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TV Review: Mr. Robot — Where Is My Mind?

Martha Trydahl Martha Trydahl TV Review: Mr. Robot — Where Is My Mind?
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You know that last indie movie you loved, and couldn’t wait to tell your friends about? The one with the unknown cast and original storyline? THAT’S Mr. Robot. It feels more like a small, independent movie than a USA TV series.

A big part of the spark of Mr. Robot is equal parts Rami Malek and the brilliance of Sam Esmail. As Elliot Alderson, Rami Malek kills it as a troubled hacker. There are a lot of tight shots on Malek, and his haunting expressions draw us in and give the show a confessional feel.

Esmail’s ability to write and produce such a profound show shouldn’t be possible for someone who is still building a resume in this field. He’s borrowed some great themes (Fight Club, anyone?), but the show still feels fresh. Mr. Robot is artistically shot, and includes lots of thought-provoking lines, like, “how do you take off a mask when it stops being a mask?”

Unfortunately, one of the features of Mr. Robot is also one of the major sticking points for me… and it’s Christian Slater. I know, I know. No one was more excited than me to see his name flash across the screen. But he just doesn’t fit into this cast for me, especially in the first season.

Slater can play an angsty rebel better than anyone. But as Mr. Robot, Christian Slater is supposed to be the disturbed, overly-emotional leader, raging against society. Unfortunately for Slater, it’s hard to get past his “whatever, man” tone, rendering him ineffective. In the second season, Mr. Robot has toned down a bit, which helps immensely.

A highlight of this show is Elliot’s struggle with mental illness. It can be very crowded in his mind at times. But what I enjoy is that we are not an omniscient audience. We suffer through the frustration and confusion along with Elliot, and it’s as uncomfortable as it is eye-opening.

As season two begins, we have no idea what is real. Elliot, still in his black hoodie, is living with his mom in a self-imposed hacker rehab. We’re all a little wary of each other, treading carefully into this new reality.

Even away from a terminal, Elliot can’t seem to shake Mr. Robot. The first half of the season shows Elliot struggling to get a grip on reality. But Mr. Robot warns Elliot, “your control is an illusion.” Adderall helps for a little while, but Elliot can’t sustain the sleeplessness. He eventually resolves to share his mind for a little while longer.

We are able to see the effects of the 5/9 hack, even if we’re not quite sure how it happened. On the plus side, fsociety pwned E Corp like modern day Robin Hoods. On the negative side, even innocent people who paid their debts on time were screwed over. So…was justice served? Fsociety is labeled a terrorist group, and really, is there a difference? And where in the world is Tyrell (Martin Wallström)?

Several characters have been killed off this season—is the Dark Army behind it? It seems like they’re the only group with the upper hand. Even the FBI is attacked, but they left agent Dominique DiPierro (Meryl’s Streep’s daughter Grace Gummer) behind. Why?

Angela (Portia Doubleday) is now at E Corp, and this plot twist has been hard for me to justify. Why would she work there? The lawsuit she worked so hard to build has fallen by the wayside to make room for her corporate climb. She’s grown cold and self-centered, and has a new buttoned-up wardrobe to match her job title.

Another new character, Ray (The Office’s Craig Robinson), starts hanging around Elliot. He seems like he could be the friend that Elliot so desperately needs, but when Elliot agrees to help him with his website, things take a sinister turn. Against Ray’s warning, Elliot discovers the site on the dark web. Ray finds out and sics his goons on Elliot in a brutal scene.

Elliot’s fragile mind can’t deal with the violence, and takes us on a strange trip. In this last episode, Mr. Robot transforms into a whole new Full House-esque show complete with bad lighting, canned laughter and even ALF. It’s such an interesting way for Esmail to portray Elliot’s mindset.

Meanwhile, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) has taken over the reigns of fsociety, and she and Angela lead a hack on the FBI. Angela has decided to help in order to save herself from jail time for that Allsafe hack she instigated. We follow Angela for several tense, uncut minutes as she sets up the hack while Darlene talks her through it from a nearby hotel.

Most of the hacking throughout the show is over the average viewer’s head (I just learned what a Raspberry Pi was), but we have to trust that what they’re doing is actually possible. Now agent DiPierro is also hot on the fsociety trail, and she’s closing in.

If Mr. Robot doesn’t make you second-guess your social media pages that are “faking as intimacy” or question society in general, then you’re not paying attention. You’re supposed to squirm, and hate yourself a little bit. But recognizing these issues are what keep us sane. Right? RIGHT?!

Grade: A-

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