The USA Network took the wraps off its Mr. Robot Series last night, and Mr. Robot 2.0 launched. It was a two-part effort which began at 10:00 PM Eastern and finish at 11:30. I must tell you that I’ve many questions, so this is more likely to be a post written by someone who is looking for some answers rather than someone providing the answers.
I am truly a Johnny-come-lately to Mr. Robot, In fact, during its first season, which ran on USA from late June to early September last year, I saw none of it. If you had asked me who Rami Malek or Sam Esmail were, I’d have no answers. What you’d get from me would be a ‘I don’t have a clue shrug of the shoulders with my hands held out with the palms up’.
But based on a remark made to me, and Mr. Robot getting serious coverage in the Entertainment Weekly Magazine, a few weeks back, I decided to buy into what was described as a major cult hit show. So over a period of about 3 1/2 days in middle June I binge watched Season One.
Much of the time I was mystified. I did manage to catch on that Mr. Robot – played by Christian Slater, was a manifestation of Elliot Alderson’s dead father.
And the other big reveal was that Darlene (Carly Chaikin) was in fact Elliot’s sister.
I understood that the machinations of F_Society were all intended to take down the gigantic E-Corp also known as Evil Corp. That Elliot and Mr. Robot, Darlene and the others viewed themselves as freedom fighters rather than cyber-criminals. I recognized that Elliot’s employer Gideon Goddard was played by Michel Gill.
Now Gill as President Garrett Walker had fallen victim to the wheeling and dealing of Frank Underwood in the political drama House of Cards, so I expected that he would meet an unkind demise. Yet there he was in 2.0 – however briefly.
I had no idea what to make of Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) other than he wasn’t to be trusted, and that he was up to no good. I was even more befuddled by his wife, Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) who had some peculiar tendencies to say the least.
Another character that I pigeon-holed as a dark presence was Michael Cristofer who played Phillip Price, the CEO of the E-Corp. Once upon a time Christofer caught my eye as Jerry Rand in the failed NBC series Smash.
Other characters that made an impact on me were Gloria Reuben who plays Elliot’s shrink, Krista Gordon. I duly noted that Gordon was doing her best to draw Elliot out but he seemed to be quite resistant.
I also like Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss – but her role is quite puzzling to me. Finally Sakina Jaffrey, another House of Cards alumni.
I tend to remember the actresses much more so than the actors.
Anyway, as Season One concluded, I tucked the show away in my head, and specifically created some reference points. Now Elliot Alderson, the lead character and one who is played with chilling stillness by Mr. Malek, seems to be of a classic mold – he’s the outsider who lacks social skills. As brilliant as he is at a keyboard, he’s just as awkward in social settings.
I don’t find him appealing. Is it makeup. or does he wear contacts, or is he preternaturally tired looking most of the time. His character is written as cold and semi-silent. He gives this vibe, as Elliot, that even when you are with him, and engaged in some conversation – the character is somewhere’s else. I guess we are meant to view Elliot as in a state of perpetual internalization.
Now I have no idea if Mr. Malek is really short (actually he’s 5’9″ which I just looked up) but I think he is a more powerful presence than either Jessie Eisenberg, or Seth Green who are actors that I will group him with.
Wrapping up Season One, I have a theory that writer/producer/director Sam Esmail created this show with some strong, but deeply underlying influences. One of the most popular of our early anti-hero heroes is none other than Dustin Hoffman who played the disaffected Benjamin Braddock in the classic film, The Graduate. Now the Graduate came out in 1967, which is nearly 50 years ago, but it seems like a seminal influence for Esmail.
I’ll call Mr. Robot the grandson of The Graduate.
The second influential film which is at the core of Mr. Robot is The Matrix which came out in 1999. I believe the machines which ran the matrix are the underlying source or model for the E-Corp. So, and this is just for fun, I’ll call The Matrix the father of Mr. Robot. Keanu played Mr. Anderson, Malek plays Mr. Alderson – I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.
As I said – this is just in fun.
So Mr. Robot 2.0 begins with Elliot adhering to a strict regimen of doing nothing. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a friend – because Elliot doesn’t have to talk. Going to the playground to watch pick-up basketball, Sleeping, doing housework, and maintaining a handwritten (in pencil) journal. All of which I am guessing are to keep himself to living his life in a strict format – likely to ward off the presence of Mr. Robot seeping into Elliot’s life.
Speaking of playground – what is the purpose or significance of the heavy-set black guy who shows up at the playground with the bloodhound and tries to befriend Elliot.
But Mr. Robot is not deterred so easily. He shows up as he sees fit, and despite Elliot not wanting him around; he’s around. Which leads to major shock and unexpected event. I’ll just call it an act of self-cleansing of Elliot’s hyper imagination. Any ideas as to what else that meant?
I didn’t quite catch on to Joanna Wellick in these episodes either. She seems to need a punishment, and she’s strapped to a bed. Some guy punishes her and then later says, I didn’t hurt did I? I hope not. I’ve no idea at all what that was about.
The there was another major shock in the second part. Gill’s Gideon Goddard is at a bar having a drink. A guy chats him up and then – bang! Maybe this too was a dream thing. Anyone?
Initially, I didn’t get the significance of Sandrine Holt’s character. She’s out for a jog – and then comes home and her high-tech townhouse goes haywire. Nothing works as intended. Temps are down, the stereo is on at full blast, and the home security system has gone kablooey. She’s forced to call a taxi and head up to her house in Greenwich, CT.
All this before I knew she was. Holt’s character is Susan Jacobs who is the Head of E-Corps Legal department. We later learn the reason why she was driven out of her townhouse, but for a while I was stumped.
I really liked what happened to the 5.9 million ransom that E-Corp had to shell out. It was a long and convoluted set piece that took it’s time to reach its conclusion. And it was unexpected. It seemed as though Esmail was playing a game with the E-Corp for our pleasure, or am I reading that incorrectly.
Another puzzle. Phillip Price is called into an emergency meeting of the E-Corps Board of Directors. Am I wrong, but didn’t that room gives off vibes of the Oval Office? And why were the faces of the three people shrouded in darkness rendering them visible but not identifiable.
My next last questions concerns a pair of musical choices. In Part One we got a long play through of the Phil Collins song Take Me Home. Now I don’t know if you remember this, but that song was a part of a major scene in the Miami Vice 2nd Season opener called The Prodigal Son. Phillip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs get involved with Pam Grier‘s Valerie. It was a strong song and I believe that it gave that series a major boost. So what was this song doing in Mr. Robot 2.o Part 1?
Any I ideas as to the reason for its inclusion.
The second song kind of closed out Mr. Robot 2.0 Part 2. The Song is called Till We Meet Again. It was written in 1918. Jo Stafford and Nelson Eddy popularized this song in 1951. While it a beautiful song, what is it doing in this series. Maybe it has to do with some many of the fractured relationships in this series. I guess we shall have to wait and see.
Absolute last question – what is Grace Gummer doing in this show?
Any opinions or theories that you’d like to suggest will be appreciated (as well as posted in the comments section). Thanks.