USA’s Mr. Robot
Season 3, Episode 1: “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h”
Directed & Written by Sam Esmail
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “eps3.1_undo.gz” – click here
Will we see Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) help the Dark Army enact “Stage 2” finally? Or, will our friendly neighbourhood hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) be able to stop it after he was shot by his supposed friend?
We open on Irving (Bobby Cannavale) arguing with a woman at a fast-food joint called the Red Wheelbarrow about his punch card and its “faulty logic.” He’s a man of principle. He likes order. Quite the unique man.
He’s also been called up to Tyrell’s little HQ, to check on Elliot after the gunshot. Plenty of blood. There’s help on the way, so long as the young man survives. So, on appearance Irving looks like a used card salesman. When in fact he’s so much more, some sort of Dark Army operative, as he’s also given the name of Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) over the phone by his contact.
Mr. Zhang a.k.a Whiterose (BD Wong) keeps an eye on everything, of course. While others around him believe Elliot and Wellick both are unstable, the man himself is more inclined to watch on with a bit of a curiosity. He speaks about the former Mr. Alderson (Christian Slater). As well as the value of having Elliot around: “His unadulterated, focused rage.” However, it only lasts as long as he’s needed. Then he can die for the Dark Army, “just like his father.”
Oh, my. So much intrigue in only 10 minutes.
When Elliot wakes he finds Angela waiting. He wants to know what’s been happening, realising that Tyrell is indeed alive. Likewise, he discovers the power he once held has dissipated; greatly. He hates Evil Corp, but he doesn’t want to see people die if their facility is blown up. At the same time, the “ever looming presence” that was his father doesn’t feel present anymore.
He goes back to his apartment and finds Darlene (Carly Chaikin), worried about him and where he’s been. He tells her about people outside, likely watching, listening. She fills him in on Cisco’s death. Afterwards, he explains Stage 2, what could happen, the backdoor they infiltrated into E.Corp in the beginning. But it also splits the brother and sister slightly, considering she didn’t know about the plan. All the same, Elliot isn’t well. It wasn’t technically him who did all this, it was the influence of Mr. Robot.
With the power reduce by brownouts, there’s no internet. So, it’s a family outing somewhere Darlene knows they can get access, in hopes Elliot might close the backdoor into E.Corp and stop the planned destruction. They head to a sort of club/internet lounge, a “hacker space.” They’ve got to be careful, though. Could be Dark Army lurking at every turn.
And they’re everywhere.
So is the FBI. Before anyone can get them, Irving picks them up in a cab. They go to talk about Stage 2, and Elliot leaves believing he’s finished it all. Darlene isn’t so sure, and their divide widens. Now, our hacker sees how he’s “fucked society.” Nice play on the fsociety’s original name.
The mental illness angle of Elliot’s character comes out vividly through Sam Esmail’s visuals and his writing. Here, we see a great inward v. outward sequence, as Elliot rants: “What if instead of fighting back we cave, give away our privacy for security, exchange dignity for safety, trade in revolution for repression? What if we choose weakness over strength?” And as he narrates onscreen, walking through a scene doing a theatrical aside, he goes into voice-over narration, too. Great techniques.
Also now we’re seeing Elliot come to grips with having made things worse somehow. People who brand this as a leftist show, and in many ways it is, it doesn’t pull the punches when it comes to exploring how revolution is messy, and it doesn’t always go well, for either side.
“They turned our dissent into intellectual property” – a timely line, right?
What does Elliot do from here? He goes to Angela, asking for her to get him a job at E.Corp. To help working from the inside out, to undo the hack, to restore civilisation so they can at least try rebuilding from a better standpoint. Right now, it’s all ruined. On top of that, our hacker asks his old friend to watch out for him, to make sure Mr. Robot doesn’t take over again.
That night, dad does show up. Is Angela taking advantage? Certainly seems that way. And that’s troubling. She’s one of the most unpredictable characters of the series, which is always interesting. However, she’s manipulative right now, telling Mr. Robot things he didn’t know Elliot’s been doing. Shit, this sets up a very compelling plot for Season 3. All of a sudden I can’t help resent Angela a bit, doing this to someone she considers a close friend, someone mentally ill. That’s ugly.
They go meet Irving. Discussing things moving along. The guy doesn’t know all about how things with Elliot and Mr. Robot work, so it’s questionable at first. Soon enough this changes. And who else is there? Tyrell. He feels terrible for having shot his friend. But Mr. Robot understands, for the most part. We see how they’re all manipulating this young, mentally ill hacker to their own ends. Under the guise of friendship. The only one who seems outwardly emotionally affected is Tyrell; that in itself is kind of… creepy. Angela kids herself that she’s actually talking to two different people, and that it’s all for the greater good. In certain ways, she’s as ill as him.
Perfect opener to Season 3. Just a spectacular way to begin, as always. Dig how Mr. Robot finds ways to refresh itself, recharging every so often, in the middle of a season and at the end, too. Esmail’s a genius. This show is a work of art.
“eps3.1_undo.gz” next week.