“Tell me you’re seeing this too”: The best ‘Mr. Robot’ episodes, ranked
Hello, friend. If you simply can’t get enough of Mr. Robot, you’ll be delighted to know that Sam Esmail is teaming up once more with Rami Malek for an adaptation of Tamer Elnoury and Kevin Maurer’s book American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent.
Esmail will direct and produce the project currently being optioned by Universal and Malek is to lead it. The book details Elnoury’s experiences as a longtime undercover Muslim agent who joined an elite counter-terrorism unit after the events of September 11.
Thematically, the project sounds in line with some of the areas Mr. Robot has explored over its three exhilarating seasons in following the often dangerous exploits of hacking, terrorism, and FBI surveillance. Naturally, we’re huge fans of the show here at Film Daily and so we’re delighted to hear of Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Esmail (Comet) uniting for yet another project together. In celebration of their genius creative partnership, here’s our ranking of the eleven best episodes of Mr. Robot so far. Rewatch them while you wait for the fourth and final season to drop this year.
11. S2E1: “Eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc”
Though some fans bemoaned the decision to kick start S2 with an episode that stalled the high energy and stakes established in the S1 finale, there’s also something incredibly ballsy about returning with such a strange, mysterious episode.
Elliott is seemingly off the grid and enjoying a stable routine while living with his mom in a bid to shake off Mr. Robot’s (Christian Slater) influence for good. Meanwhile, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) steps up as the leader of fsociety, hacks the shit out of the Bank of E Corp, and establishes herself as a bigger boss than anyone could have imagined.
10. S1E10: “Eps1.9_zer0-day.avi”
Showing the social effects of the fsociety hack – including the E Corp EVP of Technology committing suicide on live TV – the S1 finale is a thunderous roar of consequences. It also sets up Elliot’s continued distance from reality after waking up three days following an agreement to work with Tyrell (Martin Wallström), only to discover his new cohort is missing and he has absolutely no memory as to why or how.
9. S3E2: “Eps3.1_undo.gz”
Just because we’re all about soundtracking the surprise murder of a main character to the throngs of Roxette’s “Listen To Your Heart”. Unbelievable.
8. S1E1: “Eps1.0_hellofriend.mov”
Our first introduction to Elliot offers some shrewd homages to Fight Club in detailing his active anti-social behavior and the thick fog of paranoia he moves through on a daily basis. The episode perfectly sets up the mysterious and obsessive tone of the show without giving anything away as to who many of the supporting characters are in relation to Elliot, while also slowly unspooling the stakes at play between fsociety and E Corp.
7. S2E6: “Eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes”
Easily one of the most inventive and unexpected episodes of any modern TV show, the sixth episode of S2 leaps way out of the box to temporarily reinvent itself as an 80s sitcom. The episode never comes across as contrived or novel just for the sake of it – even with the guest appearance of ALF – but instead works perfectly in exploring Elliot’s vulnerable mental state, the dysfunctional connection he maintains with his family, and the nature of memory and nostalgia.
6. S1E8: “Eps1.7_wh1ter0se.m4v”
Dropping a double bombshell that Mr. Robot is Elliot’s father and that the hacker has also forgotten that Darlene’s his sister (after trying to shove his tongue down her throat – awkward), the eighth episode of season one highlights the flexible nature of truth and reality in the show. It also perfectly sets up the slightly obvious twist of a later episode in establishing Elliot as being a supremely unreliable narrator. One whose sense of reality is distinctly warped.
5. S3E3: “Eps3.2_legacy.so”
Continuing the show’s proclivity for doing whatever the hell it wants with a narrative at any given time, the third episode of S3 finally reveals where Tyrell has been hiding all this time. It’s a taut, captivating episode in which the seemingly infallible character is broken down by a psych evaluation (led by none other than Wallace Shawn!) and forced into a monotonous and isolated existence where his distance to Joanne (Stephanie Corneliussen) and their child starts to splinter his world.
4. S1E9: “Eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt”
Any fans disappointed by the reveal that Elliot has been Mr. Robot this entire time – by unwittingly taking on the persona of his dead father – clearly missed the point. The grand reveal is less intended to be a shocking bombshell as it is a way to bring us into the fold of the narrative as though we’ve been in cahoots with Elliot the whole time and hiding this from him.
The character even breaks the fourth wall to ask us: “You knew all along, didn’t you?” We did, but it doesn’t make the repercussions of the revelation any less unsettling for us, as Elliot faces his truth and agrees to work with Tyrell. (Extra points for Maxence Cyrin’s piano cover of The Pixies’s “Where is My Mind”.)
3. S2E10: “Eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx”
The episode pounds away with intrigue and ruthless plotting from the start, but it’s the final scenes of the episode that remain the most memorable. Angela (Portia Doubleday) kissing Elliot after the two share a devastating conversation on the subway concerning Mr. Robot’s untrustworthy nature and her plans to confess her part in the FBI hack is one of the most tender moments of the entire season.
Meanwhile, the final scene in which Dom tracks down Darlene and Cisco at a restaurant only to witness a Dark Army shooter opening fire offers one of the most masterfully shot sequences in a show full of singular cinematography and framing.
2. S3E10: “Eps3.9_shutdown-r”
The S3 finale never pauses for breath, with Dom suffering the consequences of Darlene’s manipulation (but resisting execution even if the rest of her life is totally fucked now) and the Dark Army trying and failing to get Elliot to do their bidding. The episode is stacked full of moments of impossible tension and revelation right up until a vivid post-credits scene in which Darlene is confronted by Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar) – the monster who killed Elliot’s girlfriend Shayla (Frankie Shaw) in S1.
1. S3E5: “Eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”
Told almost entirely in real time, this frenetic episode features a ruthless pace and a fractured perspective as we move between Elliot’s plan to shut down Stage 2 and Angela’s plan to activate Stage 2. The result is a tense, breathless, and masterfully composed episode that begins in the nightmare of corporate bureaucracy and ends in the jaws of a terrorist takedown.