Network: USA Network
Starring: Rami Malek, Christian Slater
Don't call it a comeback. Mr. Robot season two was the best thing smoking on TV last year, an artful, albeit at times over-indulgent, meditation on mental sanity, duality, and inevitability. It also understandably alienated some viewers with dense storytelling and unrestrained digressions. Season three has been the beautiful merger of season one's plotting with season two's artful character study into tightly crafted masterclass storytelling working in harmony with mainstream television appeals. It's Sam Esmail's DAMN. moment.
You'd think the dual-identity gimmick would inevitably be stale if not outright stall by year three. Guess again. The battle for Elliot's mind and body keeps finding new ways to manifest itself—I can't think of a scene more chilling and simple, than an early one with him and Darlene where only Rami Malek's voice inflections and the camera's pan tell us who she's talking to. I can't think of a one-two punch more breathtaking than the (somewhat needlessly, there goes that overindulgence again) "one-take" episode coupled with Elliot's race against time and himself to stop a building from blowing up. What was more deliciously pitch-black dark than not only his grand failure (mild spoiler) but the way the following hour just underlines that failure in blood while Joey Badass waxes poetic about Frasier? How beautiful was the cinematically filmed, sobering episode that somehow managed to subvert Precocious Kid Reaffirms Our Hero's Meaning of Life cliches? Who, on the tube, can really see Bobby Cannavale—who joins the show this season to give the shadow cabal Dark Army a more human, greasy-haired rib-smeared visage—on this character-actor shit? This is the best f**king show on TV until you remember what HBO did at the top of the year. Ratings are lower than they've ever been. Like Mr. Robot himself exasperatedly bellows at whoever doubts him: "Wake the f**k up." —Frazier Tharpe