‘Mr. Robot’ Season 3 Closes With Family Issues and Major Keystrokes

The revolution isn’t dead. After a stretch of ominous dread and despair, “Mr. Robot” ended its third season in patient arthouse fashion, bringing some characters to bloody ends and reviving the grand, anarchic project of social revolt through keystrokes that drives Elliot Anderson and his comrades to risk themselves in combat against the Dark Army. Inevitably, as with most shows based on shadows and conspiracy, “Mr. Robot” is also starting to run a bit thin. At this point even one key climatic moment in the finale turned out to be disappointingly predictable. Still, this remains one of TV’s slickest series that knows how to tap into the zeitgeist. The plot has become so intricate that newcomers will have a hard time catching up, but for the loyal fan base the finale leaves them with good reason to stay faithful.

The finale opens with Elliot (Rami Malek) searching for Darlene (Carly Chaikin) who has been taken by FBI agent Santiago (Omar Metwally). After a long silence, Elliot finally makes contact with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), who informs him that there’s a Dark Army mole within the FBI itself. The search culminates in a barn where Elliot finds himself in the clutches of Dark Army agents while Whiterose (BD Wong) watches via camera transmission. Elliot believes he might have the Dark Army cornered, having secured enough secret information about the group for a potentially explosive leak. His main goal is still to try and undo much of the damage caused by the Stage 2 hack that plunged the world into darkness earlier in the season. But the Dark Army apparently doesn’t care for Elliot’s threats. Can he make it out alive or sell his soul in order to survive? Meanwhile Angela (Portia Doubleday) finds herself secluded with Eliot (Michael Cristofer) who is about to make a major revelation.

“Mr. Robot” began season three with apocalyptic visions inspired by the recent U.S. elections, complete with footage of President Trump intercut with reflective monologues. It ends the season on a softer, stretched out note. Interestingly enough, there is little actual suspense in this episode in terms of action, all the tension comes from stand-offs and plot twists revealed in dramatic conversations. Writer/director Sam Esmail sticks to many long shots, never pumping up the volume. He’s going for techno-noir here, not action thriller. It works because the cast is so good at it, even when Esmail stretches out the silence of a stare or someone waiting by a phone. The show’s charm also resides in its paranoia, as it always finds a way to connect its storylines with the latest headlines. “Russia hired you to hack the DNC,” Elliot tells the Dark Army, adding that apparently they are also connected with Chinese geopolitical moves into Africa. One of the episode’s final moments deals with what looks like an upcoming story thread involving our ongoing tensions with Iran.

However, one wishes Esmail would get the plot moving after the barnyard standoff drags on. It’s the old John Woo trick where everyone points a gun at each other, giving off intense stares, waiting for someone to make the first move. This scene takes up nearly half the episode. You get the sense of story fatigue. The problem with a plot thread like “Mr. Robot” is that you make the conspiracy so vast and intricate that by your fourth season you’re trying to stretch it out however you can. Elliot has done everything from plunge civilization into chaos to infiltrating E-Corp. Whatever the writers have planned for the next season better by truly climactic.

Make no mistake, there’s still good stuff here. Elliot’s conversations with Mr. Robot lead to some new developments, including a satisfying resolution to Elliot’s guilt over Stage 2. One character meets a sudden, bloody end with an axe at the hands of the enigmatic Dark Army enforcer played by Bobby Cannavale. Another key character gets one of those gasp-inducing “I am your father” confessions that will provide excellent tension going into the next season. And there’s always this show’s slick, neon-kissed style. It’s one of those rare series that has such a definitive look and style. That it has been able to maintain it for three seasons is an achievement.

“Mr. Robot” ends its latest run low on action, but high on zeitgeist winks, paranoid intrigue and a master keystroke at the end that hints at a fresh new beginning come season four. It might be running slightly out of gas, but if it knows how to fuel up again for the next round, then tuning in will definitely be worth it.

Mr. Robot” season 3 finale aired Dec. 13 on USA.