Review: Season 2 of ‘Mr. Robot’ comes to a close but, does it satisfy?

Mr. Robot grew increasingly bold in its second season, expanding and experimenting with its style and structure. It’s been a unique ride, but one that was at times a frustrating one. With so much mystery surrounding this season, this finale needed to really deliver on the answer front and conclude the season in a satisfying way. So did it? Let’s take a look at “Python Part 2.”

FULL SPOILERS BELOW…

The short answer? Not really. Sure “Python Part 2” answered a lot of questions but the resolutions to these mysteries didn’t really live up to the amount of time we’ve spent on each of them this season. I left season two of Mr. Robot feeling a lot less satisfied than I was when season one ended. Serialized dramas like Mr. Robot are always playing the long game but, all too often they get too wrapped up in the “endgame” that they forget to make episode/season a satisfying chapter in the story.

Take, for example, the revelation of Tyrell’s whereabouts. All season we’ve been wondering where he’s been and whether he’s alive, dead or another of Elliot’s alters. Well, we find out that he’s both very real and alive but to me, it all felt rather “look here he is.” The writers had strung this mystery out for so long that the answer was bound to be a bit of an anticlimax. This was just one of many answers that didn’t feel worth the time we spent being in the dark.

I want to see more, but probably not for the reasons Sam Esmail would like. I’m not chomping at the bit for season three because I can’t wait to see what happens next but because of how anti-climactic this finale felt. When season one ended, I wanted to know who was at the door, what happened to Tyrell, and how the hack would change things. This time around, my enthusiasm for seeing the dangling plot threads picked us is replaced by a sense of frustration over where they’ve been left.

I digress, I don’t want to spend the rest of this post going through every moment that didn’t quite land with me.

So what did work in the finale?

The interactions between Dom and Darlene in the FBI interrogation room for one. All season we’ve watched Dom struggle with being alone and Darlene with the burden of leadership. At one point both women openly admit their flaws to one another. Dom, in recognizing that she has no life outside of the FBI and Darlene, in that she is no leader. While they’re by no means friends, it was satisfying (for Dom particularly) to see these two women connect to one another. The increased roles for Darlene and Angela, as well as the addition of Dom to the cast, was one of this season’s biggest strengths.

As has been the case throughout the entire season, the acting and direction were absolutely top-notch. Clearly, Sam Esmail’s decision to direct all of (and write most) of the season’s episodes brought a great amount of consistency to the show’s visual palette. That said, Esmail would probably be better off next season with a few more limitations on him. The best episodes of this season were the ones with a tight, constrained runtime. The issues arose when you remove the runtime constraint and episodes seem to just go nowhere. Far too many of this season’s episodes ran past an hour when there was no need for them to do so.

I really don’t have much more to say about the finale than that. I could go through every point that didn’t set well with me but that doesn’t seem productive. So instead, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts on the season as a whole.

Season two of Mr. Robot spent way too much time in Elliot’s head. The entire “reveal” that Elliot was in prison shouldn’t have taken half of the season to get to. I don’t think keeping him locked up for so long accomplished anything in the grand scheme of the show. At first, I was all for a deeper dive into the relationship between Mr. Robot and Elliot but not if that meant forgoing narrative momentum, which is exactly what the early episodes of the season lacked. It’s telling when one of my favorite episodes of the season didn’t feature Elliot at all.

Outside of Rami Malek and Christian Slater, the rest of the supporting cast delivered great performances this year. Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday really rose to the occasion as Darlene and Angela were asked to carry most of the narrative in the early going. Both Michael Cristofer and BD Wong continued to be fascinating antagonists as Price and Whiterose respectively. One last time, I will mention how much I loved Grace Grummer as Dom. She brought a lot of vulnerability to a role that could have been one-note. The cast is all around fantastic and I genuinely cannot wait to see more from them.

Despite some pacing issues and leaving us with way more questions than answers, watching Mr. Robot was something I looked forward to every week while it was on. The show is simply like nothing else on TV at the moment and while not every move it made this year worked, I’d say it was better off for having tried than not at all.

 

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