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Mr. Robot “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z” Review (2×12)

21 Sep


“It’s time to finally take back control. Real control.”

Just like that, reality hits. This entire season has revolved around the question of what’s real, around the blurred lines between the mind and the surrounding world. While it has definitely run into some roadblocks of its own making as a result, this series always has the ability to deliver striking images even in its weakest plots. It all comes to a head in this finale, a simultaneously frustrating and fascinating hour of television that ends with a brutal wake-up call. It’s cruel that Elliot’s perceived moment of true control ends the way it does, but it fits with the nihilistic foundation that the show is built upon. Try to live in an illusion all you want, and reality will still shatter the glass you’re holding up around you. Try to take control, and you’ll be sucked up into an illusion. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt1.p7z” Review (2×11)

14 Sep


“It all depends on what your definition of real is.”

Mr. Robot is now going full-on David Lynch. The sequence with Angela and the girl is the show at its most surreal, and the way it’s all set up is certainly reminiscent of the director’s work. It’s a brilliantly executed set of scenes that culminates with a riveting conversation between Angela and whiterose, and it’s driven primarily by B.D. Wong’s magnetic performance. The scene poses a big question for the show: what the hell is real? Over the course of the season, the series has been moving steadily toward the surreal, expanding outward from Elliot’s mind to encompass an entire cast of characters. It’s been probing and questioning its characters, and it’s when they realize reality is slipping away that they also realize they may have dug themselves too deep of a hole.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” Review (2×10)

7 Sep


“Sooner or later, Elliot, this will all catch up to you.”

Although the sitcom episode earlier in the season was fun and emotional and memorable, it doesn’t hold a candle to this one. This is the show firing on all cylinders, delivering breathless tension in a compact 40 minutes as these characters all tumble toward imminent danger. The quote above could not be more ominous, and it also could not be more true. Angela and Elliot and Darlene are realizing that they’re not free from consequences, and whatever fantasies they may have constructed are being crushed by the blunt force of reality.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.7_init_5.fve” Review (2×09)

31 Aug


“Normal. I have no normal.”

It’s interesting that Mr. Robot spends so much time discussing the idea of control, especially considering it seems to be losing control of its own narrative a bit. It’s relying more on “gotcha” reveals and moments than on creating compelling drama, and it seems like the high-brow approach took in season one is crashing down to Earth now. Case in point: the unnecessary double cliffhanger that closes out the episode. I don’t mind a little playing with the audience’s expectations, but as I said last week, the pretension of something like Hannibal worked better than the pretension of this show does. This season is inconsistent, to put it simply. At one point, it’s the most compelling show on television. At another, it’s dull and eye-roll worthy.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12” Review (2×08)

24 Aug


“Everybody wants to rule the world.”

As much as I love Rami Malek’s portrayal of Elliot Alderson, I think taking a breather from his character is a good thing this season. After all, the show really can’t skate by on his mental state exploration forever, and Esmail and co. taking steps to ensure that this is a well-rounded show is essential. It helps ground the series in some type of reality rather than solely in a fantasy world way up there in Elliot’s head. Getting a contrast of the two environments allows each to shape the other in unique ways, so it’s good that an episode like this is coming along at this point in the run.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme” Review (2×07)

17 Aug


“Where do you think you are right now?”

Here’s the thing about reveals: it retroactively makes you wonder about the logic of past storylines, and it becomes a problem if it’s viewed as some magical restart button that can be employed every so often. I’m going to give the show the benefit of the doubt here and try to be optimistic about the second half of the season, but the first half seems like the result of pretension catching up to Esmail a bit. Sure, I’m enjoying the season so far–and last week’s episode was a wonderful piece of entertainment in and of itself–but Malek can only do so much with a storyline that sometimes seems lost. Mind you, pretension is not inherently bad, but it can weaken and needlessly convolute this show.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes” Review (2×06)

10 Aug

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“I’m never going to leave you.”

First of all, I have to commend USA for letting Sam Esmail do whatever the hell he wants. Devoting the first ~20 minutes of a television episode to a sitcom version of a dark psychological drama is already outlandish enough, but add onto that the ’90s commercials and you have a wonderfully trippy experience. It’s a strange, enjoyable, and unsettling opening sequence, and it’s an example of just how fun this show can get. Sure, some might argue that it overstays its welcome a bit, but it’s so ridiculous that I’m willing to go with it for however long it might take.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc” Review (2×05)

4 Aug


“You’ve surrounded yourself with the constant reminder of mortality.”

Last week, a gorgeous montage set to Green Day’s “Basket Case” concluded with Elliot telling us that he wanted to fight for the world depicted, i.e. a world filled with people he cares about and spends time with. It’s a fantasy world, but it’s driven by meaningful connection and devoid of the cynicism that reigns supreme in real life. It’s something that seems so far away and so unrealistic, but it’s definitely worth fighting for.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.2_init1.asec” Review (2×04)

27 Jul

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This episode features the show’s characters playing chess games, trying to maneuver around others (or themselves) and find peace underneath all the muck. On the subplot side of things, we have Angela going up against Phillip Price and Joanna going up against Scott Knowles, and on main street, we have Elliot actually playing chess against Mr. Robot. It’s not just chess for chess’s sake, though; the episode is using this game to comment on its main character’s desire to unburden himself, to find peace by settling this once and for all. “I can’t hold this in any longer…it’s eating away at me,” Elliot expresses early on, and the rest of the episode is about him grappling with this inner turmoil.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” Review (2×03)

20 Jul

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“It doesn’t matter where you go or where you come from, as long as you keep stumbling. Maybe that’s all it takes. Maybe that’s as good as it gets.” 

Instability. Panic. A lack of control. This week’s episode of Mr. Robot embraces itself in all its incoherent glory, eschewing an advancement of plot in favor of a deeply unsettling–yet fascinating–collection of scenes. It’s not perfect, but the style of the hour certainly fits with the themes the show is pushing at the moment. “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” effectively builds up the tension and uncertainty, the “overwhelming fear” Elliot describes as “building, burrowing, and nesting”. It features an amazing montage of Elliot on Adderall, Rami Malek grinning his way into our nightmares as we, the audience, become as disoriented as the characters in the show. It showcases Malek’s talents yet again, both in that montage and in a later monologue about organized religion. It takes more risks in one hour than most of television does in an entire season.

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