BY LEA PALMIERI
After the confusing and convoluted last season of Mr. Robot, it’s no surprise that the chatter died down for the current third season of the USA drama. But then last week’s real-time episode sent the internet ablaze, which at first glance, seems to be shot in a single take. It’s not quite, but it got viewers excited, and more importantly, watching again.
If you’ve cooled on Mr. Robot, that’s understandable. Who’s got an additional hour each week to watch a show chronicling the potential downfall of the world — and that’s after you’ve already watched the evening news. But if you were thinking about dipping a toe back into the Sam Esmail-created drama, you’ll soon find yourself waist deep.
Season 3 will suck you right back in, setting your skepticism aside and keeping your attention by doing the exact opposite of what they’ve done in the past: actually providing answers this time around. Many felt burned by last season’s “reveal” that the internet figured out basically right away, and it’s clear the show took note and made some adjustments.
There are spoilers ahead — but they just might make you want to catch up with Elliot & co.
1. Clearly Deciphering Between Mr. Robot & Elliot
Hey, maybe you could always tell what the deal was, but that’s not true for all. The season 1 reveal got all The Sixth Sense on our asses to let us know Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) himself was not actually a real, living person. He was someone Elliot (Rami Malek) was seeing on the subway and at Coney Island, or he was one of Elliot’s many personalities, or simply an imaginary friend, or maybe he didn’t even really exist at all? The lines were blurry as hell.
This season, the show has figured out a way to make it crystal clear who’s speaking. When it’s Elliot, we, and the characters within the show, are talking to Elliot. And when it’s Mr. Robot who’s coming out to wreak havoc, same thing. Plus, the two have competing goals in mind, so when good or evil is at hand, you can tell which guy’s behind it.
In short, Elliot is the Jekyll, and Mr. Robot is the Hyde, but they’re still the same person. Ok, but really though, it all makes sense on the show now.
2. Explaining Where Tyrell Went After 5/9
This was a big mystery in season 2, for all parties involved. With the exception of a creepy phone call, everyone from Elliot to Tyrell’s wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) to the audience was in the dark about where he could’ve disappeared to once the world’s most massive hacking went down and things got chaotic. Turns out: he was just chopping some wood!
This season has given us the gift of seeing Martin Wallström out of his sleek suits, and instead in sweatpants, hoodies, and quite the beard. He was shipped out to a secret rural bunker to hide until things calmed down, only occasionally interacting with Bobby Cannavale’s Irving — who has been an incredible addition to the cast this season as well.
3. Slowing Things Way Down
Who knew Elliot and his sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) ever even had time to walk poor little Flipper the dog? Certainly not this show. But with season 3, they’ve slowed things back down. The characters are getting the chance to speak to each other, in the signature, off-centered, wacky framing this show is such a big fan of. While Darlene used the walk as an opportunity to dig for info, it was still a nice change of pace to see the characters not having to urgently react to everything happening.
Also, Cannavale’s Irving kicks off the season arguing about a free milkshake and it’s one of the better scenes the show has put forth in some time. The scene is long enough that you’d be annoyed if you were stuck behind this guy in line at the restaurant IRL, but also a truly incredible intro to who this character is.
By taking a breath and not forcing stories into episodes or the season as a whole, it gives the show much more room to be funny and clever, and to establish current relationships between characters.
4. Stylistic Integrity
Mr. Robot is a show that’s been known for doing things differently — literally. From the way the show is shot, framed, lit, and more, the drama always had its very own unique design to it. That didn’t necessarily go away with season 2 so much, it’s just that season 3 knows to emphasize it again.
Episode 5’s real-time string of long takes didn’t make the episode one single shot, but it was super ambitious nonetheless (and commercial free!). Esmail has proven yet again that he’s a master of art, even if he might be a little bit crazy trying to pull off such big ideas. Who can fault him — he gets it right. That ambition is noticeable and appreciated this season. It makes sense, and it makes the show worth watching.
Oh, and while we’re talking style, can we just take a minute to appreciate Angela’s (Portia Doubleday) business chic wardrobe this season? Everything is tailored like a dream, looking professional yet edgy with strong cream-colored tops and black pants. Dear wardrobe department: please ship one of each my way, thanks in advance.
5. Dropping The Gimmicks
The reveal in season 1 was fun. Some saw it coming, some didn’t, and it was a game-changer.
The reveal in season 2 was lame. Everyone knew what was up, and it felt like the show was assuming viewers wouldn’t be smart enough to figure it out.
The reveal of season 3…might not exist! Because so far, there is no reveal. Hey, there could be one. But it doesn’t feel as though they’re sitting on some huge secret throughout this season. A lesson Mr. Robot has surely learned in the process of making this incredibly elaborate show is that viewers like ANSWERS. What a wild concept!
Season 3 has been adequately proficient in providing information to viewers, and this is a big deal. We know that Angela is specifically keeping Elliot down, working with Mr. Robot to make sure Elliot doesn’t undo the hack. Meanwhile, Darlene is working with the FBI to keep tabs on Elliot and report back. These feel like tidbits the show would normally try to pass off as a big gasp-y moment at the end of the season, but being in on the action is so, so much more fun. Now, that doesn’t mean the rest of the season should be one big old bore. But it does mean that giving us the appropriate amount of information makes the show feel even more exciting.