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Friday, 20 October 2017

Mr. Robot Season 3: Is the show back to its best?



Mr. Robot quickly became one of television’s greatest offerings when it premiered a little over two years ago. The cyber-thriller stars Rami Malek as the socially awkward computer genius Elliot Alderson, who joins a hacker group known as ‘fsociety’, led by anarchist Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), and together they hack global conglomerate corporation E Corp. The Sam Esmail series received critical acclaim for its well-written storylines, wonderful pacing and for delivering some of the biggest twists we’ve ever seen on television. After a longer than expected hiatus, Mr. Robot returned to UK screens last week for its third season, courtesy of Amazon Video, and it was well worth the wait.

The Season 3 premiere picks up from where Season 2 left off, with Elliot bleeding out in the warehouse after being shot by Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström). Before the incident, Elliot was planning on shutting down the Dark Army’s operation to blow up E Corp’s back-up facility. This operation would’ve resulted in many deaths — something that Elliot wouldn't allow. I find it really interesting that, despite his public reputation as a powerful businessman, Tyrell is merely a pawn in a game between Elliot and Mr. Robot, both of whom continue to vie for control. However, it appeared that neither had control at the beginning of the episode. Thankfully, Elliot did survive, and he found himself in Angela Moss’s (Portia Doubleday) apartment, something that I thought was a great story move on Esmail’s part. Remember, viewers learned at the end of the second season that Angela was now in cahoots with the Dark Army so, despite being Elliot’s childhood friend, she is working for the other side, which makes her current association with Elliot uncomfortable for us to say the least.
In spite of his injuries, Elliot knew he needed to finish what he started and put an end to the Dark Army’s insane plan once and for all. However, due to the power outage in New York, he couldn’t get online to accomplish this. I really like that Esmail throws in obstacles for Elliot; we know the young hacker can accomplish anything from behind a computer, but something as simple as a lack of internet connection is preventing him from doing so. Genius. With a little help from Darlene (Carly Chaikin), Elliot was able to access the internet and close the back door on the Stage 2 operation.
The best moment from the Mr. Robot premiere was when Elliot delivered a monologue about all that is wrong with the world. I really liked how Esmail varied the monologue between Elliot’s voiceover and his actual speech because it gave me the impression that Elliot was malfunctioning and, after everything that he’s been through, it’s entirely possible that that’s what was happening. Moreover, Elliot broke the fourth wall and turned to viewers and as he did so, we saw images of Trump’s election, that went hand in hand with his words. It was a nice touch, especially considering Trump hasn’t been elected in Mr. Robot’s world and, due to the state of their society, he probably never will be. It’s moments like these that remind me why Mr. Robot drew me in in the first place: As much as I love Elliot Alderson, we’re seeing everything through his eyes. Yes, he’s our protagonist and a great one at that, but he’s not a very reliable one. And Elliot’s unreliability has made for some of the greatest twists in television history, primarily back in the first season when it was revealed that Mr. Robot doesn’t exist in the real world, but only in Elliot’s head. After that reveal, I wanted to go back and re-watch the show from the beginning, free from Elliot’s disturbing perspective. The Mr. Robot character may control Elliot but Elliot is just as bad because he is controlling us; leaking information to us throughout, hiding the whole truth and lying about what we are actually seeing. That’s what I love about the way Esmail writes this show — it makes you question everything.

I found myself asking whose side Angela is really on throughout the episode and, if push came to shove, would she choose Elliot or the Dark Army? She asked Elliot to stay at her place because she was afraid and, like the good-hearted friend that he is, Elliot agreed. Before heading off to bed, Elliot asked her for a favour in return: to make sure that he remained himself and that Mr. Robot didn’t take over his consciousness. However, it soon became apparent that that’s exactly what Angela was hoping for — Angela wanted Mr. Robot to pay her a visit. Despite Elliot’s desire to cut all ties with the Dark Army and their insane hacking plans, Angela wants the mission to succeed so that she can get revenge on E Corp for the part they had to play in her mother’s death, and she knows that Mr. Robot is the key to getting that revenge.
Angela has always been a bit of a cold fish and personally I’ve always struggled to connect with her. Likely a combination of Esmail’s characterisation and Doubleday’s excellent portrayal, it’s always been tough to know what was going on behind those large eyes of hers. However, if there’s one thing we learned in the Season 3 premiere, it’s that Angela is no longer the shy timid girl we met in Season 1. Her life was forever changed when she planted the femtocell at FBI headquarters for Darlene back in Season 2 and the high profile job at E Corp gave her a taste of power, and with this power she plans for revenge. I’m just hoping she realises that the cost of this revenge could be her friendship with Elliot and, if she’s not careful, her own life.
I was a little disappointed with the second season of Mr. Robot, but maybe that’s because I worked out the big twist rather early on, but Season 3 is off to a magnificent start. The inclusion of Angela in the central storyline has added a whole new level to the show’s dynamic, and most importantly it’s given Angela a goal; something that I felt she had been lacking up until now. Additionally, Elliot thinks that Mr. Robot is gone for good following his near-fatal accident, which means that he’s going to be unaware of when the anarchist takes over his consciousness. I’m incredibly excited to see Malek act his heart out and, if there’s any justice in our world like the justice ‘fsociety’ delivers in this fictional one, he will win another Emmy for his portrayal of Elliot. Either way, the return of Mr. Robot ticked all the boxes for me and, if Esmail’s writing and direction continues to deliver as it did in this episode, then Season 3 could be the best yet.

Contributed by Stephen Patterson

New episodes of Mr. Robot arrive Thursdays on Amazon Video UK.

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