A lot has happened since Mr. Robot premiered to critical acclaim in 2015 — Rami Malek has won an Oscar, for one thing, and the political landscape is unrecognizable from the world of this show, in which Barack Obama is still president. Sam Esmail's twisty and paranoia-laced series debut was an awards-season favorite, winning Best Drama and Supporting Actor at the 2016 Golden Globes, followed by multiple Emmy nominations later that year, including a win for Malek. Part of Mr. Robot's appeal is its audacious spin on anti-capitalist ideas, shadowy organizations, and a healthy dose of elite-driven conspiracies. At the center of it all is an unreliable narrator, the brilliant-but-troubled hacker Elliot Alderson. He is an integral part of the fsociety scheme to bring down E Corp, one of the largest multinational conglomerates in the world.
Toward the end of the first season, things gets a little Fight Clubby when it's revealed that Elliot's mental health issues go beyond depression and an anxiety disorder. Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), who wears the face of his dead father, is actually Elliot himself. He has dissociative identity disorder, resulting in a fractured psyche that has manifested as a version of his father, in order to undertake some of the more challenging and dangerous aspects of the cyber-vigilante cause.
What made Mr. Robot refreshing in Season 1 couldn't be replicated in its second year, as it was weighed down by its own philosophizing and attempts at outsmarting the audience. That isn't to say the show experienced a total sophomore slump, as the performances were still magnetic, but it definitely lost some of its shine (and audience). The third season, however, was a return to form with the overall plan shifting into focus and Elliot finally grappling with who he is. The world is still suffering from the events of 5/9, which wiped out all E Corp data and credit records. Instead of giving power back to the people, however, it has made the world more dangerous and unstable. Military personnel patrol the streets, a curfew is still in place, and misery reigns.
Because it's been two years since the season three finale aired, here's a refresher on everything you need to know before Elliot wages war against those at the top of the chain when Mr. Robot returns for its fourth and final season on Sunday, October 6.
Elliot has always been at odds with what he believed to be the evil mastermind behind all of his trauma. Memories of his father pushing him out of a first-floor window when he was a child provide the framework for the tumultuous relationship he has with Mr. Robot, however this recollection is faulty. In the Season 3 finale, Darlene (Carly Chaiken) reveals that Elliot jumped, and his father had nothing to do with it. This manifestation isn't an insidious aspect of his psyche to keep locked up, but a version of Elliot who is neither wholly good nor bad. Rather than fighting against Mr. Robot (as he has been doing all season), Elliot acknowledges their shared goal of undoing the 5/9 hack.
It won't bring back his actual father, or the thousands who died in Stage 2 of the grand plan, but they're now in possession of something they didn't have at the start of the series: the identities of those who inflicted pain on the world. "The guys that play God without permission" are now in Elliot's sights, which will provide the motivation and targets for the final season. Mr. Robot wants to keep working together, and Elliot is going to need him more than ever.
A lot has changed since the first season, when Darlene was one of the driving forces of the fsociety hack on E Corp. Since then, her boyfriend was murdered in front of her, and she was forced to become an informant for the FBI while going against her brother. She got close with FBI Agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), but that ended when Dom chewed her out for ruining her life. Elliot is more forgiving — he understands how important it is for him to keep Darlene in his life. She's his tether to the past, the present, and himself, "I'm here to remember for you," she tells him. The Season 3 finale saw them both with guns to their heads, but they managed to get out of another precarious situation. Will Darlene join her brother once more on his dangerous new mission?
The true mastermind behind it all, Whiterose (BD Wong) claims she can change time. Is this a delusional obsession, a means for manipulation, or does she in fact have a machine that can alter reality? The first two options are most likely, but she used this suggestion to exploit Angela's grief to ensure Stage 2 would take place. Elliot got in the way and redirected the documents, so instead of targeting one E Corp storage facility as planned, she blew up 71 buildings, resulting in the deaths of thousands.
Whiterose's motivations focused on moving a "project" that involved a shipment on a humanitarian vessel to Iran. She deemed Elliot as expendable, but he showed his worth by using his hacking skills to arrange this shipment when no one else could. Whiterose works in the shadows, but her public influence comes as Minister Zhi Zhang, the Chinese Minister of State Security. Working all the angles, Whiterose's power is going to be hard to challenge and overthrow, particularly since she has spies everywhere.
Angela's (Portia Doubleday) friendship with Elliot goes back to the toxic waste leak that was caused by E Corp in 1993 and killed her mom and Elliot's dad. Since then, she has pretty much been Elliot's only friend (and one-time crush), a bond formed over a tragic loss. Angela attempted to get justice via a civil lawsuit after acquiring incriminating emails during the 5/9 hack, but Whiterose had an even more promising offer, claiming she could bring Angela's mother back (as well as those who died in the bombing). In the finale, the extent to which Angela was manipulated is emphasized by E Corp CEO Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer), who also reveals he is her biological father. This was a big day for Angela, as she struggles to find meaning in all of this tragedy.
Dom is a good, honest FBI agent, and she's willing to die before she becomes a traitor, but before Dark Army operative Irving (Bobby Cannavale) takes a sabbatical to go write a book, he lists off all of her family members he will kill if she doesn't become their person on the inside. Faced with an offer she can't refuse, Dom is now in deeper than ever before.
Framed for the 5/9 hack, Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom) has gotten away with murder and shot Elliot. His wife was also killed in cold blood. He likes to think he is a man with power, but instead, he's just another puppet. Sharing a common goal with Mr. Robot, he too wants to bring the powerful string-pullers down. He isn't the most stable figure, but he could prove useful in the final season.
He's unloaded his big "I am your father" bombshell, but it's his battle with Whiterose that will likely take center stage in Season 4. "World catastrophes like this, they aren't caused by lone wolves like you. They occur because men like me allow them. You just happened to stumble into one," Price tells Elliot, reinforcing the idea that power has not changed hands. Nevertheless, Elliot has a plan to challenge the cyclical dynamic.
The coda of Season 3 sees the return of drug supplier Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar). He hasn't been seen since the first season, when Elliot's girlfriend (and drug dealer) was stuffed into the trunk of his car. Elliot did get Fernando sent to prison, but he was also blackmailed into helping him escape. This is a big hint that tying up loose ends from when we first met Elliot will be a priority as Mr. Robot hits the home stretch.
Mr. Robot returns for its fourth and final season Sunday, October 6 at 10:00 PM ET on USA.
People are talking about Mr. Robot in our forums. Join the conversation.
Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.