Mr. Robot: “” Season 2 Premiere Review

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Watching the Mr. Robot fad grow and grow last summer was something of a mystery to me. The show was good, with strong performers and a lovely aesthetic, but its entire point and way of making that point seemed to be exactly what Fight Club did with as fresh a coat of paint as a hacker could roll on. Even down to the twist and the end of the season, Mr. Robot barely even tried to differentiate itself from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel and David Fincher’s film. That said, Fight Club ends where season one of Mr. Robot ends. The US economy is in chaos, as is the very way of Western civilization. So, the question became, where does the story go from there?

The first part of the two-part premiere enjoys making us wait for some of the bigger reveals, but there’s definitely a fresh sense of urgency in the story of the people trying to take down the world. Elliot is laying as low as he possibly can, staying at his mother’s house and nowhere near a computer. He spends his time here, scribbling “I am in control” in a notebook as his hallucinated father toys with his mind. With the secret of Mr. Robot revealed to Elliot, the premiere ensures us that season two isn’t going to hold back in playing with it in about as haunting a manner as it can. In seemingly one final throwback to Fight Club as a perfect reversal and goodbye, it’s the hallucination that shoots the real Elliot in the head. He doesn’t die of course, lies there for a moment and calmly pulls himself back up. This moment, as well as the collapse of the US economy, unshackles Mr. Robot, giving it a new life with all the individuality a TV show could ever need.

But his mind’s projections aren’t Elliot’s only problem. There are people in the world who could blow his cover as the savior of fsociety who broke the world. His former boss threatens to do just that when he visits asking for help. The scene ends on an ambiguous note. Gideon isn’t getting what he needs from Elliot, but his old friend’s mental state is apparent.

The only other really major return we get in part one is Darlene’s. We see her make a rousing speech in a secret location with fsociety’s flag draped next to her as she looks down on her troops. Make no mistake, she’s a military leader now, one unafraid to make examples of soldiers who threaten their cause, even if that just means posing with the stollen balls of the Wall Street bull. The fact that the show is treating this like a war bodes well for the rest of the season. Darlene may be waging the war of the future, war as we may know it in our now seemingly inevitable dystopia.

But it’s still the human moments that really make this show work. Before her speech, Darlene sits in silent tears with her hands tangled in her hair. What exactly has her life come to? Is she sure she’s ready to wage a war? Meanwhile, in a moment of desperation, Elliot, in his typical monotone, asks us, the audience and his second therapist, to have hope for him. Mr. Robot succeeds beyond its hyper-relevant, of-the-times thrills because Elliot’s plea works. We’re reminded that this is a human being that, even as cold and detached as he can be, is worthy of affection and support. I’m not convinced Elliot can ever have a truly happy ending whenever this very young series drops the final curtain, but he makes me hope that he’ll be rewarded for is true nature. But, if this premiere is any indication, the immediate future bodes well for the viewer, who look to be in for a all-around better, more confident sophomore season for Mr. RobotGrade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • I had forgotten how this show waits to show its title card until it proves itself to you that it is in fact Mr. Robot.
  • The biggest new character we got was Susan, who was introduced in a menacing scene straight out of horror film where an unknown force, later revealed to be Darlene, takes over her smart home. She later shows up at E Corp where she sits with the CEO and CTO to discuss their ransom to fsociety after they take over every computer at the company and put a countdown clock on them. Frankly, I really want to see that thing hit zero.
  • The flashback to the moment that Elliot’s future seemed doomed was a really nice way to start the season.
  • Elliot’s friend verbally trying to make sense of Seinfeld was a nice gag of sorts running through the episode.

By Matt Dougherty

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