Mr. Robot Season 3 Finale Review: “eps3.9_shutdown-r” Plot Summary:
Elliot (Rami Malek) goes big time, saving the world in one fell keystroke. Maybe. Before he can, though, everyone goes to the farm on Mr. Robot’s scariest episode ever. Things get real for Dom (Grace Gummer), the Aldersons, and others. Angela (Portia Doubleday) has a stunning conversation with Philip Price (Michael Cristofer).
This episode is no revelation to anyone who ever tried to fix an argument with more arguing. Usually, no one admits when they’re wrong, and everything falls to wreckage. Unfortunately, there are people to profit off this wreckage in the world of Mr. Robot. In an episode full of astounding speeches that go bravely into melodrama and come out alive, revelations about these profiteers, and with them, character revelations, through the cast, it’s a great time for Mr. Robot.
What’s more, with all this heavy lifting, there is very little melodrama or awkward data dump. This finale wears revelations on its sleeve, two at a time, and it works, except for one small, funny allusion to Star Wars, which does come off, given it’s the same situation, as self-parody. Otherwise, it’s all serious, loving, and scary in the world of Mr. Robot.
The first revelations come fast and swift. Once we get to the midpoint, once all the characters have gotten to their respective hideouts, it breaks down, and we get everything: Angela gets an earful when she learns she is not only billionaire Phil Price’s biological daughter but also, well, the perpetrator of petty evil for no personal gain. Everything she’s done since Five/9 has been evil, or, at the very least, pointless and contributed to the deaths of thousands. Whew. That is not good, nor is it to have your illusions shattered by a man basically saying the person who’s been leading you like a thought leader is delusional, and that her plan (Whiterose’s) couldn’t possibly work. How could it? It’s magic.
Whiterose (B. D. Wong) was mad at Price and blew up his buildings, that’s it. And she helped. While I’m sure her reasons were more layered than this, knowing those two and their behind-the-scenes chats, they aren’t above getting mad at each other and responding with sanctions—or, perhaps, warfare. And that’s it. No wonder it looks like she’s gasping for breath through the entirety of this episode, after she has breakfast.
How about Mr. Robot? Well, although he won’t say he would have bombed the buildings, he won’t say he wouldn’t have. Notice his artful dodge, warm though it was: “I would have tried to find another way.” Oh, well, he did give Elliot the keys to reverse the Five/9 attack, so that’s something (“Go ahead. I knew you would do it,” or more or less). Without a magical fix like the cause Angela believed in (so quickly dashed by Price, though maybe . . .), there’s nothing left but to undo the hack and, hey, maybe fight the predators rather than the prey. At least with Five/9, he now knows who the true enemies are (“The top one percent of the top one percent,” that old chestnut, that old gripe). However, who’s to say there aren’t more? Oh, well. Getting past this illusion of “Five/9 could work” is progress, and you’ve got to count progress where it counts. And hey, it’s the first step. Maybe taking Price down will work.
See this episode for great performances from our favorite characters. Who knew Irving (Bobby Cannavale) was going to chop someone up? I mean, literally. It’s disgusting, but he’s great, and when he says, “Forgive me, while I take a moment to center myself,” it’s threatening. Who else. Joey Bada$$ is on, though there isn’t much to do except shoot a bunch of people and look at his phone. Dom DiPierro looks shaken, and rightfully so, after what she goes through, and Agent Santiago (Omar Metwally) is so nervous that I’m scared for him when he’s talking to Irving.
This is the same setup as last year’s finale. Everyone’s in a cold room at the end, talking and yelling at each other, except this time, it’s more exciting. Something about Tyrell just didn’t vibe with me, and the confrontation between Grant (Grant Chang), his goons, and Elliot’s group, played off the super confrontation between Angela and Price, is exciting. When those gunshots go off, it’s satisfying. When those chops come down, it’s revolting. It’s exciting, it’s cool, and it’s good.
That scene in particular, Rami Malek seems shaky, but he is working with emotional territory. Elliot has a lot to deal with, this episode. His scenes with Darlene are among the best they’ve had together. Darlene softly but sternly giving him the revelation that Mr. Robot didn’t push him out the window (he jumped), is sublime, a touching moment for her (“I’ll remember for you”) and a huge moment for Elliot. After she says that, everything in the past goes flipping in its wake. For example, the scene where Elliot throws himself off the boardwalk? Now it’s that much more layered, because he’s throwing himself off as Mr. Robot, but it’s also himself (and he was the one who originally threw himself, so . . .), but he really does think, in that moment, that his dad is doing it. It’s some cool psychological insight, and you could explore the whole series from that angle. His whole character, even.
Christian Slater does his best work, in this episode. He’s a new man, and given the chance not to be a fighter but a lover, yes, a father, he’s radiant in all the ways he can’t be (or isn’t usually) stuffing himself down the quickest exit path in Elliot’s consciousness or trying to throw the world off its hooks from a back room and bomber jacket. Even the first season, when he was the mysterious mentor, he wasn’t like this, smiling, glowing with love.
While I wasn’t convinced he deserved a Golden Globe nomination before, I am now (look at what he’s done with the rest of the season—the death party for Angela’s mother, where he sits down to talk to her, the movie-theater visit with Elliot; these scenes are now heartbreaking, given his record’s been cleaned, and great altogether; perhaps this was the real Mr. Robot). That scene in the subway, where Darlene leaves and then Slater appears out of nowhere, gently sitting across from Elliot, is beautiful, poetry in a way the series often is, but not this good.
There are some beautiful shots here, too. Elliot standing outside the ticket booth at Coney Island, colors all around him. Mr. Robot in the Ferris wheel, the compartment behind him swinging down as he considers what Elliot says; Elliot looking back at him, with a different background behind him. The stuff at the Dark Army’s hidden fortress, all green and uniformly gorgeous (and eerie; Elliot and the boys look like aliens on a hostile planet). The way Dominique looks to the sky for relief when she thinks she’s about to be killed and sees nothing but clouds is artful, poetic in a way we have not seen since, well, since earlier in the episode (and would not see ‘til the end). Thus, the episode gives us everything we could ever want: good story, striking visuals, great poetry in little moments, good character in big ones, a wallop of things going on, a dose of action, a kicker of heart, and we’re all set. Ten out of ten.
Episode Score: 10/10 (Excellent)
Season Score: 8.5/10 (Great)