Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mr. Robot 2x04 Review: "eps2.2_init1.asec" (Let the Games Begin) [Contributor: Jon]


"eps2.2_init1.asec"
Original airdate: July 27, 2016

When we last left the gang, Elliot was about to embark on the biggest battle of his life — one that would decide the fate of his own insanity. Angela also had an important choice to make, and FBI Agent Dom DiPierro discovered the base of fsociety. This week, the stakes were raised even higher as the battle began.

THE ORIGIN STORY


Before the big battle of wits however, we first cut to Halloween of last year. Darlene and Elliot are spending time with each other during the holiday, and Darlene presents the now-infamous fsociety mask to Elliot. Elliot puts the mask on, and Mr. Robot is born. Mr. Robot begins to plan the hack with Darlene, and how it could make a major impact. It’s a nice cold open that sets things into motion. The moment when the camera zooms in on the mask and the title comes on to “The Planets, Op. 32: I. Mars, the Bringer of War" by Gustav Holst is absolutely terrifying.

SETTING THE STAGE


In the present day, Darlene visits Elliot in their mother’s home. After some brother-sister small talk, Elliot advises against Darlene proceeding with the fsociety plans. She then criticizes Elliot for being hypocritical and backing out on their mission, especially after everything that he said about when fsociety falls. Elliot then claims that was never him, but Mr. Robot. Darlene states that maybe Mr. Robot is who she needs right now, not Elliot.

Afterwards, Elliot visits Ray, where they play a game of chess. Ray advises Elliot to not make the same mistakes over and over, and gives the board to Elliot as a way to practice, stating that it would help clear his mind. Ray then offers Elliot the chance to open up about what troubles him, saying that he knows where Elliot’s coming from.

It’s here that we need to talk about Ray. He is the most fascinating character in the season thus far. Craig Robinson gives a soulful, almost fatherly performance, always looking out for those who need it. However, there’s also a dark and sinister undertone beneath this fa├žade. It’s almost as if Ray knows who Elliot really is and what he’s been up to. As revealed later in the episode, Ray is involved in some kind of business he needs Elliot’s help with. Exactly what that shady organization is remains to be seen, but Ray himself mentioned that his business meant a lot to him. Is he a hacker? Does he work for the Dark Army? Ray continues to become more and more interesting with each episode, and Robinson does an excellent job at portraying Ray as possibly sinister, yet ambiguous.

But Ray’s offering of the chessboard is crucial in setting the stage for the eventual battle of the minds...

“LET THE GAMES BEGIN”


After gaining some insight from various individuals on what he should do (including Leon, who tells Elliot to fight for his belief), Elliot envisions a hauntingly beautiful sequence in which he is surrounded friends and loved ones, and is accepted. Elliot’s deepest desires for a perfect world are evident: he wants to be loved and accepted, he wants to do the things normal individuals do in their spare time, he wants to forgive, love, befriend, and actually live in a perfect world. It’s a beautiful scene that reveals Elliot’s true dream — a peaceful and serene life.

This dream dissolves, as Elliot begins battling Mr. Robot via a game of chess. If Elliot wins, Mr. Robot goes away forever and never bothers him again. But if Mr. Robot wins, then he takes control of the driver’s seat in Elliot's mind — permanently. Unfortunately, the battle resolves in a rather lackluster way — all three matches end in stalemates. While I understand the battle had to end in a tie to give more room for the characters’ stories, it still ends up being an absolute disappointment.

SOME SMALLER DETAILS


There are a few plots that are continued in the episode. First, we get to see what decision Angela makes after being given the opportunity to destroy the lives of some of those who had caused her father’s death. After talking with her lawyer, Angela comes to believe that, because Price gave information to Angela, he’s going to use it as leverage to get something for her — like the class-action lawsuit regarding the toxic leak. However, Price immediately rebuffs her theory, stating it’s all in her head. It’s a fascinating turn as Price seemed to be very fatherly to her in the last episode. Either he still needs Angela for something, or this plot thread is wrapping up (doubtful).

Meanwhile, Joanna, Tyrell’s wife, is running low on money and demands Tyrell’s severance package so she has funds. Out of all the storylines, I felt this was the most unneeded. We do get brief moments where she is seen making deals for people in exchange for silence — for what, exactly, I don’t know — but her storyline felt incredibly unnecessary.

As for Dom, the only bit we see of her this week is that she has raided the arcade and found a bullet inside. While her character briefly appears this episode, this does act as a catalyst for fsociety, as Darlene soon realizes they have now become targets by the FBI.

THE RETURN


By episode’s end, Darlene is desperate for help and so returns to Elliot, stating she needs the REAL Elliot, not some alternate personality in his own psyche. Elliot then agrees to help Ray in whatever computer job he needed help with at the start of the season premiere. Ray tells Elliot what to do, but then strangely leaves one of his men in the room with Elliot. Ray also advises Elliot that his “business” means a lot to him, and to not discover anything he shouldn’t have discovered. As mentioned previously, this only further adds to Ray’s mysterious persona, and what his plans truly are for Elliot.

Elliot, though, takes matters into his own hands and accepts Darlene’s help. After reading on a private channel that the FBI has taken the arcade, Elliot informs everyone to wait for his next instruction. He then begins to do the unthinkable: Elliot is going to hack the FBI.

What kind of ramifications this will entail are yet to be shown, but one thing is certain — Elliot is back. But is it really him in control?

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