Rarely in television do you find a piece of art worth cherishing. Entertainment has made strides, but there’s been a lack of an actual art form that’s been sorely missed. Fortunately, last summer’s sleeper hit Mr. Robot quietly walked into the picture and changed all of that. Through the shit and destruction that is real life came truth, beauty, and that mirrored note of chaos we all experience in our daily lives. Paired with exquisite acting and an excellent soundtrack, somehow USA (characters welcome!) managed to pull this from the programming ether.
Season two reintroduces us to this same ideas and meanings, reminding the hungry audience that it was worth being sorely missed for all these months. After figuring out the worst kept secret in television, Elliot is now dealing with the aftermath of his…split personality? Schizophrenia? Daddy issues? His alter ego in the form of the dashing Christian Slater/Elliot’s dead dad had reeked such havoc on his brain that he’s now living in an analog loop to avoid adding to the worsening crises the country is facing after being targeted by F-society. Elliot’s reluctant walking through the motions is intoxicating. Rather than address the audience as his additional imaginary companion as he had before, he instead narrates his existence with a callous wave of the hand. This is what he must do now, and that’s all there is to it.
Elliot’s existence is only heightened by his friend Leon (Joey Bada$$) who has recently discovered the wonderful nothingness that is Seinfeld, a comfort for Elliot as he continues to keep a blank mind in order to keep Mr. Robot out. It’s quite wonderful the way Leon’s confusion and subsequent love of the show that is literally about nothing mirror’s Elliot’s own feelings about his own life. There’s so much nothing it’s about to drive him (them) crazy.
While Elliot does his best to ignore Mr. Robot, he continues to be terrorized by the hallucination. While Elliot sticks to his analog life and schedule, he is threatened and subsequently shot in the head by Robot. While jarring, it soon becomes apparent that this is part of Elliot’s strange personal growth. Rather than lay dormant, he gains control of himself, still envisioning a dripping head wound as he calmly writes in his journal “he shot me in the head again”. The torment he’s facing is excruciating and hard to watch, but at the same time it’s part of what makes this show so special.
While Elliot toils in the life of a literal mental patient, Darlene continues the cause, destroying as much about the upper class and selfish 1% that she can get her hands on. She’s held on tightly to the ideals she and her brother once worked for together; she can’t help but feel his loss. What’s the point of starting a revolution if you’re doing it alone? While Darlene doesn’t share the same character flaws as Elliot she certainly carries the weight of the cause and the world on her shoulders just as much, or even more so, than her dearly disturbed sibling.
Meanwhile Angela is flourishing at Evil Corp. After taking the position she swore she would first die than fill, she’s now killing it. There’s something off about Angela’s strive to reach the top, as seen by her obsession with positive affirmations. Who could blame her? Her dirtbag boyfriend fucked with her psyche, followed by the destruction of the company she works for at her own hand, the CEO of said company literally blowing his brains out onto her shoes, and then the revelation that Elliot has been falling apart this whole time. Since her mother died she hasn’t had the best life. Angela’s character started out grossly dull, and with the pacing of this season it feels fair to assume she’ll be growing into something completely opposite of the sweet, naive engineer we met in season one (as noted by the taking home of a pretty man from the bar).
While not all of our questions or concerns were addressed, it doesn’t matter. We can’t ask that of art. We must simply sit back and marvel at what we’re given. Wellick’s disappearing act is interesting as he’s acting as the pseudo-leader of F-society without actually doing anything. At one-point last season I questioned if he too was a figment of Elliot’s imagination, but at this point he’s obviously real and dealing with the consequences of throwing in with Elliot’s troubles. Wellick has yet to deal with any consequences of being a horrible person, and considering his status I honestly don’t think he ever will However it will be absolutely fascinating to watch him shake this off to be reunited with his increasingly evil/gorgeous/probably a vampire wife.
The top scene this season opener was tied between Knowles’ burning 5.9 million dollars in the middle of New York wearing an F-society mask, and Gideon’s death. As Knowles stood in the park looking shady as fuck we knew something was coming. But holy shit, Darlene has him burn the ransom money in a public display of stupidity stemming from Evil Corp’s inability to understand the pending revolution. The fire bouncing off of his confused eyes hidden behind the Moneybags mask is striking, and literally fueling the fire of what’s to come. Of course the ransom was in vain for more than one reason as their bank accounts are still attacked regardless of compliance. Silly business men.
Gideon’s death on the other hand was not as jarring as the suicide we witnessed last season, though it held weight. He’s literally described as an important patsy by his murderer, and it comes out of nowhere. He was poised to become the scape goat this season, and now we’re left with an interesting gap to fill. The light has already left his eyes as he’s lost everything he ever worked for, and by the time he’s shot in the throat his earlier begging of Elliot to return to Evil Corp and help him deal with the damage comes to mind. Elliot’s sick imagining of Gideon’s throat being cut by Robot leaves pause for who was actually behind his death.
In addition to the already stellar cast showrunner and creator Sam Esmail has so lovingly cobbled together for us, this season we’ve already gotten a peak at Grace Gummer (daughter of demi-god Meryl Streep), rapper Joey Bada$$ (who made for the perfect existential questioning friend), and Craig Robinson (who despite Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a well-rounded actor). The new faces coupled with Rami Malek and Christian Slater’s dual leading-roll is a treat for the senses, and if the rest of the season paces as quietly/magically as season one, we’re in for another suckless summer with Mr. Robot.