Mr. Robot Season 3 Episode 1
When it’s all said and done Mr. Robot may be the only show in history where I wouldn’t be completely disappointed if all of this was just in the main character’s head the whole time.
Ok, that’s probably not true. The “this was all a dream/hallucination/snowglobe” hasn’t been attempted in a meaningful way since St. Elsewhere in 1988 and rightfully so. It’s cheap and it undercuts rule #1 in the television Hippocratic oath: What you’re seeing matters.
Still, on Mr. Robot we often have a very little meaningful concept of exactly what we’re even seeing. Elliot is beyond an unreliable narrator. He’s an unreliable everything. He’s a former drug addict, inhumanly brilliant, and quite literally insane.
All of this – Evil Corp, global financial collapse, rolling blackouts, high-powered hacker syndicates could very well just be a fleeting thought Elliot Alderson has as he passes an advertisement of a robot on his way to the bodega.
It won’t be of course because how could it be. Creator Sam Esmail is too smart for that.* What’s important, however, is that Mr. Robot feels like that could really be what’s going on in the undercurrent even if we’re all resolutely confident it isn’t. This is a gorgeous, at times philosophical show, that almost always feels like an extended hallucination.
*Be sure to bookmark this review and come back to it after the series finale if it suddenly seems hilarious.
Season 2 of Mr. Robot took some well-deserved hits here and there. I enjoyed it but I empathize with people who didn’t. The “extended hallucination” in season 2 was both very extended and aggressively hallucinatory. The first half of the season represented an actual hallucination that Elliot experienced in which he was in prison but didn’t realize it. Weirdly enough, however, in the second half of the season Elliot knew he was no longer in prison and had a better handle on his reality and yet the fabric of the narrative’s reality somehow felt even more tenuous. Perhaps because it came on the heels of the big prison fantasy but the second half of season 2 was truly inscrutable at times.
We’re reminded of this in the “previously on” segment of season 3. We’re shown again the moment when Elliot finally reunites with Tyrell Wellick after not seeing him (outside of an Alf-centric sitcom fantasy) for literally the entire season. It’s so…surreal. Wellick seems “off,” the weather seems off, Elliot seems off. Wellick recites William Carlos Williams “The Red Wheelbarrow” for seemingly no reason. Then Elliot tells him “You’re only seeing what it’s in front of you. You’re not seeing what’s above you.” I….what does that mean. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, ELLIOT??!?!?!? It’s significant enough to be the first item in the previously on segment.