This review contains spoilers.
After nearly a half dozen episodes of Mr. Robot season four spinning in place, Conflict finally gives us the promised showdown between Elliot and Whiterose that we’ve all been waiting for.
The result? The best and most satisfying episode of the season to date.
For the past few weeks, Mr. Robot has done pretty much everything but tell the story the season premiere initially promised. We’ve had holiday-themed detours involving sparkling winter forests and drunk Santas, random dates, kidnappings, betrayals and an entire hour devoted to the revelation that Elliot’s multiple personality disorder is a product of sexual abuse at the hands of his father. All of these stories, taken individually, have been fairly fascinating and compelling, by turns, but they also haven’t exactly included a lot of forward motion in terms of the season’s overall narrative.
Conflict basically makes up for all of that in one episode.
In the space of an hour, the long-awaited Deus Group meeting finally takes place, as Darlene and Elliot’s complicated hack of its members’ bank accounts happens around it. In a series of unbearably tense sequences, the Aldersons must each respond on the fly to a series of increasingly difficult and stressful problems that make it look like they’re never going to manage to pull off their billion-dollar money heist. Outgoing E-Corp CEO Philip Price gets a final faceoff with Whiterose and something like vengeance for his dead daughter (though he himself is killed in the process). And fsociety makes a triumphant return, just when the world needs them the most.
There’s something poetic and perfect about the fact that it’s Darlene who ultimately figures out how to accomplish the ultimate goal of taking out most influential of the global 1% – by resurrecting the very thing that started that started the Aldersons’ crusade against the powerful. Yes, Darlene suits up in a fsociety mask one last time, to make a video doxxing Deus Group, Whiterose, and the rest of their cabal of elite power brokers, encouraging the people of New York to confront them at their downtown party location.
Thanks to Darlene’s quick thinking, Elliot’s ability to hack a local cell tower, and a convenient script that lets them steal the personal banking information of the Deus members, the Aldersons successfully wipe out the bank accounts of the richest people in the world. Whether or not you believe this is a thing that could ever actually happen, it’s a fantastically triumphant moment, as Elliot and Darlene contact each other in shock, Phillip Price laughs gleefully in Whiterose’s face, and the Dark Army leader has what is essentially an emotional meltdown before shooting her former partner in the chest.
R.I.P. Philip, by the way.
The episode even gives us something like closure on Whiterose’s bizarre Congo project. During a tense conversation in which she essentially promises that she can bring Angela back to life, Whiterose offers to show Elliot the same evidence she once revealed to his best friend. Proof, she claims, that his worst mistakes can be erased, that he can get what is essentially a cosmic do-over of everything that’s gone wrong in his life.
Given the terrible realisations and difficult truths that Elliot’s had to face over the last couple of episodes, this is obviously a rather tempting offer for him. Angela herself certainly succumbed to Whiterose’s promises with considerably less reason, after all. But, fittingly, it’s also the memory of Angela – both the person she once was and the ways in which her cult-like belief in Whiterose changed her life for the worse – that prevents Elliot from following the same path. It’s a fitting pseudo tribute of sorts to the friend who once meant so much to him, and the woman whose story this season treated so shoddily. She may not be physically present in this narrative anymore, but Angela’s spirit still lives on within it.
Granted, it’s probably not the ending most viewers wanted for her character, and it’s only the vaguest bit of justice for everything her story could have been. But it’s something, and it somehow manages to feel satisfying, nevertheless.
Is it a little weird that Darlene doesn’t mention the fact that she was held hostage by the Dark Army like half an hour before this episode started? Kind of. Is it frustrating that Mr. Robot once again teased out the idea of something larger at work with Elliot’s various personalities without clarifying what exactly is going on? Sure. And is it annoying that we still don’t know whether Tyrell Wellick is still alive (but he’s probably not).
But, so much finally happens in this particular instalment, that it’s easy to forgive the things it leaves out. Or at least believe that the show will eventually get to those larger character questions at some point. Somehow. That’s how satisfying Conflict is, as an hour of television. It’s enough to make us all believers in creator Sam Esmail’s endgame again.
Though, to be fair, it’s also difficult to picture exactly what that will look like after the events of Conflict. In some ways, this episode feels as though it should be the series finale. Elliot, Darlene and fsociety are triumphant; the Deus Group – the most elite of the 1%-has been vanquished; justice for Angela has, to an extent, been achieved. Whiterose appears to be preparing for arrest (or imminent death, depending on who what you think might happen after the gunshots in her apartment end).
This is largely what the premise of Mr. Robot set out to do.
What’s next for these characters? What’s really left for the show to accomplish, narratively speaking? How is Mr. Robot going to fill four more episodes of story? Will we see the secrets Elliot’s various personalities are keeping from one another? Is another therapy session with Krista in our future? Does anyone particularly feel like they need to see Dom again? Will Whiterose somehow resurface? Or will we see the fallout from this seismic shift in the forces that control the world?
All of these things are potentially intriguing stories, but are they necessary ones? We’ve never been closer to Mr. Robot’s conclusion – and somehow, it’s still never felt further away.
Read Lacy’s review of the previous episode, Request Timeout, here. And here’s what else is new on Amazon Prime Video this month.