This Mr. Robot feature contains spoilers.
Elliot Alderson has always seemed like a fictional character.
Obviously he is a fictional character given that he exists on the television program Mr. Robot. But even within the reality of the show, Elliot at times more closely resembled a hacker archetype than a living, breathing, bleeding human being.
For four seasons our protagonist wore his black hoodie like a superhero wears a cape, which is fitting given that his abilities at times seem superhuman. His characteristics and behavior are exaggerated, all wide-eyed, anxious, and intense. He even has some Sherlockian chemical dependencies to round out his fictional hero suite.
In the absolutely superb Mr. Robot series finale, we finally found out why Elliot has these heightened personality traits. Elliot seems like a fictional character because he has been one all along…metaphorically speaking.
About a year ago in the show’s time (which dates back to the beginning of the series’ very first episode), Elliot Alderson disappeared into his own head and somebody else entirely came out. Through 43 episodes of Mr. Robot, we never actually met Elliot Alderson. Instead we’ve been in the thrall of the vengeance-obsessed portion of his personality known only as “The Mastermind.” This is the personality that the manifestation of Elliot’s mom, Magda was referring to when she spoke of “the other one” in season 4’s second episode.
Mr. Robot makes this stunning reveal in the second part of its two-part finale. In the process it borrows a strategy from another classic sci-fi TV series. Just like Lost presented a “sideways” alternate universe only to reveal that it was actually the afterlife, Mr. Robot unveils a similar sideways universe before revealing that what we’re seeing is actually the contents of Elliot Alderson’s consciousness.
At first Elliot and the viewer alike believe that Whiterose’s project to jump into an alternate universe has worked. We see a different Elliot who he leads a very different, happier life. This Elliot is the CEO of Allsafe and is about to land his biggest client yet in the world’s biggest corporation, “F Corp.” This Elliot is a day away from marrying the love of his life, Angela Moss, and he also has a living father who loves him.
But of course, in true Mr. Robot fashion: none of this is real. Back in the actual world, Elliot really did successfully stop Whiterose’s plan – the nukes never went off and the world was saved. The “sideways” Elliot isn’t an Elliot from another universe at all: he’s the real Elliot who has been imprisoned deep within his own conscious as The Mastermind runs wild outside.
This is rather confusing stuff so the show goes out of its way to have three different characters try to communicate to Elliot (or The Mastermind, rather) just what exactly is going on. When Elliot doesn’t accept Mr. Robot’s explanation, he turns to Angela in the arcade at Coney Island that once served as fsociety’s headquarters. When even that doesn’t take, Elliot’s own consciousness forces him to sit down with a fictional version of Krista so that she can explain it all and make him (and us) fully understand.
Krista (who, to reiterate, is just another portion of Elliot’s mind in this context) lays the details of Elliot’s fractured psyche bare. There are no fewer than five alternate personalities that exist within Elliot’s brain. They are:
1. The Protector – Mr. Robot
2. The Persecutor – Elliot’s Mom, Magda Alderson
3. Elliot’s Younger Self
4. The Voyeurs – Us
5. The Mastermind
As we previously knew, Mr. Robot was the first of Elliot’s personalities to manifest. Elliot’s mind fractured after he fell from the window and Mr. Robot came into existence the moment after Elliot’s real father died before a screening of Back to the Future. Mr. Robot took on the appearance of Elliot’s father, the man who was supposed to protect him but abused him and traumatized him instead.
Next came the mother personality, the Persecutor, who represented Elliot’s belief that he was somehow responsible for his own abuse and that he had to pay for it. Then came Elliot’s younger self who emerged to process the abuse that Elliot couldn’t understand or handle. After his dissociative family was in place, Elliot’s consciousness created us, the viewers. We were created to watch, so watch we did.
Finally, right around the time the events of the series begin, the last and most powerful of Elliot’s identities emerged: The Mastermind. The Mastermind was a reaction to all of Elliot’s rage against an unfair, exploitative world. This personality also wanted to shelter Elliot so he altered his perception of his past so that his father was a friend and not a monster. Fixing Elliot’s past wasn’t enough for The Mastermind though. There are a lot of monsters out there, monsters who wear suits, control the economy, and wreak havoc on innocent people’s lives. The Mastermind donned the black hoodie to stop Evil Corp and save the world…but more importantly to save Elliot.
“You loved him so much you wanted to save the entire world so you could make it better for him no matter the cost,” Krista tells the Mastermind.
The Mastermind took full control of the being known as Elliot Alderson, sought to create a better world, and succeeded in doing so. Meanwhile, the real Elliot was safely tucked away inside a fantasy world, living out all his dreams. The real Elliot had a father and mother who loved him in this fantasy, to go along with a good job, and Angela as his bride-to-be. The one thing that the real Elliot didn’t have, however, was Darlene.
Elliot and Darlene have a special relationship. They’ve stayed together through all the terrible things that have happened to the Alderson family and to the world at large. Darlene is Elliot’s rock. When his mind begins to fail, she is the only one who can convince him that what he’s experiencing is real. That’s why Darlene can’t exist in the fantasy land that The Mastermind created for the real Elliot. If Darlene were there, she would help Elliot “wake up” from The Matrix as it were.
And that’s how the conclusion of Mr. Robot as a series ends up being a touching reunion between two characters whose actors have actually shared plenty of screen time together already. The Mastermind accepts who he is and soon awakes in Elliot’s body back in the real world in a hospital bed. In keeping with the comparison to the Lost finale, Darlene takes on the role of Christian Shephard and explains to Elliot that not only is this the real world, but everything that happened to them really happened. They really started fsociety. They really eliminated the world’s debt. The really took down E Corp and Dark Army. Trenton, Mobley, and Angela are all really dead.
The Mastermind understands this but he still needs Darlene to know that even if everything else might be real, he himself is not. Of course Darlene already knows this because she and Elliot share a unique bond. She knew that another one of Elliot’s personalities was in the driver’s seat this whole time but she went along with it anyway. The siblings Alderson were spending time together again and that’s all Darlene ever really wanted.
“Is he ok?” Darlene asks of the real Elliot.
“I made a safe place for him. He got everything he ever wanted,” The Mastermind says.
But both Darlene and The Mastermind know that Elliot doesn’t have everything he ever wanted. He doesn’t have Darlene, the one person who means the most to him in the world. The Mastermind’s job is done. The world is saved. It’s time for Elliot to come home. So that’s what happens in Mr. Robot’s closing moments. The Mastermind, Mr. Robot, Young Elliot, Magda Alderson, and Us take our seats in a theater. We watch as the projector grows brighter and M83’s lovely song “Outtro” plays. Soon the projection becomes an iris…Elliot Alderson’s iris.
“Hello Elliot,” Darlene says.
Elliot is back in control of his body, mind, and soul for the first time in the show’s history. He and Darlene can now live safely and happily in the world that we helped create for them.