Mr. Robot Season 2 Premiere Review
Our review of the anticipated season 2 premiere of Mr Robot.
USA isn’t exactly known for making prestige TV. For the most part, the network has put out sanitized procedural content like Monk, Psych, Suits, and Royal Pains, shows that feel more than a little outdated in the post-Sopranos era of dark, serialized dramas.
That all changed last year with the inaugural season of Mr. Robot, a complex and cinematic thriller that’s received a warm reception from critics and audiences alike.
Last night, Season 2 premiered. There’s always fear that a great new show will fall into a sophomore slump going from its first season to its second (we’re looking at you, True Detective), but Mr. Robot fans are sure to be happy after watching this premiere, because no drop in quality is evident.
The cinematography remains the best aspect of Mr. Robot – the look of the show is simply sharper than anything on TV. The early montage of Elliot going through his daily routine set to Wallace Collection’s “Daydream” is particularly striking, as are the sequences where Elliot and the (recently revealed to be a hallucination) Mr. Robot spar with each other.
Beyond aesthetics, Sam Esmail (the creator of the show, who directed every episode of this season) proves to be incredibly effective at ratcheting up the tension.
There’s a scene of E Corp CTO Scott Knowles waiting in a park with a bag of ransom money that seems like it could explode into violence at any moment, and it’s entertaining in the most stressful way possible (he ends up being instructed to burn all the money, and the most unrealistic thing that’s ever happened in the show is that a crowd of people just watch it burn away rather than run in and try to salvage as much as they can for themselves… I mean, c’mon).
This season also introduces a few new players to the mix, including:
Leon, played by Joey Bada$$ in his acting debut, is a Seinfeld-obsessed new (and possibly imaginary) friend of Elliott’s (one question: does a man who’s discovering 90’s culture for the first time in 2016 play original Pokémon or Pokémon Go?)
- Craig Robinson takes a break from Apatow productions to bring his effortlessly funny and charming persona here as Ray, who isn’t really given much to do in the premiere but does add some much-needed comic relief. It seems like a weird match for the show at first, but he manages to fit in pretty well.
- Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) plays an FBI agent who’s like a mix between The Silence of the Lamb’s Clarice Starling and Twin Peak’s Agent Cooper. She’s introduced as someone who holds up a line of people in a convenience store to chat extensively with the cashier, which is my least favorite kind of person.
One issue I continue to have with the show is that I can’t tell if Elliot/Mr. Robot and friends are supposed to be capable revolutionaries, or dumbass kids who know how to disrupt society but are too shortsighted to really make a difference.
Like, both Elliot and Darlene seem to acknowledge that maybe erasing a bunch of bank records wasn’t the best idea, and the show does briefly depict a seemingly good, hard-working woman who’s now in world of trouble because she has no proof that she’s paid off her mortgage. And Elliot’s actions appear to have put the country into another recession, which of course harms millions of innocent people other than that one woman.
So sometimes it seems like they have no idea what they’re doing beyond the technological aspect of their revolution, but then when Knowles burns a few million dollars in the park, Darlene is seen in the crowd smiling like she’s really accomplished something (and the show seems to agree that this is of major significance).
What did that really do, though? A few million is nothing to these high-end bankers, and while a big burning pile of money is a nice news story and powerful symbolic image, it seems like the kind of thing everyone would forget about in a few weeks anyway, like the homeless guy with the golden radio voice or that dress that was either blue/black or white/gold.
Also, who knocked on Elliot’s door? The first season finale ended with a couple cliffhangers, one of which was someone knocking on Elliot’s door just before the credits rolled. 2 hours into the 2nd season and we still have no idea who the hell that was. A crossover cameo from another prestige drama, perhaps?
But those are minor complaints, considering that the twists and turns of the plot continue to be engaging and the visuals are still stunning. There’s no sophomore slump here. The state of Mr. Robot is strong.
Highlight of the Episode: There were a lot of good moments, but HOTE goes to an underdog in Michael Cristofer’s line reading of “Jaaack” when he’s telling off the Secretary of the Treasury in the DC meeting – maybe it’s just me, but the way he holds the “a” is downright hilarious (Cristofer is always down for a good monologue).
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