Mr. Robot season premiere: Elliot goes to war with Whiterose

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In a move that will likely delight fans, “Mr. Robot’s” final season kicked off with a thrilling and information filled premiere. It seems creator Sam Esmail has a clear vision of how his techno-thriller will wrap up. However, “401 Unauthorized” is also one of the series’ most brutal episodes as it grimly reestablished the stakes in Elliot/Mr. Robot’s war against Whiterose.

Defiant to the End

The episode opened where the show’s third season ended, with Angela digesting the news that Price is her father. However, before the pair could bond, Angela swore vengeance against Whiterose for manipulating her. In response, two Dark Army operatives who were monitoring Price promptly executed the troubled young woman. Twisting the knife, Whiterose had his agents send Elliot a photo of his best friend’s dead body.

Sadly, Angela probably got the best death her character could’ve had under the circumstances. Despite her deep connection to Elliot, the series never really implied they’re getting together would be an endgame. Plus, her newfound defiance and link to Whiterose made her an unacceptable liability.

At the very least, Angela died unafraid and unbowed. On “Mr. Robot,” that counts as a graceful exit.

Drugs, Submission, and Justified Paranoia

Though it primarily focused on Elliot/Mr. Robot, “401 Unauthorized” did provide important updates on the show’s supporting cast. Darlene, unwilling to accept Angela’s death, has spiraled into severe drug abuse. Mr. Robot pushed Elliot to force her to face reality by showing her the kill photo, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Meanwhile, Wellick isn’t enjoying the promotion he spent the show’s first season pursuing. While the media hails E Corp’s new CTO as a hero for reversing the 5/9 hack, the executive is still numb from losing his wife and child. He also doesn’t possess enough power to make a simple change to his daily schedule.

Lastly, Dom is in a truly awful place. Following her forced recruitment into the Dark Army, the FBI agent moved back in with her mother. She also began drinking heavily, not sleeping, and exhibiting paranoid behavior. However, her suspicions were justified when she found out the girl her mom set her up with is secretly her Dark Army handler. Under threat of having her mother bisected, Dom agrees to continue Santiago’s work.

Right now, Darlene, Wellick, and Dom are all in different forms of status. As such, it stands to reason they might find a way forward together. Indeed, all three are approaching a point of having nothing to lose, and that makes them all dangerous.

Goodbye, Friend

In terms of both visuals and narrative, “401 Unauthorized” featured several callbacks to Mr. Robot’s series premiere, “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov.” The episode’s most blatant call back involves Elliot using his hacking skills to manipulate a pedophile. However, instead of punishing a random café owner, this time Elliot used his skills to get information on a lawyer named Freddie.

Elliot, working in tandem with Mr. Robot, forced the attorney to download his company’s files and bring them to a local train station. As it turns out, Freddie handles Whiterose’s finances, and Elliot’s new plan is to bankrupt the head of the Dark Army. Unfortunately, Elliot’s plan falls apart when Freddie realizes the hacker can’t protect him and commits suicide. Elliot uses the incomplete info he gained from Freddie to track down a lead, which ended up being a trap.

Subsequently, Elliot is seemingly killed by a lethal drug overdose administered by a character played by Sam Esmail, and the episode went to black.

Thankfully, Price set up the overdose and had Elliot immediately revived, presumably to work with him on bringing down Whiterose. As “Mr. Robot” has consistently been one of TV’s most experimental shows, this episode’s fake-out was incredibly effective. For most series, the idea of killing off the protagonist this early would be inconceivable. But with the show’s many shocking twists, it seemed believable.

Where Do We Go From Here?

More than any episode since the show’s debut, “401 Unauthorized” presented the audience with a lot of questions.

Even working together, it’s unclear how Elliot and Price could bring down Whiterose. In addition to her vast wealth and massive private army, she also daylights as China’s Minister of State Security. Eliminating her will require a plan more elaborate than the one that encrypted E Corp’s files. Also, even if Elliot and company take her down, how will they dismantle an organization as big and covert as Dark Army?

Also, it’s still ambiguous as to what Whiterose is building in the Congo.

Furthermore, let’s say Elliot and Price managed to kill or capture Whiterose. What happens then? The hacker dedicated years of his life to obliterating Price’s company, and the executive doesn’t have much respect for Elliot’s life. It’s easy to imagine the show disposing of Whiterose early on to play out the conflict Mr. Robot emerged to fight.

Similarly, if the Dark Army is dismantled somehow, will Dom just let Elliot, Darlene, and Wellick walk away? Her character was introduced on the show hunting fsociety, so it’s hard to imagine her just giving up the hunt.

Right now, Esmail has a lot of plates in the air and could easily drop a few before the finale. But four seasons in, his highly unconventional, boldly cinematic style of TV making has earned him some leeway. Hopefully, he won’t turn Dom into the big villain while making Darlene President of the United States with almost no explanation. TV viewers have already endured one all-time terrible ending to a great show this year.

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“Mr. Robot” airs on the USA Network at 10 pm ET. Come back to The Burn-In for coverage of the show’s final season.