A Hacker’s Identity Crisis

‘Mr. Robot’ Season 2 Review

USA has always been some of the sunny days version of cable program. It has produced many intriguing original series over the last decade, but the majority have leaned toward the lighthearted romp type, series such as Psych, Monk, Burn Notice and the recently departed Royal Pains. Most have been enjoyable enough shows, which have occasionally been nominated for awards, but rarely have they approached the depths and brilliance of their sister stations AMC and FX.

That’s why it was such a shock to the system when Mr. Robot premiered last year. A series about a dark, very withdrawn hacker named Elliot, who constantly provided narration without seeming like he was breaking the fourth wall, it dealt with his joining a group of hackers called ‘fsociety’ that met at a Coney Island Arcade, with a mission in mind: to bring down a monopoly known as ‘EvilCorp’ (subtle this show isn’t) that was responsible for controlling much of the nation’s debt. Led by a dark, very unhinged character only known as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater finally demonstrating he was more than a Jack Nicholson impersonator), Elliot became and more and more involved with the people, only to deal with more and more shocks. Mr. Robot actually didn’t exist, he was a hallucination of his father, and an alternate personality of Eliot, and one of the hackers involved with fsociety was his sister. At that point, he blacked out for three days, and when he regained control of his body, the hack had happened.

‘Mr. Robot’ was nothing short of a revelation. Several critics named it the Best show of the year. It won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for Best Drama, and last Thursday was nominated for six Emmys, including Best Drama, USA’s first ever series in that category. Understandably, the stakes are even higher when Season 2 began last week.

And if anything, ‘Mr. Robot’ has gotten even darker. The series has opened with the nation recovering from what is now being called the 5/9 hack. Elliot (the utterly fantastic Rami Malek) is now back at home living with his mother (and we learned in numerous flashbacks just how horrible that relationship was) trying to get Mr. Robot out of his head, and disconnecting himself from computers in general. He’s desperately trying to numb himself, but it seems that nothing can stop it. His problems may be getting even deeper as he has been forming a relationship with a loan shark/philosopher (Craig Robinson, a revelation himself), who has many of the same issues he does.

fsociety isn’t doing much better. Darlene, Elliot’s sister is trying to hold people together, but that’s not particularly easy considering that members of their group are being killed, and a young FBI agent (Grace Gummer) is trying to track down the source of the hack. But its clear the operation is nowhere near done, considering the shocking act in the premiere of terrorism and assassination that is being carried on its wake.

A bare description of the plot doesn’t do Mr. Robot justice. The series has some of the most daring visuals on television since the days of Breaking Bad. And the financial rants and the anti-social media message couldn’t be more relevant given the election cycle we’re still going through. (One could make the argument that there’s a political slant to this, but the show debuted a full year before Bernie Sanders’ campaign caught fire. If anything, this series is pro-anarchy.) . Just as UnReal revealed that Lifetime was capable of doing something dark and dangerous other than cliched women-in-peril movies, Mr. Robot shows that USA is more than capable of doing something other than light, escapist fare. And given the direction of their last couple of original series, there may be even better stuff to come. As it is, Mr. Robot has already shot to the heap of one of the best series of the year. Its nice when the Emmys gets it right.

My score: 4.75 stars.

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After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.

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