Mr. Robot – S2E1/S2E2 – eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc/eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc | Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Michael Cristofer, Martin Wallström, Stephanie Corneliussen, Grace Gummer, Gloria Reuben, Michel Gill | Writer & Director: Sam Esmail
Having never missed a beat, creator/writer/director Sam Esmael has further improved upon the perplexing, non-linear, metaphysical ambiguity of his singular vision. It’s clear Esmael has grown in confidence from the premiere from his striking visuals alone; while Elliot’s story has always been finely crafted tale that, for the most part, remained and continues to be a labyrinthine affair, Esmael has grown as a visual artist, seamlessly incorporating hard themes and biting commentary about contemporary society with impeccable framing and mise-en-scène, with the occasional relevant hit song from long ago.
During “unm4sk”, Esmael hammered down on three themes that’ll likely prevail throughout the second season: The need for control, the complacency of self, and the masks we wear among society. Every lead touched upon each of these heavy issues however, in classic Ismael fashion, it isn’t entirely known if some of the characters are real or new manifestations during Elliott’s rapid descent into insanity.
It’s clear Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is not going anywhere; he’s willing to destroy what’s left of Elliott’s personality to ensure fSociety continues the revolution. Yet Elliott resists by not going near any electronics whatsoever. Routine is paramount to distract himself with a potential life of wonder and horror. In this surrealistic dreamscape Mr. Robot snidely calls an “analog life”, we’re introduced to a pair of new players in Elliott’s life who are already prevalent in his walkabout, Leon and Ray, played by Joey Bada$$ and Craig Robinson, respectively.
From the moment we meet Leon then Ray (with his hound Maxine), it difficult to know if either or both men are highly aspect of Elliot’s personality. The more astute viewer will recognize Anderson barely saying a word while his new friends wax philosophic about a show about nothing, and how the game of baskbetball is an illusory practice that essentially means nothing in the greater scheme of things. Both topics Elliot tends to dwell on frequently.
Still, there is the moment when Ray remarked how Elliot agreed to help him with something… while Mr. Robot was in control. Leave it to Esmail to compel Mr. Robot fans to continually question everything they see.
While Elliot drudges through the concrete jungle, his sister and former friend find themselves at a crossroads before hastily committing themselves to the contrasting agencies that find them teetering on the edge. Though they are the most grounded characters in the series, the women of Mr. Robot are as embattled as our eponymous hacker extraordinaire, save for his profound mental illness. Darlene, Angela Moss and yes, especially the sociopathic Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) thrive when wearing the masks their social circles deem most favorable. As the world continues to grasp for some semblance of normalcy after the 5/9 Attacks, each woman has made considerable sacrifices to their selves in order to find order in this new reality.
It isn’t clear yet whether Darlene and Angela still have a rapport yet it likely won’t be the case after Moss fully immerses herself in the dark side. As the newly minted PR Manager for E Corp, Moss has channeled her consistent frustrations with the world and allowed them to turn her cold and indifferent to the misfortunes of others. No longer concerned with seeking restitution and justice for her mother’s death, Angela has become one of the very people she hates.
Concurrently, Darlene has begun to crack under the pressure of keeping fSociety focused on the cause. Bandwagoners have joined in the revolution and done nothing but spread the ranks thin with their showmanship and lack of responsibility. The true believers now know one massive attack will not change the world overnight and every attack they arrange will be that much harder to accomplish under the wide-eyed stare of the government.
The fed’s pitbull is Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), the de facto lead agent of a cybercrimes task force briefly seen in the premiere. With exception to her gruff attitude in a deli, DiPierro is all business as evidenced by her interview with former AllSafe CEO Gideon Goddard (Michel Gill). Sadly, like many of the good folks who’ve been exploited by E Corp, Goddard won’t see if his efforts will bare any fruit after an odd encounter with a man named Brock. Who’s to say if this well-versed yet disturbed shooter was contracted by E Corp or Wellick, a dedicated fSociety member or a lone wolf. In any case, the shocking demise of Goddard will certainly compel the FBI to scour what little details Gideon knew to uncover who’s responsible for 5/9.
Ultimately it all comes down to Elliot, anxiety, paranoia and all. Will Mr. Robot finally assume full control? Can whatever we see when Elliot’s on screen be trusted? What happened between him and Tyrell? Right now there are more queries that need answering than ever before. And its only the first week.
If anything can be confirmed as truth on Mr. Robot, Esmail will deliver a confounding yet satisfying narrative with tragic aplomb.
Mr. Robot S2E1 = 9.3/10