There is a good chance that a good book series may not woo you in its second, or third avatar. Movies and visual media in general are the most susceptible to the human mind’s malady of expectation, and when the premier starts off strong, the walls of hope get even more slippery. Complacency kicks in, and we are presented with a Jaws 2, or a Jurassic Park : The Lost World , ruining our fond moments with the first iteration.
Does Mr.Robot, in its second season, fall to the same lunacy?
The story of Mr.Robot, in its all man-vs-corporation shenanigans serves as a wrapper for a man suffering from clinical depression trying to separate the two realities- his own version versus the one that others see. Shown in a manner of Arts Décoratifs the blurred line between the visible world and the imaginary, the first season kept the ace in the hole hidden for almost half its duration and lured us into thinking that this was another of the stories of a self-proclaimed messiah, a Julian Assange-esque altruist who, in his alternate social avatar is awkward and lonely. Elliot turned out to be a genius trapped in his own mind, a sand castle that ebbed away with the lashes of time waves. His images, the shoebox shaped memories, the stories that formed his life were either too drab or too vivid; people were rotten in their core, and maggots came out immaculately dressed in suits.
Season 2, compared to the avalanche of emotions that was season 1, is much more tame. Elliot is still delusional. The world is still falling apart. The gang of rebels are still at large. E-Corp is still…alive. Yet the noose is tightening every moment on all of them, and their defense mechanisms, unique as they are, are what we see in these twelve episodes. Elliot’s paternal alter ego is one of the strongest kneejerkers in this desert storm of a world, closely followed by a stuck in a spiderweb Angela Moss. A distant Darlene tries to puppeteer a revolution, failing terribly.
In this quagmire are introduced some new faces. Lost souls, like trapped tadpoles in a mudhole, desperately gasping for that last bit of water before the world falls apart – they keep the show’s sanity to a bare minimum. Be it the devilish yet brittle Ray, uncannily different to his name – or the depraved, ebbing away Dom, or the sadistic, voyeur Joanna, or even the menacing, desperate Phillip sitting on his throne alone (a lot more screen time was given to him this season, thankfully!), the world outside seems no less surreal or vicious than the one that is inside. And therein lies the beauty of this juxtaposition, this effigy of a planet plagued by different levels of loneliness. Sam Ismail doesn’t break the extraordinaire that was the first season, but merely compliments it. Like a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé sitting beside caviar, it only makes the meal feel outstanding.
Of the actors, Rami Malek continues to be this doe-eyed, disjointed, depressed, socially awkward man who controls the plot. Christian Slater has been severely underrated for almost all his acting years, and Mr.Robot gives him the space – whether or not because he’s producing it, I don’t know, to go berserk. And he does. Portia Doubleday plays Angela Moss to a T, portraying a woman torn between career and moral choices. Her subdued, beautiful expressions often distract a viewer from other things happening around the same frame, but Sam Ismail plays it cleverly, and blurs the palette so you can only concentrate on the body of the sketch.
Revelations come in the form of Grace Gummer, who plays Dominique DiPierro, an FBI agent stuck in the grays of her past. Her conversations with Alexa, her staring vacantly at the laptop, the bursts of holding-on-to-a-straw-while-drowning desperation to find a purpose in her life, they all flow like a sad pang that at times is overbearing and frighteningly familiar. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her in a more fleshed out role in the third season, if any.
Craig Robinson also deserves praise for Ray, a broken man living in his own shadows, fighting his own demons, a wounded animal with one bite left. His acting is nice, albeit his appearances stay minimal at best for all intents and purposes. Joey Badass (or Bada$$, as he prefers to write) is fresh and cocky.
The ending didn’t surprise me. Elliot deserved to be back in the reality, the zoo that he carefully decided not to enter many, many years ago. It doesn’t matter what brought him there. In the end all that mattered was that FSociety didn’t mean F**k Society.
It meant Find Society, and that’s how Mr.Robot won.
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