Mr. Robot: Season 2 premiere review – eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc & eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc
The award winning and critically acclaimed first season of USA Network’s conspiracy-thriller Mr. Robot will seemingly be difficult to follow, let alone improve upon. However, after last night’s two part premiere, it’s altogether possible that the series will accomplish just that.
The premiere shies away from some of the the more stylized themes of season one, setting them aside to focus more on substance, making this season feels more intimate and character driven. Viewers are given several profoundly stellar moments as the plot twists and turns. Below is our detailed and spoiler-heavy review.
eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc (part one)
The first installment of the two part episode takes place one month after the season one finale, though not before giving us a brief scene featuring Elliot and Tyrell Wellick from the original timeline. “It’s happening.” Elliot says to Tyrell Wellick as he looks up from his computer monitors set up in the arcade from season one that served as a meeting place for hacker group fSociety. Tyrell takes Elliot’s place in the chair, looking down at the monitors. “It’s…almost as if….something’s come alive.” he states. It’s worth noting that Tyrell’s whereabouts is still unknown at this point in the series. The episode then reveals a flashback of Elliot falling from a window as a boy. We know from season one that his father pushed him out the window for revealing the fact that he had Leukemia to his mother, which Elliot was supposed to keep secret. Despite having been given this information previously, this was a difficult scene to watch.
The story then shifts to the present, and we learn that Elliot has been following a very strict regimen that he’s laid out for himself in an attempt to keep Mr. Robot at bay.“Today started just like yesterday. And the day before that, and the day before that. And everyday for the last month. A loop. My perfectly constructed loop.” His routine consists of meeting his friend Leon for all three meals throughout the day, housework and chores twice a day, taking in a local basketball game in the afternoons, attending a church group twice a week, and most notably, journaling. He indicates that writing down his activities and thoughts is the only thing keeping his program running like it’s supposed to. The journal plays a significant role throughout the premiere, and it seems likely that it may continue to do so throughout the season. At this point in the episode we learn that Elliot is residing with his mother. “My mom has no computer or internet access to tempt me into the night. All that’s left for me is just ordinary analog sleep, ending the day’s loop.”
In another scene we find Elliot having a session with Krista, his psychiatrist from the first season, who asks why he’s staying with his mother, given that Elliot has attributed a lot of his childhood trauma to her. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Right?” he replies. Upon asking if he misses anything about his old life, he asks if it matters, noting that he doesn’t trust himself. She insists that he tell him why, reminding him that he’d promised to be more open with her. “It’s not that I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust him.” he replies. It’s unclear at this point whether or not he’s discussed Mr. Robot with her, as the scene takes a shift without revealing the rest of their conversation. A point which he brings up in the scene that follows.
Walking home, Elliot addresses the viewers for the first time this season. “Hello, again. Yes, I’m talking to you this time. I’m sure you wanted to hear what I told Krista back there, but I’m not ready to trust you yet. Not after what you did. You kept things from me. And I don’t know if I can tell you secrets like before. Friends are supposed to be honest with each other, and you weren’t. It’s going to take a while to rebuild this relationship.” As with the first season, this dialog is via Elliot’s thoughts rather than spoken, and it’s interesting that he mistrusts the viewers as much as himself.
Despite Elliot believing he has full control over his dissociative disorder so far in this episode, the next scene reveals otherwise. We find our main character journaling in his room, seemingly alone with his thoughts, until Mr. Robot is revealed to be present. Our antagonist taunts Elliot as he continues to write in an attempt to ignore him. Mr. Robot insists that they can’t stay there because there’s more work to be done, and that a revolution needs a leader. What follows is an altercation between the two that is easily one of the most profound moments of the episode, if not of the series. Mr. Robot forces Elliot down on the bed, pointing a gun in his face and declaring “You think this is gonna get rid of me? I am not to be gotten rid of!!! This zombie act you’re pulling, it don’t work on us! This control you think you have, it’s an illusion.” Elliot remains calm, saying “You want my attention? Tell me what I want to know. Tell me where Tyrell is.” Mr. Robot states that he can’t do that, to which Elliot begins replying “Then go fuc—” only to be shot point blank in the face. The eerie and suspenseful music is perfect for this scene as our lead character lay motionless on the bed. After what feels like an eternity, Elliot begins to slowly sit up, blood trickling down his forehead. “Are you done?” he asks. Mr. Robot appears to feel defeated, flopping down onto the bed with a sigh. Elliot returns to his journal and writes “He shot me in the head again. I didn’t panic like last time, I stayed calm. He also said control is an illusion?” Elliot underlines the last sentence as blood drips onto the paper.
Some time afterward, Elliot is being visited by, Gideon, his former Allstate boss. Gideon reveals that there is no Allstate anymore since he’s suspected for having involvement with the hack, and he mentions that he’s been cooperative with all official investigations. Despite his cooperation, he seeks Elliot’s help as he fears he’s being watched and possibly hacked. Mr. Robot, who is sitting nearby, taunts Elliot by saying “Gee, I wonder who’s fault that is. Is that you, or me? I’m getting it all mixed up, I can’t recall.” This makes Elliot question whether or not he’s been fully in control, and he refuses Gideon’s request for help, as he fears deviating from his routine will be detrimental. His dismissal of Gideon’s request paints Elliot’s former boss into a corner, and Gideon declares that he’s going to go to the FBI with damning information about Elliot. His words fall on deaf ears, as Elliot is currently too distracted by Mr. Robot to show any concern. Elliot returns to his room, where he bandages his head, and is seen wearing the bandage throughout the remainder of the premiere.
The episode does, on a few occasions, delve into other characters. We meet a new character, a woman who arrives home to her ‘smart-house’ where all of her electronics are malfunctioning, forcing her to vacate in frustration. Almost as soon as she leaves, her residence is occupied by fSociety members, and we briefly get our first glimpse of Darlene in this episode. Darlene is leading the fSociety group, insisting that their work isn’t finished and is in fact only just begun. Despite her dedication, it’s clear that this is a burden that weighs heavily on her. We learn later in the episode that the woman whose house they’re in actually belongs to Susan Jacobs, the general council at Ecorp. “You wanna know what her nickname is inside the company? Madam executioner. Not just because she could kill any lawsuit filed against them, but because those lawsuits usually involved deaths. These are the cowards we are dealing with. We have been on our knees for too long, and it’s time to stand up.” Darlene tells the group in a passionate speech. The final scene of the episode shows Susan and two male executives from E-Corp. discussing a recent fSociety hack that’s rendered their banks databases useless, and was accompanied by a ransom demand that’s to be paid by one of the chiefs from the company. The lawyer suggests that paying the ransom is the best option, and the Chief Technician agrees to be the one to do it.
eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc (part 2)
The second part of the premiere picks up right where the first left off, and they deliver another brilliant and powerful scene. We find the Chief Technician from E-Corp. waiting to deliver the ransom in Battery Park. It is nighttime in the busy park, and the mood is tense as the man waits to be approached. After a couple false alarms, a man rides up on a bicycle and asks if he’s from E-Corp, then has the executive sign for the delivery and rides off into the night. As he’s opening the duffel bag to see what’s inside, he receives a call from someone with a disguised voice telling him he has 10 seconds to do what it says or every one of their banking systems will be bricked. The man quickly puts the mask on and begins dumping the ransom money onto the ground as bystanders begin to take notice. He then uses an accelerant that was provided with the mask and ignites the massive pile of bills while people surround him and film with their smartphones. The camera pans the crowd, and we see Darlene standing among them watching. The executive removes the mask and holds it at his side, the inside reading “Wear me and then burn the money”. The angle shifts to a view of the E-Corp tower against a black sky, seen through flames and smoke.
Nest we’re shown a meeting with E-Corp CEO, Phillip Price. He is asked to resign, being told that there is no way to continue to fund E-Corp’s recovery. The CEO refuses, giving a heartless speech about previous hardships in America. “In the fallout of the great depression, FDR closed all the banks for a bank holiday, and then he reopened them in stages when they were reported to being sound. Later, historians discovered what we in this room now know, that those reports, they were mostly lies. Nevertheless, it worked. It worked because the public believed that the govt had everything under control. Every business day when that market bell rings, we con people into believing in something, the American dream, family values. Could be freedom fries for all I care. It doesn’t matter as long as the con works and people buy and sell whatever it is we want them to. If I resign, then any scrap of confidence the public is already clinging onto will be destroyed, and we all know a con doesn’t work without the confidence. If this was the best idea you could come up with for a win, I shouldn’t be the one resigning.” he insists. It’s clear that Price isn’t going anywhere.
Part two of the premiere heavily focus on the other characters in the series, and we’re given a brief scene with Tyrell Wellick’s wife, Joanna in a BDSM scene with a new lover. Later in the episode she receives a gift wrapped package, which she opens to find a music box with a cell phone taped to the bottom. However, she misses an incoming call from an unknown number while attending to her and Tyrell’s baby, and it isn’t revealed whether or not the package came from her husband or from an unknown party.
We also finally get several scenes with Angela, who’s undergone quite a transformation this season. She’s now working for E-Corp. as PR manager, much to the disdain of her co-workers, and she’s seen negotiating news coverage for the company. Later in the episode she meets the lawyer from season one who was helping her with a lawsuit against the very company she now works for. Angela tells her that they were wrong about the company’s motives, and declares that she likes her job and that she’s staying. The lawyer leaves, saying she can see Angela’s resolve and knows when to cut her losses. Angela then brings home a man she meets in the bar, and we later see her in her residence sitting alone in the dark listening to a motivational segment, and repeating the following mantra, “I am confident. My confidence is powerful. I recognize myself as exceptional. I will follow my dreams no matter what.”
This episode also revisits Gideon, who’s seen in an interview room at FBI headquarters, presumably honoring his threat to disclose what he knows about Elliot. He’s later seen having a drink in a bar and watching a newscast, when he is approached by a male stranger. The man attempts to engage him in conversation, to which Gideon replies that he’s just there for a drink and informs the man that he’s married. The scene takes a rather shocking turn as the man tells Gideon he knows who he is, then goes on to say “It’s obvious why they use you as their patsy. You give off a very sympathetic and honest vibe. You’re the perfect vessel for their lies.” Gideon is rightfully surprised, and states that he certainly doesn’t feel he has any control over the situation. The man then thanks Gideon, much to his suprise and confusion, then tells him “Tomorrow I’m going to be a hero. You may just be a patsy, but you’re an important one.In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a bigger crisis actor than you before.” The man then raises a gun and shoots Gideon in the throat, and the former Allstate boss is last seen bleeding out on the barroom floor.
Most of the remaining scenes focus again on our protagonist, and we again see him and Leon attending a basketball game. Leon has an altercation with one of the players, and ends up leaving Elliot at the game alone. Elliot is approached by a man named Ray who’s accompanied by his dog called Maxine. The man tells Elliot that his dog likes him, and attempts to engage him in conversation, to which Elliot is barely responsive. Ray indicates that he knows Elliot is good with computers and hints at the fact that he could use his help, but Elliot tells him that whatever he heard isn’t true and tells him he’s not interested in assisting. Ray says he can take a hint and leaves with his dog, while Mr. Robot appears in the bleachers where they’re seated and attempts to get Elliot to help the man. Elliot ignores, him declares to himself that as long as he sticks to his regimine, he still remains in control.
The next day Elliot is back attending the game alone when Ray returns with Maxine, attempting again to make conversation. Elliot is very dismissive, which seems to genuinely confuse Ray. He tells Elliot he thought they were on the same page when they spoke the night before, to which Elliot replies “I don’t know what you’re talking about, man. I didn’t see you last night.” At this point Ray is rather dumbstruck, saying “You really don’t remember.” Elliot gets up and leave abruptly, returning home to check his journal entries. Upon reviewing them, he realizes that there’s been a gap in his consciousness that he can’t account for.
We’re given a third stellar scene at this point, which wonderfully showcases Rami Malek’s talent as an actor. Upon realizing he’s lost time, Elliot begins to feel panicked. “What do they see when they see you coming?” Mr. Robot asks him. Ignoring the question, Elliot asks Mr. Robot why he spoke to Ray, to which he replies “Because I’m gonna make you realize.” Elliot remains confused, “What? What will you make me realize?” he demands to know in an increasingly panicked voice. “That they see me.” replies Mr. Robot. Elliot appears to be overwhelmed, and turns and walks away standing to face the wall. He slowly turns back around, a maddened grimace spreading across his face as he begins laughing hysterically while also on the verge of tears. This moment seems to last for ages, and makes viewers fear for Elliot’s sanity more than ever. Mr. Robot appears visibly shaken during this scene for possibly the first time in the series. He again points a gun in Elliots face, who like before, repeats the same demand “Tell me where Tyrell is, or shoot me again. ‘Cause the only one it’s gonna drive mad is you, not me.” Mr. Robot backs off, and Elliot leaves stating that he’s late for his church group. In the final scene of the episode, we see Elliot attending the group, growing sleepy and dozing off as the other members speak. When he comes to, he’s standing in his mother’s house holding a landline phone in his hand. The line is ringing, and someone on the other end picks up. “Is it really you?” the voice asks. Elliot asks who it is, to which we hear Tyrell Wellick laugh and reply “Bonsoir, Elliot.”
Despite being very detailed, this already lengthy review doesn’t get into impact that the fSociety hack had on the economy, though it is cleverly seeded throughout the episode, usually in the form of newscasts being viewed by the characters.
While the first season is very beloved, there were times when it seemed to lean a bit too heavily on it’s many influences. Even this early in the season, the series already seems to be moving away from that, indicating that this season will likely be more assured and will develop it’s own unique flavor. The extended premiere does a fantastic job at setting up the season, exploring growth and development for each of the characters. The cast is undeniably talented, each of them doing an absolutely superb job at bringing their characters to life. The show’s use of music and cinematography are very fitting to the series and always remain on point. The season was recently given twelve episodes, as opposed to the originally slated ten, all of which will be directed by creator Sam Esmail. Mr. Robot airs on Wednesdays at 10/9c on the USA Network.
Image credits: USA