Mr. Robot: eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc

Control is an illusion.

Hello, friends. Welcome back to the revolution.

The first season of Mr. Robot was massively entertaining, and the first series I began writing reviews for here. It's a cynical, multi-layered show with a dark, neo-noir atmosphere. I find its characters, its style, its themes and examinations of modern society to all be incredibly cool and engaging. There's a wealth of material here.

To briefly recap, Elliot's plan to essentially disable the world's economy went off without a hitch, throwing society into a slow spiral of chaos and striking a blow to their main enemy: E Corp, or Evil Corp. Only Elliot doesn't remember doing it, waking up after three days under the control of his insane alter ego, Mr. Robot. Nor does he know what happened to his co-conspirator Tyrell Wellick, the psychotic corporate shark and former Evil Corp executive. All of this disastrous news, combined with the fact that he is haunted by a split personality in the form of his dead father and was already severely cynical and depressed to begin with, leaves Elliot feeling more than a little sad about the state of his life.

Season 2 jumps to a month from where the first season left off. Elliot is now staying with his mother, a woman almost as cold and jaded as her son. Here, Elliot attempts to practice extreme discipline. He keeps his room neat, he eats and "socializes" with his new friend Leon, he attends group meetings, and he's even started therapy with Krista again. Most importantly, he has completely cut himself off from computers and the net and keeps a journal to track his thoughts day by day. He does all of this to ensure that his Mr. Robot personality can do no more damage.

This does not sit well with Mr. Robot, who is tormenting Elliot, trying to bully him into picking up where they and fsociety left off. As Mr. Robot himself said in the past, Elliot is the key to fsociety's success. Although, they certainly haven't given up the fight in his absence.

We see that Darlene and Mobley are still keeping the anarchist movement afloat on their own initiative, since the rest of their followers seem to be made up of shitheads. Trenton and Romero are no-shows. The group's activities seem to be limited to acts of vandalism in the case of the bull statue castration, or trolling when they turn Susan Jacobs' smart house against her, with an upgrade to breaking and entering after they force her to leave and they take her house to use as a headquarters. Mobley is right to question their purpose, or lack thereof, now that they accomplished their biggest goal. Though she is privately depressed, Darlene is determined to let the world know that fsociety is still a force to be reckoned with.

To prove this, Darlene decides to make an example of Evil Corp yet again. Fsociety launches another major hack of Evil Corp's data networks, locking its employees out of their computers. They demand that an Evil Corp executive deliver $5.9 million in cash to a location nearby in Central Park. Philip Price, Evil Corp's CEO, CTO Scott Knowles, and the conglomerate's go-to lawyer, the previously mentioned Susan Jacobs, all agree to meet fsociety's demands. Because, after all, they can totally afford to just throw away 5.9 million dollars like it's no big deal. Scott volunteers to be the executive that makes the money drop, probably to impress Price. That's where Unmask Part 1 ends.

What I found most fascinating was the flashback, which strongly hints at the origin of Elliot's madness. We learned early on last season that Elliot was pushed out of a second story window by his father when he was a child. His father, Edward, was angered that Elliot revealed to his mother that Edward was dying of cancer. In the opening of the episode, we see the aftermath of this incident. Despite the doctor's assurances that he's alright, it's implied that this may have been the cause of Elliot's mental problems later on. Head injuries in real life are sometimes known to cause dramatic shifts in behavior or personality for some people. This could have been the impetus of Elliot's paranoid delusions, or, at least, the impetus of Mr. Robot.

If that is the case, then this whole series is a result of Evil Corp's... well, evil. The only reason Edward Alderson was dying of cancer was due to the toxic waste dumps that Evil Corp sanctioned in 1993, causing the cancerous deaths of many, including its own employees. Edward's abuse of Elliot was the start of his family's disintegration, and possibly the start of the mental illness that would eventually create the greatest threat Evil Corp has encountered. With Elliot and Mr. Robot, they've ultimately created their own monster. One dedicated to usurping their power and destroying them.

Or maybe Elliot just gets it honest from his mother.

Ones & Zeroes:

* The opening gives a glimpse into the night of the hack, a now historic event; it is called the Five-Nine attacks. Tyrell donned an fsociety mask at the arcade and made a video, apparently. Then he and Elliot as Mr. Robot are shown completing the hack that will either save or end the world. Tyrell gets engrossed in the majesty of the moment, leaving Mr. Robot free to snatch the gun hidden in the popcorn machine.

* Gideon meets with Elliot, explaining the awful situation he's in. The poor guy's being made into the scapegoat for the fsociety hack and he knows it. He also knows Elliot had something to do with it, and pressures him to tell the truth or else he will bring this information to the FBI agents breathing down his neck. Elliot is too busy dealing with Mr. Robot's mental assault to even participate in the conversation, and recoils when Mr. Robot threatens to kill Gideon to keep him from talking. This is bad.

* Despite the pickle they've found themselves in, the people at Evil Corp are taking it rather well. Especially Price, who appears to be simply amused by fsociety's antics. This is also bad.

* There is still a lot that is left a mystery. The whereabouts of Tyrell Wellick, what did happen during Elliot's three day blackout, what does Pryce know about fsociety, and who the hell was knocking on Elliot's door at the end of last season?

* The way fsociety hacked Susan Jacobs' smart house was actually pretty terrifying. They turned it into a virtual haunted house.

* Is Mobley the one who's missing a leg now, or was that some other fsociety weirdo? Did diabetes catch up with him? Did one of those dogs they released last season gnaw his foot off?

* The show's portrayal of Elliot's insanity allows them to do a lot of sick, creative things.

* "Daydreamin" by Lupe Fiasco

Quotes:

Elliot/Mr. Robot: It's happening.

Tyrell Wellick: It's almost as if... Something's come alive.
Well, those would be some ironic last words.

Edward Alderson: It was an accident!
Magda Alderson: God says there are no accidents!

Elliot: (narrating) At 2 p.m. we'll checkout a basketball game. Hot Carla, the local pyro is usually there. She's become like my personal totem. I still don't understand why people like sports. They get so emotional over the weirdest things. But I do see the beauty in the rule. The invisible code of chaos hiding behind the menacing face of order.
I've missed Elliot's stellar narration.

Elliot: (narrating) Hello again. Yes, I'm talking to you this time. I'm sure you want to hear what I told Krista back there, but I'm not ready to trust you yet. Not after what you did. You kept things from me. And I don't think I can tell you secrets like before. Friends are supposed to be honest with each other, and you weren't. It's gonna take awhile to rebuild this relation-
Mr. Robot: Talking to your friend again?

Mr. Robot: Che Guevara's throwing up in his grave right now.

Elliot: (journaling) He shot me in the head again. I didn't panic like last time. I was calm.

Elliot: (narrating) How do you take off a mask when it stops being a mask?

Great so far. Four out of four imaginary bullets to the head.

4 comments:

Mallena said...

I love a good psychological thriller and Mr. Robot keeps getting better and better. Poor Elliot. Even without possible brain damage, he was dealt a bad lot with those parents of his. I hope they show us more about how Darlene fits into the family dynamic.

Heather said...

Logan,
So glad Mr. Robot and your reviews are back! I agree completely that the flashback was a high point and it opens up a lot of new understanding about Elliot and his family of origin. And... it did it all visually which was a genius choice on the part of Esmail. I finally get now that the visuals are for *us* -- to make sense of this story with the most unreliable storyteller imaginable. Speaking of the visuals, there's an austere quality this season that's reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick.
Finally, yes, Mallena -- I so hope they show more about Darlene within the family matrix! I need to know this!

Billie Doux said...

Logan, I'm so happy you wrote such a fine and comprehensive review because this show is so dense and sometimes a bit confusing. I had trouble with some of it last season, too. Ditto from me about Darlene, Heather and Mallena.

Logan Cox said...

I'm happy that you guys are happy with the reviews. I enjoy writing them, though, it is a lot to wrap my head around.

And yeah, I also want more Darlene. I'm so glad they are exploring the history of Elliot's dysfunctional family. Family dynamics always stand out to me in stories.