In a year where seemingly every television show attempted to comment on the Trump administration, whether explicitly or implicitly, a show that many fell off of following a critically underwhelming second season is the only one that managed to perfectly capture and diagnose this moment.
Mr. Robot was already well-equipped to be explicitly anti-Trump because the show was already actively anti-capitalist and strongly against the neoliberal rot that arguably led us to this moment. The series started with a monologue railing against “the top 1% of the 1%” and the unlimited power they wield and ended its first episode with a plan to (illegally) achieve worldwide debt forgiveness. Going into season three and beyond, the show was poised to continue to comment on the Obama/Clinton administrations (the series currently takes place in 2015) and their ignorance of a rising societal fissure, at least up until the societal fissure actually suddenly happened.
Real world political references include a bizarre ostensible (and also anachronistic, given the fact the season takes place in early 2015) portrayal of the “Bernie Bro” stereotype, the season’s one misstep (a rude office worker with a “Bernie Forever” sticker on his computer who listens to Hootie and the Blowfish gets in Elliot’s way during a particularly stressful moment), direct confirmation that the Dark Army, the “hacker for hire” collective that’s emerged as the primary antagonist of show, helped Russia hack the DNC, and most prominently the presence of an Alex Jones-esque news host who peddles nonsensical conspiracy theories and is contracted by the Dark Army to publicly endorse- who else? Donald Trump.
Mr. Robot does directly reference Trump besides that, in a monologue in the premiere in which Elliot imagines the future that will happen as a direct result of the 5/9 hack that attempted to erase debt but caused nationwide chaos instead.
“What if instead of fighting back, we caved, gave away our privacy for security, exchanged dignity for safety, and traded revolution for repression? What if we choose weakness over strength?”
“These are not the people that made our country great.”
“These are the people that are destroying our country.”
“They’ll even have us build our own prison.”
Elliot’s words overlaid with footage of Trump and images of a proposed border wall are a bit on the nose but the entire monologue is foreboding and rings terrifyingly true: his revolution has effectively failed and he’s terrified he’s lost the world. The end of the season ultimately shows why exactly they failed: capitalistic greed.
fsociety benefactor The Dark Army truly reveals itself this season as it commits the biggest terrorist attack on US soil in the reality of the series, as well as frame and murder two innocent fsociety members for it among other horrible deeds, in service of money and power. At a time where Americans are acutely aware that the richest people in our country will do anything for more money, the show hones in on this fact and repeatedly shows us that it all comes down to malice and greed by groups richer and more powerful than we can ever imagine. Eerily, the Dark Army also succeeds in creating a valuable cryptocurrency that secretly benefits them (ECoin), similar to how Bitcoin is increasingly becoming more valuable in the real world. Even the aforementioned reveal that they’re responsible for the DNC hack in the universe of the show on top of everything else comes off less as a cheesy way to comment on real life political scandals and more evidence that the ultra rich will do anything for even a modicum of control.
Angela’s destabilizing grief and sense of culpability after she’s betrayed by the Dark Army manifests itself in a way that mirrors post-election sentiment. She’s convinced there’s a singular way to fix undo everything that has happened and make everything right. She’s desperate for an unrealistic solution the same way many Americans were desperately looking for the one weird trick that would get Hillary elected late last year.
She’s kidnapped by Phillip Price, the morally ambiguous millionaire CEO of E Corp, in what appears to be another plot thread showing how morally bankrupt the rich are, but instead it’s revealed her kidnapping of him is compassionate in nature: the reason Price has had a fascination for her is that he’s her biological father. He urges her to let go of her delusions and instead work towards moving on: “Find a way to live with what you did.”
This sentiment is echoed in the finale, the first finale in the series’ history that’s actually quite hopeful. At the end of the finale, in what’s already one of my favorite sequences of the show, 1978’s Superman plays on television screens in the window of a store as people watch from outside. In a tongue in cheek reference to the recurring idea this season that everything can be fixed via time travel, it’s the scene where Superman flies around the world turning back time to undo Lois Lane’s death. Everyone’s enraptured but Elliot walks by, ignoring them. The monologue from the beginning of “Intro” by M83 off their 2011 album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming begins playing.
We didn’t need a story, we didn’t need a real world
We just had to keep walking
And we became the stories, we became the places
We were the lights, the deserts, the faraway worlds
We were you before you even existed
Elliot has come to terms with his Mr. Robot identity and the fact that he was used by powers beyond his control. He’s finally able to move forward out of his despair and fight against an inhuman entity that’s strip mining the world for money and power- sound familiar? No more delusions and no more lying to himself, only truth and trust with himself and with his loved ones. Elliot himself creates a new beginning, a beginning that is only possible through understanding and accepting the past and forging a radical way forward to make a better world. I can’t think of a better fantasy for 2017.