It was never about him.
That’s what first occurs to Elliot when he wakes in the hospital, his eyes falling on a painting of a deep, peaceful woods. Elliot – well, shit. He isn’t Elliot. He never was, if Krista and the other alters are to be believed. Based on what he remembers from the beginning of the year, of waking up in Elliot’s body as personified rage, of smashing his old workplace to bits… Yeah. It was the honest, painful truth.
Taking down Evil Corp, nurturing FSociety from small time hacker group into international conspiracy… That had always been his. Mr. Robot handed it to him on a silver platter all those months ago, to lead and to grow. His mission, his goal, his driving force. He saved the world. He stopped whiterose and the Deus Group. He took down the top one percent of the one percent. He cured the sickness, made the change, wiped the slate clean.
But in the end, it was never his world to save. He had left his world behind and elbowed his way into this one, not caring who he had to shove aside. Elliot – the real Elliot, the original Elliot, their host – was in his way, and he hadn’t cared. The same way he didn’t care that he would have to kill Elliot, kill himself, in order to live out his happy, plastic-wrapped fantasy.
Darlene is sitting nearby, half-asleep, the warm light from the window falling across her face. She must have been there for a while. He isn’t sure what day it is, only that its sometime after Christmas, but he knows that Darlene should be a world away by now. He murmurs her name and she’s at his side immediately, taking his hand, tethering him to her. It’s real – she’s real – but he still has to ask. Has to be completely sure.
Darlene’s eyes are concerned and searching, nearly frantic, as she confirms that this is reality. She assures him, recounting the year – the FSociety escapades, the redistribution, the deaths. He breathes, and looks, and listens. He sees the sterile room, the plastic bracelet scratching his wrist, the muted TV exposing whiterose’s death and the nuclear meltdown he had so narrowly escaped. It’s all real.
He can feel hot tears slide down his cheeks. So badly he wants to stay, to live in this better world he’s created. To selfishly steal this life from Elliot, the way he had tried to steal the wedding. He wants –
But it’s not about him.
This whole year – his whole life – had been for Elliot. He’s done what Elliot could never do, which was to shape blind hatred of capitalism and corporate gluttony into a revolution. He’s faced his monster head on, escaped the maze and killed the Minotaur. He’s gone through hellfire and made it out the other side.
His work is done, and he can’t remain.
He’s not surprised, not really, when Darlene tells him she knows he’s not Elliot. She had always been three steps ahead of them, anyway. There’s an air of finality when she goes to leave but he calls out to her, telling her that he loves her. So, so much does he love her, not just for who she is to Elliot, but to who she had become to him. His sister, his conspirator, his friend.
No, Elliot doesn’t have everything in his perfect prison world. He’s missing the silver linings of life, the moments you savor when everything else falls to pieces. Elliot cannot have the true good if he’s stuck in the false bubble, the loop created to keep him safe and occupied.
No more. Darlene seeks out the nurse, and the world finally fades.
Mr. Robot is waiting for him on the other side. It’s not exactly shocking, but still, it’s good to see he had kept his long-ago promise to stick around. Magda and Elliot’s eight-year-old self are there, too, watching the New York skyscrapers glitter in the sunlight. Robot clasps him on the shoulder, friendly and proud, and for once, he doesn’t flinch.
It’s not the dark void of unconsciousness he had expected it to be. It’s an open skyline, a clear sky, a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. It’s incredibly right, like all the pieces have slotted into place. A discomfort he had never realized was remedied. He's where he was meant to be.
“We’ll always be a part of him, kiddo.”
That was true. He may not be the “real” Elliot Alderson, but he was a real piece of the puzzle. He was real enough to love, to hope, to dream. Real enough to save the world and play God without permission.
What had Angela called him? The Mastermind. The one working behind the camera, the wizard behind the curtain. He was real enough to pull the strings, too.
The outside world will stay with him, he knows. The friends he’s made, the people he’s lost… those were his experiences, not Elliot’s. He does wonder how Elliot will react to the world they’ve created, a world without Angela or E Corp, a world fairer on the poor and harsher on his morals, considering all they had done to get there. Will he embrace it with open arms? Or will he retreat, frightened by the newness and difference?
Whatever the reaction, it’ll be alright. Elliot will have Darlene, and Krista, to hold him up if he buckles. And he’ll be there too, as will Robot and Magda and young Elliot, poised to protect and defend should something go sour. He imagines himself sitting with Elliot, the way Robot had sat with him, drinking an appletini and discussing revolt against the richest rich. He imagines Darlene – Elliot’s very link to reality – finally getting to know him. He imagines Elliot with a life, a stable job, and maybe a new dog. He imagines a world in which Elliot can hurt and get hurt but can pick himself up again.
He may not have a grand plan anymore, a goal to throw himself into, but he has the truth. He has the knowledge that he’s part of a greater whole, the satisfaction that he showed up and kicked ass. He isn’t proud of every single decision he’d made out there, but the payoff, the culmination of it all, had been more than worth it.
The Mastermind walks down the dim hall, his footsteps echoing behind him. He’s letting go of the control that had never truly belonged to him, moving farther away from a world he had taken by force, and into the one that always held a place for him.
He steps into the movie theatre, greeted by cold air conditioning and the faint smell of popcorn. His family is waiting for him, holding his seat. Mr. Robot smiles at him, the genuine smile he had rarely seen on the outside.
The projector flickers to life and the Mastermind feels the glow of the screen, welcoming him home.