I mentioned in my last review of Mr. Robot just how ridiculous the show had gotten from its premiere to the second episode. Luckily this week feels a little more even, but plenty of the over-the-top character moments still linger. As a warning, this review will contain spoilers for the first two episodes and some minor spoilers for the third episode.
In the aftermath of his fall at the end of last week, Elliot wakes up in a hospital bed, slowly recovering from his injuries. Remember how I said that last week’s cliff hanger was cheap? When Elliot is approached by Mr. Robot–who duly apologizes for pushing Elliot down to his possible demise–and learns that he can leave fsociety–Mr. Robot’s hacking crew, if you’ll recall–Elliot has to decide between two scenarios that will shape the rest of his life. Meanwhile, when Tyrell–the supposed “heir to the throne” at Evil Corp–realizes that he isn’t the shoe-in he thought he was, he takes steps to further his position any way that he can.
More than anything, what Mr. Robot‘s third episode delivers is two highly different experiences; one through the lens of a high-powered exec who could be besties with American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman, and the other through the eyes of someone on the societal brink. I’ll give you one guess as to which storyline is the over-the-top one.
That’s right, Tyrell spends another week gallivanting about in the name of “dark characters”, but at least this time around Sam Esmail–our young director–and Martin Wallström–our actor in question–both seem to step up their game to bring a really nice performance forward, in spite of Tyrell’s extreme proclivities. Whereas in last week’s episode, Wallstöm seemed to play Tyrell farcically, his commitment to Tyrell’s crazy/bonkers life in this week’s episode makes it all the more acceptable. These characters can be as nutty as Esmail wants them to be, so long as he and his actors fully embrace them. Well, maybe not too nutty.
On the other side of the storyline, Elliot gets to climb out of the “dark characters” pool for a bit and re-consider his choice to throw in with fsociety in the premiere episode. In the best scene of this outing, Elliot–fresh off a touching chat with Mr. Robot, wherein he is given the chance to simply walk away–finally views the life of the normies as maybe something he could live with.
“The recent glitch in the otherwise neat reality I created over the years. I’ll never slip up like that again. I’m gonna be more normal now. Maybe Shayla could even be my girlfriend. I’ll go see those stupid Marvel movies with her. I’ll join a gym. I’ll heart things on Instagram. I’ll drink vanilla lattes. I’m gonna lead a bug-free life from now on. Anything to protect my perfect maze.”
All this to the tune of Len‘s “Steal My Sunshine”, paints a picture of how Elliot views the “normal” world, but also gives us a look into the allure of his actions prior to this moment. Being a hacker makes him unique amongst the crowd and lets him rise above the rest. It’s an interesting dichotomy the show has set up; Elliot hates those in power, yet he has such an interest in elevating himself above others in his own way. I’m not saying he’s wrong, because I’ve gone on similar rants about Marvel films and lattes, but he’s an elitist to be sure.
Elliot’s storyline flows to a nice conclusion through some well-handled plot twists, but I’ll leave those for you to discover. The ending of the episode is a little ham-fisted, but it gets the job done. You can tell that Esmail sees it as an epic moment–a pivotal change in the direction of Mr. Robot–and while that may be true, a handful of the character actors milling about, sort of wreck the scene through some stiff acting.
Otherwise, the cinematography here is beautiful as usual–in its own dark and dreary way, of course–and if I haven’t gotten it across, the main cast’s acting is top-notch. It’s almost become tedious to discuss how fantastic Rami Malek is, but it shouldn’t go unstated. He keeps knocking it out of the park, and here he juggles the darker moments with Elliot’s renewed outlook on life rather deftly. Christian Slater brings it in his limited scenes and Portia Doubleday–Elliot’s friend and co-worker, Angela–handles some hefty scenes well. Frankie Shaw–Shayla, Elliot’s temporary(?) love interest–handles her part a little more subtly, but Doubleday is asked to take on some pretty heavy moments, so it’s understandable.
I’d say that Mr. Robot is back on track after a rocky second episode. I would still like to see the writing by Esmail take a little bit of a breather and not feel the need to shock us with how dark some of his characters can be, but at least it’s handled with more care this time around. Frankly, I can’t wait for the next episode, and that’s not a bad place for a show to be.