A strong start for Season 3 of Sam Esmail's techno-thriller!
Whilst it’s never been a show to shy away from the harsh realities of the modern world, the Season 3 premiere of Mr. Robot doubled-down on this aspect to an almost dystopian degree. Following the attack by Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) and the titular Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) in the Season 2 finale, New York is plunged into darkness as an injured Elliot (Rami Malek) and Darlene (Carly Chaikin) attempt to reverse the damage caused, whilst pursued by the extremist hacker group “Dark Army” and the FBI. Elliot at this point has fully realised the harm Mr. Robot has caused and, despite being powerless to stop his alter ego, feels a heavy sense of blame for his counterpart’s actions. This builds to a blistering outburst of regret and self-loathing intercut with imagery of some of the more questionable real-world politics from the past year that creates a powerful statement to all watching, especially as Elliot seems to address the viewer once again. This sudden realisation gives Elliot’s character a new sense of purpose as he attempts to right the wrongs he has caused.
The episode also better utilised Angela (Portia Doubleday, one of the most ignored characters in past seasons. While on the surface she seems to provide solace to Elliot after Darlene rejects his plans, it is later revealed she has sided with Mr Robot, Tyrell and new character Irving (Bobby Cannavale). It is clear her discussions with Whiterose (BD Wong) in the last season were sufficient to convince her to side with the ‘Dark Army’, at least for the time being. Towards the end of the episode we discover her true motives are to avenge her mother, another casualty of Evil Corp’s machinations.
The episode gives great character moments for both Elliot and Angela, but this negatively effects other character’s screen time. Despite being absent for the majority of Season 2, Tyrell is given very little to do in the opening episode other than apologise to Mr. Robot for shooting him in the episode prior. This feels disappointing considering the journey his character went on in the first season and given how long we’ve had to wait for his return to the show. Other major characters including FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) and various members of ‘fsociety’ are absent altogether from the premiere, despite the latter being a prominent feature of the cliffhanger at the end of Season 2. Hopefully we’ll see more of these characters in the next few weeks. The premiere also does little to act on the consequences of the Season 2 cliffhanger. Elliot receives some treatment for his bullet wound before going about his business as if nothing had happened and the blackout is reversed by the end of the episode through some hacking. This feels slightly anti-climactic given all the secretive planning that went into this plot at the end of Season 2.
Despite this, the premiere remains an excellent start to the season with tense character drama and great performances from the cast. Elliot is pitted against Mr Robot more than ever before and the odds are stacked against him, but in his revelations midway through the episode, the show provides a glimmer of hope amongst the uncertainties present in both the show and the world we live in.
Mr Robot continues next Wednesday on Amazon Instant Video.