Show Review: Mr. Robot Season 2
By Charlie Vargas
WARNING: SEASON 1+2 SPOILERS
Summer time never felt as gloomy and dark as it did with “Mr. Robot” season two. After the financial fallout of Five/Nine where the world’s largest conglomerate, E Corp. was hacked by fsociety and The Dark Army, the world was sent into distraught and monetary stagnation, something fsociety thought they were saving the world from. Elliot (Rami Malek) the leader of fsociety, began the season adjusting to a life in seclusion from technology, his friends and sister. With last season exposing Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) as the alter ego of Elliot in the form of his dead father, this season’s conflict was centered on the power struggle between Elliot and Mr. Robot, mostly revolving around the true whereabouts of Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wollstrom). That was not revealed until the last two episodes but even then, the question-ability of Elliot as a reliable narrator kept viewers guessing if what they saw was actually happening.
However, these were only some of the several conflicts this season. Conflicts overlapped with the supporting characters such as Darlene (Carley Chaikin) struggling as the new leader of fsociety. She dealt with the casualties of their core members as well as dodging the F.B.I.’s crusade lead by Dom (Grace Gummer) who up until the end of the season hadn’t revealed the F.B.I.’s true knowledge of fsociety. Another problem was with Angela (Portia Doubleday), who with a newfound confidence continued to pursue her career in E Corp. bringing a burden of consequences to her and fsociety but at the end of the season it is clear she is on board with The Dark Army and Tyrell.
The ending for this season started to become clearer but only in the scenes without Elliot or Mr. Robot. It is clear that Tyrell is alive and well at the end and not one of Elliot’s delusions. It also revealed stage two in fsociety’s operation, which would blow up the paper trail of the finances that allow E Corp. to successfully function after the previous hack. When the operation fails, Elliot is shot by Tyrell but is hinted to be alive when Tyrell calls Angela and the streets go dark, implying stage two was taking effect. One loose end that was sort of tied up was the whereabouts of Mobley (Azhar Khan) and Trenton (Sunita Mani) which also included Leon (Joey Bada$$) inferring the possibility he’ll become a reoccurring character.
The exposition this season was noticeably slow but that was no surprise since season one also had a hard time getting the ball rolling. However, like season one, once it was rolling it delivered momentum. In similarities, the series continued to play with the trippy cinematography styles of creator Sam Esmail, more notably seen in season one’s episode eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4, where Elliot hallucinates as a result of a morphine withdrawal. The similar episode in this season had a comical element as well as a satirical poke at the “Full House” sitcoms. Although the episode did seem like a filler it had a purpose in the episodes that followed. For example, the hallucination was an example of the protection that Mr. Robot provides for Elliot under harm. This set up another reveal showing that Elliot had in fact been in prison the majority of the season.
A factor that the show also executed nicely was its cultural relevance, something that resonates with its cult following. It is no secret that the Five/Nine attack resembles the recession of 2008 and that the surveillance program fsociety is under is related to the NSA’s PRISM program. The very last episode also mentioned use of the Patriot Act against Darlene when she chose to plead the fifth, and they used terms like “enemy combatant” which have been thrown around plenty this election cycle to describe terrorism.
The show also continued to talk about mental illness and some of the childhood trauma associated with it. Some of the most intimate moments this season were shared in flashbacks, like where Elliot’s father first confided to Elliot the secret of his terminal illness. Personal exchanges like those were what humanized the characters in the show. Each character seems to be chasing a void and in a sense, the interactions they share are what bring them together. Whether it’s Dom tailing fsociety or Angela joining E Corp. they were each portrayed lost and unfulfilled yet their purpose, as Whiterose (B.D. Wong) alluded to is impermanent for them. This very factor continues to develop the characters uniquely, twisting and turning the character’s presentation like it did with Angela throughout the season.
Another great aspect of the show was the accuracy of the computer hacking portrayed in the show. This is greatly due to the team of tech consultants like Mark Rogers and Kor Adana. Both of the consultants work together to build the hack and perform it to the accuracy portrayed on the show. So when viewers saw Elliot fix the site issues for Craig (Ray Heyworth) a prison warden who ran a tor site where he sold drugs, weapons and trafficked prostitutes and children, it was completely up to par in computer hacking accuracy.
If there was one thing that lacked strength was the identical reoccurring themes in “Mr. Robot” also found in “Fight Club” which are more noticeable at the end. The explosion of the building with all the financial paper trials is almost the same as the exploding buildings at the end of “Fight Club” also meant to delete any debit and credit history of consumers. It is no secret that the show is highly influenced by the film, but what truly sets it apart are the executions of those themes mixed with relevant problems of the economy, politics, and mental health. The show is heading in the right direction but we’ll have to wait another year to watch Esmail’s next move.