TV Recap: Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episode 1 and Episode 2
The world of Mr. Robot is in shambles. The most powerful corporation in the world, E Corp, has been attacked, severely limiting the population’s access to credit. The hacker group behind the attack has the FBI breathing down their neck while struggling to finish the plan for their allies, a considerably more dangerous hacker group who plan to cut ties as soon as the plan is enacted. The brains behind the operation, Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek), lays bleeding out on the floor, the result of trying to stop the further sinister plans that his alter ego, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), has set in motion. Times are dark, basically, and according to the way that Season 3 starts, they aren’t lightening up any time soon.
The first face we see at the start is that of Irving (Bobby Canavale) arguing with a cashier. He’s seems to be a timid, unassuming man until he is frantically called by Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) to help fix the mess with Elliot. Irving knows exactly what to do. He contacts his own doctors and the building is swept of all evidence that anybody was ever there within hours. After this, we see a scene at a nuclear power plant with Whiterose (B.D. Wong) discussing her plans to take out Elliot once he has fulfilled his purpose just as a large portion of the city’s power goes out.
Elliot wakes up in Angela’s (Portia Doubleday) apartment and doesn’t waste any time before running off to see his sister, Darlene (Carly Chaikin). Elliot wants her help to shut down the back door that was installed in E Corp’s computer system to halt the Dark Army’s access. Darlene reluctantly takes him to the only place that still has internet, a nerdy hipster club called 1984. They make their way through the vape smoke haze and Elliot sets himself up. Just as he’s about to delete the back door, some Dark Army goons cut the cord and send them out to the alleyway where they are intercepted by Irving and taken to a diner to talk business. Elliot makes it clear that he is no longer affiliated with them and that Stage 2 isn’t going to happen. Irving looks confused, and he points out that those in charge aren’t going to be happy.
Elliot exits the restaurant into the season’s most captivating scene so far. He walks the rainy streets lamenting his actions. Did he make the world a better place, or did he just make the populace even weaker so they can be taken over easier? He walks by a storefront exclusively selling Mr. Robot merch and advertising a new NBC show based on the events of 5/9. His increasingly angry rambling is intercut with images of Donald Trump speaking messages of hate, the border wall being used as a symbol of us all literally imprisoning ourselves. “What if we choose weakness over strength?” It’s an inspiring, terrifying scene that makes us question everything, both in the show and in reality.
Back at Angela’s, Elliot convinces her to get him a job at Evil Corp and to make sure that she keeps an eye on him in case Mr. Robot takes over again. She knows him the best and seems to be the only one that can tell the difference between the two. She agrees, but in the middle of the night, Mr. Robot comes out to speak to Angela who changes her tone to make it very clear that she is not as concerned as Elliot in stopping Stage 2. She only wants to help it, to get back at Evil Corp for the death of her father. When asked how she can tell the difference between Elliot and Mr. Robot she simply says, “Your eyes. You’re never trying to look away.”
Episode 2 begins with Angela fulfilling her promise and getting Elliot a job at E Corp. He deals with returning depression and annoying coworkers to build up some capital and get meetings with higher-ups to convince them to re-digitize their records in a more secure manner while also secretly moving around the physical paperwork so that it isn’t actually in the building that fsociety and the Dark Army assume it is, to throw them off the trail.
Tyrell’s wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) goes on national TV to defend her husband, now that the false testimony of her former lover, Derek (Chris Conroy), has incriminated somebody else for the murder that Tyrell committed. On the way home, Joanna and her bodyguard, Mr. Sutherland (Jeremy Holm), pull over to deal with a tailing car. Mr. Sutherland pulls a drunken Derek out of the driver’s seat and beats him until he understands that his and Joanna’s relationship is over. Before they can drive off, Derek pulls out a gun and shoots Mr. Sutherland and Joanna. Before she dies, Joanna reaches for Mr. Sutherland’s gun and shoots Derek dead.
The FBI has Darlene and are forcing her to rat on her brother, something she resists doing for as long as possible until Elliot invites her back to his place. In the middle of the night she installs a program that allows the FBI access to everything that happens on his computer. Mr. Robot catches her just as she’s wrapping up and slams her against the wall. She swears she did nothing and gets away. Later in the day Elliot sends a purposefully mysterious email that the FBI opens, giving him their address. He walks into their building and the episode ends.
Mr. Robot’s third season is off to an interesting start, but I have my quibbles. Joanna was one of the show’s strongest characters, the one who is obviously in control. Her death was out of nowhere, a wholly unsatisfactory end to an interesting subplot probably only meant to lead Tyrell in some other direction. That being said, the eloquently understated premiere episode saw one of the most chilling scenes in the show’s history and one potentially insane possible plot point. When Angela is speaking with Elliot in her apartment, she asks him, “What if I could make it like all of this never happened?” Implying to not only undo 5/9 but also the death of their parents. Elliot doesn’t want to imagine the impossible and treats it hypothetically, but Angela seems like she can actually make it happen. Add that to some background dialogue about multiverse theory overheard at the nuclear power plant, a mention of Donald Trump and our current world, even though the show is set in 2015, and Whiterose’s (who is connected to Angela through a truly bizarre, otherworldly scene in Season 2) overall obsession with time, it looks like Mr. Robot is gearing up to do something truly shocking.