Mr. Robot Recap: Season 2 Episode 1
When a show’s first season manages to captivate viewers and critics alike as did Mr. Robot last summer, the creators are faced with the monumental task of avoiding a sophomore slump. Can this hacker drama move forward compellingly while staying true to its essence? Will Mr. Robot be able to reach new heights in its second season like Fargo did, or will it go the way of True Detective—a show that disappointed its viewership after an amazing first season. If this season premiere is any indication, Sam Esmail’s Golden-Globe-winning techno thriller will definitely deliver.
The question everybody is dying to know is what exactly went down in the time gap between the moment Elliot uploaded the rootkit, crippling Evil Corp, and when he woke up alone in the front seat of Tyrell Wellick’s SUV.
Tyrell’s disappearance following the massive hack on Evil Corp is one of last season’s unsolved mysteries. The first scene of this season teases us with a close up shot of Tyrell wearing the fsociety mask. This leads us to believe we are going to get some information on his whereabouts, but the show promptly pulls the rug right out from under us, for yet another cliffhanger.
Turns out this is nothing other than Tyrell’s last scene. Back at fsociety’s headquarters, an abandoned Coney Island arcade, Tyrell is preparing the hack with Elliot. However, while Tyrell is busy trying to contain his amazement, Elliot reaches into the popcorn machine, presumably to pull out the handgun we saw being placed earlier in the show. We don’t get to see what happens next as the crumpling sound of popcorn segues nicely into the next scene.
The mashing of popcorn turns into the sound of breaking bones as we flashback to Elliot as a child falling from a second-story window. Remember Elliot telling his Mr. Robot alter-ego about that time he broke the promise he made to his father about not telling his mom he had cancer? The one where dear old dad proceeded to push him out the window? Looks like we can confirm that it wasn’t one of Elliot’s delusions.
The first glimpse we get of Elliot’s current status reveals his new routine—a strict attempt at reprogramming his mind’s operating system to keep him from going insane. We see Elliot lying in bed in his tiny room through an overhead shot. He only gets up once his mother acts as his alarm clock telling him it’s time to get up.
Note: notice how Elliot doesn’t even have a computer in his room, only a journal he writes in every day.
For the past month, Elliot’s perfectly constructed loop consists of three scheduled meals interspersed with some “helping around the house”, watching a daily basketball game at the park, and going to a church group twice a week. Coupled with the fact that he has no internet access, this program Elliot is running is eerily reminiscent of a schedule an inmate’s agenda. Maybe even one at a mental institution. Was Elliot imprisoned for his involvement with the fsociety hack? Perhaps he is deluding himself as a way of coping with being institutionalized.
On a lighter note, it looks like Elliot made a new friend in this program of his. Leon, portrayed by the rapper-turned-actor Joey Bada$$, shares most meals with Elliot. He goes on a comical rant about Seinfeld, a show he only recently discovered, and how it “really fucks with him.” Leon is having trouble coming to terms with a “show about nothing,” and he makes some intense existential observations. Leon says to Elliot, “I’ll tell you, the human condition is a straight up tragedy, cuz.”
Joey Bada$$’s performance was a pleasant surprise, even though he wasn’t given much to work with in terms of dialogue.
Next up is a conversation between Elliot and Krista. Some of the best moments from last season took place in her office, and this scene is no different. They discuss his new routine. Krista wants to know why he went back to his verbally abusive mother. Elliot replies with, “Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t.” She asks if he misses his old life, but he tells her that he doesn’t trust himself enough to go back to it. She keeps trying to debug Elliot, asking him why he feels he can’t trust himself. He finally relents and admits, “It’s not that I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust him.” Him being Mr. Robot of course.
Back in his room Elliot tells his journal about his day, but who is that we see lying on his bed? None other than Mr. Robot, trying his best to get Elliot’s attention. At first Elliot resists; as his enigmatic alter ego attempts to get him to continue with the revolution. Elliot gives in after Mr. Robot tells him, “This control you think you have, it’s an illusion.” Elliot asks Mr. Robot about Tyrell, but of course Mr. Robot can’t tell him.
In an homage to Fight Club, Elliot tries to tell Mr. Robot to go fuck himself. In turn, Mr. Robot shoots him in the head before he can finish his sentence. We know this is all a hallucination as Elliot promptly gets up, his imaginary gunshot wound dripping blood all over his journal. In it he writes, “I didn’t panic like last time. I stayed calm.”
Then, the audience is treated to a beautifully constructed scene to close out Elliot’s plot for this episode. We see him with his former boss at Allsafe, Gideon Goddard. The two are sitting down across from each other at a table in his mother’s dining room. Mr. Robot’s in a dark corner behind Elliot peeling an apple. The FBI doesn’t buy that Gideon wasn’t involved in the fsociety hack, and he wants Elliot to clear his name. Apparently, Gideon is being framed. Mr. Robot asks Elliot, “Was that me, or you?” Like the apple being peeled, Elliot’s mind becomes unraveled as he lashes out at Gideon.
The rest of the episode is playing catchup. We see Susan Jacobs on a jog. We now know she is one of Evil Corp’s lawyers nicknamed “The Executioner.” She’s listening to a talk show discussing the hack. She then returns to her super fancy smart house filled with all these cool gadgets ripe for hacking. Soon after, her house goes haywire, and she is forced to leave. As soon as she hops in the cab, we see someone open the house door. You guessed it, it’s Darlene and fsociety.
The hack didn’t go according to plan because the de-facto leader of fsociety, Darlene, is not happy. She takes issue with fsociety acolytes partying in their new headquarters, and she scolds her minions for not realizing that there is still much work to do. Darlene is not content with merely crippling Evil Corp. Go big or go home. She then gives second-in-command Mobley a flash drive with a virus on it. Obviously.
Next thing we know, we’re at a BoE branch where an old lady is trying to close her Evil Corp account. Just as the teller is refusing to make any promises about the old lady’s money, the virus takes over the system. All the screens freeze with a message from fsociety: “To get the key to decrypt files, you have to pay 5.9 million USD. If payment is not made by tomorrow night, we’ll brick your entire system.”
Comically, they call over the IT guy, but the IT guy is Mobley who’s only troubleshooting solution is hitting ctrl-alt-delete.
The episode closes out at an office perched high above the streets of Manhattan. The CEO and CTO of Evil Corp discuss with Susan how to proceed. They agree on paying the ransom discreetly, but find there is another demand. Fsociety wants the person delivering the ransom to be one of Evil Corp’s chiefs. The CTO offers to do it saying, “If we’re gonna pay these bastards, I wanna be the one that faces them.”
And then: Intermission.