‘Mr Robot’ Review: Season 3 Premiere is Mostly Set-Up, But Does Take the Blame for Trump

USA Network

USA Network


[Editor’s note: Spoilers for “Mr. Robot” Season 3, Episode 1, “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h” follow.]

Booting Up

Rather than immediately reunite with Elliot (Rami Malek) and his state of confusion, Season 3 of “Mr. Robot” opens with the eccentric Irving (new cast member Bobby Cannavale), a BBQ connoisseur with a Bluetooth headset who it’s revealed is Tyrell Wellick’s (Martin Wallström) first call after shooting Elliot (thus establishing that Season 3 picks up right where Season 2 left off).

A week later, Elliot’s recovering from his gunshot wound and trying to get answers as to exactly what happened, though as the audience can see he’s lacking in allies — Angela (Portia Doubleday) is keeping things from him, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is being hunted by the Dark Army (and working with the FBI), and of course Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) has rarely been a true friend…in fact, Elliot doesn’t even talk to Mr. Robot for the entire episode. That doesn’t mean his alter ego doesn’t make himself known, however, as we learn to what extent Angela and Mr. Robot have been working together without Elliot’s knowledge. With Stage 2 on the horizon and loyalties divided, we’re almost as in the dark as Elliot — though the power’s back on by the beginning of the episode.

Who’s In CTRL?

USA Network

USA Network

Of course, the episode doesn’t begin that way, on a number of levels. “And like that, my power’s gone too,” Elliot narrates when Angela reveals that she saw Tyrell — meaning that while Mr. Robot might be a construct of Elliot’s mind, Tyrell was not a figment. It’s a reveal that leaves Elliot completely destabilized, driving him forward for the rest of the episode in an effort to find something resembling balance.

Meanwhile, “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h” introduces a brand new dynamic when it comes to the actual relationship between Mr. Robot and Elliot… and the people around them. Season 1 took its time in revealing just who Mr. Robot was, and Season 2 didn’t dig in all that deeply into what’s actually happening in the real world when he makes an appearance. Right from the get-go, though, the Season 3 premiere makes it clear that when we see Christian Slater on screen, the characters are actually seeing Rami Malek (the final scene on the bus, especially). It’s a reveal years in the making, and an exciting shift for the series going forward.

Quote of the Night

“Your eyes… you never try to look away.”

Elliot’s entire apocalyptic rant also deserves consideration here, but there’s something sharp about this line which cuts through a lot of the potential confusion surrounding the Elliot/Mr. Robot split. Trying to approach “Mr. Robot” as an accurate depiction of multiple personalities (now currently defined as “Dissociative Identity Disorder”) isn’t fruitful — the show functions far better when you embrace the notion of Elliot and Mr. Robot being two completely separate characters. And Angela’s observation here speaks to that concept, as it says so much about both these men.

Best Jokes of the Night

“Mr. Robot” is a deceptively funny show at times, due largely to touches like Elliot borrowing a T-shirt from Angela reading “Property of Josh Groban” (Angela’s affection for the curly-haired crooner was established last season). Darlene’s tip that he won’t be able to get into the hacker club while wearing it is not the perfect punchline, but sets up Elliot changing into his signature hoodie.

That said, there’s something deeply relatable in Elliot’s desire to “mute” the club around him — seeing that icon pop up on the screen while watching the episode screener on a computer brought with it a special sense of surreality.

Best Insult Directed At The Parent Company

Elliot’s rant about how he’s responsible for destroying the world comes with one of “Mr. Robot’s” occasional jabs/acknowledgments that this show all about anarchy is made and distributed by one of the largest major conglomerates in entertainment. Technically, writer/director Sam Esmail is poking fun at NBC, not USA, but they’re all one big happy family, right?

USA Network

USA Network

This Week’s Tunes

As IndieWire has previously noted,  “Mr. Robot” doesn’t just feature one of TV’s most distinctive scores (courtesy of composer Mac Quayle) but some inspired music choices. The list from tonight’s episode:

  • Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “Come And Get These Memories”: Playing overhead at Red Wheelbarrow BBQ
  • Julie Andrews and Henry Mancini, “Whistling Away the Dark”: Playing over the opening credits
  • Scythia, “Bear Claw Tavern”: The EDM track blasting at the club
  • Laura Branigan, “Over You”: The second musical selection coming courtesy of Red Wheelbarrow BBQ (but barely audible)
  • Daft Punk, “Touch”: The closing tune, largely underscoring Angela and Mr. Robot’s final conversation

H3ll0fri3nd Note: The song playing during the Def Con Scene is Dubvirus, "Razorgirl"