Hello, friend: are you ready to go to war? Because by the looks of season two of USA Network’s very good Mr. Robot sure seems to be hankering for one. With the ramifications of the E Corp hack taking center stage—and all the questions and unknowns they left us with during season one—it definitely takes the two back-to-back, hour-long episodes to dive back into the world that fsociety’s created. For all the world-exploding the hacking group set up, Elliot, Darlene, and Mr. Robot have a lot less control over the situation post-takedown than they would’ve probably liked, setting up a blistering social commentary, psychological headgame, and horror-flecked hunt for the move to take it all down.
The sophomore season—which hits airwaves on July 13 at 10PM (and had a sneak-attack FB Livestream premiere on Sunday)—kicks out with a time jump that answers (at times slowly but to great effect) many of the questions left off at the end of season one: What actually happened when the hack went down? Is Tyrell alive? Did the hack work? Will we see Mr. Robot again? Is Gideon OK? But it also sets up a ton of unnerving unknowns, too: Will the FBI get involved? Is Elliot in control of his sanity? What’s going on with Angela’s lawsuit and promotion? Will Darlene go too far? Will Tyrell actually take the blame for all of this?
For as calm as so many people seem, the stress is ratcheted up to eleven from the get-go, thanks to creator Sam Esmail’s well-placed camera movements, broody lighting, and lingering shots. The show’s aesthetic is as strong as ever, and its look at the fallout of the world’s biggest hack does not end as cut-and-dry as anyone would have hoped or anticipated. And with the reveal that Mr. Robot is a creation of Elliot’s subconscious—a voice in the sea hoping to change Elliot’s tide—at the end of season one, the conceit of his mystery may be gone, but how and why he controls Elliot’s actions most certainly is not. The fugue states are still very real, folks.
Perhaps the most fascinating and riveting storyline, though, is Darlene’s. Seemingly separated from her brother Elliot, Darlene goes full war general, leading the digital charge against the corporations and banks that have held the people hostage for so long. Her first scene in the series finds her a woman reborn from the ashes of the E Corp takedown. She’s fascinating, vengeful, determined, and making the moves that must be done to build upon the hack’s damage. Dissatisfied with the results—and the seriousness with which her team does not take too kindly to her rules—Darlene’s determination reaches new heights in the season two opener. As the main cast turns this series into more of an ensemble show rather than told strictly from Elliot’s mind, Darlene’s storyline is the one with which we are most intrigued.
Speaking of Elliot, an expanded look into his mental illness proves it an even more layered and confounding piece of the puzzle. Here is a portrait of a man desperate to be good, so intent on being in control of that which maybe has more control over him than he might think that it may be doing him more harm than good to attempt it. Mr. Robot, himself, is unhappy with Elliot’s attempts to disconnect from his “past life,” and becomes more and more inventive to get his attention. A Mr. Robot not in control of Elliot—and being actively ignored by Elliot—is, perhaps, more dangerous, scary, and unhinged than ever before. Sam Esmail, the creator of the show who also wrote and directed the first two episodes, has managed to reinvigorate the danger and mystery behind Mr. Robot’s capabilities that may have been lost for some when his true identity was revealed in season one.
That isn’t to say it’s all strength, though. Some fans may take issue with Angela’s trajectory. As it currently stands, her 180, though telegraphed in the season one finale, feels the least fleshed-out and compelling. Of all the characters, Angela is given the least insight into her and her mind after the hack—bafflingly chanting affirmations in the middle of the night aside. With a fancy new job at E Corp that, she insists, respects her potential, Angela looks (somehow) even more unhinged than Elliot (she’s just masking it really poorly with all this stressed-out work maneuvering).
There’s a slew of new characters that come into view, too, with varying degrees of mystery surrounding them, including Craig Robinson, rapper Joey Bada$$, and Grace Gummer. Robinson’s character is, perhaps, the most confounding, and we’re intrigued to see people’s response to his more serious presence in the show. With the show’s penchant for eerily mirroring and/or preempting what’s happening in the real world, there’s plenty to look forward to as the world continues to spin madly on in season two.
Mr. Robot has managed—in its first two episodes back—to remain one of the most gripping, thrilling, horrific looks at our digitized culture that we’ve ever seen. Fans will not be disappointed by the series’ expanded point of view—particularly as the fallout (or lack thereof) begins to unfurl.
4.5 out of 5 encrypted burritos:
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Images: USA Network