This Mr. Robot review contains spoilers.
Mr. Robot Season 4 Episode 11
One of the most consistently frustrating things about the final season of Mr. Robot is its truly bizarre pacing.
Season 4 has veered wildly from thrilling plot twist to quiet character introspection to pointless side quest from week to week, with little sign of anything that looks like a narrative road map. Is the ultimate goal of the season to bring down Whiterose? To stop her mysterious Washington Township project? To fix Elliot’s fractured psyche? To unseat the global elite? Or perhaps even rewrite reality itself?
If “eXit” is anything to go by, the answer is possibly all of the above, all at once. This episode is a microcosm of everything that’s been both great and frustrating about this final season, pretty much at the same time. There are satisfying plot developments, great performances, confusing revelations, and great character moments, all crammed into an hour-long run time.
To be clear, this is an outstanding episode, one that seemingly gives us answers even as it asks more questions, but there’s also no way to watch this without asking yourself whether it should have taken place earlier in the season, or if it’s a more worthwhile story than some of the other B-plots we’ve watched during Season 4.
The answer to both those things is probably yes, and when this season is over, we can certainly discuss whether it needed thirteen episodes or if it should have brought Whiterose and the Deus Group back into the main narrative before spending four episodes on the longest Christmas Day on Earth.
But at least Mr. Robot finally appears ready to go all out in its last installments, and I guess that counts for something.
From the very beginning, “eXit” is an hour that doesn’t let up, dropping twist after twist at breakneck speed. From Whiterose’s apparent suicide to a nuclear reactor meltdown at Washington Township to the introduction of what appears to be a parallel world, this episode is just…well, it’s a whole lot.
In fact, this installment is so intriguing – and, frankly, so entertaining to watch – that it’s really difficult not to resent the fact that we spent an entire hour wandering around an airport with Darlene and Dom last week instead of spending more time on…whatever’s actually happening here. And to wonder if maybe we wouldn’t be so unclear on exactly what is happening here if we had.
The first third of the hour is doubtless B.D. Wong’s Emmy reel. The actor vanished from the series’ canvas for most of Season 4’s midsection, but suddenly feels utterly essential again here as Whiterose dons her victory dress (complete with killer manicure that I have no idea how she had time to get done) and starts her mysterious machine. She also brings Elliot to a room that looks very like the one Angela was interrogated in back in Season 2. His version has an Apple computer and a copy of Tolstoy’s Resurrection, rather than a Commodore and Nabokov’s Lolita, but the parallels are very clear. The question, however, is to what end.
Wong and Rami Malek square off over an incredible 12-minute sequence in which only their respective faces are visible, as Whiterose passionately shares her reasons for wanting to alter a broken reality and Elliot counters with a speech about the power of love and connection to heal the things society has destroyed. It’s a tremendous sequence, which ends with Whiterose shooting herself in the head, Elliot playing a strange video game and the sounding of an alert that indicates the reactor is nearing an explosion before the screen goes bright red.
And a new world is born. Literally.
“eXit’s” final fifteen minutes show us an Elliot in an alternate reality, one in which his life is entirely different than the one we’ve spent four seasons watching. In ways that are not completely terrible, if we’re honest.
Of course, the episode does repeatedly raise the question of how seriously we’re meant to take the existence of this alternate reality. Is this a simulation? Some sort of vision created by Whiterose meant to convince Elliot to allow her mysterious machine to go forward? A dream fulfillment of Elliot’s most cherished desires? Or is this sweater-wearing version an Elliot from a different universe, who’s now being pushed together with ours?
This “new” Elliot is clearly struggling with the effect of whatever’s happened – he’s confused, with a near-constant headache – and seeing flashes of the world that used to be. (The way the F-Corp logo occasionally changes into the more familiar E-Corp version is just the creepiest example of several). And, not for nothing, but so are we, as viewers.
The nostalgia of so many familiar characters and settings – AllSafe! The Mr. Robot computer store! Angela’s terrible boyfriend from Season 1! – popping back up is almost overwhelming. And that’s before we get to a version of Tyrell Wellick who seems to have also gotten his own personal happy ending. Or, has at least stopped caring about others’ opinions of him enough to finally let his inner hoodie-loving, scruff-sporting self run free.
It’s hard to know which outcome we should root for, exactly. If this world is real, would it really be that bad?
This Elliot’s clearly much more stable, mentally. His father isn’t a sexual abuser and the pair have what seems to be a very close relationship. And Angela’s not only alive, she and Elliot are about to get married. (Hate me if you need to, internet; but my shipper heart is extremely full right now.) His alternate self seems safe, happy and successful. He even has a painfully ironic doormat! Isn’t that what we should all hope “our” Elliot gets at the end of this story?
Of course, Darlene doesn’t exist in this reality, at least not as an Alderson. And Elliot’s not entirely satisfied by the pleasant but dull routine of his existence (Talk about first world problems!). There are also more than a few hints that everything isn’t precisely what it seems, long before a second Elliot shows up in his bedroom. But the question, of course, is what that is. Is this a parallel universe? Has time been rewritten? Or is Elliot’s brain glitching in some new and terrifying way?
Mr. Robot is a series that has long relied on puzzle boxes and misdirection to tell its stories. It feels fitting that it’s giving us one more before the final credits ever roll. Even if we probably deserve more than two episodes to figure out what it all means.
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