Last season of Mr. Robot ended on a pretty dire note. Elliot (Rami Malek) finally managed to figure out the scope of his alter-ego Mr. Robot’s (Christian Slater) plan which included the missing Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) and surprisingly Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday). That attempt to put the brakes on their plans may have cost him his life while his sister and fsociety co-founder Darlene (Carly Chaikin) ended up in government custody. But as usual with this show, there’s always a hidden ace somewhere. After a brief prologue featuring new character Irving (Bobby Cannavale), the episode picks up immediately after the events of Season 2’s finale when Elliot was shot by Tyrell in an attempt to stop him from interfering with Mr. Robot and the Dark Army’s Stage 2 plans to destroy Evil Corp’s paper backups. Everyone is on point with their roles at this stage of the show and Rami Malek in particular brings a great deal of Elliot’s usually stunted emotions to the fore in his scenes with Darlene, something that gives a greater sense of desperation than this show is usually eager to show.
The show is as usual, gorgeously directed. Sam Esmail’s skill as a director is pretty paramount to Mr. Robot’s visual identity at this point and the opening shot with the (I think?) collider is a great one, as well as Elliot’s nighttime walk later in the episode. If nothing else, this is always going to be one gorgeous show. However, there’s quite a bit of cracks that appear fairly early on in both a story and character level. One of those being Elliot’s astonishingly quick recovery (six days!) from bleeding to death after being shot at point-blank range. Normally I’m not one to quibble about quick recovery times in drama, but it ends up creating a domino effect on Elliot’s actions throughout the episode. He treats the normally omniscient and very scary Dark Army as an afterthought in his actions from walking out immediately after waking up, to trying to shut down his backdoor into Evil Corp, and his treating his business with them as closed despite the fact their envoy Irving makes it very clear they’re not at all happy with him.
While Elliot’s actions are in some way opaque, this time it’s really difficult to tell where the problem is with shielding thoughts from us, or more likely just bad writing. The episode is mostly table-setting understandably, but it ends up having a negative impact upon making sense of his actions throughout the episode. While the wall between our world and Elliot’s has both been razor thin both on a narrative and meta level, one that seems to be slowly coming apart if this episode’s proclamations are real, but that causes a bit of a problem here. The biggest turn in the episode is when Elliot just smashes through the fourth wall to connect fsociety’s actions to the very real problems in the outside world. Elliot’s speech at the viewer feels more like preaching than anything to do with the show itself, and it feels a bit off-balance compared to the more nuanced politics at the heart of the show, even Rami Malek can only do so much to make this work. It also doesn’t help that in order to get the show revved for Season 3, it more or less sidesteps what happened with Tyrell during Season 2 after the long slow-burn Schrodinger’s Cat-esque subplot over his fate.
Thankfully the rest of the episode is fairly spot-on. Portia Doubleday’s had a rebirth of sorts since Season 2 began Angela’s allying with Evil Corp. And while her motives aren’t quite as shielded as Whiterose (BD Wong) or Mr. Robot’s, they’re no less complex in that regard. That includes her willingness to lie to or even bump off Elliot (she was in on Tyrell’s plan after all), in order to ensure Stage 2 succeeds. Darlene is also in fine form as well with her early split from Elliot after it’s become painfully clear to her that Elliot isn’t in control of his faculties or his plan, in keeping with the apocalyptic theme present with this season. While the show did have to do a bit of backflipping in order to reappropriate what was originally a near end-of-Obama era show for the Trump years, the threat of annihilation has always been a fitting theme for Mr. Robot, and it scarily gets back up to pace pretty quickly once it shakes off its cobwebs. I definitely am excited to see what comes next.
4 eCoins out of 5