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Television

Mr. Robot Moves Forward as Its Characters Focus on the Past

After last week’s detour to reveal Tyrell’s whereabouts throughout season 2, Mr. Robot returned to plot business this week. As much as I love character-heavy work, I have to admit Mr. Robot tends to be its best when it throws the plot forward. Does this hold true again this week? Let’s take a cue from the show I’m reviewing and waste no time getting into things.

Spoilers for “eps3.3_m3tadata.par2” below

mr. robot elliot darlene

Recap

Darlene kicks off a busy episode for her and Mr. Robot in a bad place. She wakes up on the subway and notices her wallet is missing. She quickly identifies the woman responsible, but only asks for a photo from the wallet and lets the thief keep everything else. Along the way she all but admits to the 5/9 hack.

Over at her safehouse apartment, things pick up from the last time we saw Elliot, with him breaking in and the FBI watching. After Dom warns Darlene of Elliot’s arrival, Darlene does a pretty good job lying to Elliot when confronted about the spy hardware on his computer. She tries to convince him of Mr. Robot’s continued existence and Elliot takes her to show her something.

Over at The Red Wheelbarrow, Angela meets with Irving. Whiterose has set a date for Robot’s Stage 2 plan in spite of Elliot’s work to derail it. Angela unconvincingly assures Irving she can make the deadline. She also seeks reassurance that Whiterose can do what she promised, and Irving gives it to her.

Elliot brings Darlene to his apartment and brings her up to speed on his efforts to stop Stage 2. Darlene asks why he doesn’t tell the authorities and after some fake excuses, Elliot admits he can’t let go of his revolution. They discuss potential ways to move forward in doing so, and Eliot sets Darlene up in Shayla’s old apartment, which has been abandoned since her murder. From there she can watch Elliot at night and see what he does.

Way to remind me of the crappy way you killed one of season 1’s best characters, Mr. Robot.

When Elliot goes to work, Angela catches him off guard while he reroutes delivery of paper records. He makes terrible excuses she clearly doesn’t believe.

We flip over to a man eating cereal and ignoring a ringing phone. When the FBI busts in on him, he is on his knees wearing an fsociety mask. Dom and her partner interrogate him fruitlessly. Outside the room, Dom’s partner dismisses the idea of the Dark Army. Is he a plant, or genuinely unaware? After last week I don’t know.

Elliot returns home after a work party and goes for a walk with Darlene and his dog. They discuss what to do if Darlene follows him and make a revenge pact if either ends up dying. Wow, they must have watched a lot of Game of Thrones beforehand. Elliot apologizes for how he has treated Darlene. While she waits back at Shayla’s for Robot to emerge, Darlene checks out pricing for a flight to Budapest.

Eventually Robot does emerge and Darlene follows. After some time, she sees him meet up with Angela. The two of them lose her when they take a taxi.

At their hideout, Angela tells Tyrell about Elliot delaying the paper records and Tyrell throws a hissy fit. He basically disowns Elliot and their partnership and rants about the impossibility of Whiterose’s timeline. They discuss options to move forward until Robot snaps and physically threatens Tyrell. While he does so, though, Elliot reemerges and sees Tyrell and Angela together. Angela hurriedly injects him with something to knock him out.

Dom and Darlene meet at a bar after Darlene texts a vague message about a lead. Darlene stalls with a drink and a few personal questions Dom answers. Darlene then says she needs to pursue her lead alone and laments everything she’ll lose after the investigation ends.

Irving meets with Tyrell to talk about the obstacles in the way of Whiterose’s timeline. Irving assuages his ego until Tyrell comes up with an idea. Tyrell then makes requests regarding seeing his wife and son and meeting up with them after Stage 2. Irving doesn’t tell him about her death. Meanwhile, Angela calls Price to get Elliot fired so he can no longer work against the plan.

Afterwards she talks with Robot, who reemerged once Elliot was knocked out. Robot expresses his own doubts about the plan. Angela receives a text from Irving saying Stage 2 is still on.

And finally, the episode ends with Darlene finding Elliot’s apartment empty. She puts the photo from her wallet on his shelf, which turns out to be the picture of them as kids at the beach with their parents.

mr. robot angel and robot

Review

Wow this season is moving past. Episode 4 and Stage 2 is already about to happen? Talk about a shift in tone from last season. I was sure stage 2 would be the endgame of the season, yet here we are. Mr. Robot has truly upped the stakes so far and moved the plot forward in a way even season 1 never did. In theory you’d expect this pace to leave the characters behind. In some cases it has (Angela, chiefly).

And yet, the plot remains remarkably driven by character, a tough feat for a show so driven by the element of surprise. Everything that happens, it happens because of decisions you expect these characters to make. Sometimes those decisions stretch credibility. I have my questions about Darlene this week, for example. For the most part, though, everything retains consistency of character.

And let’s just say the consistency of character for almost everyone revolves around one thing this season; resetting life to the time before the 5/9 hack.

Almost everyone wants to reset their life in some way. Elliot seems mainly to want to undo the damage of 5/9. Darlene does as well, and also wants to reset all the bad decisions that have left her lonely and damaged, as seen by her checking pricing for the flight to Budapest she once talked to Cisco about. Angela wants a far more literal reset, still working towards Whiterose’s goal while showing her first doubts of the season about its actual possibility.

Even the bigger players appear to want a reset, as E Corp tries to rebuild their wealth and status from before the hack while the FBI tries to bring its culprits to justice. Hell, if Whiterose really wants to do what Angela thinks she will do, then the Dark Army might also seek some grand reset of society as well.

Mr. Robot’s third season has revolved entirely around this idea of resetting society. The result has been a wonderful blend of character and plot basically explaining the main cause of the issues inflicting the majority of the cast; the inability to move on from the traumas of their past.

mr. robot family photo

Everyone has some moment they want to return to, a time before the series of events bringing them to their present circumstances. This has really been true since the very beginning. Mr. Robot manifests as Elliot’s father because of Elliot’s inability to move past his father’s death. Darlene desperately seeks the connection lost when her family fell apart. Angela has never moved on from her mother’s death and E Corp’s responsibility for it. Even Dom seems stuck in some past moment we’ve yet to learn about.

Mr. Robot features as a society as a whole looking for things to return to a happier time. Nostalgia is an inescapable aspect of everyone’s life. We all reach points in our life where we look back on the past and wish things were “like they used to be,” some time when everything was happier and simpler. Whatever the truth of those times, we hold on to the fantasy of the past. Mr. Robot’s halfway post-apocalyptic setting serves as rather blunt symbolism for the “bad times” everyone wants to escape.

I find this nostalgia for the past especially interesting because of the near-cyberpunk feel of the show. So much of the show focuses on mastery of technology. It’s a dichotomy serving the show well.

In the end, none of these characters will ever find healing until they accept the past and find balance in their lives. For all of Elliot’s criticism of her skill as a psychiatrist, Krista was spot on about the need for acceptance, and I think this will end up as a vital theme of Mr. Robot’s story. Elliot will not find peace until he accepts the part of his personality manifesting as Mr. Robot. Darlene (who seems almost destined for the chopping block at this point) cannot have the life she seeks until she lets go of the family that left her as a child. Angela will not find happiness and worth until she stops tying it to the past. Tyrell will not find satisfaction in his achievements until he stops trying to outrun his father’s.

I expect most these characters will never let go of the past. And that’s expected. Many people never manage to. Even if they somehow manage time travel, they’ll find a second chance at the past won’t fix them.  Ultimately this is a hard truth everyone must at some point face in their life, whether in real life or the stories we consume. Until you do, the past will consume you.

Assorted Thoughts

  • Speaking of, I REALLY hope time travel doesn’t happen. Sam Esmail said in an interview that it won’t, but I’m still worried.
  • Dom came out as bisexual, and she was the least surprising bisexual of all time. Although, thinking back, I don’t remember if the person she had cybersex with was easily identifiable based on username? So maybe this wasn’t a reveal at all.
  • Irving is masterful at saying what people need to hear. No wonder he’s a car salesman.
  • Tyrell doesn’t know his wife is dead. Dark Army keeping him in the dark about the outside world will certainly come back to bite them.
  • Tyrelliot is dead, right when I jumped on board. I feel responsible, somehow.
  • Elliot’s cubicle neighbor is the most annoying prick ever.

Next week’s episode will be commercial-free and is touted as “groundbreaking”. Can it possibly live up to that hype? I sure hope so.


Images Courtesy of USA Network
Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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