Over the 10 episodes of its first season, it became increasingly clear that Mr. Robot is less about hacking computers than about hacking everything—characters, cultures, the audience itself. Whether portraying a tense heist or a psychological breakdown or a corporate climb, the keyword has been “manipulation”: fiddling with reality, and perceptions of it, to get ahead.
Some of the show’s manipulators are better at their jobs than others. Wednesday’s season finale opened with a social-media-enabled adulterer trying to guilt his ex, a therapist, into breaking her client’s right to privacy ... to punish that client for violating other people’s right to privacy. He did not, in the end, persuade her, though the scene itself apparently went through some postproduction tweaks to include a reference to the very-recent Ashley Madison leak. Later, an executive for the data-compromised conglomerate E-Corp aborted his mission—lying to the public about an unfixable crisis—with a gunshot to his head, on live TV.
But then there are the experts, the savvy operators. In the finale, the vigilantes of fsociety covered up their massive cybercrime by fiddling with the physical world—holding a public party to smudge fingerprints at their HQ, repurposing a puppy oven as a hard-drive disposal. E-Corp CEO Philip Price, meanwhile, appeared to be running some sort of scheme to infect the mind of enemy-turned-employee Angela. He frankly told her of his own ruthlessness, and changed the subject when she said he must be interested in her for reasons other than her youthful spunk. The epilogue (you did watch after the credits, right?) hinted that he might use her as leverage against hacker-leader Elliot, provided that’s who he’s fingered as the person behind fsociety (though he might have been talking about the fired exec Tyrell Wellick, or someone else entirely).