Review: ‘Mr. Robot’ gets even weirder in an excellent episode

I was most definitely not expecting that tonight.

Mr. Robot‘s second season continued tonight with an episode that switched up the format in an excellent and totally surprising way. I’ve got some thoughts on “Master-Slave” coming right up…

“I’m just trying to help you put it all in the rearview as painlessly as possible.” – Mr. Robot

I was surprised, as I suspect many of you were when tonight’s Mr. Robot began with a retro USA Network logo presented in 4:3 aspect ratio. All of a sudden Mr. Robot had become a quirky 80’s sitcom about the misadventures of the Alderson family. The less I say about this the better. I think you’ll enjoy it more not knowing about all the wacky hijinks that the Alderson clan gets into during this trip. While this sequence may have lasted a little too long (something like 20 minutes) the reason behind it proved to be a satisfying payoff.

Truthfully, Mr. Robot created this fantasy for Elliot to hide in while Ray and his men were beating him up in the real world. Despite Mr. Robot’s destructive nature, on some level he cares for Elliot and just wanted to protect him. After spending so much of the season at each other’s throats it was incredibly touching to witness a beaten Elliot fall into Mr. Robot’s arms and tearfully thank him for sparing him from most of the pain. Perhaps this season will see a reconciliation between the two. I think both the show and Elliot himself would be better of with them on the same side. After All, they’re just two parts of one whole.

The remainder of the episode was focused on Darlene and Angela’s plan to hack the FBI and erase any data linking back to fsociety. The entire sequence was as fun and intense as Mr. Robot has ever been. It reminded me of the season one episode where Elliot had to break into a E-Corp facility to hack their climate control system. It was fun and fast-paced in a way that much of this season hasn’t been. Plus, seeing Darlene in disguise will never not be amusing.

The show has done a tremendous job filling in Angela’s character this season. That is a testament to the writers as much as it is to the work of Portia Doubleday. Last season, Angela largely existed on the fringe of the show and was really only interesting for her connection to Elliot. I was so engaged in Darlene and Angela’s plan that I hardly noticed the little screen time that Elliot got this week. That wouldn’t have been the case had the show not done so much work on Angela and Darlene this year.

As the show begins to reveal more and more of how the world is reacting to the Five/Nine hack we’re slowly learning that fsociety’s plan to erase all of the world’s debt has honestly done more harm than good. This is illustrated by the owner of the convenience store that Dom frequents. Here is a man who was getting by just fine and then the entire economy collapsed, now he has to close his store because no one has money to buy his goods. It’s a sad scene that doesn’t paint what our protagonists have done in the best light. They thought they were freeing everyone but instead the walls have closed in even further. Who am I supposed to be rooting for again?

These past two episodes of Mr. Robot have been a marked improvement over the early parts of this season. It is so very satisfying to see events progressing and our protagonists dealing with the very real consequences of their actions. We’ve now reached the halfway point of the season and I have a feeling things are only going to get more harrowing from here on out. I was worried the show might have hit the dreaded “sophomore slump” but these past two episodes have gone a long way in alleviating that concern.

Well done Mr. Robot. Until next week!

Some other thoughts:

  • We got an amusing cameo from Tyrell as the man stuck in the trunk of the Alderson’s car. Honestly, it’s time the show starts addressing his absence rather than taunting us with it via these fantasy appearances.
  • Things aren’t looking good for Price. Whiterose has left him in the cold and the bailout he was hoping would pass in Congress doesn’t look to be coming. Once again, because I love Michael Cristofer so much I continue to look forward to his scenes.

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