This review contains spoilers.
2.11 Python Pt. 1
Python Pt. 1, the first part of Mr Robot season 2’s finale, is baffling. Absolutely baffling. Elliot hacks himself into a lucid dream so he (and we) can follow Mr Robot around to suss out his shadowy plans. It involves decrypting a highly complicated code in a North Carolina BBQ joint menu then heading to a cab to rendezvous with Tyrell Wellick. Yes, he’s alive. We think?
It also involves Angela being taken by her kidnappers to a suburban home where a young girl asks her questions like “Have you ever cried during sex” in a room that contains nothing but an aquarium and an ancient computer.
But among all of those truly reality-bending, mind-fucking moments there is the surprisingly affecting story about a young FBI agent and her digital household helper.
In Python Pt. 1 we don’t get to see who lived and died during the Dark Army assault on the restaurant. Darlene and Cisco’s lives are still very much in the balance. We are able, however. to see that Dom DiPierro survives. She’s taken to a hospital for a check-up and her boss informs her about the Chinese government’s $2 trillion no-interest loan to E. Corp.
“They can’t get away with this,” she says.
“They’re going to get away with this,” he responds.
A no-strings-attached $2 trillion loan is exactly what the world needs right now. Despite her objections, Dom is sent home to rest up before the interview with survivors from the restaurant. Dom takes the opportunity to throw on her boxers, old lady glasses and then crawl into bed. There she has a strangely beautiful and melancholy with Alexa, Amazon’s cylindrical servent/Alec Baldwin commercial co-star.
“Alexa, are we friends?”
“Alexa, what is your favorite colour?”
“Alexa? What colour are your eyes? Mine are grey. I think.”
“Alexa. Are you happy?”
“Alexa. Are you alone?”
“Alexa. Do you love me?”
“That’s not the kind of thing I’m capable of.”
In an episode that’s so unrelentingly bizarre, it’s nice to have a quiet poignant moment, even if its between humanity and an algorithm. But Dom’s interactions with Alexa serve another purpose beyond that. As if this scene wasn’t enough to remind you of Dom’s previous conversations with Alexa, the “Previously On” segment of Python Pt. 1 does it for us. We get to go back a few episodes and observe the time Dom asked Alexa an even bigger question, bigger than even perhaps “Do you love me?”
“Alexa, when is the end of the world?”
Alexa says the end of the world will likely be in several billion years. Based the events of Python Pt. 1, however, the answer that Mr Robot has been trying to reach all season is: the end of the world is now.
Python Pt. 1 is the best episode of Mr Robot this season because it clarifies the show and season’s purpose even more perfectly than ever before.* Python Pt. 1 feels apocalyptic. Hell, this whole season feels apocalyptic. The collapse of currency (culminating this week with the adoption of ECoin as the United States’ new currency), the failing of thew power grid, etc, etc. Mr Robot doesn’t need us to understand what’s happening onscreen. Mr Robot instead has been trying to make us feel what the end of the world feels like while suffering from schizophrenia at the same time. Experience the collapse of the economy and power grid all while at the same time questioning the very fabric of reality you live in.
*Yes, even more than last week’s which I both called the best episode of the season and said clarified the season’s purpose more perfectly than ever before. I’m gullible…or empathetic.
This season is the opposite of how television works. It becomes more unclear and inscrutable as the episodes go on. Where we start in episode 1, we’re pretty sure we know what’s up. Elliot is back at his mother’s, relaxing. The world has changed. E. Corp is defeated. Every subsequent episode since hasn’t confirmed or clarified that state of affairs any further – only muddled it.
Season two has only gotten more inscrutable as it’s gone along precisely because this is the end of the world (as we know it). It shouldn’t make sense. We cannot conceive of it. The reality (or at least what we’re pretty confident reality is) on the show reflects that with the aforementioned blackouts and unprecedented loan from rival superpower to private company. But so does almost everything else. Elliot’s dissociative identity is disorienting. The editing is disorienting. The storytelling choices like all the cliffhangers and Tyrell’s extend absence is disorienting. And that’s the point.
At some point between season one and two, Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail claimed he had a solid plan in place to pull off future seasons of Mr Robot. This was supposed to be a movie after all and we’re only in Act Two with many more to go. Surely, what we as viewers would get was a solid, confident next step into an overarching storyline.
In some ways, Mr Robot has done exactly that. We’re in the next step of the story, as evidenced by a character uttering “stage two” every few seconds. But just because we’re in “stage two” doesn’t mean we can see it.
Mr Robot season two is an entire season of television that exists subtextually. We’ve gotten text but almost none of it matters. As Elliot says to us in the cab when he sees Tyrell Wellick again “This is no longer a question of what I’m seeing. We know that’s not reliable. The question is: what am I not seeing?”
There’s no question of what we’re seeing. The only question is what are we not seeing? That’s what this entire season has been. Not only has it been frustrating but in some senses terrifying. Elliot’s own reaction in the cab is indicative of that. “Do you see someone sitting next to me?!?” he screams to the cab driver in a panic. And then he screams it again. And again. And then hits against the barrier to the front seat over and over again, trying to get some outside confirmation that this is all real.
But he won’t get it. And neither will we. Until next week perhaps. It’s a troll-y, inherently disrespectful way to treat an audience. It’s also incredibly done.
I almost never believe that shows can stick the landing when it comes to finales. It’s such a difficult feat to rationally conclude a season of 12-24 episodes. But Mr Robot by becoming more inscrutable every week has paradoxically made it clearer and clearer that the end will somehow satisfy. Because how could it not? Just even to gain a semblance of clarity. in some ways, however, I hope they don’t. This feeling of the apocalyptic schizophrenia is hard to top.
Read Alec’s review of the previous episode, Hidden Process, here.