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Stylish, enthralling, and paranoia-inducing; a true noir thriller.
I've just got back from a screening of the first four episodes of Homecoming at TIFF, and I must say that I am impressed. I was initially a little off-put by the show's strange pacing (it is a drama series with half-hour long episodes), but by the third episode I was really digging it. Although the story moves at a slow pace, it is thoroughly engrossing and packed full of spine-tingling moments.
I have not listened to the podcast this is based on, as I wanted to go in blind, but I'm a massive fan of Mr. Robot and was very excited to see what Sam Esmail would do with a pure noir. I was not disappointed. The directing of the series is ridiculously strong, including some familiar Esmail-isms (top-down shots, unusual framing, etc) and a lot of steady-cam and long shots. The third episode in particular had a number of images that took my breath away.
Outside of the directing, the acting is probably the strongest element of the show. Julia Roberts and Stephan James bring impressive depth and emotion to the two lead roles, while the other characters are more defined by their quirks and are often used comedically. Shea Wigham in particular stands out because of all the subtle little mannerisms he employs to define his character. Bobby Cannavale is also very good, although his character is quite mysterious at this stage.
Overall, I am really loving Homecoming so far, and would recommend it to anybody who likes a good mystery, although it might be a good idea to wait until the whole season is out so it can be watched in hour-long chunks.
Westworld: Les Écorchés (2018)
One of the most intense hours of television I've seen.
While this season of Westworld has certainly had a few exhilarating moments, for the most part it has been fairly slow. That is, until this episode. It's pretty much non-stop action from start to finish, with several twists and no character safe. I was genuinely surprised at some of the people they killed off in this episode, which is a very rare thing for me. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I breathed a sigh of relief when the episode ended.
The episode also brings Anthony Hopkins back to the show in full force, and going into the episode I thought that it would just be a one-off appearance that would elate me in the moment but ultimately leave me unsatisfied and hungry for more (i.e. Kilgrave in JJ S2). Luckily, it seems he'll be in the show for at least a few more episodes, maybe even more. How they kept his involvement secret is beyond me.
If the remaining three episodes are anywhere near this great, the setup of the first six will have been more than worth it.
Westworld: Journey into Night (2018)
An instantly gripping return, full of promising new storylines
Westworld is finally back, and it continues to be a model of fantastic storytelling. The year and a half gap between seasons was definitely worth it, as it resulted in a more polished final product. Despite a mysterious opening and a cryptic, non-chronological nature of storytelling, the premiere is instantly engaging and tense and remains so for all 70 minutes. Although the episode serves largely as setup, the mere reveal of the new storylines (and evolutions of old storylines) is incredibly exciting due to the high quality of the writing and acting. I found the scenes between Sizemore and Maeve and the scenes between Bernard and Charlotte to be especially compelling. The characters play off of each other extremely well, and they are in very interesting positions right now.
All in all, this is a very strong premiere. It gets the season off to a running start with an engaging new network of plot-lines and character dynamics. I'm really looking forward to seeing more.
Legion: Chapter 11 (2018)
Just because someone has a different opinion from you does not mean that they are lying.
I love weird shows. I just do. I know that many find confusion and bewilderment frustrating, but for me they are viscerally satisfying emotions, regardless of whether or not they are followed by clarity. It is perfectly fine to dislike a show like Legion or Twin Peaks for having an abstract style of storytelling. People can like different things, and just because you enjoy different things than I do does not mean that you are less intelligent than me, it just means that we have different tastes. What I cannot stand are people who think that anybody who likes something that they don't is either pretentious or a liar. I'm not pretending to like things just to seem smart. I haven't been paid to review things positively. I just like different things from you. I don't get why it's so hard for some people to grasp the concept that people can have differing opinions without a hidden agenda. This isn't just a one-way issue, either. Fans of shows like this have long been guilty of accusing naysayers of just being "too dumb to get it". This is an equally closed-minded and damaging way of looking at the world, and extremely condescending.
I hope that people will eventually learn to accept that others can have different tastes, and to respect their decisions about what is and isn't for them. Somehow, I doubt it. As Oliver said in episode 4 of season 1, "We are the root of all our problems; our confusion, our anger, our fear of things we don't understand. Violence, in other words, is ignorance."
Jessica Jones: AKA Playland (2018)
A stunningly well executed conclusion to a somewhat shaky season.
I went into this episode with little to no expectations, given the low IMDb rating and the quality of season 2 up to this point. While none of it is downright bad, and some of it is very good (such as the flashback episode), it feels like the writers spent most of their time trying and failing to find things for the side characters to do. They also never came up with anything as compelling as the Kilgrave storyline... at least, until this episode.
I really, really love this conclusion. It pulls together what felt like questionable decisions for the directions of the characters from previous episodes and justifies them with rich, gripping storytelling and a truly powerful conclusion. I was absolutely stunned by how dark and powerful the conclusion of the main storyline is. The ending of the episode is smart and satisfying.
In some ways, season 2 is the exact inverse of season 1. The first season was one of the most insanely gripping pieces of storytelling I've ever seen, but the last 3 episodes really lost the thread, from the convoluted Simpson storyline to the gratifying but ultimately anticlimactic and dissapointingly final conclusion to the Kilgrave storyline. Season 2, on the other hand, feels somewhat aimless and underbaked throughout a lot of it, but ends in a way that is very satisfying and justifies a lot of the decisions made throughout the season.
Mr. Robot: shutdown -r (2017)
Terrifying, satisfying, and utterly unpredictable; a beyond phenomenal finale.
I have never been more scared for the fate of characters than I was in the first two-thirds of this episode. Season three has already shown the Dark Army brutally and remorselessly murdering two beloved characters, not to mention thousands of unnamed e-corp employees, so when this episode put three of our main characters in the line of fire, I was completely convinced that some of them were going to die.
It's such a rare thing to find a show that manages to give everyone a compelling arc without giving anyone plot armour, yet that's what this episode does so effortlessly. I did not see a single part of this conclusion coming, but in retrospect it all connects and makes perfect sense. This is the sort of television that only comes around once in a very long while, and I'm so glad I was here to witness it.
It is important to note, while it takes up most the runtime, the harrowingly tense and completely unpredictable sequence I've been talking about is by no means the only part worth discussing. The episode has several big reveals (each of which I saw coming, but were no less satisfying for it), some beautiful interplay between Elliot and Mr. Robot, and another fantastic post-credits scene.
This is the first time that I've come out of a Mr. Robot finale elated and deeply satisfied rather than angry and confused. For once, things were left in a way where I feel okay leaving them for a year.
The Crown: Mystery Man (2017)
The subtle, poignant send-off to an outstanding cast.
I know this isn't the end of the show, but it sure feels like it. The Crown is planned to last six seasons, but the entire cast will be changed up every second season. That means this is the last episode for Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and all the other actors. I'm sure the new cast will be equally fantastic, but for me so much of the atmosphere comes from these specific performances that it will undoubtedly feel like a completely different show. In certain ways, this episode even feels like a series finale (albeit a quiet and low-key one).
The main plot of the episode is a scandal that I frankly didn't understand, which has something to do with Phillip, a chiropractor, and a communist lady spy. I feel the episode could have done a much better job of explaining the situation, though it ultimately didn't matter that I was unable to follow the minutiae, as it was only really there to set up the final confrontation between Elizabeth and Phillip. Of all the actors in the show's first two seasons, they will be the most sorely missed. Their final scene together in this episode serves as a beautiful and surprising button to their time on the show.
On the whole, while this episode isn't all that eventful, it serves as a very fitting and bitter-sweet way of saying goodbye to a fantastic cast, with a particularly poignant final outing from Claire Foy and Matt Smith.
The Crown: Paterfamilias (2017)
A tough topic, handled well.
In this episode, Phillip sends his son Charles to the same boarding school he attended as a child. Charles' experience is horrible, and it would be easy to hate Phillip for it, but the episode does a good job of also showing things from his perspective so that we are not sure how to feel. Only at the very end does the episode appear to pick a side, and it's one I agree with.
Up to this point, the royal children have been little more than props, with no distinguishing traits and very few appearances. Given the span of time this series is set to cover, they're going to have to start treating them as characters eventually. I was expecting this to be the episode in which that happens, but it isn't really. We do learn a little bit about Charles, but the episode's primary focus is on Phillip.
Over half of the episode consists of flashbacks to Phillip's time at the boarding school. The actor who plays Young Phillip is fantastic, and his character arc is very emotional, but I would have preferred to have spent a little less time in the past and a little more time in present day developing Charles.
In conclusion, his episode tackles a tough topic (boarding schools) with pathos for all involved and a very emotional but perhaps overly dominant flashback plot.
The Crown: Dear Mrs. Kennedy (2017)
The meeting of two of the greatest women of the twentieth century.
This episode portrays the (brief) relationship between Elizabeth and the Kennedys. I've been waiting all season for this episode, because I've been very much looking forward to seeing Michael C. Hall's portrayal of JFK. As it turns out, his role amounts to little more than a cameo, with the real focus being on his wife Jackie, and her tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth. As two of the most famous, powerful, and influential women of the twentieth century, it's interesting to see what their interactions may have been like.
It's clear that some time has passed between the end of the last episode and the beginning of this one, and one major theme that we begin to explore is Elizabeth feeling old. It's no surprise then that she feels threatened by Jackie; the bright, young, and beloved socialite. As the Queen questions her own strengths, the episode's b-plot (socialist leanings in Ghana) comes to a head, and she is forced to deal with a precarious diplomatic situation. Ultimately, her sense of competition with Jackie leads her to an unorthodox but extremely effective solution in the best scene of the episode.
I enjoyed the portrayal of the Kennedys in this episode, but I thought their story-line seemed a little truncated. I feel like it might have been a little more effective had they let it play out over the course of a couple episodes. Jodi Balfour is fantastic as Jackie Kennedy, managing to make her sympathetic despite her main role as a foil for Elizabeth. Michael C. Hall did a good job portraying the darker side of JFK that many adaptions shy away from.
In short, this was a thrilling meet-up of two great minds that was a little hampered by the short amount of time it had to flourish, but nonetheless ranks among the more interesting depictions of the Kennedy family.
The Crown: Matrimonium (2017)
Margaret's plans get interrupted... again.
This episode tracks Margaret's engagement to her photographer boyfriend, and the obstacles that lie in her way. In my opinion, it is definitely the weakest episode of the season so far. It lacks a driving conflict for the entire first half, and when it finally does develop one, it's so similar to Margaret's story in season one (which was frustrating and repetitive in its own right) that it is neither compelling nor interesting. The entire episode, I couldn't help but feel like I had seen it all before. However, the ending is quite different, which gives me hope that we won't have to see this same plot repeated again and will instead explore new stories and sides of Margaret.
For me, the most compelling part of the episode is the party scene in which Elizabeth is forced to interact with the photographer's friends. It's interesting and uncomfortable to see royalty forced to interact with disrespectful modern people, and I wish the episode had explored this dynamic even further. I also enjoyed the scenes between Elizabeth and Margaret, in spite of how repetitive they were, thanks to the fantastic performances from Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby.
All in all, I found this episode to be a little too similar to previous episodes, but I am excited to see what happens next because of the way the ending finally breaks free from the loop Margaret has been on for quite some time.
The Crown: Vergangenheit (2017)
The return of a great character, and a glimpse into his dark past.
For the first half of this episode, I thought that it was following two unrelated plots; the uncovering of damning documents from the Second World War and the return of David the exiled former king as he searches for work. However, midway through the episode it becomes clear that David is linked to the documents, and that their fallout will determine whether or not he is successful. As a result, what initially seemed like an episode of odds and ends actually dovetails neatly into a single conflict, and a powerful dilemma for Elizabeth.
David was one of the more interesting characters of the first season. Though he may not always be likable, he is certainly complex and fun to watch. He's had scenes of cowardice, disdain, wisdom, and warmth. In this episode, he continues to demonstrate many different sides, though by the end we are left with a resounding disgust for him and his actions that may well herald the end of his role on the show.
David was not the only returning character this episode, though he did play the largest role. In a flashback, we see both Winston Churchill and King George again. John Lithgow and Jared Harris are arguably the two greatest actors to have been on the show, so it was great to see them again (though I wish they had a more substantial role in the episode). And though Tommy Lascelles has been in this season, this episode gave him his first really big scene to chew on.
All in all, this is a fantastic dive into (and seeming sendoff for) a great, multi-layered character who will be remembered as one of the show's best.
The Crown: Marionettes (2017)
A gripping look at the inevitability and toll of modernization.
For me, this episode is the best one since "Assassins" from the first season. It follows a new character, a newspaperman and lord, in his very public and vocal criticisms of the monarchy. These criticisms expose a greater sense of unease in the country, and eventually force Elizabeth to make some fundamental changes to her approach. In many ways, this episode is a microcosm of the show's central theme; an exploration of the value of and problems with a monarchy in the modern age.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this episode is the way that it manages to not only flesh out a completely new character in a short period of time, but to make me root for him despite the fact that he is creating nothing but trouble for our usual protagonists. John Heffernan plays him as a paragon of reason and modernity, and I agree with everything he says in the episode.
And yet, despite the fact that I agree with everything Lord Altrincham says, I also can't help but feel bad for Elizabeth. She's put in a very difficult and painful position in this episode, and though I do believe that modernization was both inevitable and for the better, the episode does also show the enormous toll that it took on Elizabeth and her mother. She doesn't want to reveal her true self, but she is forced to.
In short, this is a fantastic episode which sums up everything The Crown is about, offers the origin of the Queen's famous Christmas address, and features a fantastic showdown between Claire Foy and John Heffernan.
The Crown: Beryl (2017)
A less irritating, more sympathetic Margaret takes centre stage in a surprisingly enjoyable episode.
For me, the weakest link in The Crown's first season was without a doubt Margaret. The actress was really good, but the writing made her come across as naive and superficial, with little understanding or care for the impossible situations she was putting her sister in. And while I found her far more enjoyable in the premiere of this season, I was still a little nervous about getting into an episode focused on her. It turns out I need not have feared, as this was actually my favourite episode of the season so far.
The Margaret depicted in the start of this episode is deeply cynical and depressed about her whole situation. She has an extremely relatable sense of purposelessness and loneliness, which comes to a climax when she drunkenly rampages and smashes her stuff. This sort of scene is overused in movies and TV shows, but I found it very effective here because it felt real and emotionally honest.
The episode explores two potential romantic endeavours for Margaret. The first is a hollow and short-lived engagement with a platonic family friend, made more out of obligation than interest. The second is an exciting and dangerous flirtation with a photographer at a party for "interesting people". The latter leads Margaret to do something that will have negative consequences for the family. Unlike her actions in the first season, this felt like an informed, concerted decision to break free from her sister's control. As a result, I find it far easier to get behind.
In short, this episode shows Margaret's less naive, more cynical side, and made her more sympathetic as a result.
The Crown: Lisbon (2017)
The Crown doing what it does best: scandal
For me, the best episodes of The Crown have always been the ones in which the monarchy has to handle damage control on a scandal. On top of the fact that such situations are fantastic at generating tension and drama, they also expose the inner workings of the institution in a way that is endlessly fascinating to watch.
Another reason that I loved the first season's scandal episodes was the way they allowed the character of Tommy Lascelles to shine. Tommy was one of my favourite characters on the show, so I was very sad when he retired near the end of last season, and pleasantly surprised when he made a surprise return in this episode. I hope he pops up a few more times this season; Pip Torrens is fantastic in this role, and it would have been a shame to let that go to waste.
The scandal in this episode is the climax of the boys' club story-line from the first two episodes of the season. Everything dovetails neatly and comes back around to the opening flash-forward, which finally gets resolved. So much is concluded in this episode that I genuinely have no idea what the plot of the rest of the season will be.
The Crown: A Company of Men (2017)
A compelling, multifaceted examination of Phillip's cavorting.
This episode is dedicated to the adventures of Phillip and the boys' club on their commonwealth tour. However, rather than focusing solely on Phillip's perspective, the episode examines its overall impact by looking at it through the lens of every story-line, depicting both the negative and positive aspects. We see the misogyny, racism, civic injustice, and scandal involved but also the valour, fun, and brotherhood. As in real life, we are shown the good and the bad, then forced to make the moral judgment ourselves.
At the centre of this contradiction is Phillip, who is undoubtedly the main character of the episode. There are moments where we find his behaviour reprehensible, and there are moments where we are made to sympathize with him. Nowhere is the latter more prevalent than the fantastic interview scene, which uses interwoven flashbacks incredibly effectively to illuminate his character. By the end of the episode, while we may not condone his behaviour, we can understand it and perhaps forgive it.
Phillip's friend, however, proves himself beyond forgiveness with his unabashed deviance. One of the episode's central plots is his wife's investigation into his adultery, which serves both as a glimpse into the effects on the victims left in the wake of the boys' club, and a big threat to the monarchy. This is where we get into the ugly side of their activities.
On the whole, this is another smoothly executed hour of The Crown, which takes a narrower focus than most and is able to dive deeper as a result.
The Crown: Misadventure (2017)
Marriage troubles and a global crisis kick the season off splendidly.
In the first episode of The Crown season 2, Elizabeth has two major problems to contend with; her husband Phillip, and the Suez Canal crisis. More specifically, she has to deal with Phillip's possible adultery and her Prime Minister's response to the Suez Canal crisis. This dual plot not only makes for an exciting way to open the season, but also highlights Elizabeth's growth as a character. By throwing her into hot water straight away, the show demonstrates how much she has changed since the start of the first season.
I personally found Margaret to be pretty irritating throughout the first season, largely due to the fact that she served mainly as a foil for Elizabeth, with little logic or consideration for the consequences of her actions. And though it's probably a little early to judge given that she only has one scene in this episode, I think I'm going to enjoy her a lot more this season. The new Margaret is bitter, sarcastic, and full of quips. I probably still won't sympathize with her, but at least she will be fun to watch.
On the whole, this is an elegant way to open the second season of The Crown. It balances the various stories very well, setting up a number of threads for the season to follow and ultimately tying them all back to Elizabeth.
Mr. Robot: eps3.8_stage3.torrent (2017)
Betrayals, revelations, and a giant cliffhanger; everything you could want from a penultimate episode.
I have no idea what's going to happen next... and I love it! This episode takes all the story lines and converges them into one giant cliffhanger. And because it's telling one long story that was originally going to be a movie, I know things probably won't return to normal after the finale... which makes the situation at the end of this episode all the more terrifying.
When I actually look back on the scenes that were in the episode, I realize that it mostly just consisted of characters talking with little direct tension. In fact, most of the tension in this episode arises more from the fact that the state of the story is in flux, meaning everything that happens is unpredictable, and each new character dynamic could have grave significance. For example, the scene that plays out in multiple segments throughout the episode with Elliot, Price, and Tyrell; these three characters will be very influential on the future of the story, so to find out where they stand on each other and recent events is gripping.
It would be a little misleading to say that the episode has a "twist", but it certainly had a lot of shifts and revelations, particularly surrounding character intentions. All of the pieces move around the chessboard until they align in a way that leaves several characters in major danger and the future of the story deeply uncertain. I both look forward to and dread next week.
A needed recovery
The last three episodes of Mr. Robot were so damn intense that I'm not surprised or disappointed that this episode slowed things down to a crawl. Frankly, it was needed after the traumatic event that was last episode. There were a couple of moments that felt somewhat melodramatic to me, but I think they were earned by the last three. And while the episode hardly advanced the plot at all, it did provide plenty of surreal imagery to chew on.
To me, the most interesting scene in the episode was the opening flashback, which showed a truly heartbreaking interaction between young Elliot and his father. For me, the emotion was slightly undercut by the recasting of young Elliot (I really liked the first one), but the scene still worked because of Christian Slater's fantastic performance. The scene also reveals that Elliot's alternate personalities date back further than we thought. My personal theory is that he created Mr. Robot either right before or right after falling out the window, in order to cope.
Most of the episode focuses on Elliot bonding with Trenton's little brother, who tags along unwanted with him. It's a rocky relationship, which forces Elliot to confront his own issues until he can learn to forgive himself and Angela. Some aspects struck me as a little cliché (especially given the show's outside the box nature), but they worked fine in context and were elevated by the excellent actors and direction.
In short, the episode provides an interesting emotional journey for Elliot with negligible plot advancement but some neat surreal imagery and a much-needed break from the intensity of the last three.
A brutal, disturbing piece of art
This is the first time since Game of Thrones' Red Wedding that something on a TV show has disturbed me so deeply. I genuinely do not feel okay after watching this episode. The reveal and denouement at the end of this episode is one of the most shocking things I have ever seen. Normally there's some joy in the reveal of a twist, but this... this is just brutal. It's going to take me a while to recover.
Mind you, when I mention how disturbing and intense it is, I'm mostly talking about the ending. The majority of the episode takes the pace down a notch, instead luxuriating in the atmosphere and catching up with the characters in the aftermath of last episode's big event. Angela is shell-shocked, Elliot is madly searching for answers, Dom realizes she's just a cog in the machine, and Phillip finds himself backed into a corner. On paper it's quite slow, but in execution it's mesmerizing and powerful.
But even as the episode takes the time to catch up with all the characters, it's already slowly building the tension and setting up the next phase of this story, which comes to a head at the end of this episode. I've already mentioned how surprising and disturbing it is, but it also didn't come out of nowhere; in retrospect there were a great many things setting it up earlier this season, lines from Whiterose that now have new significance. There's also a very real (almost too real) layer of social commentary to it, making the whole thing all the more visceral.
In summation, this is a stunning, brutal episode of Mr. Robot that will leave you drained, depressed, and even more amazed at the brilliance of this show.
Somehow manages to be MORE intense than the last one
Anyone who thought we might get a reprieve from the intensity of last week's one-shot wonder was sorely mistaken; if anything this episode doubles down on the heart-palpitating tension. It shows the FBI closing in on Tyrell, the Dark Army executing Stage 2, and Elliot finally entering all-out war with Mr. Robot. All of these elements converge in exciting ways and built to a surprising (and confusing) climax.
While this episode didn't have anything as stylistically impressive as the long shot from last episode (then again, what is), I was still struck by how fresh and innovative it was in the way it depicted Elliot's battle with Mr. Robot. The unique editing patterns Esmail deploys add to the tension by putting us in Elliot's shoes and showing what it would really feel like to be battling a second personality. This showdown has been a long time coming, and it couldn't have been better executed.
The other plots all built the tension as well, placing many of the characters on dangerously converging paths. There was legitimately a point in the episode in which I believed that Angela, Dom, and Tyrell were going to die (even though they still had scenes from the trailers I hadn't seen). The one bit of levity came (surprisingly enough) from the Price-Zheng scene. Their dynamic is definitely one of my favourites in the entire show, and this episode shows a completely different side of it; the friendly jesting that goes on when they aren't competing with one another. It was really enjoyable watching them get along so well, even though we (and they) know it won't last.
All of this tension leads up to a semi-twist ending that left me intrigued but also quite confused. It makes sense in the greater context of things, but I need more information and extensive re- watches to figure out how all the individual characters figure in to it; some of them couldn't have known but also couldn't have not known. It's a mess, but I'm sure the show will sort it out as it always does.
In summation, Sam Esmail has delivered another tense, unpredictable, and stylish episode of Mr. Robot. I look forward to seeing what happens next and hopefully getting further explanation on some aspects of the twist.
Ambitious, intense, and extremely immersive; nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.
This episode has been hyped up a lot by the promotional material, and I'm sure it will continue to be hyped up by fans in the future. I've been waiting anxiously all week for this to come out, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It not only kicks off the climax to a story-line that has been building for a season and a half, but does it in the most cinematically impressive way possible; one long shot.
That's right, the entire episode is one long shot. There are obviously many cuts hidden in there, but they aren't visible to the viewer. For all intents and purposes, it's a 46-minute- long shot. But the thing I really appreciate about it is that it doesn't seem at all like they did it just for the sake of showing off; rather they use it to immerse us in the paranoia of the characters and simulate what it would really be like to be on the ground in a situation like this. It's gripping, intense, and all the more effective because it doesn't let up for the entire episode. I actually breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the episode, not because the danger had passed (quite the opposite in fact) but because the shot had finally ended.
The episode can be dissected quite nicely into two halves; the first half, in which Elliot realizes stage 2 is going down and tries desperately to stop it, and the second half, in which Angela has to navigate a violent riot in order to execute stage 2. The two halves use the format of the extended shot quite differently from one another (though both extremely effectively). In the first half, we take on the role of the viewer (AKA Elliot's third personality) and float around his head the entire time, giving us the longest and most immersive representation so far of this meta aspect of the story. From this perspective, we see Elliot finally piece everything together and then scramble to stop it. In the second half, the shock of graphic violence from the riot suddenly gives the episode life-or-death stakes which amp up the tension as it passes over to Angela, whose section of the episode is more viscerally thrilling than Elliot's.
All in all, I sense this episode will be discussed for years to come. It's ballsy, thrilling, cerebral, and definitely one of the show's best.
Mr. Robot: eps3.3_m3tadata.par2 (2017)
A solid character-based middle episode.
This episode has none of the in-your-face stylish quality or deliberate sense of perplexing mystery that I love so much about this show, and it was far from my favourite episode as a result. However, I can't deny that this episode was necessary and that it probably couldn't have been executed any better. It's 45 minutes of fleshing out characters, relationships, and plots; shuffling pieces along the board without incident. Not exciting, but presumably vital to later events in the season.
Although several characters get significantly developed in this episode, the most interesting (and the one with the most screen time) is Darlene. She shows her dark side to a random woman on the train, mends her relationship with Elliot, and laments her situation over drinks with Dom. I already thought she was in a very interesting position between story lines at the start of this season, and this episode made things even more interesting, showing her and her motivations from multiple angles.
The primary source of tension in this episode arises from the cat-and-mouse game between Elliot, Mr. Robot, Darlene, Angela, Dom, and Tyrell. They each have their own agenda and it's fascinating to watch them weave around each other trying to achieve it, putting themselves or each other at risk and interacting in new and unexpected ways. These manoeuvres ultimately don't lead to anything particularly significant in this episode, but I'm sure they'll result in some major stuff down the line. For now, it's entertaining enough just to watch them do it.
On the whole, I didn't mind this episode. It just didn't get me very excited, either. I enjoyed it fine for what it was, but I hope the coming episodes pick up the pace and bring back the stylishness.
Nail-biting tension and heart-wrenching emotion in a visceral, intense penultimate.
This season of Stranger Things started with a slow-burn set up episode, and gradually built from there, with each episode more engaging and intense than the last (with the exception of Chapter 7, which was a good concept poorly timed and executed). Like last season's "The Bathtub", this episode is the culmination of an entire season of ramping up tension and slowly converging characters, finally bringing them all together and setting in motion the end game. And like "The Bathtub" before it, the result is incredibly satisfying (albeit at a great cost this time).
Most of the episode follows our characters' attempted escape from Hawkins lab, which was being invaded by demagorgans last we saw it. This simple premise is executed very effectively, using the most basic elements of horror with shockingly powerful results. It just goes to show that all you need to do to generate tension is to develop characters who feel like real humans and make us believe that they are in real danger of dying. Unfortunately, in order to make us believe that there is a genuine threat, you have to actually kill people off sometimes. The major death in this episode made me very sad and I can see why some people wouldn't like the execution of it because it did feel a little contrived. However, I fervently disagree with those who say that it was not necessary, because without deaths like it the story would lack any form of tension because I would not feel the characters were ever in any genuine danger. The death was absolutely necessary, and while I thought it could have been done a little more realistically, I also thought the lead up to it and aftermath of it were handled perfectly.
The final act of the episode slows down and develops the characters in very interesting, emotional ways. It's great seeing them all come together again, albeit under even darker circumstances. This culminates in their very clever plan to figure out a way of killing the monster, once again hardening back to "The Bathtub". Their plan achieves the desired goal but also backfires, leading to some more tension and the powerful, satisfying conclusion of the episode.
In short, "The Mind Flayer" uses all the best elements of Stranger Things to produce an intense, emotional roller-coaster of an episode.
Mr. Robot: eps3.2_legacy.so (2017)
49 minutes of revelations in a Tyrell-centric, all-flashback episode.
At first, the season 1 finale left me feeling confused, befuddled, and a little cheated with its crypticness. Over the months that followed, I grew to love it as a piece of art, but still went into season 2 with expectations of answers. And of course, season 2 just heaped on more questions. Now, in season 3, we finally get to see the night of the hack and Tyrell's subsequent disappearance. This is the episode I wanted so badly out of season 2 and never got. Ironically enough, now that I've finally seen it, I'm realizing that season 2 pretty much told us everything we needed to know in answer to those questions, and that a lot of the information in this episode was ultimately redundant. However, it's still incredibly satisfying to be filling in the gaps. Plus, the episode had two major twists and a cameo from a masterclass actor I had thought was retired.
The episode focused primarily on Tyrell and his hideout in season 2. I'm glad we got to spend an entire episode developing his character because I didn't quite get him in season 1 and he spent most of season 2 shrouded in mystery, so I never really got the chance to invest in or understand him. But now, thanks to this episode (especially the mid-episode interrogation scene featuring a cameo from a world-class actor who I could have sworn was retired) I feel like I really have a grasp on his motivation. Irving also got quite a bit of development in this episode, not to mention a lot of good quips.
While the episode was mostly a matter of filling in the gaps in season 2, it did also contain two major plot twists, both involving the surprise reveal of the loyalties of previously introduced characters. I predicted one of them back in season 2, but the other caught me completely by surprise (though it makes a lot of sense). I'll leave it up to you to decide which one I predicted.
All in all, despite not advancing the present day story-line one iota, this was a tremendously satisfying episode that did not suffer at all from the long buildup to it.
Mr. Robot: eps3.1_undo.gz (2017)
Shocking, engrossing, and insanely well-paced; almost too much to take in.
There were a lot of great things about the premiere, but it also kind of felt like an episode of a totally different show; it had little of the intriguing visual style or beguiling mystery of the first two seasons. I was worried that either I or the show had changed. Then this episode came along, and completely blew me out of the water. If the first episode was toned down from the previous seasons, this one was amp-ed up. In 45 minutes, Sam Esmail managed to double down on the violence, the comedy, the tension, and the drama. It's almost too much to process.
From the moment the opening montage kicked off, this episode was playing on a completely different field from the premiere. It's hilarious, it's satisfying, and it hearkens back to the pilot in a number of subtle ways, tying in to the episode's overall theme of trying to hit "undo" on past mistakes. One of these callbacks was the return of Elliot's intense attacks of loneliness (which he hasn't had since the pilot). This leads us into his sessions with Krista, who not only makes her season 3 debut in this episode, but plays a larger role than she has in a long time, maybe ever. She convinces Elliot to show her Mr. Robot, and her conversation with him is absolutely engrossing.
While Krista gets to play a larger role in the episode and hopefully the season, some other major characters got massively blindsided in shocking ways. Aside from the violent, sickening, and unexpected scene that came in the middle of the episode and permanently derailed some major characters (which I'm sure will be the main talking point of the episode), Phillip also got hit with a good one-two punch. I expected him to clash with Minister Zhang (Whiterose) this season, but I didn't expect it to come so soon and be so extreme. Their scene in this episode is an exhilarating showdown between two masterclass actors delivering incredible dialogue. In short, it's the Littlefinger-Varys reunion we never got.
The fact that the return of my favourite character (DiPierro) and the fantastic development of the relationship between Elliot and Darlene don't even warrant more than a mention in comparison to the rest of the episode is a testament to just how great it is. It had me gripped from start to finish, and delivered several twists I never would have seen coming despite my intense analysis of this show. In short, "Undo" is definitely among the series' best.