Boy, the second season of Mr. Robot has been a wild, weird ride. We’ve seen everything from blood-drawing sexual knife-play to nearly 20 minutes of footage done in the style of a 1990s sitcom. There have been hallucinations, dream sequences, record-scratching plot twists, elaborate heists, and a child at an antique computer terminal asking Angela if she ever cries during sex. The narrative has been byzantine and there hasn’t been one unifying plot thread holding the whole enterprise together. In other words: It’s completely understandable if you’re confused. With the final half of the season finale airing tonight, we thought you might like a little refresher on where, exactly, all the major players are at this point — and what to look out for in the concluding hour. The short version: Everyone is about to find out what the Dark Army’s “Stage Two” plan is, and the consequences will likely be massive. Just imagine all of the text below being read in Rami Malek’s dulcet voice-over.
Elliot, Mr. Robot, and Tyrell
Our hacker hero spent the majority of this season outright lying to us. Starting in the first episode, he claimed he was recovering from the trauma of his season-one breakdown by living a tech-free life at his mom’s house and hanging out with folks in her neighborhood. Only in the sixth and eighth installments did we learn that he had, in fact, been doing a stint in prison after being arrested for hacking his therapist’s ex-boyfriend back in season one. While in the joint, he got tied up in a lot of plot points that likely won’t be relevant for the finale, most notably his involvement with a minor crime lord whom he turned in to the FBI. Thanks to some help from Whiterose, he was released a few episodes back and has returned to his first loves: computers and angst.
The only consistent (and, to be honest, somewhat ponderous) thematic thread in Elliot’s post-5/9 life has been his struggle to figure out what to do with his Mr. Robot persona. The anger-prone megalomaniac inside Elliot’s head has been trying to protect him from the harsh realities of trauma, but Elliot has tried various methods to rid himself of him, to no permanent avail. Indeed, he’s been having episodes where he feels like he’s watching Mr. Robot talk to his compatriots. In the past two episodes, Elliot seems to have figured out how to hide himself from Mr. Robot, though it’s unclear what that would look like to an outside observer.
Leaving all that mental mishegoss aside for a moment, let’s talk about Elliot’s specific current circumstance, which centers around Tyrell Wellick and the Dark Army. Mr. Robot told him he’d killed Tyrell right after 5/9, but he’s come to doubt whether that actually occurred. Further complicating matters, Elliot (well, Mr. Robot) solved a coded message he received that led him to a late-night encounter with what appears to be Tyrell, though E-dawg isn’t sure if the dude is real or not. When the first half of the finale concluded, Tyrell (or “Tyrell”) told him it was time to execute Stage Two (more on that later), in which he is somehow integral. They walked off into the dawn, their destination and next steps unclear.
It’s been a rough few months for the scion of the Moss clan — and it’s been tough to follow all of her twists and turns. She spent much of the front half of the season ascending the corporate ladder at E Corp after taking a PR position there, ostensibly to get dirt on the behemoth from the inside. She started to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid, repeating self-help mantras to herself and enacting complicated horse-trading with CEO Phillip Price to get different positions at the company.
But about halfway through the season, she also got roped into the plans of Darlene and fsociety when it turned out sensitive information about her might leak to the FBI during its investigation of E Corp. She nervously assisted the hackers in setting up a device that allowed them to break into the Bureau’s servers, steal information about a PRISM-esque surveillance program, and delete a bunch of files. After that, Angela took on a much more personal mission, getting herself moved to the risk-management division so she could steal information about the Washington Township poisoning that killed her mom and Elliot’s dad. (In a side plot, she maneuvered E Corp into a settlement in the class-action suit related to that poisoning.) She planned to quasi-anonymously turn that information in to the government, but when they found out she was an E Corp employee, she chickened out. An encounter with FBI agent Dom DiPierro convinced her to cease her spine-twisting struggles, give the information about Washington Township over to her lawyer, and just turn herself in for hacking the FBI.
However, before she could do so, she was kidnapped by agents of the Dark Army and brought to a nondescript suburban home, where she met Whiterose. The latter said she wanted Angela to not only give up her ambitions to talk to the FBI and leak the Washington Township information, but to become a believer in the Dark Army’s mission. The brainwashing seems to have worked, because she went to her lawyer’s house and told her to forget what she told her and never call her again. Expect to see Angela further interact with the Dark Army, possibly helping them execute Stage Two — or resisting them and helping to stop their plot.
Darlene, Cisco, and fsociety
Darlene started out the season struggling with the responsibility of being the new leader of fsociety and figuring out what their goals were in a post-5/9 world. But things quickly went cockeyed for the group when the Dark Army started knocking off its members. Everyone in the core brain trust except Darlene and Elliot have been taken out of the picture: Romero is dead; we don’t know the whereabouts of Trenton and Mobley, but it doesn’t look good for them — mayhap Mobley will have to go to the big DJ booth in the sky. As a result, Darlene has reunited with her ex-boyfriend/Dark Army liaison, Cisco.
Matters went from bad to worse when the E Corp exec whose house fsociety had been using as a home base came back from a self-induced exile. The group tied her up, but while trying to intimidate her in a nonlethal manner, Darlene killed the woman by tasing her (she had a heart condition). Cisco and Darlene disposed of the body, but the latter is still more than a little traumatized. Cisco also may or may not be a reluctant double agent for the Dark Army right now — they injected him with some kind of mysterious chip a few episodes back.
Earlier in the season, Darlene sent some hackers out to do a job in D.C., and when one of them came back heavily wounded, she and Cisco took him to a hospital and went to Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen (a delicious restaurant right near the Vulture offices — I recommend the chili verde) afterward. However, once they were there, a Dark Army agent arrived and shot up the place. We don’t know if the pair are alive, though it would be kind of insane for the show to kill off Darlene. At the very least, we’ll probably see her pop up to witness/resist Stage Two. But Cisco may have gone the way of the Dodo.
I could begin most of these sections with “It’s been a rough season for [name],” and FBI hotshot Dom DiPierro is no exception. That said, it’s significantly easier to sum up her journey than it is to sum up those of the other leads. She’s been gradually tracking down fsociety, Darlene, Cisco, and the Dark Army, trying to figure out the web of secrets unifying all of them. All the while, she’s run into resistance from the Bureau, often in the form of her boss, Agent Santiago.
At this point, she’s been right next to two Dark Army shoot-’em-ups: one in China during a meeting between the FBI and that country’s top state-security officials (one of whom is the alter ego of Whiterose, with whom she had a philosophical chat about time), and the other at Lupe’s. After the latter, she was told — in a classic police-procedural moment — to drop her investigation into the Dark Army because the U.S. government can’t afford to screw up its relationship with China. She’ll probably do something badass in the finale, but when we last saw her, she was miserable in her apartment, talking to her Amazon Alexa about dating and loneliness. Been there, Dom. Been there.
Phillip Price and E Corp
The supervillain-esque chieftan of the world’s largest corporation is one of the only characters who’s done reasonably well for himself this season, in spite of the fact that his company has been a laughingstock after the 5/9 hack. E Corp has instituted bank-withdrawal rationing, which infuriates the public. Its near-collapse has so shaken the economy that garbage isn’t being picked up in New York City and the Eastern Seaboard is subject to constant brownouts.
In between charged meetings with Angela, Phillip has been negotiating with actual Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (God, do I love the fact that Jack Lew is a recurring character on this weird show) and Whiterose in her guise as the Chinese minister of state security. He managed to coerce the former into letting E Corp use its digital currency, ECoin, as legal tender for loans; he got the latter to make the Chinese government bail out E Corp with a no-interest loan of $2 trillion. In return, Phillip will keep the Washington Township plant from being turned over to the government, which brings us to …
Whiterose and the Dark Army
We’re being kept in the dark about what, exactly, China’s premiere hacking collective is planning, but it’s certain to be something monumental. Whiterose is deeply committed to keeping something in the Washington Township plant secret, and it seems like only Phillip also knows what’s been going on there. The Dark Army have taken a violent role in the aforementioned shootouts and executions, and though the fsociety killings are clearly about covering their tracks after the 5/9 hack, it’s still a bit unclear what the one in China was all about. Meanwhile, there’s constant chatter from them about something called Stage Two, about which we know nothing, but which seems to be on the verge of its debut.
I’m still not sure why there’s been so much screen-time for Joanna Wellick this season, but it’s always nice to see the very talented Stephanie Corneliussen, so I won’t complain too much. It’s pretty easy to summarize what’s been going on with her: After her husband’s disappearance, she started getting weird gifts that she thinks are coming from him, including a phone on which she occasionally gets calls consisting of heavy breathing and nothing more. She enlisted Elliot to track the calls and he deduced that they’re coming from a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A lackey appears to have shown her that location, but that could be a red herring — we just see him show her a phone and we don’t see the screen; she then says, “Of all the gifts he sent, this is the greatest we ever received.”
In jail, possibly still talking to his dead wife.