Mr. Robot (Season 2): What is really happening?

This article contains spoilers

After binge watching the excellent third and fourth seasons of Mr. Robot, I felt the need to revisit the series as a whole. There are emotional and character revelations near the end of the series that recontextualize everything that came before and have made me view Sam Esmail’s groundbreaking psychological-hacker drama in a whole new light. The first time I watched season two, back when it came out in 2016, I hated it. I thought that it had lost much of what made its first season special. I found it to be slow and repetitive at times, and in other instances felt it meandered and lacked focus. I stopped watching Mr. Robot for four years because I was so turned off by its second season. A friend recently recommended that I finish it, and I loved the final two seasons so much that I immediately began rewatching the entire series. After finishing the second season, I have some thoughts about it.

Season two chronicles the fallout of the five/nine hack carried out by Elliot, Tyrell, and fsociety. It begins with Elliot having removed himself from his old life in the city; he is apparently living with his mother, whom he dislikes, and spends his days journaling, talking to his psychologist, Krista (Gloria Reuben), watching basketball games at the neighborhood court, and eating meals with his new friend, Leon, played brilliantly by rapper Joey Bada$$. Leon drones on to Elliot about 90s sitcoms while Elliot stays silent and goes about his routine in an attempt to get rid of Mr. Robot. Meanwhile, Tyrell is missing and is now the most wanted man in the world, suspected of being behind both the five/nine hack and the murder of Sharon Knowles. E Corp goes about its business trying to limit the damage, rebuild their data, and restore their reputation. With Elliot gone, Darlene is the new leader of fsociety and she and her group hack the smarthome of an E Corp employee, Susan Jacobs (Sandrine Holt), messing with her thermostat and the volume of her devices, forcing her to flee to her other house, then using the smarthome as the hideout for fsociety’s operation. Dom (Grace Gummer) and the FBI continue their search for Tyrell and try to make sense of how five/nine happened.

Watching the season again, there are clues that point to the twist that is revealed midway through. It felt weird the first time I watched it seeing Elliot doing the same monotonous routine day in and day out, rarely in contact with anyone from fsociety, including his own sister, but of course it’s because he is actually in jail the entire time and must adhere to said routine. I can kind of understand the thinking behind keeping this information from the viewer, perhaps we wouldn’t be as invested if we knew that Elliot had gone to jail, but it still feels dishonest to me. I still don’t like it. There is a saying that the reader/viewer should always know the most at a given moment, but in this case it felt as if the characters knew more than we were being shown, and as if vital information was being intentionally withheld, which halted the story and didn’t allow us to move forward with it. We always feel a step behind in the second season, and that is frustrating. Mr. Robot has always been a psychological show concerned with information–revealing and withholding and manipulating information–and the ways in which we perceive the world and process it, but where I felt that season one succeeded was in having us learn information and follow the story along with Elliot, the truths about who Mr. Robot and Darlene were being revealed to us as they were revealed to him, and in the second season we feel detached from Elliot a lot of the time.

There are some great moments of drama though in season two–some of the best of the series–that progress the story forward, bring us closer to other characters, and allow us to piece information together outside of our connection to Elliot. For instance, Dom meeting Minister Zhang (BD Wong) in China and being shown the dresses, Angela (Portia Doubleday) planting the femtocell, Darlene killing Susan Jacobs, the shooting at the restaurant that kills Cisco (Michael Drayer), and Angela’s meeting with Whiterose.

Despite having its moments, though, I still believe that season two is the weakest of all the Mr. Robot seasons. Now let me get back to binge watching this brilliant show. Reviews for seasons three and four upcoming.

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