When I find myself trying to keep up with screens full of code and a voiceover explaining some corporate espionage involving paper backups—”I had to look for a stop gap, in this case eShipping, their shipping management console.
I’m sending shipping requests to the actual facilities but in the manifest making it look like all the paper is still arriving in New York”—I’m stunned that Mr. Robot is on the same network as Suits. You know Suits. It’s the show about the guys who wear suits.
But it’s not just the dialogue and technical jargon that gives Mr. Robot a learning curve; it’s the rules in narrative storytelling creator Sam Esmail breaks in every single episode. On top of the psychological twists of the series so far, Season Three in basic terms has a villain and a hero who are the same person working against each other. There’s Mr. Robot, the revolutionary hacker leader who’s trying to plunge the world into anarchy, and Elliot, the reformed revolutionary hacker leader who’s trying to save the world from chaos.
But they’re the same guy: an emotionally damaged dude with split personality disorder. There’s also the plot, which involves two separate cyber terrorist groups, multiple countries, a couple of love stories, the infrastructural collapse of an entire nation, alternate realities, a battle over dominate currency for eCommerce, something involving a UN vote, a cyber FBI investigation, and trouble in the Congo, I think. (You know what Suits is about? Guys who wear fucking suits.)
So between that—and the uneven second season I’ve outlined before—the show is struggling to find an audience. Its Season Three premiere dropped in viewership from where it was after the first episode of Season Two (granted, this is a show that people don’t watch live). But it still proves that this isn’t a show for the average viewer. You’re not going to get home turn your brain off and watch this shit while swiping through Tinder. Hell no. You’ve got to take notes. Full disclosure: Even myself, someone who watches this for a living and also takes notes, can’t keep up with some of it.
But, holy hell, if you have the time and energy, it’s absolutely worth it. In Season Three, Mr. Robot has become the show it has always meant to be. These first two episodes have even surpassed the quality of the critically acclaimed Emmy-winning Season One. In this second episode, we got a stunning cold opening of Elliot pulling the aforementioned corporate espionage to INXS’s “New Sensation.” Esmail is the Sorkin of coding dialogue and the Soderbergh of hacking heists.
Then, in what might be one of the most triumphant scenes in a cable drama this year, Elliot finally reveals to his therapist that his father shoved him out a window. In the scene, Rami Malik—who’s working toward his next acting Emmy—delivers a stunning monologue about building a snowman with his sister. After that, his therapist (Gloria Reuben) meets Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) for the first time in a scene that builds some insane tension through dialogue and body language.
It’s cool, it’s one of the most politically poignant shows on TV right now, and it’s beautifully crafted and shot. And if more people are willing to expend the brain power it will be their favorite show on television.