‘Mr. Robot’ premiere starts Season 2 on a wild and dark ride

Rami Malek as Eliot Alderson.
Image: Peter Kramer/USA Network

It doesn’t take long for Mr. Robot to establish just how dark its sophomore season will be.

Its two-episode premiere brims with cringe-inducing scenes. Like Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) standing hunched over head tilted, eyes bulging and laughing maniacally like something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Or that same Elliot taking a bullet point-blank to the forehead, only to stand up seconds later while oozing blood down his face, deadpanning the line, “Are you done?”

None of it makes sense and it’s not supposed to. At least not yet. These are the same kind of mind-numbing twists and turns that made USA Network’s breakout hacker drama a hit. And it’s the same kind of grit that will continue to make creator-writer Sam Esmail’s summer thriller one of the most captivating shows on TV at least, if the rest of the season lives up to Wednesday’s hair-raising, reality-bending premiere.

Season 2 starts in a world of financial ruin, one trying to find its footing after a crippling cyberattack delivered by Elliot’s hacker brigade, fsociety. If you need a refresher from Season 1, Elliot and a handful of hackers essentially rid the world of its debt by erasing the financial records of the world’s largest conglomerate, E Corp (think Apple, Google or your choice of Silicon Valley juggernaut).

Craig Robinson, as Ray, adds a bit of a comedic touch to the otherwise dark ‘Mr. Robot.’

Image: Michael Parmelee/USA Network

This has myriad side effects, some not even the hackers could have predicted. Banks are useless, cash is king and global leaders have declared war on fsociety. Meanwhile, Elliot is removed from it all, tucked away at his mother’s home in an unmentioned borough of New York City.

He keeps busy by maintaining the same monotonous routine day after day his “perfectly constructed loop.” It includes watching pickup basketball, doing household chores and eating two meals with one of the show’s newest characters, Leon, played by Brooklyn-bred rapper Joey Badass. He’s a childhood friend from Elliot’s past who’s just discovered the marvels of Seinfeld and continuously questions its brilliance over morning omelettes.

Elliot has sworn off coding in an effort to contain the pepper-bearded and socially defiant elephant in the room his Flight Club-esque, unhinged alter ego Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). The global consequences of the hack have Elliot doubting himself and his actions, yet Mr. Robot remains unflinching, still salivating to bring the green-eyed crooks of Wall Street to their knees.

Christian Slater as Mr. Robot (left) and Malek as Anderson (right).

Image: USA NETWORK

This sparring represents the fundamental conflict of Season 2 (thus far, at least), and was the most interesting part of Wednesday’s premiere. While Mr. Robot’s first season centered on Elliot vs. (Evil) Corp, this season seemingly will center on Elliot vs. Elliot.

It might seem like a monumental task for Esmail and company to get away with, especially with a show that already has viewers questioning the validity of previous plot points, but it’s one that may just give it enough juice to silence those who think it’s just a Fight Club remake. It’ll either allow Mr. Robot to blossom into the ground-breaking series it so desperately wants to be, or just become as convoluted as the final seasons of Lost.

With just two episodes available to screen, it’s hard to tell. But the former certainly felt like it was true on Wednesday.

Mr. Robot continues to sprinkle itself with an array of pop culture references, including a cameo from Barack Obama himself, denouncing the likes of fsociety and its attack on the global economy during a press conference even if some of his dialogue sounded strung together like it were a remix. All together, it does an incredible job of making viewers think these events were happening today, with references of the “five/nine” hack drawing headlines across the media, including a mention by Nancy Grace. Characters often refer to the attack with real world tie-ins like the “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Carly Chaikin as Darlene.

Image: USA NETWORK

This was perhaps Mr. Robot’s biggest strength in its first season. The events that happened in Elliot’s world seemed to be mirroring real-life events happening in real time. It exposed the otherwise nebulous life of hackers in a year full of cybersecurity breaches and sometimes became almost too real. It even artfully edited its finale to tie in 2015’s giant Ashley Madison hack.

It’ll be interesting to see how that continues in the current political landscape. Britain’s economic free fall and this year’s tumultuous U.S. election are yet again prime source material for a show that seems to constantly feed on the zeitgeist, even if the show’s conflict does seem more insular this season.

The premiere waded into that territory a bit, even daring to refer to the hackers responsible for the attacks as “terrorists, plain and simple” all in a time when our very definition of the word “terrorist” has never felt so open-ended.

But at times it felt a bit more forced and preachy with its us-against-the-world lecturing. In fact, I dare you to try and find the one character who didn’t step back and end a scene atop a soapbox mouthing a monologue about contemporary history.

Regardless, Mr. Robot‘s premiere peaks more often than it drags. It adds more depth to its already robust cast of characters specifically the headstrong Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and slowly turning Angela (Portia Doubleday) and it even piles on more with great additions such as Craig Robinson. And if Esmail’s thriller continues to be just as gritty and edgy as its two-episode premiere was, Season 2 may just be one wild and dark ride.

So goodbye, for now, friends.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Source: <a href="http://mashable.com/"></a>