Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episodes 2-3 Review

MR. ROBOT: SEASON 3, EPISODE 2 – eps3.1_undo.qz

You know when you f**k something up and wish you had the power to hit undo? – Elliot Alderson

This was without a doubt one of the best Mr. Robot episodes to date, and one was super enjoyable throughout. It was also the hour that felt most akin to Fight Club, choosing some of the techniques and repetition that helped make that film, (not to mention Chuck Palahniuk’s book), a cult classic.

Often when listening to Elliot Alderson’s inner thoughts, it’s easy to hear Tyler Durden, or The Narrator if that’s easier for you. It isn’t always because of the anti-consumerism, mockery of tchotchke and fad, almost nihilistic and lost, yet found view of humanity, but that doesn’t hurt. The scenes of Elliot working through the same routine, including his key card, the elevator, and popping a pair of generic Zoloft pills could have passed for a duplication of the life that drove Ed Norton’s Narrator insane.

When we see the “catalog” sequence in the movie, it’s one of the more powerful portions of the film, and one of Fincher’s finest directorial moments. I could say the same about the aforementioned Elliot daily routine as he takes the job with E Corp, and when we see the “2D emotions” people express themselves through on the subway, that’s a stroke of pure genius.

However, I have a bone to pick with USA and with Sam Esmail, because had they not been running trailers with the emoji heads on human bodies for months, this would have been so much more effective. It was still brilliant, but I had already seen it at least 15 times in the run-up to the season. That was a mistake, and even though it was striking and intriguing as an advertisement, I hate that it was literally the exact same shot that we saw in the episode. Still loved it, but it would have blown me away if that was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the idea.

More of the Fight Club humor emerged in this episode, something Esmail has employed several times, with the first two members of upper management that didn’t listen to Elliot. Their reasons for attempting to get out of the meeting were laugh out loud funny. “I got tickets to the Goo Goo Dolls reunion concert tonight, so let’s wrap this up all right?” Then, after getting that guy arrested as he headed up a scheme to illegally sell private consumer data, there’s management member two. This sad sack has a SoulCycle class to get to, and unfortunately for him, he had had engineers cheating emissions test to hide and manipulate the company’s pollution levels, so he had to go as well.

Listening to Rami Malek’s voice as he lays out the idea of digitizing all the paper records, stopping Stage Two before it can happen, and getting upper management on board, was iterative of the high points of this show. In his spare time, he’s still “purging shitbags,” including “subprime scammers, Ponzi schemers, pension embezzlers, and sexual harassers.” Again, Ed Norton could have performed the same dialogue and the effect would have been identical. That’s a compliment to Malek, and to the tenor of the episode.

Even as Elliot is “undoing” the Five/Nine hack and thwarting Stage Two, he’s also still on his personal crusade of righteousness. It’s because of the inability to live normally and within himself that it feels obvious Mr. Robot will win out over lonely, crying-in-his-apartment Elliot Alderson in the end. Also, it seems highly unlikely Sam Esmail ends this thing happily after the fourth season. Whether Alderson commits suicide, in homage to Tyler Durden, or if there’s something else on the way, but Mr. Robot’s victory seems assured.

He’s more aggressive, and of the two personalities, it takes Elliot much more time to try and undo what’s already in motion than it does for Mr. Robot to execute his plans and, for example, trick a foolish FBI agent into clicking on a link that gives away a safehouse location. Dom might be the only non-corrupted portion of the investigation, and she might also be the only one with a brain. Why would anyone click on a link from an email provided by a known hacker without doing due diligence first? Sure, it came from a remote desktop view, but why would you assume someone that devious wouldn’t have failsafes in place? Also, if it’s me, I believe Elliot is smarter than me, thus I’m more careful and discerning in my choices.

Poor Darlene is still always the last to know, as Dom plays the phone call from Tyrell Wellick to her then imprisoned brother from 2015. As usual, when she’s speaking to Dom, the agent knows more than one of the key people behind Five/Nine. It’s amazing just how ignorant she is, but in some ways, it feels loving on Elliot’s part to keep her away from certain information that could put her at further risk. Or maybe I’m that much of a softie that I don’t want to believe anything else.

The memory of the Home Alone Kevin McAllister snowman was another injection of pop culture into a show that sometimes gets too heavy for its own good, and here it was a welcome respite. It humanized brother and sister, allowed a spot for Elliot to talk about something truly real, and also gave him a place to connect with Darlene one last time before she tries to head upstate. I wish someone would have actually tried to build it though. All the flashbacks in this show, but I’m left to imagine Macaulay Culkin in ice form. Life truly isn’t fair.

Not much needs to be said about this, but Krista meeting Mr. Robot was strong drama, and was intense as all hell. It had to be, because now the therapist knows just how dangerous the Elliot alter-ego is, just as Darlene found out when he went ballistic on her in the apartment. Christian Slater does this crazy and paranoid man thing pretty darn well. I’m surprised Krista actually kept her wits about her. She stayed more calm than I did, that’s for sure.

There was so much going on this episode that it’s hard to talk about it all without writing a novel, but we have to at least touch on two others. First, Zhang vs. Phillip Price is truly getting interesting, with the CEO procuring a UN Vote on a Chinese annexation of The Congo as a bargaining chip to get China on board with an international accord, plus future anti-Bitcoin (pro E Coin) maneuvers.

Here, Zhang reveals how close he is with Angela Moss, which sends Price into a tizzy, and then one of my favorite quotes of the year on television. Zhang, before walking away, softly says, “Don’t mistake my generosity for generosity.” That was phenomenal. Also phenomenal was the tension-filled chemistry of both Michael Cristofer and B.D. Wong. This was an exceptional scene, from start to finish.

Finally, there’s the death of Joanna Wellick. Holy moly did I not see that one coming so soon. Derek shows up after the Let’s Be Frank television appearance, jaded and unhinged from hearing her say her husband is the only man she’s ever loved. After her bodyguard and driver punches the guy, he doesn’t slink away. No, Derek pulls out a gun and shoots through the SUV window, killing Joanna, splattering blood on her child, and nearly murdering the driver. Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart” was a nice touch, as it brought with it feelings of the 80s nostalgia of American Psycho, which is always right at home when a Wellick is involved in anything.

And hey, Elliot got the dog back! Thanks Lenny. This was a terrific hour, which brings us to last night’s third episode.

MR. ROBOT: SEASON 2, EPISODE 3 – eps3.2_legacy.so

He and I were meant to be a team, but he kept saying I wasn’t real. – Tyrell Wellick

We spent almost the entire hour with Tyrell Wellick, and Martin Wallstrom was masterful as he dominated the screen. While I was entertained by the episode, and it filled in some gaps, this was more the Rogue One of Mr. Robot than anything else. Both were good, but neither was remotely necessary.

The mystery of Tyrell’s whereabouts during that time felt very appropriate for the show, like something we’d just need to accept on faith as a viewing audience. It was relevant and interesting, but not particularly essential. That said, I’m definitely glad I saw it, but with the strength of last week’s episode, it was tough to take a trip back in time and not advance that storyline at all this week.

We did find out what happened to Tyrell between the night of the hack and his return, which ended with shooting Elliot as part of the plan he hatched with Mr. Robot. He didn’t realize he was talking to a “different” person until Angela told him about his friend’s condition, but as we see in the final moment of the episode, Mr. Robot is pleased that he followed through.

Maybe the most interesting thing in the entire hour was how much Irving played into this time frame. It’s awesome to have Bobby Cannavale around on the show, but it’s even better now that Sam Esmail has found a way to weave the Irving character into the past events we’ve already seen. As a Dark Army fixer, he’s the one that got Wellick into hiding after James went to Gideon and contacted the FBI, he’s the one that worked to put Leon close to Elliot in jail, and he’s the one that does all the dirty work. The acting is great, but the character is fantastic. What a positive addition he’s been to the series.

I might even want to read “Beach Towel – A Novel,” at least until I saw Irving compose the phrase, “Big meaty hands.” But good for him for having a hobby.

Tyrell dealt with isolation and an ultimate desire to find the man he believes he was meant to work with forever while chopping wood, getting facial hair, and working on Stage Two from a laptop. He even had a chance to check the Femtocell, where he could see additional malware outside the confines of the plan. The Dark Army is still very much in control, which we know from the gunfight last season and even the hotel Wellick ends up in once Elliot is released from jail.

Also, Esmail took a jab at the 45th President of the United States as we see Zhang tell one of his liaisons, a guy that gets things done in America, that he “might have a candidate” he wants this guy to back and get elected. His eyes slide to the television, where Donald Trump is giving a speech. The guy can’t believe it, says he’s completely detached from reality, and thinks it’s a joke, even for an America and a world in trouble. This was pretty funny, even if it was also quite predictable. “Trump is Evil” is the easiest writing someone in Hollywood can do in 2017, but it played well here.

Last night’s episode showed us the origin of the sub-basement, how Tyrell made that phone call to Elliot in jail, what he found out about Joanna’s life without him, how he kept tabs on his baby, and also how he began to lose himself under the pressure of vigorous psychological evaluation and questions that seemingly repeated until he was willing to answer “yes” to all of them except one: “Will you be loyal to me?” He declines, but pledges eternal loyalty to Elliot.

The Wellick escape attempt, brought on by an emotional break as he discovered there might be “another man” in his wife’s life, was futile from the start. Because he tried to get away from the 37 acres of Dark Army controlled nothingness, he got a police officer shot and killed. Not just a cop, but a guy that wanted a selfie with the most wanted man in the world. I also appreciate Esmail not showing Tyrell’s thumb breaking, or even including the sound. We got it without any extras, believe me.

Agent Santiago (Omar Metwally), we already knew you were dirty. The way he supersedes Dom at every turn and finds ways to shut down all of her moves made it obvious. But, my man is a Dark Army employee, and one that ends up killing a police officer to drag Tyrell back to the house on the property.

Red Wheelbarrow, random cocaine, Trump, an obnoxious tea kettle, Deuteronomy, sunglasses, bags from Target, and Wallace freaking Shawn with a mustache.

Yeah, this episode really didn’t need to exist, but I had fun with it. It gave us a few completionist tidbits if nothing else, and hey, I dug Rogue One for the most part, even though I knew I wouldn’t ever watch it again. That’s probably true of last night’s Mr. Robot as well, but Wallstrom was terrific, as was Bobby Cannavale.

Now, let’s get back to the present and keep rolling with the momentum from last week’s story. I’m still a little lost with some of the details in the show, but if I weren’t, it wouldn’t be Mr. Robot. Overall, two solid episodes and Season 3 is riding pretty high. Not as high as Wallace Shawn snorting blow, but PRETTY high.

I’m @JMartOutkick. Sometimes I can become a different person.

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