Premiering last summer out of seemingly nowhere on the USA Network, Mr. Robot ended up being one of my top shows from 2015. It quickly proved to be not only captivating but timely as well. Mr. Robot is a show for the here and now, a show for this day and age. A show that brings a sharp focus on the way we as humans behave and interact in the modern era. I knew as much by the time season one had ended and with the premiere of its second season, Mr. Robot has once again proved why it is essential viewing. Allow me to explain further.
I’ll be talking freely about a big twist from season one so beware of SPOILERS.
Mr. Robot season two picks up one month after the retroactively named “five/nine hack” that Elliot (Rami Malek) and the rest of fsociety initiated in the hopes of bringing down E-Corp (or “Evil Corp” as Elliot refers to the corporate giant as). Elliot has completely removed himself from society in an attempt to excise Mr. Robot, who was revealed to be a manifestation of his dead father, from his consciousness. Darlene has taken up leadership of fsociety and continues to do battle with E-Corp while Angela has settled into her new role at E-Corp a little too comfortably.
It’s important to note that all of the main characters on this show are horribly broken people searching for order, direction, and clarity in the messed up world that they live in. Whether that takes the form of trying to maintain one’s sanity or striving to find the value in oneself that no one else saw before. One thing unites all three of these storylines; all of these characters are completely alone.
That is what makes Mr. Robot such an important show. Today we spend so much time in front of screens doing this or that, craving connection to anything. Yet this connectivity often leaves us feeling more alone than ever before. More than being about a rogue group of hackers trying to take down a major corporation, Mr. Robot is about people striving to make connections with increasingly disconnected people.
This tone is so excellently conveyed thanks to the writing and direction of creator Sam Esmail(*). One of the hallmarks of the show’s first season was how characters were consistently framed on the edges of most shots. The sense was that these people weren’t even the center of their own stories. Pushed to the edge of the frame in the same way they live on the edge of society. The isolation they feel is palpable to the audience. We yearn along with these characters, at least I did.
(*)Who is directing all 12 episodes of this season and if these first two episodes were any indication, we’re in for a treat.
Circling back to Angela, her story tonight served as the clearest example of the kind hollow existence the show seems to be warning us to avoid. Here is a woman who is now working for the company that killed her mother and is very good at her job at that. She has compromised everything she believes in as part of a search for value in herself. My heart broke for her as she sat in her living room in the middle of the night solemnly repeating the lines of a motivational video back to a TV screen. Her face is so empty and she should not need a video to tell her she’s important. It’s absolutely crushing (with some excellent work by Portia Doubleday).
Mr. Robot is also a show about the masks that we wear in different circumstances. Mr. Robot is one such mask that Elliot (unwillingly) wears. In season two, Elliot is doing his best to remove the mask of Mr. Robot. However, he quickly finds out that for good or ill, the manifestation of his father is a part of him he can’t get rid of. So how do you live with that? How do you stay in control? The tagline for this season is “Control is an Illusion” and I believe this season will see Elliot battling to maintain control of his fragile psyche while also seeking to prove his worth is not tied to Mr. Robot.
If you came into this episode expecting quick answers to who was at Elliot’s door at the end of season one or where Tyrell is you’re going to be disappointed(**). This episode was more interested in showing us where the characters find themselves in this new world they created.
(**) But only slightly disappointed.
I honestly have no idea where this season is going to go. With the first year, we knew it would end with the hack against Evil Corp but this year? I have not a clue and that excites me. With the knowledge that Tyrell is alive and the FBI investigating fsociety the season is full of possibilities and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
To reiterate, Mr. Robot is more than a thriller and it’s more than just a drama. It is necessary. It has a vital message about the world in which we find ourselves in. So while these characters strive for worth and connection, don’t ignore those opportunities in your own life. No show I have ever watched has resonated with me on this level. You need to be watching this show.
One last note. For the first time in the (admittedly short) history of The Warren Room, I’ll be doing weekly reviews of a show! I love Mr. Robot so much that I want to share my thoughts with you all throughout the entire season. I hope you’ll join me!
Some stray thoughts:
- I’ve been a fan of Michael Cristofer ever since his role in AMC’s short-lived Rubicon so it’s awesome to see him added to the main cast this year. The man knows how to play shady guys in suits.
- Something about Joanna Wellick really makes my skin crawl. I look forward to learning more about her this season.
- We also have Grace Grummer as FBI Agent DiPierro who is in charge of the investigation into the Five/Nine hack. We only get a brief glimpse of her in this episode, though.
- I was surprised when I heard Craig Robinson was cast as a new friend for Elliot this year but his scenes in the premiere have me anxious to see more.
- Expect future pieces on the show to focus more on the plots but with this being my first piece on Mr. Robot I felt it necessary to lay out just why I find the show so important.