Watching “Mr. Robot” is rarely a comfortable experience. It’s a show that makes viewers constantly question every single detail of the world they are being presented, forcing them to see the world through the distorted lens of the brilliant but troubled protagonist Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek, “Buster’s Mal Heart”). As the show has progressed, the plot has become progressively more complex and intriguing, not to mention more violent and, at points, simply bizarre.
With that being said, as I watched season two of the show (for which Rami Malek won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series), I couldn’t help but feel as if the plot sometimes devolved into a convoluted mess simply for the sake of being so. Despite maintaining its masterful grasp on creating tension and intriguing storylines, it lost focus on the core conflict of the show: Elliot vs. his own grasp on reality. After the revelation of the main twist halfway through season two, however, the show picked up this conflict again, and the season three premiere (titled “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h”) effectively continues its development.
We are left at the beginning of season three wondering about the fate of Elliot after his shooting at the hands of Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström, “Ashes in the Snow”), the unstable former E Corp executive. In the meantime, as the financial markets continue to plunge, the world descends further into chaos. The sinister Chinese hacker group the Dark Army continues to pursue Elliot’s sister and fellow hacker Darlene (Carly Chaikin, “In a World…”) while its leader Whiterose (B.D. Wong, “The Space Between Us”) continues to manipulate Elliot’s closest friend, Angela Moss.
What seems to be one of season three’s most interesting additions is Irving. Played wonderfully by veteran Bobby Cannavale, in what is a rather unusual role for him, he is a used car salesman who appears to be a Dark Army operative. In a memorable first scene at a barbeque restaurant, we are introduced to a couple quirks including his ever-present Bluetooth headset and his unnervingly cool and composed way of speaking that probably belies just how dangerous he is.
As usual, the cinematography is careful and methodical, adding to the dark and sinister atmosphere. Around the middle of the episode, when Darlene is being pursued by Dark Army associates while in an underground hackerspace, I squirmed in my chair as the camera followed Darlene in the middle of an anxiety attack. Very few shows I have watched have ever provided the visceral physical response that Mr. Robot provides week-in and week-out.
Another aspect of the production that continues to be excellent is the music. Sure, it contains the common trope of associating Trent Reznor’s “The Social Network”-style electronic montages with anything relating to “hacking,” but unexpected touches such as the use of Daft Punk’s “Touch” in a pivotal scene make certain moments instantly memorable.
Regarding the storyline, the show is more unpredictable than ever. Elliot’s “other” personality, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) does not appear anymore while Elliot is, well, Elliot, but he is definitely alive and well, eager as ever to exact revenge upon E Corp. Only he and Angela, however, seem to have a discernible motive for their actions. Whiterose (normally seen as Chinese defense minister Zheng) is still as enigmatic as ever, and it remains to be seen what exactly her endgame is, and whether Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother truly died for a “greater good.”
What “Mr. Robot” continues to do so effectively is explore technology’s influence on the modern world, as well as topics such as personal alienation, the corrupting influences of greed and the harmful effects of capitalism in a nuanced manner. Hopefully, it retains its realism and psychological thriller elements that make it successful even if it veers in a more sci-fi direction, allowing it to continue to be one of television’s most intriguing shows.