[Spoiler-infested waters. Swim at your own risk.]
I did it. I finished Mr. Robot in a week’s time and was able to collapse with the rest of the world as the second season came to a close. What will happen now is that I will try to make sense of something that inherently makes no goddamn sense. And you will hold my hand (or I will hold yours) as we go along. Will this be horrible? Amazing? Elliot only knows. Just kidding, Elliot doesn’t even know if he’s alive right now.
I do want to make it clear that my initial reaction will probably end up being more eloquent, but alas. There’s no harm in trying. Let’s break it down by themes that, in my opinion, really made this season shine. By the end of it we’ll regroup and hopefully have learned/understood something.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
In fiction and in life it’s a given that the villain wants to rule. Perhaps it’s not always the world, )although it usually is), but they for sure want to at least rule a person who might just mean the world to them. As storylines progress, we understand that the hero also wants to conquer the world, not because it’s his deepest, darkest desire, but because if they’re in charge, it means the villain isn’t. Martyrs, rings a bell?
But if Mr. Robot‘s second season taught us anything (through song and through speech) is that everybody wants to rule the world. Yes. Us included. If you think back, Darlene thinks she’s okay with the idea of letting her brother rule the world for her, but reveals she often wished to have stayed at her kidnapper’s home in the hopes of being “the special one.” Angela doesn’t know what she wants the world for, but she’s tired of watching other people who are not any more capable do what they want with it. Cisco (*tears*) might’ve not wanted to rule the world, but he did want to rule Darlene’s (to keep her safe, welp).
The Hero Complex
Which brings me to the hero complex. Given that everybody perceives life through their bias, it creates alternate realities in which every single person believes they are doing the right thing. The business men at E-Corp don’t think that they’re evil, they just see themselves as highly successful businessmen that have to make tough decisions. Elliot and his fsociety squad do illegal things that lead to catastrophic repercussions for innocent people. But for them, the circumstances justify the means.
Dom and the FBI are doing their job, and are doing it surprisingly well. They don’t know (or at least we think Dom doesn’t know) who is the person they should really be fighting against. Is it Whiterose? Fsociety? The E-Corp chairs? The government? China? Donald Trump? Given that we don’t know the implications of supporting each of these (although all of these could be one and the same), we can’t make a proper judgement call either.
But again, what this season explores more in-depth is the concept of the hero complex being awarded to everybody. Nobody is the bad guy, nobody is the good guy. While the first season was all about Elliot finding his own purpose and identity, rekindling himself with the mess that is his psyche after Mr. Robot emerged, this season opens up the dialogue to all. In fact, Elliot is almost entirely missing from several episodes as the writers have him take a step back to have the rest of his world unfold (even while out of his consciousness, which means jackshit these days).
Honestly, any other actor would have completely lost the Elliot’s character in this season. Thank God we have Rami Malek’s charisma and amazing acting to fall back on.
So if the position of the “hero” itself is vacant, is everybody truly their own hero? While the pieces on the chessboard have yet to position themselves, it is safe to say that the fsociety mask is not the only mask the characters are trying out or hiding behind.
So, yes. Let’s go back to basics and talk Elliot. We come into this season knowing exactly what the deal is with his head, or so we think. But turns out that Elliot doesn’t even trust us anymore. (Can you blame him?) And honestly, whether or not the reveal came as a shock to you shouldn’t define the success of the twist. What the twist meant is far more important. We are now faced with a character that not only has Dissociative Identity Disorder, but is also being faced with traumatic circumstances that force him to create an alternate reality.
If you think about it, Elliot’s mind resembled the Inception movie quite a bit. We first have the plane of reality. Then he’s created an alternate storyline in which he’s staying with his mom. But when faced with situations like getting beaten up, Elliot enters a third and fourth state in which he’s either part of a 90s sitcom (???) or replacing himself with Mr. Robot to lessen the blows.
Some viewers believe the show has reached it’s maximum capacity when it comes to mind tricks. I get that. It does get saturating, but I think others have been smart in also pointing out that the mind tricks appear to be plateauing. Why? Because the deterioration of Elliot’s mind is now sedimented. We know just how unreliable and entangled his conception of reality is. He’s not your classic unreliable narrator. He’s not doing it to play games with you or to present himself in a better light. He simply can’t assimilate his own reality, which puts us viewers in a very unique position. Talk about hyperbolized dramatic irony. We know Elliot more than he knows himself, literally.
Mr. Robot‘s Pythonian Manipulation
Now, to quantify the season let’s touch on a few things. For one, I want to say that the cinematography was beautiful. The shot of Price’s office where the glass desk is reflecting the wall decoration…ugh. Too good. Two, I think Sam Esmail also dared to play around with the scenes and was ultimately successful. The result was an edgy production that was still watchable and enjoyable. The real sweet spot for good drama TV.
The acting was spectacular. We already knew Rami Malek and Christian Slater were amazing, but this season really allowed for people like Carly Chaikin (Darlene) and Portia Doubleday (Angela) to do their thing. This ties into character development as Trenton and Mobley also got to share more of their story and their personality. And poor Cisco, while he didn’t live to tell the tale, became a more concrete character. Proof? It hurt when he was taken from us. At the same time, we got new characters like Leon and Ray that fully claimed their rightful place on screen. And of course, Martin Wallstöm got to cry a lot and profess his undying love for Elliot. Fun.
But all of these things were beautiful distractions so that Grace Gummer (Dominique DiPierro) could python us up. Or something. I’ve read reviews saying that season two was like a long trailer for season three, but didn’t you love every minute of it? I think that the trailer-y feeling comes from the fact that we wanted a resolution, something to put us out of our misery. And instead we got even more questions. The plot indeed thickens, but I have full trust that Sam Esmail will make it rock solid.
Mr. Robot Season 2
- Rami Malek
- More screen time for minor characters
- Amazing cinematography
- Rami Malek
- As smart as season one
- Might have not been surprising enough for some folks
- Will say some scenes with Price were a little dull
- I guess in a world of anarchy we really don't respect the government policy scenes
- SO MUCH ANXIETY