Everyone ready to return to the land of hacking and hallucinations? After a bit of a longer wait than the gap between the first two seasons, Mr. Robot has returned for its third season. This third season might be a crucial one for the show. The ratings have yet to reach the security a show this good deserves, and season 2’s experimental indulgence turned off some fans of the first season. I loved it, but the season was a divisive one.
So how did creator Sam Esmail respond to the criticisms? Spoiler alert; pretty resoundingly. Let’s take a look at the gripping, fast-paced, Alderson-focused premiere to the third season of Mr. Robot.
Spoilers for 3×01 “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h” below
Season 3 kicks off a with a new character, a Dark Army figure haggling over a free milkshake before receiving a call about Elliot’s shooting. He finds Tyrell Wellick applying pressure to Elliot’s wound and arranges for help. Afterwards, he gives up an update to someone over the phone and receives orders involving Angela Moss.
As the blackout that ended season 2 takes place, we see Whiterose overseeing some giant project at a power plant. He and an associate discuss Elliot’s sanity, his involvement in the Dark Army project, and whether it is coincidence or fate considering Elliot’s father also helped on this same project before his death.
Okay, back to the star. Elliot wakes up after surgery wondering whether what happened to him was real or not. Angela is there and tells him the power has been out in the city for a week. She also catches him up on how he got to her home and delivers some exposition on recent events for both his and our sake. Despite his wounds, Elliot desperately wants to leave and stop the plan to blow up the E Corp building we learned about in last season’s finale.
He finds the previous hideout abandoned. When he returns home, he finds Darlene waiting for him and acting awfully suspicious. She also delivers exposition for Elliot’s sake and ours. Gotta love how Mr. Robot plays with the “imaginary friend” thing putting us in the same position as Elliot. He, in turn, explains the plot to destroy E Corp’s paper records.
Darlene takes him to a place with an internet connection so he can stop it. Elliot quickly wins a hacking competition and gets to work shutting down a component of the plan. Darlene spots Dark Army goons while he does so and hurries off to make a phone call begging for help to someone unknown. They nab her and Elliot before he can finish shutting down the hack into E Corp.
The man from the opening (named Irving) picks them up in a cab and uses them to lose an FBI car following. He takes them to his milkshake place. Elliot calls the operation off, and Irving reacts surprisingly amiably. Darlene expresses skepticism and continues questioning Elliot suspiciously. Like an informant reading a script. Elliot seems to suspect her, as he lies to her.
Once she leaves him alone, Elliot reflects on his actions and the revolution as a whole. He realizes the damage done by the 5/9 hack and the suffering of those he meant to help. He monologues about the ill-effect of his actions while we see the terrible conditions people are living in, along with some ham-fisted shots of Donald Trump as the result of fear’s influence.
Ultimately, Elliot refuses to blame anyone else for what has happened and only blames himself.
He returns to Angela’s place and begs her to get him a job at E Corp, so he can undo the damage he did. He also asks her to tell him if she sees Mr. Robot coming through again since she’s the only person he trusts. She agrees, and asks him about what he’d sacrifice to undo everything, all the way back to the deaths of his father and her mother. Aww. So sweet.
But wait! Turns out Angela went full on Dark Army and waited for Mr. Robot to emerge! She finds him in her living room and takes him to a Dark Army hideout. She catches him up on everything happening along the way. Yay for more exposition explaining the episode! They also discuss ways to keep Elliot from disrupting their plans.
Angela talks with Irving at the hideout, and Mr. Robot is reunited with Tyrell. He undoes Elliot’s damage. On a bus ride back home, he questions Angela’s motivation and loyalty. Angela again talks about resetting all the damage done, and how she can finally win against E Corp.
The episode ends on a happier note, with power returning to the city.
Whew. This was unmistakable Mr. Robot every step of the way. It feels good to have it back. Nothing else on TV really captures this show’s blend of mental illness, dystopian alt-universe America, and masterfully developed tension. Even better, the season 3 premiere clearly suggests Sam Esmail and crew took the criticisms of season 2 to heart.
Where last season often felt indulgent and wandering (often to great results in my humble opinion), this episode was tightly packed with a clear focus. As a result, that feeling of tension Mr. Robot crescendos so effectively throughout some episodes was perfectly on display throughout the hour. The plot never stopped moving, never stopped building. Elliot often felt like he was simply hanging on as everything around him rocketed forward. It made for one hell of an entertaining episode with a lot to like.
So why did I feel so hesitant when the credits rolled? A lot has to do with the plot the episode spent so much time focusing on.
To be clear, it’s not really a worry at this point. In a show full of characters with troubled mental states, Angela’s cryptic hints at resetting the past could be pure delusion, or some kind of brainwashing by Whiterose. However, we have had hints in previous seasons about some greater plan involving the Washington Township project that claimed the lives of Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother. Whiterose has the power of the Chinese government helping her. The most powerful corporation “in history” has also spent years keeping the project along.
Now we find out Elliot’s father was involved in this project as well. We also got a look at some massive contraption, presumably our first look at said project. Esmail seems to be setting up Washington Township as endgame. And obviously I have no problem with that. The past involving it has always been too important to the main characters not to return later.
I just worry about how it will integrate into the plot. I worry Angela’s talk about changing the past was completely legitimate and Mr. Robot may warp into an entirely different show than it has been. It is obviously way too early to start expecting it, but I have my eyes open. I hope Mr. Robot doesn’t lose what made the first two seasons special as it embarks on this latest transition.
Though so long as it does things this well, I have confidence in how any potential transition will go down. While season 2 made clear how society’s revolution for the people didn’t help the people much at all, this premiere showed the greatest extent of the damage done yet. Also how the corporate oligarchy they targeted only became stronger because of the 5/9 hack. As Elliot so pointedly states in his monologue towards the end, his “revolution” achieved the exact opposite of its goal.
I love how Mr. Robot has handled Elliot’s grand plan. I suppose it’s my distaste for the romanticizing of Fight Club showing through, and how Mr. Robot’s first season was so often compared (understandably) to Fight Club. There is nothing truly romantic in tearing down society. Revolution is an ugly, dirty business that will always expose those you seek to free to an even crueler reality than the one before. Sometimes the architects of a revolution will succeed in following through and create something better.
Needless to say, Elliot and his sister were never any kind of architects. They were young, angry kids with unstable mindsets. What we’ve seen in the aftermath of the 5/9 hack is the most natural place for the world of Mr. Robot to go when the leaders of a revolution never had any true plan besides lashing out in anger. This premiere was the darkest look yet. The ugly truth showed in how both Elliot and Darlene know they’ve done the wrong thing. If they were to communicate their shared view, they could go a long ways in repairing the damage.
Instead, it looks like they’ll tackle separate plans, distrustful of each other. Elliot wants to go through E Corp, unaware of Angela using him as a pawn of the Dark Army. Darlene has clearly thrown in her lot with the FBI. I don’t expect any good will come of their actions until the two finally land on the same page.
I’m looking forward to seeing how that happens, even as each new episode leaves me clenching my fists worriedly through Mr. Robot’s myriads of twists. It’s good to have this show back.
- Darlene had to be wearing a wire throughout this episode. The way she talked was so obviously fishing for info and it is obvious she’s cooperating with the feds.
- No reveal of the fate of Trenton and Mobley. They did receive a name check, so I suppose they’ll be back in time. Especially with Trenton’s ending plea with Mobley to look over her own plan to change the past and undo the 5/9 hack.
- While we can reasonably assume Darlene is working with the FBI, we did not actually see Dom DiPierrio and company either. I loved Dom in season 2 and can’t wait for her return. If everyone would just listen to her all this would be solved by now.
- While I’m as anti-Trump as it gets, using him so bluntly during Elliot’s monologue made me cringe. Subtlety, people, subtlety.
- Whiterose continues to be a remarkably fascinating character. Mr. Robot has handled her with expertly crafted glimpses and teases, and did so again to kick off season 3. It’s yet another reason I worry about where the show may head. I don’t want to lose this sense of mystery and power around Whiterose and the Dark Army.
- Whatever I have to say about the actual events of the episode, damn did it all look fantastic. Mr. Robot has some of the highest-quality production in the business.