So far, season three of Mr. Robot has been a fair amount of setup, barring a murder or two. Depending on your tastes, you’re either loving the focus on atmosphere and the more clear-eyed plot, or you’re waiting for more things to happen, itching for a little more action. I, for one, could live in this tech-noir atmosphere that Esmail has created. It’s intoxicating.
Take, for instance, the scene where Elliot discusses Stage 2 with Darlene. It’s a scene tense with emotion. Elliot is angry that she’s been hacking him, but he’s also struggling with the knowledge that he’s not always himself, and that he’s hurt Darlene as Mr. Robot. There’s this push and pull that’s excruciating to witness, and the score underlines that. The music is electronic, all buzzes and whirs, until a single knocking sound, intermittently applied, comes to the forefront. It’s a stunning touch that amps up the tension while also suggesting that Mr. Robot is trying to get out.
“I guess we passed weird a long f—ing time ago.” Indeed, Darlene and Elliot aren’t exactly the picture of domestic normalcy, despite what that Polaroid might suggest. Those days are gone. Then again, those days included Elliot’s dad pushing him out a window, so who knows if he’s truly longing for the good old days of childhood. Remember, even his heartwarming snowman story ends in violence. Do all the stories here end that way?
While atmosphere is certainly key to this season of Mr. Robot, “Eps3.3_metadata.par2” feels like the episode where everything really starts moving. With Whiterose instructing Irving to get the ball moving on Stage 2, everybody is suddenly scrambling. Tyrell is pissed that the timeline has shifted, especially now that he knows Elliot has been actively rerouting E Corps paper documents in an attempt to sabotage Stage 2. He smashes everything in sight while Angela tries to calm him down, and while Mr. Robot assures him that he’s in control of this, not Elliot.
But that’s not true, is it? In yet another stirring sequence, as Tyrell is manic about the pressures of Stage 2, Elliot breaks through the shield of Mr. Robot. For the first time in ages he’s “awake” at night. He’s confused, as if stumbling out of a dream, or a nightmare. He sees Tyrell and Angela together, but he doesn’t understand why. He still thinks Angela is on his side, like the advertisement above Darlene’s head in the cold open. She knocks him out with something in a needle. The noir atmosphere persists.
That’s all we see of Elliot for the rest of the episode. In that moment, that fleeting bit of recognition amongst the chaos, Elliot starts to see what’s happening. Will it be enough though? Will he be able to put all the pieces together? It’s certainly not looking likely. The odds are stacked against him. Tyrell is done with him, becoming ever more forceful. Angela is actively using him now that Whiterose has convinced her of the Dark Army’s plan, and she calls in a favor to Phillip Price, asking him to fire Elliot. Then there’s Darlene, perhaps his last hope of stopping Stage 2, but can she truly help?
Darlene is asking herself that question. When Dom meets her at a bar late at night, urging her to hand over any information she has because the FBI knows something big is happening soon, she needs alcohol and small talk to help convince her to do so. As Darlene drinks her bourbon and stares at the red walls of the bar, hardly ever making eye contact with Dom, she conveys that in all of this, it’s her skin in the game. She’s the one who will lose a brother should she give up what she knows. She’s the one the Dark Army could come after once it’s all said and done. The red walls are creeping in, and there’s nothing she can do about it.
Seemingly everyone is powerless outside the Dark Army. Whiterose and Irving seem to have everything under their control, and everyone else, even the ones who assume they hold some power, are just pawns. The Dark Army is a few steps ahead. They give up a fake fsociety member in order to distract from their role in Stage 2. Irving tells Tyrell that he has no choice but to make the tight weekend deadline for the delivery of the paper documents work. Even Angela, who’s seemed more in control than ever this season, gets a message from Irving about the deadline. The look on her face is pure terror, either because it’s a tight deadline, or because she’s suddenly unsure of the path she’s chosen. Irving tells her that the E Corp building will be empty when they blow it up, but it’s hard to trust a man who eats ribs for breakfast. (Recap continues on next page)