The Mr. Robot Season 3 Premiere is a Compelling, Motivated Return

Mr. Robot Season 3 Premiere
Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/USA Network

Mr. Robot, Season 3 Premiere, “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h” Plot Summary:

Elliot (Rami Malek) wakes up out of his bullet-hole stupor, to find that the world has, indeed, become worse because of what he has done. While he closes a backdoor to the plan that would have destroyed Evil Corp (and a bunch of other people along with it—for Evil Corp is a corporation, and people are just, people), Whiterose (B. D. Wong) lets him do it, and anything he wants to (a delicious recipe for a season). Elliot chooses his next move in a world gone mad with materialism. Meanwhile, Angela (Portia Doubleday) plots with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) to end the world, Irving (Bobby Cannavale) orchestrates behind the scenes, and Darlene (Carly Chaikin) panics about being on the Dark Army’s most-wanted list.  

Let’s get real about Mr. Robot.

It rocks, but it’s got some problems. As I said at the beginning of last season, and as I was able to overlook, this series has got some issues with motivation. What does this all mean? Will Elliot’s mission be enough for us to get swept away, without just relying on the pretty colors? Mr. Robot has a lot of pretty colors, so many that you could say the whole series is them. Every episode. This episode offers more, and hopefully, so will this season.

Luckily, Angela brings what was lacking back to Mr. Robot: motivation. What were we doing but running away, last season, cleaning up a mess? Angela speaks like a prophet when she says not only can they defeat Evil Corp, but they can bring it all back. They can reverse the dead parents, the dead world, the uncertainty that Evil Corp brought to the universe. How can they bring back dead parents, stop the world from falling apart, even bring happiness to the populace? How can they do all of this seemingly impossible, or at least very metaphysical, stuff before our eyes?

This has been a very metaphysical show. This episode, for one, starts with an interesting (and, really, stunning in its production value) camera move from the Great and Powerful Whiterose through closing layers of hatches through, ultimately, Elliot’s eye, meaning it’s all happening in his head, and I’d like to see just how metaphysical it gets. Last season flirted with that, but the metaphysics often obscured reality, not illuminated it.

How about the actual episode? With the drive from Angela’s starry-eyed wonder talk upon us (and I for one can’t wait to hear how that’s going to happen, bringing everyone and everything back—this is the motivation that was missing from the excellent, though turgid, second season of the show), we were ready for that pillowy Daft Punk ending.

Even before the Angela-bound motivation sets in, however, we have great stuff going on. The hacker competition adds some life to that aspect of the show (and it was thrilling to see Elliot totally own another hacker and beat the whole world in two minutes). Darlene has more to work with by being given less; she was less dimensional as the leader of fsociety, more megaphone than character, and now that she’s on the run, she’s given the chance to slink into the nuance she had when she wasn’t.

Unfortunately, Christian Slater still feels a little off-base as Mr.-Robot-as-Elliot, meaning he was so interesting as his own person, but the show has not found the same gravity for him in Elliot’s head (or as Elliot’s head, bobbing around as he pretends to be him, or like, Elliot pretends to be him . . . you know), and I’m not sure we have enough to do with him this season, either, though it’s interesting to see him develop separate relationships. Plus, with Mr. Robot working behind Elliot’s back, he basically is his own character, no longer spending his screen time trying to get Elliot to do things.

The episode doesn’t allay my fears about Tyrell, though, who hasn’t seemed like a great character since season one, nor does Rami Malek feel like he has quite as much to work with here as he did in season two (say what you will about the plotting, that was a great season for his character), but in the veteran’s club of Mr. Robot, Angela gets some of the heart she had in the first season back under her cold exterior (as adopted in season two).

Bobby Cannavale comes hot on the heels of his unfortunate time at HBO as Irving, a mysterious fixer who seems benevolent to everyone except the girl at the register, and his character brings some excitement to this show. It feels rifer with excitement than it has in a long time. From the opening salvo of coupon talk to the little hint to Tyrell not to press on the body with his hands, from the cool he shows while fixing one situation or another, it is fun watching him work. And that’s not where the excitement ends.

When Elliot walks out of the Red Wheelbarrow, it feels like a nod to the first scene of the pilot episode, disappearing with a flip of his hood into the night. This episode feels like that, where he will leave, perhaps, the complications of the previous season behind by flipping up his hood as if waking up from a dream.

Let’s all wake out of that dream. I’ve been a Mr. Robot supporter from the jump. I like the second season as much as anyone (in fact, I gave it glowing reviews), but there was too much on the periphery (I don’t care about you, Mobley). It was stronger in its smaller moments, and its big ideas, but not the other way around, with its minute politics and bleak, “bringing down the world” antics. That’s all impressive, but it wasn’t compelling.

I didn’t care about the Dark Army, even fsociety, really, but what they represent. That’s the sweet spot, and exploring Elliot’s mind while they do it? Perfect.

-Matthew Haviland

Rating: 8.5/10 (Compelling)

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