Wednesday, July 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' - Elliot Attempts to Maintain Control Over His Life in '' & ''

USA's Mr. Robot - Episode 2.01 "" & 2.02 ""

One month later and Five/Nine has changed the world. Elliot is in seclusion. Angela is happy at Evil Corp. fsociety delivers a malicious payload.

The first season of Mr. Robot ended on such a bold move with Elliot executing the big hack against Evil Corp. After a season of planning, fsociety moved forward with this attack on Evil Corp. It threw the entire world into financial meltdown. But it was also a cause for celebration for so many people as well. And yet, the season finale framed it as Elliot not being aware that it had happened. He wasn't in control of his body when the hack was executed. That forced him to realize that Mr. Robot has been controlling his body. Not only is he a figment of his imagination, he has the ability to take over and really wreck havoc over Elliot's life. That's such an unnerving quality. And now that Elliot is aware of that, it means his relationship with Mr. Robot is even more complicated and antagonistic heading into the second season.

The season premiere actually delves into the complex repercussions of the Evil Corp hack as well. It turns out that it wasn't as great as everyone thought it would be. In fact, it has made Evil Corp even more evil. That's brutally displayed with the simple and quick scene of a woman trying to prove that she has made her loan payments but the clerk saying there is no record to bare that out. This war for control is far from over. And yet, Elliot wants to disassociate himself with that world. He has learned just how little control he has really had over his actions. He no longer trusts the world around him. It's so interesting to see him cut back on providing voiceover narration of the events of the episode and getting the audience up to speed on what has changed between seasons. He no longer trusts the audience as his friend who he could confide in. That's such a unique and special narrative device that the show can do. It's surprising when the first voiceover is revealed to simply be his latest session with Krista. Elliot wants to appear more normal. He wants to escape all of these violent conflicts that are changing and manipulating his world. And yet, they still force him into action.

Elliot's life has changed a lot in the month between seasons. He has moved back in with his strict mother and has really fallen into a routine. The repetition of his days bring him stability. That's what he desperately needs right now in order to feel control over his own life. Of course, it's repetition of the same task over and over again. He eats every meal with the same guy, Leon, at the same diner where they have the same conversation. It's a hilarious detail that Leon has just discovered Seinfeld and loves talking about it. It's a good friendship because Elliot has the idea of companionship without needing to be an active part of the conversation. He is simply trying to blend into society. So that includes helping around the house, going to a church group, seeing Krista for regular sessions again and just watching the neighborhood basketball game every day. He needs to believe these patterns will eliminate Mr. Robot from his head. There is still so much he doesn't know about what happened when Mr. Robot was in control of his body. He knows he has real issues. It's a lot for him to grapple with. He's simply trying his best. But as this premiere proves, none of this is enough to get rid of Mr. Robot for good or eliminate the consequences of his actions last season.

In fact, Elliot and Mr. Robot's interactions are even more dynamic and propulsive than ever before. Mr. Robot needs Elliot to realize there is still so much important work that needs to be done. He sees Elliot as hiding away from the real problems of this world. He needs Elliot to realize they only scratched the surface with the Evil Corp hack. Yes, it's still completely dominating the news cycle. Everyone is still talking about it and how Tyrell Wellick is the prime suspect for both this attack and the murder of Sharon Knowles. But Mr. Robot is resorting to violence to get through to Elliot. It's so surprising and devastating to see Mr. Robot shoot Elliot in the head. It's a brutal sight. But it's not real. This is as much a part of Elliot's new pattern as going out to eat with Leon. Mr. Robot has shot him in the head before and he will probably do so again. Elliot is committed to his routine. It represents so much hope for him. That only makes it even more heart-wrenching when Elliot gets the realization that he is missing time once again. He is meticulously noting everything he does every single day. He writes down everything Mr. Robot says in a journal. Sure, he doesn't share those notes with anyone. They're just a way for him to make sense of his reality. But Mr. Robot is still capable of taking control of Elliot's body. No matter how much Elliot wants to believe he is in control, Mr. Robot can always prove him otherwise.

And yet, Elliot does have some control as well. Mr. Robot can't be in charge all of the time. In fact, Elliot has done a strong enough job of resisting his temptation. It would be so easy for him to give into that paranoia again. He is given plenty of opportunities across this two episode premiere. Gideon shows up to talk to him about being the patsy in the Evil Corp hack and how strenuous it has been working with the FBI since then. He's at his wit's end. And yet, Elliot doesn't give in and take Gideon out because he simply knows too much. He resists that temptation - even though it's clear Mr. Robot is baiting him into doing it. But it's also important that Elliot doesn't want to help Ray, another new guy from the neighborhood, who wants his computer expertise for unknown reasons. It's suspicious the moment Ray appears and knows what Elliot is capable of doing. That's the biggest indication that Mr. Robot has something more planned for Elliot. But Elliot isn't backing down either. In fact, he's cackling with delight that Mr. Robot can't break him despite the multiple gunshots. Mr. Robot has all the answers and Elliot isn't willing to give in and do what he says until he knows what happened to Tyrell.

Of course, this premiere isn't entirely about Elliot and Mr. Robot. It actually touches on a number of characters who have been affected by the hack. Most of it does play as informing the audience of where these characters are now a month later and how they'll be important moving forward. But a number of those stories have some compelling moments as well. Angela was often seen as the normal person on the show. She was a healthy and sane girl. But now, she is trying to reprogram as well by watching positive reenforcement videos. She enjoys her new job at Evil Corp and is actually pretty good at it too. Meanwhile, Darlene is now the leader of an even bigger fsociety. She realizes the hack only made things worse. So, the hackers need to take things up a notch in order to continue to shape the world and destroy Evil Corp in the process. That means hacking into the life of Evil Corp's general counsel, Susan "Madam Executioner" Jacobs. That's a very fun and thrilling sequence to see Susan's smart home turn against her because of all the erratic technology. It's also exciting to watch fsociety demand Scott, Evil Corp's CTO, to burn $5.9 million for a public audience. It's little details like that that show fsociety isn't going anywhere. But Phillip still plans on being on top of Evil Corp and making sure the world can go back to living the con it has always been comfortable in. And most importantly, it is revealed that Tyrell is still alive by the end of the second episode. Elliot and the audience still don't know what happened to him. But it won't be long until we find out answers.

Some more thoughts:
  • "" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail.
  • "" was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Sam Esmail.
  • Joanna has such a fitting entrance to the season with being tied up and having sex with her new lover. Of course, this new guy doesn't seem to understand her rules all that well. Plus, it seems like she is still being a good mother. But how long will that last especially since Tyrell is seemingly reaching out to her.
  • That speech where Philip refuses to resign just shows how strong an actor Michael Cristofer can be when given some weighty material. It's great that he's going to be around more this season. Though it's still unclear what Philip's relationship is like with White Rose.
  • Angela also fires her lawyer, Antara, because she believes she no longer needs her. She has find her own value and confidence in the world. But that is increasingly seeming manufactured which could easily be manipulated later on.
  • Darlene is committed to leading fsociety to the next stage of global dominance. But it seems like a lonely existence for her as well. It's not like the fsociety of last season. Now, she's leading a bunch of people who like the idea but don't really know what they'll doing. Plus, she's no longer really making the time to visit Elliot.
  • All of the new characters seem to have importance that will play off of the rest of the show well. In addition to Leon and Rey, the premiere also introduces Grace Gummer as Dom DiPierro, an FBI agent investigating the Evil Corp hack. It should be very interesting to see law enforcement's approach to learning the truth about what happened.
  • Of course, things take a tragic turn by the end of the premiere as well. Gideon becomes the ultimate patsy when a guy at a bar pulls a gun out and kills him. That was a shocking moment that really ups the stakes for the rest of the season. He was afraid he was losing control. And now, he's dead. That could be a fate for so many people this year. But how much did he reveal to Dom before he was killed? That could be a satisfying mystery as well.