'Mr. Robot' season finale leaves loose ends dangling

Julia Louis-Dreyfus trembles during Emmy speech
Julia Louis-Dreyfus trembles during Emmy speech

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Los Angeles (CNN)The following contains spoilers for the "Mr. Robot" season finale.

"Mr. Robot" finished an uneven, occasionally confounding second season on Wednesday, with a cliffhanging finale that left plenty of loose ends dangling. While the closing episodes contained several arresting moments, they couldn't fully resolve what felt like a sophomore slump by the USA network show, if not quite a serious glitch.
For a series that is so thematically subversive and creatively risky, there's little pleasure in attributing that to the program's creator, Sam Esmail. Afforded inordinate freedom -- including the near-unheard-of latitude to direct every episode -- the writer-director-producer let his show careen all over, adding to a weirdness quotient that began to resemble the second year of "Twin Peaks."
    Esmail clearly possesses a singular vision for this brooding, intense world, and a magnetic star in Rami Malek, a recent Emmy winner for his role as the drug-addicted hacker Elliot Alderson. But the program's frequent detours -- as well as the difficulty separating fiction from reality, thanks to its protagonist's fevered mind -- has at times strained patience.
    Being opaque is fine, and it can be bracing when "Mr. Robot" offers a scene like the one in the penultimate episode, in which the mysterious Whiterose (BD Wong) confronted Angela (Portia Doubleday). But when narrative clarity is this elusive, it requires an awful lot of faith to stay invested in a series -- which might help explain why the ratings have been less than stellar despite the accolades.
    Granted, the terrific first season was always going to be difficult to match, especially after it was revealed that Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), the hacker determined to bring down the massive conglomerate E Corp, was really just a figment of Elliot's imagination.
    Wednesday's finale found Elliot testing what else he might be imagining, leading to his climactic exchange with the long-missing executive Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom), who seemed to provide pretty tangible proof of his existence.
    There was also a brutal and shocking act of violence involving Tyrell's ruthless wife, Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), and Tyrell's former rival Scott (Brian Stokes Mitchell); and a further tightening of the net by FBI agent Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer), who interrogated Elliot's wary sister, Darlene (Carly Chaiken).
    At the same time, there was no sign of Whiterose or E Corp's CEO (Michael Cristofer), who are among the show's most galvanizing characters.
    The segment in the finale featuring Darlene did illustrate Esmail's sly sense of humor, injecting a reference to a past USA hit that reflects just what a departure "Mr. Robot" represents from the lighter shows the network traditionally offered.
    "This isn't 'Burn Notice,'" an agent told her. "There are no blue skies for you."
    By contrast, "Mr. Robot" is mostly dark clouds, fog and chilly wind gusts. And while the finale will leave the faithful with many questions that still need answers when season three begins, the long-term forecast for the show -- which was once so bright -- looks increasingly murky.