With its tenth and final episode, season 3 of Mr. Robot goes out with a massive, status quo-shaking bang. Last week, I criticized the season’s penultimate episode as an example of all of Mr. Robot’s flaws. As if designed to make me eat my words, this week’s finale was as exciting as last week’s episode was boring. If episode 9 was representative of Mr. Robot’s weaknesses, episode 10 showed off all of its strengths.
Things come to a head as the Dark Army tightens its noose around Elliot and company. Desperate to save Darlene from the FBI, Elliot finally confronts Mr. Robot face-to-face. It turns out Elliot could have spoken to his other half all along. But he kept him away – not because he hated him, but because he missed him, and was scared of what that meant. Mr. Robot clues Elliot in to FBI Agent Santiago’s Dark Army loyalties, but the two are caught by Irving while investigating Santiago’s apartment. Meanwhile, Santiago attempts to sneak Darlene out of the FBI, and is forced to take Dom with him when she discovers his treachery.
The threads converge as they’re all taken to the Dark Army hideout where Tyrell had once been holed up. In a predictable yet surprisingly brutal scene, Irving massacres Santiago, who’s made one mistake too many. He informs Dom that she works for the Dark Army now, and her family’s lives will be at stake if she doesn’t comply. Whiterose’s lieutenant Grant arrives to follow through on his plan to eliminate Elliot once and for all. Irving washes his hands of the whole mess, reminding Grant that he played the role of Whiterose’s right-hand man for years and had already served his time. Bobby Cannavale has delivered fantastic performance after fantastic performance as Irving, who has undoubtedly been this season’s best new addition to the cast. Irving’s streetwise, no-nonsense attitude and quiet menace has given a face to the omnipresent might of the Dark Army. Watching his perpetually calm demeanor crack as he hacks Santiago to bits, or as he calls it, “centering himself,” gives us a peek at the rage bubbling beneath the surface, and proves Irving’s threats are more than just bluffs.
Elsewhere, Angela discovers that it’s not Whiterose who’s taken her under protection, but rather Philip Price, who has a shocking revelation: he’s Angela’s biological father. This accompanies a series of even harsher truths: Whiterose manipulated Angela. The cyber bombings were all a petty act of retribution against Price. The dead, including Angela’s mother, are never coming back to life. And Angela will have to learn to live with the lives she’s taken. Price’s bombshells awaken Angela from her stupor, and as the reality of what she’s done washes over her, we see her move through nearly all of the stages of grief in just moments. I’ve been consistently amazed by Portia Doubleday’s range this season, and this week is no exception.
This all happens in one of the series’ most intense sequences, as the focus cuts back and forth between Angela and Elliot, who desperately negotiates for he and Darlene’s lives. Elliot reveals that he’s infiltrated all of the Dark Army’s systems, but his threat to leak their operations doesn’t deter Grant. Nor does his claim that he’s worked out a way to successfully move Whiterose’s plant to the Congo. Grant’s mad-on for Elliot turns out to be his downfall, as Whiterose orders Leon to turn his gun on her lover and right-hand man. Whiterose tearfully tells Grant that he’s always been blind to Elliot’s true value. Recognizing the inevitability of his death, Grant takes his own life.
Even with the knowledge that Elliot would somehow survive the ordeal, the entire scene is rife with escalating tension, and the Aldersons’ terror is palpable. The stakes feel genuine, as Darlene could easily have lost her life this episode. It’s a fitting end for Grant, who doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself for Whiterose and her cause. Grant has proved an effective surrogate villain for Whiterose this season, but with him out of the picture, I’m looking forward to the coming battle of wits between Elliot and Whiterose herself.
For an episode packed with action, the finale’s most powerful moments are the quiet ones that follow the near-execution. Elliot keeps his promise to help the Dark Army’s operations move overseas, then uses Dom’s FBI credentials to find the encryption keys that Trenton claimed can reverse five/nine. Devastated by her new reality, Dom lays the responsibility for the end of her life as she knows it squarely at Darlene’s feet. Darlene is uncharacteristically silent as she accepts responsibility for the destruction her manipulations have wrought on an innocent woman’s world. There was a genuine spark between Dom and Darlene, but Darlene’s actions have permanently snuffed it out, and she won’t be able to brush that guilt aside easily.
Returning to New York, Darlene asks Elliot why he had brought up the snowman they built when they were kids. Elliot says that it was on the same day their father pushed him out of the window. In a reveal that was probably more obvious to the audience than to Elliot, Darlene tells him that he wasn’t pushed – he jumped. Every flashback we’ve seen has shown Elliot’s father as a kind man who loved his son deeply. He would never have pushed Elliot out of a window. It was a battle with himself – with Mr. Robot – that drove Elliot out of the window that day. From then right up until the present, Elliot has been unable to reconcile the two halves of himself. Now it seems like both he and Mr. Robot might finally be ready to take that step.
With access to the five/nine files, Elliot discovers that it wasn’t Romero who built a failsafe into the hack, but Mr. Robot. Returning to the site of their very first meeting in season 1, Mr. Robot admits that Elliot was right – as much as Mr. Robot is a part of Elliot, Elliot is a part of him. Preparing a contingency plan to reverse five/nine, thereby admitting its potential for failure, is something Elliot would have had the foresight to do. But Elliot’s vow to bring down the rich and powerful? The top 1% of the top 1% that controls everything? That’s pure Mr. Robot. The lines between the two have begun to blur.
Mr. Robot doesn’t think anything good will come of reversing the hack, but he tells Elliot how to do it regardless. He sees that for Elliot to be whole again, he needs to do whatever he can to fix their mistakes. It’s a moment that’s out of character for Mr. Robot, but firmly in character for Elliot’s father. That part of Mr. Robot shines through when he asks Elliot to let him back into his life – for them to be a team again. Elliot and Mr. Robot have spent months at odds, denying how much they need each other. Accepting one another and united in purpose, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
After a long moment of hesitation, Elliot sends the key to unlock E Corp’s data, finally bringing an end to fsociety’s revolution. A TV playing the iconic scene from Christopher Reeve’s Superman, in which the Man of Steel rewinds time by reversing the Earth’s orbit, drives home the message: Elliot has turned back the clock on five/nine. It also alludes to Whiterose’s plan to literally rewind time, which (if it is indeed real) is one step closer to fruition thanks to Elliot. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a season that has seen Elliot struggle to reverse his actions, and Whiterose work toward her ultimate goal. Though it’s unclear what role season 1’s Fernando Vera, who returns in the episode’s final scene, has to play, what is clear are the central questions of the show moving forward: can you turn back time? And should you? I’m excited to find out when Mr. Robot returns next fall.
Shocking revelations come one after the next as all of season 3's conflicts come to a head. Pulse-pounding action, stellar performances, and genuine pathos mark a fantastic finale that perfectly wraps up a great season of Mr. Robot, and sets the stage for major events to come.