Creator Sam Esmail’s computer hacker thriller concludes with a revelation that redefines the entire series. Here’s how it played out.
[The following story contains major spoilers for the series finale of USA Network’s Mr. Robot.]
Written and directed by creator Sam Esmail, the Mr. Robot series finale ends with an answer to the penultimate installment’s final question: “Who are you?” True to the USA Network thriller’s form, the answer is a complicated one — but in one of the final scenes of the finale, Rami Malek’s troubled computer hacker does his best to articulate the answer: “I’m not Elliot. I’m only a part of him.”
In one final twist of the series (as well as a twist of the knife), the central character and the audience alike learns the truth: Elliot Alderson is not who he believes he is — at least, not the Elliot viewers have watched over the course of four seasons of tense technological exploits. The two-part series finale dives deeper into Elliot’s psyche than ever before, as it becomes clear the “alternate universe” posited in the penultimate episode was nothing more than an illusory world, designed to keep “the real Elliot” safe from harm. Much like the titular Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) himself, the Elliot we have known all this time turns out to be yet another personality created by Elliot: a hooded vigilante raging against the powers that be, fighting for a better future out of love for himself. Put another way: the Elliot we know is “the other one.”
Heading into the final act of the finale, an illusory form of Elliot’s therapist Krista Gordon (Gloria Reuben) sits down with her patient, to let him in on the truth of his many personalities — including the one who has been at the forefront of the entire series.
“In order for you to fully hear the truth, first we need to discuss Elliot’s dissociative identity disorder,” she says. “The first personality was created the day Elliot jumped out the window — the protector personality, the one Elliot created to replace his father, to protect him from intolerable situations: Mr. Robot. Later in life, Elliot created the mother personality, the persecutor, blaming Elliot for the abuse, insisting that he needed to pay for it. Not long after her came Elliot’s younger self, who he merged to handle the abuse he couldn’t tolerate. With that, he created his own family of sorts.”
“I guess she doesn’t know about you,” Elliot then says via inner monologue, looking directly into the camera at the viewer — us, his “friend.” Krista then stares right into the camera and acknowledges “our” presence, labeling us as “the voyeurs who think they aren’t a part of this, despite being here for all of it.”
“For a while, we thought we had identified all of Elliot’s personalities, but there’s another one who came about not too long ago,” she continues, addressing Malek’s hooded vigilante directly. “I know why you did it. Your heart was in the right place. You wanted to shelter him, which is why you changed his past … but it was his future you really wanted to protect. That’s why you went through such great lengths to take out all of the evil that surrounded him in the real world. So you formed fsociety. You loved him so much, you wanted to save the entire world, so you could make it better for him, no matter the cost. That’s why you hid him here, turning his harsh reality into a fantasy, trapping him in an endless loop to keep him safe until you were ready.”
Elliot resists the information, insisting that Krista has been wrong in the past. This version of Krista admits that the real therapist has gotten it wrong in the past: “She never realized she wasn’t talking to the real Elliot. She didn’t realize she was always talking to you, a personality created to carry Elliot’s rage, the vigilante hacker Elliot always imagined being, the one who sought vengeance, the personality that had gained so much control he forgot he was only just a personality: the mastermind. And now it’s time for you to give that control back to the host: the real Elliot.”
Following the confrontation, Elliot wakes up in a hospital bed, miraculously alive despite the Whiterose (BD Wong) project’s explosive meltdown. In the hospital, Darlane (Carly Chaikin) and Elliot face the truth: this is not the real Elliot, but is yet another fabricated personality, one that gained control over the past year. It takes little time at all for Darlene to accept Elliot’s confession, saying she knew all along that she wasn’t dealing with the brother she grew up with, insisting she ran away from him long ago because she didn’t know how to deal with his trauma.
In the final scenes of the series, Elliot retreats within himself once more, settling into an illusory movie theater alongside the other personalities he created. He watches his life unfold as a series of blurring projections, a tunnel of light and imagery. On the other side: Elliot’s eye, red and brimming with tears. He’s finally awake. The last image of the series is what that eye sees: Darlene. She smiles, and offers up two final words that mirror the first words of the whole series: “Hello, Elliot.”
It’s an emotional finale, a two-hour odyssey that exudes a multitude of sensations: terror, exhilaration, bewilderment, catharsis. Indeed, “odyssey” is a fitting word to describe the finale, according to what Phillip Price actor Michael Cristofer previously told The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from the episode.
“I said to Sam after we read through all of [the scripts], and then I finally heard [the finale], I think he’s managed to do the journey of the hero, and not the Joseph Campbell one, but literally Homer,” Cristofer previously told THR. “It’s Ulysses in The Odyssey. It’s the man separated from himself who has to journey to find his way back to himself. I think we have done that with these four years. I think you’ll know when you see these last few episodes, whether I’m right or not. There are so many parallels to The Odyssey…but it’s all inadvertent; Sam had no idea what I was talking about! But you imitate it inadvertently, because it’s so accurate in so many ways. A classic is something you keep going back to. Although the ending is satisfying, you never quite know how you got there. So you go back and you read it again. You go back to the movie and watch it again. You ask: ‘How did I get there? How did I get to that place?’ And of course, that’s the journey. I hope, I hope, I hope it all goes well for the [final episodes] — because on paper, I think it worked. It’s a very, very complex and interesting ending to this story.”
It’s certainly a complex ending, one that’s bound to lead to several questions, including whether or not the events of the series actually took place. For what it’s worth, the hospital scene between Elliot and Darlene offers an answer. When Elliot asks if everything is real, Darlene insists: “I’m telling you, this is real. I was there with you through all of it: fsociety, our hack on E Corp, Five/Nine, you going to prison, the cyber bombings, us robbing those evil motherfuckers after what they did to Angela. Angela, she’s gone. Same with Romero, Trenton, Mobley, Shayla. Elliot, I wouldn’t lie to you: this isn’t in your head. This is real.” It’s only then that Elliot openly acknowledges that while the world may be real, he himself is not real — at least, not his whole self.
For now, “Krista’s” explanation, as well as Darlene’s hand-holding, serve as the current word on the finale’s twists from creator Sam Esmail as well. The Mr. Robot mastermind (a loaded term, given the finale’s reveal) has opted not to do press for the two-part episode (titled “whoami” and “Hello, Elliot” respectively, according to USA reps), instead choosing to allow the finale to speak for itself. In other words, until and unless he reverses that decision (or decides to grace the faithful Mr. Robot subreddit with an AMA), do not expect Esmail to answer any of the following questions in the immediate future:
• “What did this series look like as a feature film?”
• “How long has that ‘Mr. Roboto’ needle drop been in the works?”
• “When did you first envision the scene of Elliot murdering himself and stuffing his own body in a self-storage box?”
• “What’s going to happen to ‘the real Elliot’ after he wakes up? Please don’t send him back to jail!”
• “What’s the recipe for Phillip Price’s famous whiskey sours?”
• “Where. Is. Flipper?”
• “Were they dead the whole time?”
(Again, on that last point: listen to Darlene. They were not dead the whole time. Let’s not do this again.)
Though his lips are sealed at the moment, Esmail has at least weighed in on the emotional impact of Mr. Robot as a series, both on his audience and on himself. As we close the book on Elliot Alderson and Mr. Robot, let’s look back at what Esmail said about this journey when he spoke on The Hollywood Reporter‘s Series Regular podcast at the start of the season:
“It means the world to me. I was a little taken aback by the big response we got when we first aired the show. It’s a weird show. These characters are odd. Elliot is odd. I thought I was making something kind of niche. I thought I would be speaking to a small group of people out there. The fact that it was relatable to a larger audience is something that made me feel seen, weirdly enough. This story is very personal to me. A lot of what Elliot went through is something I used to go through. I’m speaking from the heart when it came to that. The fact that there’s such a huge fanbase out there that related to his character moved me. The fact that I could even speak to that, or speak to some of the same struggles that Elliot’s gone through, I never thought about how it made them feel, being selfish. But it’s something that made me feel like I could make a connection with other people, and that we are talking about something that is important. It’s moving beyond the pale. It’s so touching to me.”