Ironically, Sarah can’t write about this week’s Mr. Robot because of technical difficulties, so I’m taking over to give my thoughts on “eps2.2_init1.asec”. First, I think it’s fair and reasonable to let you know my general opinion of the series. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with Mr. Robot as Sarah clearly is, and it’s not my favourite show, but it’s the most interesting drama on television today.
Mr. Robot has a vibe and approach that’s very unusual and tackles questions hot issues and social trends. I just have a tough time connecting to it emotionally, because so much draws on the detached, mentally ill, almost alien nature of hacker genius Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek). But all of the other characters aren’t exactly well-adjusted people, so the tone of the show is almost relentlessly bleak.It’s also hard to know where things are going—which in some ways is a huge strength, as I hate predictability—but seeing as season 1’s finale delivered such a big ending, I’m still unsure what Mr.
It’s also hard to know where things are going—which in some ways is a huge strength, as I hate predictability—but seeing as season 1’s finale delivered such a big ending, I’m still unsure what Mr. Robot has left to say. The real fight against E Corp begins after the hack, as this episode informs us, but I’m not feeling that in the show’s narrative yet. I need a clearer, surer sign of direction and long-term prosperity.
You wanna know who’s crazy? Those Wall Street psychos.
With those caveats out of the way, “init1.asec” was an interesting hour—again filled with some beautiful sequences and visual tableaux, which are sometimes the main things that keep me on the hook. I loved the opening scene, with Darlene (Carly Chaikin) visiting her brother Elliot at his apartment around Halloween, which was slowly revealed to be an event taking place before the show began. The clues were very cleverly hidden (an old version of uTorrent on Darlene’s laptop, the fact she’s a happy user of Instagram), and it’s just like this show to refuse to hold its audience’s hand.The scene was essentially a bit of fan-service, letting us known how fsociety got started. All it took was Darlene’s ‘Monopoly Man’ face mask, their father’s old ‘Mr. Robot’ jacket, and a bit of paranoid fantasising from Elliot about how you could bring a conglomerate like E Corp to its knees with the perfect hack. If you think of Elliot in superhero terms, this was his ‘falling into the cave of bats’ moment. Interestingly, a dream of social utopia and desire to get his father back are the two components that led to
The scene was essentially a bit of fan-service, letting us known how fsociety got started. All it took was Darlene’s ‘Monopoly Man’ face mask, their father’s old ‘Mr. Robot’ jacket, and a bit of paranoid fantasising from Elliot about how you could bring a conglomerate like E Corp to its knees with the perfect hack. If you think of Elliot in superhero terms, this was his ‘falling into the cave of bats’ moment. Interestingly, a dream of social utopia and desire to get his father back are the two components that led to fscociety and everything that happened last year—and dreams were a key part of this episode, as we’ll see.
In the present, we had the reunion of Elliot and Darlene, now a long way down the path began with Elliot donning that mask and jacket. Recent events have brought them together, and it’s clear that whoever’s trying to eradicate fscociety will have a tougher once Elliot’s back in control. But Elliot still has his demons to wrestle with, and that’s what gave the majority of this episode its juice. It’s a bit of a cliche to associate chess with life’s struggles and the psyche, but it remains a rich analogy to pull from. Still struggling to rid himself of ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mental ghost of his late father who wants him to use his hacks to land the killer blow on E Corp, Elliot decides that defeating this part of his psyche with a ‘winner takes all’ game of chess is the way to go.
Jesus, I don’t normally say this, but I have got to Instagram this. People need to know this movie exists.
Interestingly, though, it’s dreams that actually had the biggest effect on this episode and Elliot’s mental state. Chess is an ancient game bound by inflexible rules, whereas human dreams lift emotions and can provide people with unexpected motivations. Elliot dreams of his perfect future in one bravura sequence, becoming the well-adjusted and very ordinary young man he might have been in another life. A man who makes amends for his mistakes, who has friends and family who love him, and who know each other. And maybe they can all live together happily in this future some day, as symbolised with the street party table most of the show’s characters gathered around, with Elliot at the head, watching the E Corp skyscraper come tumbling down in the distance.
Darlene was also affected by dreams, of the waking kind, with a twist of paranoia. She doesn’t have the mental illness her brother suffers, but there’s a similarity in how her imagination is shaping the world she inhabits now. The sequence of her moving through the city late at night—convinced a shadowy figure is following her, or that a group of masked kids intend her harm. And the only person she can turn to for emotional support is her brother, despite hooking up with her ex-boyfriend Cisco (Michael Drayer) again.
Annihilation is not the way.
I was much less engaged with the subplots for Angela (Portia Doubleday) and Price (Michael Cristofer), and Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen). Mr. Robot is a show with such a compelling lead that everyone else, for me, doesn’t seem worth the effort unless they’re interacting with Elliot. And I must confess that my memory of season 1’s hazier than most, as this isn’t a show I re-watched or keep abreast of online, so a lot of Joanna’s past isn’t fresh in my mind.I had to visit a few Wiki sites to reacquaint myself with what happened to her last year. I did like Joanna’s scene with her new bartender boyfriend, though, who makes a pittance compared to the lavish lifestyle
I had to visit a few Wiki sites to reacquaint myself with what happened to her last year. I did like Joanna’s scene with her new bartender boyfriend, though, who makes a pittance compared to the lavish lifestyle Wellick gave her, but tells him that’s irrelevant now. Money doesn’t make you happy, is the old saying. But does Joanna truly believe this? Or is she privately dreaming of getting back the fortune and lifestyle she’s accustomed to, hence her visit to E Corp’s Scott Knowles (Brian Stokes Mitchell) for a payout?
As usual, it was the Elliot storyline that really held my interest. The chess game with Mr. Robot went as you’d logically expect—three stalemates—and now Elliot’s agreeing to help the mysterious Ray (Craig Robinson) with his online computer problem. Ray’s actually one of the best new character this year. It’s impossible to get a handle on him right now. Is he a villain? The moment he sent a henchman to sit with Elliot while he worked certainly felt threatening. But there are also signs he sees Elliot as a kindred spirit who also has Dissociative Identity Disorder. The different being that Ray appears to believe this illness is a “divine” gift, telling Elliot that prophets like Moses, John, Paul and Jesus also “heard voices”. If Mr. Robot’s now going down a religious path, God have mercy on us…
- The beautiful music used over Elliot’s dream sequence was an instrumental of Green Day’s “Basket Case“, played in a lullaby style.
- Did you catch the Lewis Carroll reference with Cisco taking Darlene to The Looking Glass bar? Dreams were also a big part of Carroll’s Alice novels.
- The FBI surveillance programme is “Operation Berenstain”.
- I didn’t notice this episode was a quarter-hour longer than usual, sans adverts, but it does seem weird to be having different lengths week-to-week. Sam Esmail has clearly been given a lot of flexibility by the USA Network, who must be overjoyed they have this show on their lineup, but let’s stick to 43-minutes, eh? It’s a tighter experience. There was really nothing ‘special’ about this episode to warrant the extra time.
- Great touch to have people on Darlene’s subway train wearing VR goggles, gas masks, etc. Gave it a weird vibe that fits the show’s dystopian, slightly futuristic feel. The whole almost seems to exist in a parallel universe, like a serialised Black Mirror story.
- You can watch fake slasher movie The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie online here. Although it’s geo-locked to the US, goddamnit.
Hmmm, a 4? I wasn’t confused by anything happening, really, I’d just forgotten some of the events from the first season not involving Elliot directly.
So what do you think? Is Mr. Robot an unbeatable part of Elliot’s psyche? Is Ray a good or bad person in Elliot’s life? Will anyone’s dreams come true? As ever, all speculation and no spoilers welcome below…