, is amazingly calm about their possibly looming death and tells Elliot he couldn’t let anyone stop the mission. Including “us.”

Remember those scenes I mentioned? When Elliot thought Robot was real, he thought Robot could hurt him, so subconsciously he was hurting himself. When Elliot knew Robot wasn’t there, he couldn’t be hurt by him anymore, though Robot had enough influence to make him flinch. So, one of three things happened in that warehouse: Elliot, somewhat believing Tyrell was real, imagined his injuries and has merely been psychologically incapacitated. Or Elliot, entirely believing Tyrell was real, shot himself in the gut which left him bleeding alone on the floor with just the Dark Army guy to hopefully have heard the shot, all to save the mission. That speaks to some terrifying power in the hands of his splintered personalities.

Or Tyrell is entirely real and shot Elliot.

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Later, Angela answers her phone to Tyrell, calling him by name and saying she was told he would call. By whom? Whiterose; has to be. Audibly, it’s absolutely Tyrell. He’s distressed, but Angela is reassuring him. She says she has to be the first one Elliot sees when he wakes and tells Tyrell he did the right thing. Tyrell sobs that he loves Elliot and Angela says she does, too.

The credits roll, but there is an after-the-credits scene: in a final and glorious one-shot take, we follow a car and then pan in on Mobley and Trenton (!!!) in some low-key disguises, using fake names, outside an electronics store. Wherever they are (California), it has palm trees, and they mention a friend of Mobley’s who got them jobs.

vlcsnap-2016-09-23-00h25m50s371The friend has also perved on Trenton in the bathroom. Trenton has found something she wants Mobley to look at, something that could undo everything and put it back the way it was. She misses her family, but Mobley isn’t buying into her idea.

The panning camera makes it very clear no one is approaching them before it closes back on the pair but, suddenly, they’re interrupted by someone appearing from places unseen, who politely asks if they have the time. We pan around to Leon.

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And then it ends for another year.

It ends?

FOR ANOTHER YEAR?

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  • What is the dirty little secret Tyrell mentioned? I don’t think he knows about Robot, and anyone who counts knows Elliot is the leader of fsociety, framed Colby, and most of the rest of it. Does Elliot, or, more specifically, Robot, have something else going on? Some deeper connection to Whiterose and the plant she’s so determined to protect?
  • What of Leon? I am delighted he’s coming back for Season Three, but his appearance outside prison raises so many questions. His literal appearance at their table raises questions when you watch that scene back; where does he approach from? Fun, clever little move in the last seconds of the season. Hell, his appearance inside the prison remains a mystery, when you think about it. All we know is Whiterose sent him, and he doesn’t even break a sweat when butchering rapist Neo-Nazis. I have adored him, you guys. He’s a mercurial delight. But what does he mean for the outlying Scoobies? Is he friend or foe? I harbor a theory that he works not for Dark Army, but Whiterose specifically and exclusively and, as such, his presence could mean a lot of things. He could be there to kill them, though it’s curious that it didn’t happen before the screen went black. Or he could be there to protect them. Angela is in with Whiterose now and seems to be connected all the way up, so could she have suggested they be found; helped?
  • How much of Scott’s reaction was Joanna expecting? And when did she decide to frame him? She was absolutely trying to provoke him into a reaction and with the injuries she now carries, the proof he was stalking or harassing her, she has an incredible amount of clout to absolutely damn him.
  • Though Dom’s wall o’ clues would put a pretty big dent in that plan. How long has she known what she does? How much of her behaviour been plotted to throw off potential spies, or even Santiago himself?
  • And is her story about Romero true? If it is, how long has she known and why has she continued to talk about it like he was definitely murdered? Earlier in this episode, she mentioned 3 suspects they know or think were killed by Dark Army. Cisco we know; she must suspect Mobley … the third could be Trenton, who may be on the board connected to Mobley, but is the only one not clearly shown in any shots. If Romero is the third suspect, did Dom fib to Santiago or Darlene?
  • And, at last … Tyrell. Alive or dead? Did Elliot get shot or did he imagine he did so one of the splinters could take over? Did he shoot himself? Tyrell was on the phone to Angela and she called him by name, but depending on what she now knows … maybe she’s been told to address him as whatever personality is presenting? The show has presented us an Elliot filtered world before, with the Evil Corp trait in season one, so perhaps we could hear Tyrell, because this is the Elliot Show once again. Elliot’s “waking up” could mean when he re-assumes control of the body, or it could mean waking from surgery for his bullet wound. As I mentioned, Robot was shocked when Tyrell fired the gun, but that could be he was surprised it had to go that far, or surprised that Elliot hurt himself so badly. He was otherwise very calm about them being shot. Even if he actually knows Tyrell is alive and will continue the mission, wouldn’t Robot want himself and Elliot to live? Wouldn’t he be concerned they were dying?
  • It will be curious to see if it’s “Elliot” Angela speaks to when she gets to him.

All over, the season finale played an incredibly bold move and didn’t actually clear up the biggest mystery of the season. Or maybe it did and I missed some clue. It might seem obvious that Angela took a call from Tyrell, but remember the influence Elliot’s perception can have. As well as the Evil Corp trait, in season one, while Elliot broke into the server farm, he was imagining Robot sat back in the van, speaking to but of course being ignored by Mobley and Romero. Elliot’s mind filled a space he didn’t occupy with the sound and presence of his imaginary friend while Elliot was not in the scene.

If he did that, then Elliot’s mind could fill Angela and our ears with Tyrell’s voice.

But Tyrell’s final words, that he loved Elliot. Is that something a splinter would claim so deeply and emotionally?

I don’t think it is.

I need to go host a Viking funeral for Cisco, and build my own Dom-style war room and diagram this thing until I can make sense of it. Until next time, true believers.

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

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  • Father, son and holy ghost is a great to describe the framing for the troika. Props.

    • Nadiney

      all credit to Cindy for that one 😉