Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mr. Robot 2x07 & 2x08 Review: “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” & “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12” (Above All, Trust...) [Guest Poster: Amir]


Original Airdate: August 17, 2016

When we first met Elliot in season one, he seems well adjusted enough to be able to take down a pedophile who owns a chain of coffee shops. Yet there was just enough margin for something to be off on a much deeper level. In a sense, that’s how one can look at Mr. Robot as a whole. Throughout season one of Mr. Robot, the concept that Elliot being an unreliable narrator has been on the minds of many viewers, and yet the reveal of who Mr. Robot is (and Darlene for that matter) sent waves throughout the narrative. Even those jaded by the Fight Club references couldn’t help but find the twist to be a very potent one for the series. Not only did we find out Mr. Robot was Elliot’s father, but that Elliot was making him up in his head the entire time. With such a strong reveal out of the way, many people felt that there was no real way to top that reveal, but season two has proven to be a different beast entirely. This season of Mr. Robot has done a wonderful job of depicting the deteriorating mental state of Elliot while keeping us engaged in his regiment, but it’s “h4ndshake” where Sam Esmail decides to finally pull the rug over us in a spectacular fashion, giving us a dynamic episode, despite using well-worn tricks.

First things first: Elliot killed Tyrell? It’s a statement that makes sense for the episode, but how can we trust it? It does come from Mr. Robot as opposed to Elliot, and we never see it happen. It’s certainly possible that he did do it, but can we trust his word? We haven’t been able to trust him at all throughout this series (and he hasn’t been able to trust us either). But Elliot has more pressing matters to deal with, like being in deep trouble with Ray. Elliot finding out that the quiet and personable Ray runs a .tor site filled with hitman contracts, sex trafficking, and drugs was not only a shocking twist, but it was also a wonderful callback to the first episode of this series. Even Mr. Robot himself makes a reference to it, in an effort to make Elliot realize this isn’t the same thing.

Comparatively, season one seems incredibly tame to the out of the control spiral of season two, but that comes with the territory when you wreck a global economy. The callback isn’t just a reminder of simpler times for Elliot — the episode feels like something we’d see from season one. Elliot using his intelligence to get his way back to Ray’s computer not only to get in contact with the Dark Army, but to also tip the feds off to Ray’s site, felt like a logical progression for Elliot’s brand of vigilante justice. When Elliot and Ray share their final chess game and Ray reveals the true origins of the site, that’s where the progression shows. Before, Elliot did all the talking, leaving his first mark flabbergasted. This time out, Ray does all the talking and elicits probably the most endearing moment of the show to date, which Craig Robinson pulls off with such sincerity and vulnerability that it’ll be hard not to look out for him come award time. It’s not long before the police swarm the place, and Ray is arrested. It was nice knowing you.

Even better, Elliot has come to terms to who he is and Mr. Robot’s role in his life. A father in life and in death, their scene together shows what Elliot has been running away from: being a leader. Throughout this series, we’ve been led to believe that it was Mr. Robot’s doing that led to the major hacks of season one, even with the knowledge that Elliot is Mr. Robot. It’s not until this scene that Elliot admits to himself — through Mr. Robot — that it was him the entire time, and that he’s got the capacity to lead people into a new revolution because he was the one that led them in the first place. Elliot has the power to do it; he just doesn’t believe in himself any more than he believes in us.

That all changes when he finally confesses the biggest twist of the series to date; Elliot’s been in prison this entire time. The reveal itself isn’t so shocking in a series filled with shocking turns, but it’s Sam Esmail’s ability to reveal the twist itself that is something worth noting. But it’s Elliot’s line that from here on out he’s choosing to tell the truth. Whatever the truth is in his mind is completely up to him, and we’re now at the mercy of him and not the other way around.

Original Airdate: August 24, 2016

By comparison, “succ3ss0r” is filled just as many twists, as we shift to the fsociety crew. This episode is rife with many 70s paranoia government films, as we follow Darlene, Mobley, Trenton, and Cisco as they hack into the FBI. The group begins to splinter off in different opinions as they soon find out that they are in fact being watched by the FBI (albeit illegally). It’s a very relevant topic considering it wasn’t so far off that NSA and Snowden was a talking point in the American landscape. The group decides to drop the information that the FBI has been illegally tapping networks and phones, which manages to get some of the heat off of them. That is, until the house they’ve been vacating up until now has been compromised when the original owner comes back.

This episode, while a great one, feels slightly off for many reasons. Filler doesn’t seem to be the right word to describe this episode, but it certainly gives off a bottle episode vibe, even though we move around a lot, focusing on Angela and FBI agent Dom. But throughout the episode our attention tied to the question of how on earth these people will get out of their crazy shenanigan. It’s an episode that, at points, is excellent at showing how differently people are responding to the situation they are in — not just with their hostage, but with fsociety in general. Mobley is already wanting out after feeling the heat while Trenton is stays on, albeit with reservations all her own. Cisco and Darlene appear to be on the same page about this, finding new ways to get themselves out the situation they're in. But it’s Darlene in particular, who seems to be going off the deep end in her own mind, taking the title of radical to new heights. Carly Chaikin, who plays Darlene, has taken a character to a whole new level. Her portrayal in this episode makes us question what reasoning she may have had in doing this to begin with. Was she in it to destroy E-Corp, or deep down was this out of revenge? It’s hard to say, but once she kills Susan Jacobs in an act of defiance to all preconceived notions, it strikes a chord. There’s was no going back before, but now Darlene has sealed everyone’s fate entirely. Can Elliot save them all? Who knows. But one thing has been made clear by the end of the episode — the Dark Army has been keeping tabs on all of them, and it won’t end well for anyone involved in this.

These two episodes work as showing two sides of the same coin. Elliot and Darlene are both leading through their own methods and means. Darlene clearly is losing control of what’s going on and where fsociety should be going, while Elliot is slowly growing into the idea that he’s the leader that they all need him to be. It’s a fitting comparison to make between the two of them — the idea of leadership. It makes sense too considering they are siblings, have lost the very thing that sets them off onto their crusade, and what will inevitably bring them together and apart.

Now that Elliot may be getting out earlier than expected, it’s only a matter of time before the major players get together and finally see what will be of fsociety. One can hope for the best, but when has that ever worked out?


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