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[This story contains spoilers for season four, episode 11 of USA Network’s Mr. Robot, “411 eXit.”]
In his penultimate installment, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail officially turned up the radio and dialed things up to an entirely unexpected level: a full-scale parallel universe, just as Whiterose (BD Wong) always promised.
At least, that’s what it looks like.
As always with all things Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), appearances can be and often are deceiving. But here’s what “411 eXit” indicates: Elliot’s final mission to thwart Whiterose’s Washington Township project failed spectacularly, with the fsociety and Deus Group leaders meeting in the depths of a nuclear power plant, on the cusp of great change. Both Elliot and Whiterose share their mutual philosophies on humanity, the flaws they see in society and individuals, but also the “rare” exceptions, the people who prove humanity is worth fighting for. Elliot’s bold defiance against Whiterose isn’t enough to stop her project, however, which she put into action long before the hacker’s arrival at the power plant. (“I did it 35 minutes ago,” as a certain comic book serial villain might say.) Whiterose decides to leave the fate of the project in Elliot’s hands, and takes her own life; Elliot, along with an assist from Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), proceeds to play a video game to shut down the project. Fires raging from outside their chamber suggest Elliot’s still too late.
“I love you,” Elliot tells Mr. Robot as he sits back, resigned to his fate. Mr. Robot returns the sentiment, and then Elliot parrots back one of his alter ego’s earliest lines from the series: “It’s an exciting time in the world.”
A red light flashes, consumes everything. When the picture restores, the story exists in a very different world from the one previously glimpsed. Among the key differences: Elliot is living a lavish, well-manicured life, with his Chinatown apartment completely renovated, Extreme Makeover style; Elliot and Angela (Portia Doubleday), apparently very alive, are set to marry in one day’s time; for some reason, it’s May 9 in this other world — the same day as the Five-Nine Hack, of course; also for some reason, all clocks read “11:16,” a number that’s followed the series for some time now; it appears that Darlene (Carly Chaikin) no longer exists; Elliot’s father, Edward, is alive, and in good standing with his son; Elliot is the BMOC of All-Safe; “BMOC” means “big man on campus,” which is not an actual thing, despite Ollie (Ben Rappaport) insisting otherwise; Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) is alive, and is the “BMOC” of F Corp, and yes, that’s “F Corp,” not E Corp; Whiterose isn’t a terrorist, she’s a philanthropist, with her work positively impacting millions all over the world.
Idyllic conditions notwithstanding, there are still some troubles in Elliot’s new world. He suffers from sudden and intense migraines, there’s an earthquake hitting the New York area, and by the end of the episode, “our” hero is face to face with a stranger: himself. The surreal hour ends with this new Elliot and the hooded version we have known throughout four seasons of Mr. Robot face to face, inside parallel Elliot’s pristine apartment. The series’ penultimate episode ends with Elliot asking himself the same question fans have been asking from the very beginning: “Who are you?”
Three simple words: “Who are you?” The answer, of course, is bound to be a complicated one. Indeed, it’s just one of the many simple questions with presumably massive answers, with only two hours remaining on the clock. Among those other questions:
• “Excuse me?”
• “What is happening?”
• “Seriously, Sam, what did you just do?”
• “Sam, are you listening to me?”
Alas, Esmail’s lips are sealed when it comes to illuminating the events of Mr. Robot any further, at least for now, as the creator has opted to let the series speak for itself. As such, we are left to ponder all of the possibilities on our own. Did Whiterose’s machine work? Is Elliot actually trapped in a parallel universe where his existence is much more peaceful and mundane, where Angela is still alive? Is this more akin to The Sopranos and the Kevin Finnerty of it all, with Elliot experiencing some form of illusory world as he’s trapped in a coma — whether due to the nuclear reactor meltdown, or something else entirely?
It’s hard to know if Mr. Robot just took a hard turn for the sci-fi or if it’s doubling down on its own hallucinatory, surrealist presentation, or some combination of the two. As it pertains to incorporating science fiction into the proceedings, here’s what Esmail once told The Hollywood Reporter: “In the real world, we do have a lot of people with wealth and power who have some lofty designs on the nature of reality and how technology can manipulate that reality. It’s in that realm that I think we keep the show in.”
Beyond the nature of Elliot’s current reality, there’s also the question of “the other one,” a major piece of unresolved business. On that front, Esmail insists the twist has been baked into Mr. Robot from the very beginning, and few if any fans have accurately guessed the answer. That answer, as well as the answer to Elliot’s new world, will manifest in some way, shape or form in the forthcoming two-hour finale.
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