Previously On …
Oh, as IF I can recap it all there was so muc … okay, I obviously can; Darlene was picked up by the FBI and Special Agent Dom knows way more than we ever realised. Elliot tried to push back against the Blow Things The Fuck Up stage of Fsociety’s master plan and for his trouble, one, or quite possibly both of his imaginary friends shot him. Angela got recruited personally by Whiterose, Phillip Price was The Devil Incarnate, Joanna was searching for Tyrell at incredible personal cost, Whiterose was protecting a mysterious project — honestly more fiercely than she protects her double life as Whiterose — and a member of the Chinese Government. And, Trenton and Mobley were on the run for all of ten seconds before being approached by the ever mysterious bodyguard/assassin/spirit guide that is Leon.
Which brings us to Mr. Robot 3.0!
The opening montage seems designed to keep me guessing about Tyrell’s existence, and the word of the day is ‘Control’, kids.
Take back control.
We open on a ‘Grand Opening’ at a milkshake shop where the mysterious and unassuming Irving (the impeccable Bobby Cannavale) has paid for enough milkshakes to earn a free one, but only on his next visit. If you didn’t already know the character is a used car salesman, you would guess he is on first glance. It’s exactly how he looks. Perfect.
Irving politely argues the silly semantics and just the principal of the thing in a reedy voice I have never heard out of Cannavale, and ooooh kids. This is gonna be goooood. The poor milkshake girl is just trying to do her damned job, but Irving rudely takes a call right in the middle of being sort of a shit. He casually asks his caller if ‘he’ is dead while Milkshake girl gapes, then he leaves her with a warning that once we abandon our principles, we invite chaos. Her minimum wage ass is like ‘ … kay?’
The Milkshake Shop … is called Red Wheelbarrow.
Oh. Well, then.
Irving arrives and boom, Tyrell is alive and real, just like that because Irving is talking to him. Oh, and also Elliot is bloody and unconscious on the floor. Should have led with that. Tyrell is sobbing, terrified Elliot is dying, and Irving is chronically unflappable and already has doctors en route. He casually gives Tyrell better first aid advice, but in doing so he appears to set Tyrell up to be kneeling, bloody-handed, over a wounded man, just as Irving takes a picture.Rather than, say, weeping and administering first aid. I wonder if that picture makes it to the press any time soon …
Later, Irving is at his used car lot — one car in shot looks similar to (but not quite the same) as the Alderson family car from the Sitcom dream sequence. It’s loaded up with beach toys. Curious. Irving ‘Uh huh? Uh huh?s’ his way through the phone call and he’s given Angela’s name by, what I can only assume at this stage is … Whiterose? It’s probably worth saying that what we’re seeing of Irving here is a semi-flashback, leading up to Angela’s being called about Elliot in the final moments of season two. The music picks up and a VO speaks, apropos of nothing as we see, about the greatest unsolved mystery; ‘Do we see reality as it is?’ We cut to an E Corp nuclear power plant where the speaker jokes to some underlings about the rolling power cuts (… even …there?) and talks about imagining parallel universes and how many versions of our world and selves exist.
And just to really set the Science Fiction theorists abuzz with that little discussion, Mr. Zhang, aka Whiterose strolls casually on by. Whiterose and that beautiful assistant of hers talk about how amazingly unstable the members of Fsociety collectively are (you have no idea, sweet one), and how much better suited he would be to the mission. So, Whiterose with one of those wonderful smiles, decides to explode reality a little more and reveals Mr. Robot, Mr. Alderson, Elliot’s father … used to work on ‘this project’. GUYS.
Mr. Alderson never knew the full scope of his work, but it was his engineering that led to their early successes. At WHAT?
Whiterose calls it an ‘extraordinary coincidence’ that Elliot now works for them too. Whiterose doesn’t believe in coincidence, which is what makes Mr. Alderson so valuable, and then she just blithely skips over what that might also possibly mean, to talk about how they have Mr. Alderson, the tools and abilities he has, but not his focused rage. Time presented them Mr. Alderson when they needed him, thus, they are directed by his will alone. And when his great work is complete, Mr. Alderson can die for them … just like his father.
WHAT IN THE LIVING FUCK!? (also, I used the formal there because Whiterose did and I just assume every single thing on this show is intentional, somehow.)
And then she stares into what looks sort of like the Large Hadron Collidor, while we pan back through the monstrous construction and Julie Andrews sings Whistling Away the Dark before the signal is horribly distorted.
I … I need a drink. That was the first nine minutes!
Sometime later, Elliot wakes in Angela’s apartment and asks if we’re still here … and, is he?
He knows he blacked out and thinks his survival means he is the one in control, but it doesn’t feel that way. Angela is there and lets him know he’s been bedridden a week. He’s confused about who transported him; more so Angela’s involvement, and Angela confirms for him Tyrell is real, too (and avers to us that Elliot wasn’t certain). She recounts her story about what happened, and Elliot shakily tries to call the cops until she claims she’ll die if he does.
Elliot hobbles off to find Tyrell, pausing only to throw on some clothes and I laughed my ass off at the next shot of him in a Josh Grobin sweater, but it’s also a great piece of storytelling that exposed like this, he’s so off kilter. Outside, New York is dark without power, and even the brief glimpse we see feels wide and scary. Elliot goes back to the loft where he was shot but it’s been totally cleaned down. Elliot VO’s about Tyrell, but mostly, Mr. Robot who is not only missing but to Elliot’s … psyche … is gone entirely. He wonders if the bullet killed Robot.
Outside preachers preach about the apocalypse while a confused Elliot heads back to his apartment, noticing what could be a spooky SUV following him. At the building, his landlord talks about how he changed the railings on the stairs from red to chrome, and Elliot should tell his visitor they have units available for rent. Guy’s trying to make his bread, but Elliot is more like ‘… visitor?!’ He heads upstairs and PRAISE BE, Darlene is waiting for him. She’s angry at his vanishing act, and he hisses at her it’s not safe to talk. He tries to send her away, then she tells him about Cisco, and how Dark Army turned on them. She mentions the FBI, hence why she pretty much can’t go anywhere. Elliot sits beside her, and it looks like he might hug her … until he asks what she told the Feds. I saw that coming, and still laughed. Oh, Elliot.
She asks what Stage 2 is (it’s explosions, girl), Elliot’s plan, and he admits the cell they had Angela leave so they could hack the FBI also gave them access to the Records Building they intend to destroy. Even Darlene, previously the most militant one, is like ‘What in the FUCK, bro’ and rages at him hiding it from her. He shrieks ‘It wasn’t ME!’ and it’s one of the rare, few times he talks about Mr. Robot like that.
He wants to get online to close the back door and shut down the mission, and she knows a place but he has to change. The black hoodie goes back on and it’s like a suit of armour. Or like when he created Mr. Robot back in that flashback in Season 2.Darlene takes Elliot to a warehouse club where techno music competes for dominance with the excited cheers of the fired up crowd. It’s a CTF tournament, like Hacker Olympics. Elliot cynically loathes those present all for exercising their inner anarchists while the city dies around them, and wishes for a mute button for life. The difference from earlier is remarkable. Lets be honest with ourselves, the Hoodie is practically an alt personality all its own. Darlene can’t find them a machine because there’s an ongoing competition. She figures they can wait ’til it’s over but Elliot, with uncharacteristic ego, says he can just win it for them.
He spots a hacker and goes to whisper sexy, sexy technical jargon at them to help them win. Some kid just tells his bro to move and let Elliot do it for them, and while that happens Darlene spots the Dark Army tails that have crept in behind them.
So has Elliot, who is more cogent and present than ever, even noticing Darlene’s building panic attack. She runs off to a bathroom to have the shit out of her anxiety attack, screaming and breathing and oh girl, you’re okay. This hurts. Strong Darlene is such a powerfully created image that these moments when we see her vulnerability twist like knives. Darlene calls someone, gasping for help about the Dark Army, but someone demands to be let into the bathroom. Of course, it’s them.
Outside the crowd is oblivious, because Elliot just ended the competition in two minutes and Elliotishly dismisses the kid who let him play. Hehehe!
Elliot manages to close the backdoor, seconds before before the goons approach with Darlene and turn off his machine, and march the siblings outside.They’re directed where to go, and left to make the way themselves. Elliot wants to see ‘them’ and the kids are picked up by Irving in a yellow cab, who speeds them away from their very obvious FBI tail. Irving gives Darlene a laptop with a wifi connection, and asks Elliot to read her the licence plate. Elliot, who … is so … not off, but is so not Elliot right now, doesn’t blink or look away as he recites the plate he clearly memorised ages back. Irving and Darlene both look at him like ‘Well, damn’ and guys, have we EVER seen Elliot this hard in his element before?
Darlene has noticed the weirdness, but lets Irving talking her through basically hacking the NYPD, and calling in the FBI car as stolen. The car is seconds from ramming them off the road or so it looks, though Irving manages to call it off with the kind of social engineering the Alderson kids are awed by. He takes them for barbecue at Red Wheelbarrow, and Elliot’s voiceover makes it pretty clear he’s on team ‘Reality isn’t real’, as he wonders if ‘they’ got the (name of the restaurant) idea from him, or he from them. He decides the place is a Dark Army front, and even his voiceover is angrier and more certain about things than ever.
Darlene is sent away so she doesn’t hear, gives all sorts of attitude and Irving, like all of us, loves her at once. Irving is like ‘… soooooo?’ and Elliot calmly admits he shut the backdoor, and he’s shutting this shit down, and only HE will be held accountable for that. Irving talks of ‘their’ employer, but Elliot kills that idea too. Irving makes it seem like Whiterose will be okay with this, if Elliot wills it, so Irving moves to leave. Elliot demands confirmation and actually … advances … on Irving? Who IS THIS? Elliot wants to hear from Whiterose. Irving leans right the fuck in on Elliot’s would be fronting, and openly, nakedly threatens Elliot and his sister. He leaves on the word, and Elliot updates Darlene. She’s not convinced, though he points out how completely dead they would already be — while he sits with his back to the window of the fucking place.
I mean I know they won’t kill him … probably, but I’m having palpitations, to be honest. Darlene asks if Tyrell is involved, and has he been from the very beginning? Elliot says … no. The audience says ‘… Are ya sure?’ Elliot is convinced it’s done, and all that matters is they survived, because Cisco didn’t and probably, neither did Mobley and Trenton. Darlene is stung by mention of Cicso, and leaves.
Later, alone, Elliot knows it was too easy, but for now, he can … sort of relax. Then his VO becomes just him walking down a crowded street talking out loud, to himself. He talks about how the mission was meant to empower but made it worse. 5/9 didn’t make anything better, it made it worse. Then it’s a VO again while he talks about how they’re stuck, waiting to be dumped and while they wait, Evil Corp just monetizes this too.
‘They televised our revolution, with commercial breaks.’
He rails, internally and out loud and it’s the Elliot that Season one Elliot could have been, still angry, empowered and focused while he looks into the camera and laments his own desire to ‘Fuck society’ … well, it did. He admits his real fear, and over shots of Trump and Theresa May, that he may have created a far worse future than before. He talks of how we’ll build our own prisons, in walls. Elliot says he didn’t start a revolution, he undercut the people he was trying to save, and left them weaker than ever.
He blames himself entirely, no one else. Not the same society he similarly ranted against in Season one … just himself. He passes a wall that may exist, but doesn’t look to everyone else like it does to Elliot, covered with pictures of his dead friends, even Shayla. He changes his tune, ‘Fuck me.’
And, then he’s back at the Wheelbarrow, and maybe he never left it, but now he has to because it’s closing. He returns to Angela and asks her to get him a job at E-Corp so he can fix what he did.
He asks her one more thing and in the candlelit apartment, while he’s clad all in black and she’s a vision in white, he asks her to keep an eye on him … because only she can tell when he’s … him. Because, she knows him better than anyone right now, and is the only one he can trust. It takes a lot for him to admit it, and then he tries to kiss her, but she stops it. She tells him the other time they kissed was a mistake.
You can, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, literally see the moment his heart breaks. We do not deserve Rami Malek. While Elliot ‘Yeah sure’ and ‘fine’s to Angela, he VOs for us that yes, this hurts. But, this is Angela, she doesn’t love the ones who love her, just the ones who don’t. This is her power saver mode.
Angela is crying, and asks him something interesting … what if they could make it so ‘none of this’ never happened. Not just 5/9 …everything. Their parents. If they could take it all back … what would he sacrifice?
The music, the lighting, the framing, is so OG Blade Runner, and I am shaking.
Elliot says it’s not possible, but she says it is. He asks how and she can’t answer, and WHAT THE FUCKING WHAT? and she excuses herself to go to bed. She asks him to stay so she feels safe, and of course he does. He lays on the couch next to Qwerty the fish (YAY! I miss Flipper!) and sleeps.
Later, Angela wakes suddenly from a dream. In candlelight she calls for Elliot but from total shadows, Mr. Robot says ‘It’s me’.
She tells him to come closer, and Mr. Robot walks into her tiny pool of light and looks veritably fucking demonic, and they even moved the cameras so we can’t see his reflection in the window behind her. Angela handles looking into the eyes of Elliot and seeing an entirely different person look back like a CHAMP. Or like … this isn’t new. They talk like old friends. Oh my actual God. She tells Robot to leave Darlene alone, and that the backdoor is closed, and the still utterly demonic Robot is not happy at how calm she is about this. She says it’ll be fine, and Robot grabs her to insist Elliot will always try to stop them. Angela coldly says they’ll redirect Elliot’s energy somehow. WHAT?!
They’re expected somewhere, she checks what could be a sedative case, and says it’s for when Elliot ‘comes back’. Robot asks how she knows it’s him, not Elliot and she says he never looks away.
WHAT. A. SCENE.
Robot and Angela turn up to see Irving, who isn’t entirely clued in on Elliot/Mr. Robot’s … peculiarities. Angela plays it off like the gunshot spooked Elliot, but Irving is wise to the fact the Elliot he spoke to had clearly never met him.
Then … Angela declares she will in fact get Elliot a job at Evil Corp. She lies it’s to help them by having him on the inside. They’re taken into … wherever, and there is Tyrell, who sheepishly apologises to who he still thinks is Elliot. Robot forgives him, and Tyrell is suitably wigged by the utterly different person wearing an Elliot Suit, who stands before him.
Daft Punk kicks in on the soundtrack as Robot gets to hacking.
Later, Angela talks to Mr. Robot on a bus while he tells her the plan. He asks what she gets out of it, but she won’t talk to him like she does Elliot. Robot is somewhat protectively wondering why Elliot’s ‘bestie’ would lie to him so blatantly. Angela detachedly asks how she can be lying to someone she’s looking right at. Because, of course, she is sitting beside Elliot.
Robot calls it creative, but says she’s taking advantage of Elliot’s condition, and pushing him along. She says she’s just helping Elliot finish what he started and it’s Robot who pushes him along. Robot says they need to trust each other, and he doesn’t trust her. So, he wants to know why. Angela says Evil Corp killed her mother, and her whole life she’s always wanted justice for her mother’s death. She doesn’t know how you bring justice to a company like Evil Corp ,and thought she’d never win even after learning their plan … not until she met Whiterose. Not until she opened Angela’s eyes that she could see how all the damage ‘they’ have caused could finally be undone. She looks up as the lights come on and says the power is back on. And she’s right.
Where do we even begin? If all Esmail is doing is teasing the fans who firmly believe all or some of Elliot’s world is a simulation, it’s masterful. If he’s finally steering the show more directly into Sci-Fi territory it has so subtly been flirting with, then, I am HERE for this.
I have so many questions I honestly don’t know where to begin. But, safe to say, Mr. Robot 3.0 is not here to play games.
Until next time; Take Back Control.