MR. ROBOT is back in a big way with a double episode premiere that shows us the aftermath of fsociety’s big hack. After last season’s revelation that Mr. Robot was all a figment of Elliot’s imagination, things have changed drastically for everyone involved.
How do you stop a voice or character in your head from manipulating you into doing things you don’t want to do? For Elliot, it’s a strict regimented day with no access to the Internet or computers. Avoid temptation, and avoid falling back into the pitfalls that led him down this road. We basically see the monastic life he’s carved out for himself living with his mother. His routine is dull, but keeps him on the straight and narrow. In order to get better, he has to remove Mr. Robot from his life, and he can’t do that leading fsociety.
He journals every moment of the day, and fills up a diary with the minutiae, the dull, the dreary existence of the life he’s leading these days. The diary takes the place of the introspection of monks on the divine, his cell is the room in his mother’s house, and he has one Seinfeld obsessed friend who talks so much it leaves Elliot no time to answer or talk for himself. It’s exactly what he wants. Wake, dishes, meals, journal, laundry, watch basketball in the park, church meetings, journal, sleep, and repeat. This is his life now. Beyond the awkward meetings with his psychiatrist Krista, who seems on edge just having Elliot in her office after their strained relationship from last season, there’s not much more to his life. He can’t trust himself without the discipline of his routine, and even then, Mr. Robot finds a way to sneak in from time to time. Elliot ignores him as best he can, but Mr. Robot is not going away. Until Mr. Robot tells him where Tyrell is, Elliot will continue to ignore him, even though Mr. Robot threatens him with a gun and shoots him in the head. It can’t hurt him, since it’s all in Elliot’s head. The threats are hollow reminders that Mr. Robot is angry and wants back into Elliot’s life.
While Elliot tries to fix himself, the rest of the world is still reeling from the E-Corp hack. The economy is on the skids, and businesses seem to be falling apart in the aftermath of what Elliot has done. All of the blame seems to be placed squarely on Tyrell Wellick, who looms largely over these episodes without ever showing his face beyond a quick glimpse of what took place right as the hack was unfolding. In the arcade, Wellick watches in awe as Elliot unleashes the havoc of the hack on E-Corp, and the last thing we see is Elliot reaching into the popcorn machine where we saw him hide a gun. Did Elliot kill Tyrell? He’s not even sure of that himself, and it’s this uncertainty, these things he does and has no memory of when Mr. Robot has taken over his conscious, which Elliot is trying desperately to avoid in the future.
What happens to a movement without a leader? Certainly the way Elliot has disappeared has turned him into a legend among the group, but the rest of the world thinks Tyrell is the leader of fsociety. In his absence, Darlene has taken over running the group. She’s a capable leader, but there’s definitely a void without Elliot’s presence. You can see it in her face, and in the exhaustion written all over her every look. Fsociety started a war, but in her mind it is one they haven’t won, in fact unless they cut the head off of the snake that is E-Corp, they will lose. Her followers take great delight in castrating the statue of the bull outside of Wall Street, but that’s just silly games. She’s got something big up her sleeves, and it begins with hacking and taking over the house of E-Corp’s general council, Susan Jacobs. Susan flees her home when all of the computerized gadgets in her fully integrated house go crazy, and in her wake, it becomes the new headquarters of fsociety.
In Elliot’s absence, things have really fallen apart for his former boss Gideon. Allsafe Security is out of business, and the FBI blames Gideon for having taken part in the hack in some way since Elliot used Allsafe as a backdoor into E-Corp. Things are out of control in Gideon’s life, and it’s really too bad. Gideon was nice to Elliot and treated him really well, but the thanks he gets in return is becoming the patsy in fsociety’s cyber attack. Gideon is legitimately in trouble and he comes to Elliot’s mother’s house to beg Elliot to help him. It doesn’t seem clear Gideon knows Elliot had anything to do with the fsociety attack, but when he gets no sympathy from Elliot, Gideon threatens to tell the FBI about him. This sets Mr. Robot off, and it worries Elliot. He’s not sure he can control Mr. Robot’s dark urges.
Darlene is afraid that what fsociety has done to E-Corp has made things worse for society, not better. We see glimpses of this in a bank teller line as people who had paid off their mortgages, were unable to get the E-Corp bank to clear them of their home loans even though the owner’s have the paperwork to prove they had been in good standing. It’s become a nightmare for the people fsociety was trying to free. So what she does is use her connections to hit them again. A member of fsociety is also an IT person at E-Corp, and he has inserted ransom ware into E-Corp’s system which it has taken over all of their computer data in every computer in the entire company. If E-Corp does not comply with fsociety’s demands, every piece of data will be erased. They want $5.9 million dollars delivered personally to a meeting place by one of the CEO’s of the company.
Tyrell’s wife Joanna is under scrutiny because of her husband, but that doesn’t stop her from BDSM trysts with a new man in Tyrell’s absence. There’s something she knows about Tyrell that we don’t, and it will likely prove important as the season moves on. She’s had no contact with her husband, and is probably being watched and monitored at all times by the Feds. When she finds a gift of a music box on her doorstep, it’s clear she knows it’s from Tyrell. Underneath the box, a cell phone has been taped. She misses a call from the phone while checking on her baby. Is Tyrell trying to get a hold of her? Is he even alive anymore? Is he just another one of Elliot’s personalities? Tyrell is a complete mystery to me at this point, but it was really weird to see Joanna’s reaction to Elliot last season when they ran into each other.
When the CEO of fsociety shows up with the money in duffel bags at the meeting spot, he has security and law enforcement all over the place to grab whomever comes to pick up the money. He underestimates fsociety. A courier arrives on bike and delivers a package to the CEO. It’s an fsociety mask taped to a can of lighter fluid. When his phone rings he’s told if he doesn’t do what the note on the mask says in 10 seconds all of E-Corps data will be bricked. He empties all $5.9 million dollars in a pile in the park while wearing the mask, and sets it on fire in front of everyone. Not only will it make the news immediately, but also fsociety has stuck it to E-Corp so hard, that they’ve proven they can do anything they want. Darlene watches from the crowd.
Angela is now working at E-Corp, and has turned herself into a ruthless ice queen. In a scene at work orchestrating a media appearance, she manipulates the networks like a maestro to get exactly what she wants. Her coworkers hate her, but she doesn’t care about them at all. She’s protected from on high, and is good at her job. In a great visual moment, she’s the only person wearing white in a sea of black clad coworkers. Is she working from the inside to take down E-Corp or has she really drunk the kool-aid? After a dressing down from her lawyer, she takes a guy home from the bar, and we see that deep down she’s the same insecure Angela we knew last season. She recites mantras from a positive affirmation DVD. She’s playing a part, and wearing a mask of confidence, hiding her true self.
In fact all of the main characters wear masks. Elliot has Mr. Robot as his mask, and can’t figure out how to remove it once he no longer wants it. Darlene wears the mask of leader of fsociety, but she’s in way over her head and needs Elliot back to help. Angela wears the mask of corporate hardass, but she’s as insecure as anyone else. They’ve all been through a lot, and the masks have helped them cope with the trials and tribulations of last season, but after a while they won’t be able to keep up the routine any longer. Something is going to have to give.
A few new characters show up to set up events in later episodes. Dom is an FBI agent played by Grace Gummer (I swear she’s in every show) tasked to work the E-Corp hack case. We see her interrogate Gideon before a fanatic assassinates Gideon in a bar. She’s clearly going to have a big role this season, and though she’s a fine enough actor, it would have been nice to see an actor who hasn’t been in every damn television show over the past four years in the role instead.
The other person Elliot meets, is a man named Ray. He shows up at one of the basketball games to ask Elliot for help with computers. Elliot tries to avoid him, and ignore him as best as he can, but it seems when Elliot is asleep, he’s been meeting with Ray and has no recollection of it. Sometimes Elliot’s mask takes over, and it seems Mr. Robot has found his way in. Mr. Robot confronts Elliot again with a gun to his head, but Elliot laughs maniacally and tells him he won’t help unless Mr. Robot tells him where Tyrell is. When Mr. Robot won’t tell him, Elliot goes to one of his church group meetings and falls asleep during the discussion. When he wakes up he’s in his mom’s house with a phone to his ear. It’s ringing and he has no idea how he got there, but when someone answers, it’s Tyrell on the other line. Is this real? Does he imagine it? Is Mr. Robot tricking Elliot to get him to do what he wants? Perhaps we’ll find out next week.
Season 2, Episodes 1-2 (S02E01 and 02)
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 9PM on USA
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Jeff Iblings | Contributor