The first season of USA’s Mr. Robot was instantly a smash hit. Its unique blend of first hand accounts, winding philosophical inner monologues, and outstanding performances from all involved -especially from Rami Malek and Christian Slater- titillated viewers like you would not have believed, especially coming from the exceedingly average USA network. So it should probably not come as a surprise the premier of Mr. Robot season two fell prey to the weight of its own exceptional season 1 finale and the massive hype train for the follow up season. That’s not to say that it can’t turn it around in the coming weeks, and I think it will. This episode in particular was just a catch up/set up for the the events to come, and therefore a bit boring.
What was so immediately fascinating about Mr. Robot was the way in which the story was presented. You see, our main character Elliot is a deeply troubled drug addict who just so happens to suffer from multiple personality disorder, which was probably the most shocking of all reveals in the first season. My jaw hit the floor when it was revealed that Mr. Robot was indeed just Elliot’s own father jammed into his twisted brain. What also kept things interesting is the way Elliot interacted with the viewer, the camera and therefore the audience. These were presented as extensions of Elliot’s delusions. Elliot often commented and addressed the camera/viewer as if they were along for the ride. This, mixed with Elliot’s own lack of understanding of his own mind, made for an exhilarating mystery from beginning to end. When you understand how the show works and that we will never know more than Elliot does, because we as the viewers are inside Elliot’s head, the show may have lost a bit of magic coming into season two.
We begin this new journey as Elliot battles with his delusions in an attempt to remain sane and maybe not send the world spiraling into chaos this time around. His day to day pinpoint routine was interesting. With this, we got to spend a lot of time rooting around in his thoughts, which are always a treat due to Rami Malek’s incredible delivery and physical presence. You probably know Rami from Until Dawn where he played Josh or as Snafu in The Pacific and while he was great in those, he is amazing in Mr. Robot.
From here we are introduced to a plethora of new and returning characters. Most notable of the bunch is Darlene dealing with the fallout of the five/nine attack and -new to the show- Craig Robinson’s mysterious “Ray”. It was interesting to jump from character to character seeing where they are in a post five/nine world. Darlene is leading the continued fsociety revolution, Gideon is still reeling from his losses and good ol’ Tyrell Wellick is alive and well. You’d be sorely mistaken, if you think they would have gotten rid of such an excellently acted character so soon. I love Martin Wallström’s Tyrell and I can’t wait to see what he has planned for Elliot going forward.
After dropping in on our characters both new and returning, we are informed that Elliot is definitely not as in control as he thought he was. Turns out, while Elliot thought he was sleeping, Mr. Robot was out doing god knows what, and that Angela -played by the lovely Portia Doubleday- is actually content working for the villainous E Corp. Her story is as frustrating as it is fascinating, and I’m sure her character will be called into question as this season progresses. When we first met Angela, she was a champion for the just and morally straight-edge. Now, she has seemingly sold out in the span of a few days? Interesting direction to take, I guess.
We conclude on a genuinely shocking moment. As the unfairly wronged Gideon sits having a drink in a bar, a stranger approaches him and what seemingly appears to be a normal conversation quickly devolves into murder when Gideon is shot in the neck and left for dead. While I didn’t expect Gideon to die so quickly the shock value quickly dissipated because I honestly wasn’t sure Gideon would even show up this season, I really feel like his story was over and he didn’t really have a place in the show anymore. So his death, while unexpected fell a bit flat because what more did Gideon have to offer us?
There were some exceptional scenes in the premier though. The most noteworthy being fsociety’s take over of the smart home and the ceremonial burning of 5.9 million dollars in battery park by the E Corp Exec. The latter expertly book-ended by Phil Collins “Take Me Home”
So after all is said and done, I was left wondering what kind of show Mr. Robot would morph into for its sophomore season. The premier was by no means bad or offensively boring, but it was just about two hours of groundwork for what’s to come. The first season leaned heavily on rampant anti-consumerism and deep, long winded internal monologues about our narcissistic, self-absorbed citizens. Some real “Rage Against The Machine” type stuff. And while I’m sure we will see the return of those themes in the weeks following, the debut just wasn’t as exciting or revealing as I had hoped.