“eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc" & "eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc"
Original Airdate: July 13, 2016
When Mr. Robot began, no one had the faintest idea of what to expect. Based on the marketing, all people knew was that it concerned hackers and was getting extremely good word of mouth from just about everybody.
After the show’s stellar first season, it’s easy to see why it got so much praise. The show was complex and philosophical, focusing on such themes like loneliness, invasion of privacy, and cynicism about today’s technology. In addition, the show was anchored by two powerhouse performances from Rami Malek and Christian Slater. Throughout the season, I was surprised this landed on USA of all channels — not FX, not AMC, not TNT, but the channel that made pineapples iconic.
With such a phenomenal first season, there is a lot riding for the second season to hold up that standard. Blessedly, this season opener hit the ground running and just wouldn’t stop, as these were an engrossing and intense first two episodes.
“PEOPLE LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY BEST FRIEND...”
As the episode opens, we flash back to the night of the big hack from last season, and actually get some insight into what happened when Elliot was blacked out for three days. What’s so interesting about this scene is Elliot as a character. We don’t know if Elliot is in control of himself or if the Mr. Robot personality is. In addition, seeing Tyrell in the fsociety mask was an interesting revelation, but his motivations remain unclear. I still don’t know if he’s good or bad.
One of the big recurring moments throughout the episode is Elliot’s constant clash with his Mr. Robot personality, which — as was revealed — has taken on the persona of Elliot’s father. Due to the fear of possibly unleashing Mr. Robot again, Elliot sticks to a routine schedule every day and lives with his mother, hoping that routine will eventually vanquish the personality. The theme of loneliness and repetition still plays a major part here, with Elliot shutting off from everybody in an effort to save his sanity.
Both Malek and Slater have to be commended for giving incredible performances in this opener. Whereas before the characters were believed to be on the same side, it’s now shown that they’ve grown resentful of each other. Slater, especially, unleashes all the venom and hatred his character feels toward Elliot’s insistent routine. Their tête-à-tête throughout the entire episode, especially in the last ten minutes, is simultaneously chilling and enthralling. Both actors should be praised not only for their chemistry, but for how well that chemistry pits them against each other.
As we see Elliot’s life and routine unfold, we meet a few new characters along the way: Leon, a friend of Elliot’s who seems to love Seinfeld; and Ray, a man Elliot encounters who tries to get Elliot to open up. While Ray seems to come across as nice and easygoing, there’s something sinister lurking under the surface. Where that takes Elliot this season, at all, remains to be seen, but is still massively intriguing.
CHANGES ARE COMING...
As Elliot’s troubles continue, we learn where many other characters stand from last season. Inside fsociety, Darlene has taken command in the wake of Elliot/Mr. Robot’s disappearance. Since the E Corp hack, fsociety has only gotten larger, prompting the group to go for even bigger stunts (read: going after E Corp General Counsel Susan Jacobs’ smart home, for one).
While the majority of the hackers celebrate their newfound status, Darlene — who seems to be dealing with some personal issues of her own (even ignoring when someone asks about Elliot) — reminds them that they only have an even larger target on their backs, and much bigger problems to deal with. Again, the theme of loneliness is hinted at here, and — as with Elliot — Darlene is shutting out everything else in order to focus on the primary goal.
Elsewhere, we see the fallout of the E Corp hack from the conglomerate’s perspective. It’s fascinating to see the actual fallout from the attack, rather than have someone simply mention it in passing. The scene where average people are trying to close their account feels very reminiscent of what happened during the 2008 financial crisis, as well as the Bernie Madoff scheme.
It’s also curious to see the consequences of the hack not only affect average citizens, but higher ups in E Corp as well. In addition to going after Susan Jacobs, fsociety blackmails Scott Knowles into burning thousands of dollars in a public display (a scene that is brilliantly set to Phil Collins’ "Take Me Home"). What makes one curious is just how far fsociety is going to push the envelope. How far is too far? Where will the line be drawn, if at all?
Finally, we also get some insight on Angela, who has dropped the E Corp lawsuit and has begun moving up the corporate ladder at the company. But there’s no passion in her eyes, no fire to keep her going. In this, we come across another sense of loneliness. But unlike Elliot and Darlene, this is a different kind: it’s the kind of loneliness that leaves you numb. You’re so beaten down by everything going around you with no one to help that you just feel nothing. Whether Elliot’s the cause of this or not, it’ll be fascinating to see where Angela goes this season.
A COMPLETE 180
By episode’s end, two major things happen that potentially set up the rest of this season. The first is that Gideon, Elliot’s former boss, is brutally murdered in public by a mysterious man named Brock. Who Brock is could be anyone’s guess, but it can’t help but be wondered if perhaps he has something to do with Gideon threatening to go to the FBI to expose Elliot. Does he work for the FBI? Or does he work for fsociety?
Finally, the big bombshell is dropped: as hard as Elliot has tried to control Mr. Robot, it’s all been for naught. Mr. Robot reveals he takes control of Elliot when Elliot goes to sleep. This has massive ramifications for the show, as now we don’t know what kind of damage was done while Elliot was under Mr. Robot’s control. The final scene shows Elliot waking up right as he’s about to talk to Tyrell, who’s been in hiding. It’s such a great cliffhanger, giving you no idea as to where the show is headed.
The second season of Mr. Robot is off to an incredibly strong start with its complex storylines. Props to director and series creator Sam Esmail for some beautiful framing of certain shots. Let's hope that the momentum will continue throughout the rest of the season.