Welcome back readers. We’re back in the saddle with another insane ride in Sam Esmail’s MR.ROBOT, with season 2.0 having just launched. A few things of note before we kick this off. First, there be spoilers ahead. Read on at your own risk. Having said that, the formatting for this round will be much the same as it was on our previous entries with this series; that is to say, this is less a review, and more a collection of observations and themes. Consider yourself warned. Without further adieu, please enjoy our diagnostics mined from MR.ROBOT Season 2.0 premier, part 1.
“What is it about society that disappoints you so much?”
This byline opens MR.ROBOT 2.0 for us, before plunging into a short review of the events of season one. The opening sequence lands us back at the f*society headquarters in the abandoned arcade pavilion. Expanding upon what we have already seen, Tyrell and Elliot share a few brief moments of co-conspiracy prior to the beat changing. Something I almost missed, as things move quickly here – Wellick gets a phone call and has a short conversation with James – unless this is a new character, this must be James Plouffe, the Evil Corp executive who later eats his gun on live TV. Wellick makes a request of James, and Gideon Goddard is mentioned as well.
Taking a hard right turn, as is typical for passengers in Elliot Alderson’s headspace, we find ourselves lost in time. We see the fateful event that is the catalyst for the creation myth that spawns Elliot’s MR.ROBOT alter ego. There is much foreshadowing of both religion and father-son relationships in these early scenes and throughout both parts of the season opener. We also get a hint at where Elliot’s ideas regarding currency, wealth, and societal value come from in snippets of an overheard conversation between his parents. Even in these early flashbacks, young Elliot is surprisingly mum. Is his fall and subsequent head injury the cause of his mental state? Or was the condition pre-existing?
An excellent segway accompanied by a sampling of The Gunter Kallmann Choir’s rendition of Daydream escorts us back to the present. CAT scans flow into composition notebooks to aid the journey. The tools of Elliot’s current project are the focus as we pan back to see our hero in the spartan bedroom he now inhabits.
“Today started just like yesterday… and the day before that.. and the day before that, and every day for the last month, a loop, my perfectly constructed loop”
Themes of repetition and being reborn permeate the premier. Elliot reads Tolstoy’s Resurrection, attends a church group, and performs the same set of actions, daily, detailing his efforts in a journal (seemingly titled after a William Carlos Williams poem). His reasoning soon becomes clear – this is a coping mechanism to limit MR.ROBOT’s ability to cause more harm. Additionally, his notated chronology allows him to investigate dissociative episodes and account for lost time.
The viewer gets to experience Elliot’s program by living through it with him. Lunch, chores, basketball – the routine gives his life structure, something a seemingly unemployed Elliot likely struggles to have. His admiration of Hot Carla, the local pyro, betrays the inner workings of his usually ordered mind when he identifies her as his personal totem; for all his obsessive compulsive predilections, somewhere within Elliot’s core resides a simmering, smoldering anarchist. Her burning of a copy of Waiting for Godot quietly highlights Tyrell’s absence.
“Do not get into a pattern where you are intimidated by these criminal attacks.” – President Obama, discussing the 5/9 hack attack of Evil Corp
Elliot is still seeing Krista Gordon for therapy to deal with his crushing depressing and hyperanxiety – a bold move by both parties, considering their myriad and strange interactions from season one. It is apparent that their relationship is strained; though visibly uncomfortable, Krista attempts to see through the mask to the real Elliot, with varying degrees of success. The points made here, in quiet discussions between these two imperfect people, have a degree of weight that is hard to describe. “Is there anything you miss about your old life?” Krista questions. “It doesn’t matter, even if I did,” Elliot responds, perfectly capturing the gravity of abject helplessness that is commonly experienced by patients suffering from his particular mental cocktail.
Hard cut. Elliot addresses the audience. We’ve been cut out of the remainder of his interactions with Krista. It seems our actions in season one have cost us Elliot’s trust – he is not comfortable being as open with us this time around. It is during this dress-down that MR.ROBOT makes his presence known.
Addressing each other for the first time in the season, it is clear that Elliot and MR.ROBOT’s fractured reality relationship has deteriorated. MR.ROBOT berates Elliot for abandoning the cause. “There is more work to be done! Our revolution needs a leader,” he quips. What a revolution it is; the cover of Playboy he casually peruses features a playmate in the now-iconic f*society mask prominently. The discussion quickly becomes heated, and it is not long before MR.ROBOT pulls the trigger on what appears to be an extreme measure to get through to Elliot and secure his attention. After several tense moments, reality turns, and their discussion continues. This is not the first time these two have danced this particular number. Control is an illusion; this is a point that both parties consider for the remainder of the episode.
We transition to a scene of metaphorical mayhem, as three members of f*society remove Charging Bull‘s balls, blatantly, from Bowling Green Park in the middle of the Financial District of Manhattan. The symbolism of this castration of rampant capitalism is about as in your face as you can get. Removing their mask of subtlety, the group continues their shadowy activities, but the results are often anything but hidden. Phase 2, it seems, will see daylight and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the downtrodden.
Perspective changes, and we suddenly find ourselves following an unknown woman on a morning jog. On her morning run, we find out more about the after effects of the 5/9 attack. The economy appears to be in trouble. Panic is causing waves in consumer spending. Systems are failing, shown poignantly as the runner’s smart watch fitness app crashes and burns, like the rest of the technology around her. Returning home, her technology issues escalate. Fleeing from a perceived technological poltergeist, she does what any well off person would do – calls a car, and migrates to an additional property that she owns, albeit with less technology to go on the warpath. The seven figure townhouse, now absent its plutocratic inhabitant, is swiftly re-purposed. A familiar face is found calling the shots.
Elliot entertains a rare visitor, an anomaly in the loop. Gideon Goddard appeals to Elliot in a desperate bid to reverse time and recover his old life. MR.ROBOT interferes in this exchange, acting as the Grima Wormtongue to Elliot’s King Théoden. The veracity of his interference takes a toll on Elliot, who refuses to assist Goddard. MR.ROBOT delivers a prophecy regarding Gideon that only Elliot sees.
Back at the occupied estate, f*society celebrates their perceived press victory against Wallstreet. Brews and balls are lifted, culminating in questionable choices from a group that necessitates anonymity as a means for survival. When that line is almost crossed, the new head of the revolution addresses the troops. “We are in a war,” Darlene quips, “and we are on the losing side of it.” The enemy is identified: Susan Jacobs, executive legal counsel for Evil Corp. With instructions and assignments doled out, we witness a discussion between f*society alumni, and begin to understand the shortcomings. We see Darlene and her mask; the question soon becomes which face is truly hers.
Back in the real world, common people are also reeling from the effects of the hack. As a woman argues her case with Evil Corp bank regarding her paid in full home, even the casual political participant starts to see the depth to which the system is rigged. Despite having hard copy paperwork proof, the consumer is rebuffed, and told that this is not good enough to relieve her of the “responsibility” to pay her debt…again. The dagger is twisted when the bank manager indicates that Evil Corp could not guarantee full remuneration for the contents of the client’s account due to the current state of their records. As though summoned from the ether, a cryto-ransomware makes itself known during this exchange. Those paying close attention will notice the fox in the cubicle farm. #OPdailyallowance
Susan Jacobs joins new CTO (and recent widow) Scott Knowles and returning grandpa arch-villain CEO Phillip Price in a splendid corner office overlooking their plebeian thralls. Their war council begins a threat assessment of their current crisis. On ask from their digital captors – $5.9 million USD. Several revelations are shared, not the least of which is that it is more fiscally viable for Evil Corp to simply pay the ransom than have their banking system down for five days.
Price, an obvious attention-to-details man, inquires about other demands listed in the ransom note. The drop is to be made singularly, in Battery Park, by a “Chief.” Speculating (likely correctly) that this corresponds to an executive, and following a quickly nixed discussion of an undercover op, Knowles offers to make the drop. Cut to intermission.
As you can see, the themes of resurrection, rebuilding a shattered id, masks, patterns and paternal shortcomings are hot and heavy here. Join us next time when we look past the break at the conclusion of MR.ROBOT Season 2.0 premier part 2.
Catch MR ROBOT on USA Network Wednesdays at 10/9c, or stream full episodes on their site.