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Mr. Robot - Season 3 Finale Review: "Exceptionally Good"

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Season finales are generally when a television fan can expect their favorite shows to bring out their absolute best before they disappear from the airwaves for a while (or for good). Though, rarely are season finales as exceptionally good as that of Mr. Robot's season 3 finale last night on USA.

Two things were almost guaranteed before "shutdown -r" went to air. The first was that it would run long - and it did, at 57 minutes excluding commercials, and that it would feature a post-credit scene. Again this came true, and was confirmed by writer/director/showrunner Sam Esmail during the week.

But these two elements were only small parts in what was a sublime end to the season. The hour focused on just two subplots, and the ample airtime ensured nothing was rushed, and everything could be depicted to the very limits of what's possible. The primary subplot followed Elliot, Darlene, and the supporting characters of Dom, Irving, Santiago, Leon, Whiterose and her assistant. The secondary subplot followed Angela, who interacted primarily with Phillip Price in this episode.

We’re in a barn out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of fucking psychos.

The first aforementioned subplot was out of this world with regard to how good it was to watch unfold. It all started when Santiago took Darlene from the interview room at the FBI precinct to his vehicle, with the intention of handing her over to Irving and the Dark Army. Dom wasn't having any of that, and followed Santiago to his car, where he knocked her unconscious and took her along for the ride with Darlene. Dom's instinct for justice has always been strong, but she will be regretting her decision to chase Santiago for the rest of her life.

Back in the city, Elliot began to reconcile with Mr. Robot, in what was a riveting and unexpected development in this finale. We heard from Elliot himself on how he had closed Mr. Robot out of his mind, but he had begun to miss the counselling Mr. Robot could offer him in times of need. That meant Mr. Robot was also present in the secluded barn, where Darlene and Dom were being held hostage by a fired up Santiago, cool as a cucumber Leon, and a bipolar Irving.

We’re retiring this shit stain, and you’re taking his place. You work for the Dark Army now.

Lets jump straight to 'that' scene. Irving had had enough of the dead-end conversation inside the barn and decided to take Dom and Santiago outside. Both FBI agents thought Dom was going to meet her end, and a superb performance by Grace Gummer portrayed fear and regret to a level I've rarely seen on the big or small screen. Some beautiful camera work aided this as well, with the camera following Dom's eyes to the sky as she tried to calm her breathing in anticipation of being gored by the infamous axe we saw Tyrell wielding a few weeks ago. Only it was Santiago who was the recipient of the axe, straight to the chest, with subsequent blows following in a staggering and scary display of rage from the season's best new character. One minor criticism I had here was that the sound effects weren't quite accurate, with those used sounding more like a sword would sound than the more or less expected thud an axe would make. I won't go so far as to put my own body on the line to prove that criticism, but if you decide to do so, I'd love to hear (but not see) your conclusions.

After Santiago was dispatched, Irving directed his rage at Dom, giving her absolutely no choice but to consent to becoming the Dark Army's replacement mole inside the FBI. She was stoic in her rebuttals of Irving's demands, but couldn't hold out in the face of her extended family being next on the chopping block if she didn't conform. That was heartbreaking to watch.

Shortly after came a surprising moment, again involving Dom, and also Whiterose's assistant, Grant, who she had sent to clean up the mess. Irving put him squarely in his place when he attempted to order him off his sabbatical. This was the beginning of Grant's very rapid downfall. In one of the msot tense standoffs I've ever seen on television, Elliot had to reveal that he had full access and control over the Dark Army's networks thanks to the hack we saw in last week's penultimate hour. This revelation, along with a proposed method to speed up Whiterose's operations in the Congo, was all that spared Elliot and Darlene from death. In a surprising turn of events seconds later, Leon shot all the Dark Army subordinates in the barn, and Grant committed suicide at the request of Whiterose. Elliot, Darlene and Dom were free to go, but Leon is still present, and Irving will surely pop up again at some other stage.

I am your father. Biologically speaking anyway.

Moving to Angela's subplot briefly. She was asked to get into a van in the dying moments of last week's episode. In this finale we catch up with her inside a gigantic house, which is later revealed to be that of Phillip Price's. Angela believed she was on her way to see Whiterose, but this wasn't to be. In a fascinating exchange on the lawn, Price has now been transformed from the perception of an evil, power-hungry enemy, to just another Whiterose victim who shares many of the beliefs the series' protagonists have. He knows Whiterose is a nutcase, and her motives and methods are delusional. He seemed to me like he was long past the end of his tether, and his inaction on the 5/9 front stemmed from that, somewhat. I wouldn't be surprised to see Price seeing eye to eye with Elliot and the others come next season.

However, Price's biggest bombshell was yet to drop. Despite Angela freely admitting to him that she was instrumental in the 5/9 hack, and had wanted it to happen along with Price's downfall, Price wasn't fazed in the slightest. He recounted a story decades earlier concerning him and Angela's mother, eventually revealing that he was Angela's biological father, and far from the sleazebag that many thought he was, he simply wanted to be close to his daughter, as opposed to keeping an attractive young woman close in the office as eye candy. None of this seemed to fully sink into Angela's mind, but there's endless possibilities on where things could go from here, which is really intriguing to think about.

You are a terrible person. Don’t ever convince yourself of anything else. All you deserve for the rest of your life is pure and utter agony. That’ll begin to scratch the surface of how I feel about you. You’ve taken everything from me. My whole life is ruined because of you. Live with that. Die with that.

The above quote came courtesy of Dom post-bloodshed in the secluded barn, and was directed towards Darlene. To be fair, Dom was spot on here. Her life has been completely destroyed by Darlene's actions, which, looking back on them, could easily be considered ruthless. Dom's predictability was her greatest weakness, with her righteous approach to her job allowing Darlene to walk all over her. I felt really sorry for her, but I'm thrilled she's not dead yet, and could still potentially survive if things play out in her favor from now on. Notably, she allowed Elliot access into the FBI to get the encryption key which would allow all of E-Corp's files to be decrypted, and the 5/9 hack reversed.

The hour began drawing to a close with a reference back to the series premiere in which Elliot and Mr. Robot talked on a subway platform. Earlier, Darlene had left the train after correcting Elliot's memory about him being pushed out of a window by his father. This raises questions about Elliot's own memory, and given he also narrates to the viewer, it's confirmation that what Elliot may say happened, may not have happened at all. With this in mind, Elliot's interactions with Mr. Robot were much less distant and aloof than they may have otherwise been. The revelation that it wasn't Romero that kept a copy of the encryption key, but Mr. Robot himself, is also very important, and it paves the way for a fourth season in which Elliot and Mr. Robot could be working together more closely than ever before. I'm already badly wanting to see this play out.

For the third consecutive season, the post-credit scene was a one take, and opened with a moving car. The near 4 minute scene followed Darlene closely - the first time a main character (at that point in the series) has been featured prominently in a post-credit season finale scene. In dialog with a prostitute, we learn that it's not going to be as easy as simply reversing the 5/9 hack and expecting the world to progress as normal. Some people are now better off without Evil Corp acting as an overlord in their lives, and Elliot's rejuvenated motivation to go after the 1% of the 1% means that it's not just going to be Evil Corp in the firing line going forward. As the finale's title suggests, Elliot wants to reboot the world, minus all the capitalism that has destroyed the world he lives in.

Back in the post-credit scene, an old foe, Vera, announces his presence once more, having last been seen in Season 1 where Elliot forced him to flee. Darlene is alone, outside her front door, face to face with a drug dealing murderer and three henchmen. Bringing a supporting character back into the fray after more than two seasons away is rarely seen at all these days, and with Esmail promising Vers has a significant role to play in Season 4, literally anything could happen.

That just about wraps up what has been a fantastic third season of Mr. Robot. After a trying season last year, Season 3 rejuvenated my love for this series very early on, and held that love and enthusiam throughout its duration. It's been a season of terrific storytelling, acting, writing, directing, and technical achievement, notably the pioneering real-time, one take fifth episode which was groundbreaking in its undertaking and execution. The cast have been superb, and everything behind the camera is top notch. The score and music selections throughout the season, and in this finale in particular have been incredible, and it was amazing to hear M83's "Intro" play out the final moments of the finale before the credits rolled.

There's numerous other highlights and achievements during this third season of Mr. Robot that are more than deserving of a mention, but in the interests of keeping things short and sweet, now is high time to wrap this review. Thank you all for reading and commenting throughout this amazing season, and I sure hope to see you back here whenever the fourth season of Mr. Robot returns to take us on yet another wild and unpredictable ride. For the last time, I'd love to hear your thoughts and theories on this season finale in the comments below. Have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year from me!

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