Mr. Robot: “eps2.2_init1.asec” Season 2 Episode 4 Review

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Mr. Robot is rather arrogantly spinning its wheels. After the double premiere, the last two episodes suffered from being overlong, with this one in particular struggling to keep things interesting. If you’re watching on cable, the show runs 90 minutes with commercials. That’s a long time to spend watching a show inch its storylines forward. American Horror Story has suffered from a similar arrogance in the past. Networks assign a show a weekly slot for greedier reasons, but I can’t help but wonder how season two would be playing if the writers were forced to condense the story down.

Of course, you would lose some of what makes Mr. Robot so unique. Not many shows outside of HBO and Showtime get to have 20-minute opening scenes. Even for all the deliberate pacing, there’s no question that the show looks and sounds great. From the David Fincher-esque filter on the whole aesthetic to the gorgeous score over the flashback opening to the loud muffle of the chess pieces hitting the board in the episode’s climax, Mr. Robot continues to be a beautiful piece of television.

Yet here we are, a third of the way through the sophomore season and Elliot hasn’t gotten anywhere. I appreciate the writers’ ambition to give us our lead’s uninterrupted internal monologue. Elliot is no doubt a fascinating figure. But he spends all of this entry arguing with himself about ways to get rid of Mr. Robot. Ray gives him a solution, challenge his other self to a winner-take-all game of chess. But when Elliot and his father finally sit down to play, after all the tension the episode builds toward this moment, they end in stalemate after stalemate. It’s another failed attempt that pushes Elliot toward the way we all knew he was going to take anyway.

With the FBI getting closer to uncovering fsociety, Darlene calls upon her brother for help. This is the convergence between characters I’ve been hoping for since the season started, not unlike Elliot’s insane dream of his “happy” future. Just as Elliot says he’s going to hack into the FBI, we cut to credits. It would be a great cliffhanger had anything of substance really happened in this episode. But we’ll have to wait for next week for the real resolution.

Rachel, meanwhile, continues her slow descent into the madness of E Corp. But her newest set of demands isn’t enough for the CEO, who brushes her off to the point of embarrassment. After he made her feel important at the dinner last week, he’s putting her back down. Rachel is an interesting figure this season. She has sharper edges than she did last year, but that can only get her in trouble at her new job where everyone else’s edges are a lot sharper. Especially as they keep their fragile relationship with the Dark Army intact.

So even when Mr. Robot is a little too slow, there’s enough going on to keep us invested. Elliot may have given up on his internal war to continue the even more covert one he started last season. He just took the scenic route getting there. But now that he’s more directly connected to Darlene’s storyline for the season, hopefully the show can regain some focus on the episodes to come. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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