We gave it a B+
When Mr. Robot closed out its second season, it left us in the dark. There was the literal dark, as the rolling brownouts that accompanied every single episode finally led to a blackout across the city. Only the blueish glow emanating from cell phones provided any light, our technology our only beacon when we find ourselves staggering around in the dark. Then there was, of course, the more metaphorical darkness. The season finale didn’t exactly answer all of our questions, and it certainly isn’t obligated to do so. We came to understand the plan known as “Phase 2,” but what else did we really know? As Angela spoke to Tyrell on the phone, we were left with more questions than answers.
I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.
The season 3 premiere doesn’t immediately transport us back to Angela’s phone call or Elliot’s body bleeding out on the floor. Instead, we’re taken to Red Wheelbarrow BBQ and its grand opening. Despite the blackout, the restaurant is in full swing. A man (Bobby Cannavale) who looks like an extra on a ’70s cop drama argues with the server behind the counter. He can’t understand the logic behind the punch card for a free milkshake. He challenges the reward-based scheme; where his eyes are wide open to the constructed gratification of loyalty programs, the employee’s are closed, only following the rules and insisting she can’t do a thing about it.
Before long the man has given up on his free milkshake. “Is he dead?” he says into his Bluetooth earpiece — technology, still alive, still pulsing and asking us for our participation — before hopping in his car and driving to meet Tyrell and Elliot. The former is freaking out, and the latter is dying, bleeding out from his bullet wound. The man with the earpiece doesn’t seem too worried though. He makes a call, and we wait.
We cut to a nuclear power plant. The blackout is in effect, but the backup generators are running smoothly here at the E Corp Power Plant. A scientist is in the process of giving a tour, musing on the idea of parallel universes. “How many copies of ourselves exist?” It’s a question that’s plagued Elliot Alderson for some time, and one that got him shot at the end of last season.
Walking past the group is someone who certainly has copies of themselves. Whiterose, wearing an outfit that’s closer to her Minister Zheng persona, takes in the power plant and all of its possibilities. Her aide begs her to give him the lead on Phase 2, saying that Tyrell and Elliot are too unstable to get it done, but Whiterose refuses. “Time presented us Mr. Alderson when we needed him,” she says. “We need his unadulterated, focused rage.” But whose rage do they need exactly? Is it Elliot’s? Or is it Mr. Robot’s? Technically, they are the same person, but the season premiere begins to cement the idea that they’re not as codependent as we might have thought.
Themes of control and perspective dominate “Eps3.0power-saver-mode.h.” There’s a reason why the blackout plays such an integral role in the premiere; this is an episode about power, be it electrical, financial, or mental. Whiterose believes she’s in control — and there are nods to her want for control over time and reality — and that Elliot will serve his purpose and then “die for us, just like his father.” But that’s just her perception. Who know if it’s true? As the scientist guiding the tour says, there’s no real way to be sure that our reality is exactly as we perceive it.
Then the camera pulls back, careening through a long tunnel, which sure does look like the Large Hadron Collider, further teasing the show’s teasing of potential time travel. It continues to pull out as the lyrics of “Whistling in the Dark” ring out before dying off in a blaze of static. “Tell me dreams really come true.”
Elliot wakes up.
“What did we miss? Did you see anything?” (Next page: Everything in its right place)