“I am in control.”
The idea of control dominates the two-part premiere of Mr. Robot‘s second season. We can obviously see that idea play out in the show’s exploration of Elliot’s psyche, his journal scribbles and constant narration providing us a firsthand look at his struggle to maintain control. He’s trying to combat that major revelation about Mr. Robot by throwing himself into a routine, and as a result, we see him watching pickup basketball games, eating with Leon, and keeping a journal. He tells us that he’s trying to maintain some sanity until Mr. Robot is gone, but we all know that the problem is festering right there inside of him, talking to him and trying to convince him to change. He’s trying to escape from himself, something that doesn’t sound like the easiest thing in the world to do. Perhaps we can say that he’s in an “infinite loop of insanity”.
The premiere expands outward from its discussion of control–or lack thereof–as applied to Elliot and incorporates quite a bit of its supporting cast. For instance, the hilarious SmartHouse scene poses questions about control at the intersection of technology and everyday life. Elsewhere, Darlene and fsociety are trying to maintain some semblance of control over the situation they created, but this looks like a classic scenario of “let’s do this! ….now what?” At E Corp, Angela’s soul has been sucked out of her by her new company, and with each self affirmation she repeats, we wonder just how in control of her situation she really is. Even E Corp’s CEO–played brilliantly by Michael Cristofer–gives a monologue about illusion and the way FDR allegedly conned the American people into believing the government was in control. My question to him: is E Corp even in control at this point? And finally, right before poor Gideon is shot and killed, he acknowledges that there’s something bigger than him in control, something that we’ve seen reduce a good man to a mere patsy.
This thematic thread crosses paths with another major one: the mask. Everyone’s wearing a mask of some sort as an adaptation mechanism, but the interesting thing about Elliot is his unique position as both Elliot and Mr. Robot. “How do I take off a mask when it stops being a mask, when it’s as much a part of me as I am?” he asks, and it’s a good question to ponder. The ending seems to mark a turning point for this dynamic, though, as Elliot stands up and enforces some control of his own by breaking down. It’s a brilliant moment for Rami Malek–he better get nominated for an Emmy–and it’ll be intriguing to see how he deals with Mr. Robot (aka himself) moving forward.
The guy who serves as the catalyst for that final sequence? Ray, a new Craig Robinson-played character who chats with Elliot on the sidelines of a basketball game. “Maybe truth don’t even exist,” he muses. “Maybe what we think is all we got.” Maybe that’s the case, and this is why the show spends so much time inside Elliot’s head. It’s up to the audience to try to make sense of this world and these characters, just like it’s up to these characters to make sense of the world around them. In the end, perception and appearances may trump all. Illusion may take control.
-That money-burning scene set to Phil Collins is one of the show’s best moments thus far. Another nice use of music: I Monster’s “Daydream In Blue”.
-I love that this show understands that its ideas are more nuanced than its characters might believe. For instance, it recognizes that revolutions may sound better than they are, and it is in fact this revolution that kills the only “good” person in this show.
-Joanna Wellick returns as the most terrifyingly attractive character on television, and we see her engaging in some S&M with a man not named Tyrell Wellick.
-Elliot’s inner monologue seems to be more at odds with us, the audience, than ever before. “It’s not that I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust you.”
-That x-ray–>cover bit at the beginning is a fantastic touch by Esmail.
-No reveal as to who was standing outside the door at the end of season one. No whiterose yet.
-Goodness, how many after shows do we need?
-Well, looks like USA is just letting them let loose with the swearing now (as they should).
– “Bonsoir, Elliot.”
-I’ll be covering every episode of this season! They probably won’t go up as quickly as they did last year, but I intend to be here all summer. Looking forward to it.
Photo credit: Mr. Robot, USA