Review: A more focused ‘Mr. Robot’ set things in motion

After three weeks and four episodes, season two of Mr. Robot has finally begun to take shape as characters cross paths and mysteries begin to drift toward the center. I’ve got a review of “Logic Bomb” coming right up…

First, my apologies for not posting a review after last week’s episode. When I sat down to write it there just wasn’t much I felt I needed to say about it. I was afraid I would have a similar problem this week, I did not.

SPOILERS BELOW

“We have other battles to fight.” – Mr. Robot

“What else is new?” – Elliot

The first four episodes of this season were almost solely dedicated to the conflict between Elliot and Mr. Robot. As such, those episodes featured the show at its most obscure with little to no discernible structure or forward plot momentum. Suffice it say while the imagery and performances were as captivating as ever, I couldn’t begin to tell you where the season was heading. “Logic Bomb” started to make that direction a little clearer.

Perhaps the most distinctive thing about this week’s episode was how little it featured the title character. After four episodes of internal conflict, it was both strange and satisfying to see Mr. Robot fade into the background. His diminished presence was a great way of illustrating a return to a more conventional episode structure.

As we saw at the end of last week, Elliot has returned to the hacking world thanks to some prodding from Ray and a plea for help from Darlene. Almost as soon as the episode began I felt a sense of structure returning to the proceedings. Elliot’s power comes from his skill at a computer. Return him to one and you’ve given him the power to affect change. While the episodes we spent with Elliot in isolation were fascinating on a certain level, I would much rather have him back in action with fsociety.

We also get multiple scenes this week of Elliot, Darlene, and Angela crossing paths as their stories begin to intertwine.  The relationships between these three are some of my favorite parts of this show. It all feels more cohesive when they cross paths. Look no further than the first scene Elliot and Angela share together all season. There is so much warmth and vulnerability between the two. I was so happy when Elliot told Angela that he was still seeing Mr. Robot and she offered to be someone for him to talk to. Elliot has closed himself off from just about everyone and to see him pull back the curtain a little was hugely satisfying.

Elsewhere, we see a few other characters pull back their respective curtains. An FBI field trip to China affords us not only a deep look at Dom but Whiterose (BD Wong) as well. It turns out Whiterose goes by the name Zhang and is the Chinese Minister of State Security. Which is a pretty huge bombshell when you consider he’s (she?) also the head of the evilest group of hackers in the world.

“Logic Bomb” ends with a trio of scenes that should really begin to drive the season’s plot forward. First, the FBI agents in China are ambushed by what I assume to be agents from The Dark Army. In a tense sequence filmed solely from Dom’s perspective, we witness several agents being gunned down before the wounded assailant ends his own life. I suppose you don’t get close to Whiterose and get to talk about it.

Next, we learn just what Ray is up to. Turns out he runs, as Elliot puts it, a “black market of evil.” Naturally, Elliot cannot turn a blind eye to it, despite Mr. Robot’s insistence that he do so and is subjected to a brutal beating at the hands of Ray’s men. I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering just what Ray’s deal was. Well now we have a much better picture and it’s clear his intentions for Elliot aren’t as altruistic as I had hoped they would be.

Finally, we have Angela’s introduction to fsociety. This is a particularly exciting development for a character who spent a lot of season one on the fringes of the action. The biggest bonus here is that it connects her story with those of Elliot and Darlene. The show is simply better when these three are together.

I’m very pleased with tonight’s episode of Mr. Robot. It is so very rewarding when a show rewards the patience of its viewers and that is exactly what tonight’s episode did. I was beginning to worry about Mr. Robot falling into a sophomore slump (something that is entirely still possible) but after tonight, I have much more confidence in Sam Esmail and the crew.

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