How Mr Robot (Season 2) experimented with its troubled protagonist & became more of an ensemble show.
“Round and round we go. You not knowing what you did or didn’t do… Our infinite loop of insanity.”
How do you cope with a protagonist you can’t really trust?
That’s the core question Mr Robot‘s sophomore season is asking – through Elliot’s internal struggle. Just as we wrestle with whether or not we can trust what’s he’s saying to us, he’s fighting with Mr Robot over control of his own mind. It’s a character arc that – while serving as yet another fine showcase of Rami Malek’s incredible acting talents – quite frankly, destabilises the show’s entire momentum during the season’s first half. In confining Elliot to this battle for so long, the writers tested the patience of their audience this year.
Of course, their reasons for doing so all start to make sense by the end of episode 7. It’s hard not to brandish the big twist as a blatant attempt at topping their Season 1 equivalent – but it’s arguably more effective. It drags this seemingly flailing season back on track, while also reminding viewers how important it is to judge a story as a whole (assuming they made it this far without quitting). Elliot’s mental state is a subject that will continue to fascinate me – but it’s not something you need to separate him from the central narrative to explore effectively (as the season’s last three or four episodes demonstrated).
As a consequence of Elliot’s absence, several supporting players are forced to step up to the plate this year and carry the main plot. This helps flesh out the world outside of our hero’s mind, offering more screen time and allowing for greater development to characters like Angela and Darlene. It doesn’t always work – Angela’s tendency bounce between multiple seemingly high stakes scenarios relatively unscathed doesn’t help her feel anymore authentic or relatable – but it supplies these characters with the depth they lacked last year.
The real Season 2 success stories come from the show’s B & C-tier characters. Grace Gummer’s stubborn FBI agent Dom brings a great new dynamic to the series, proving to be a formidable antagonistic force to the members of fsociety and an endearing protagonist in her own right. There are also welcome returns for BD Wong’s enigmatic Whiterose & Michael Cristofer’s soulless E Corp CEO Phillip Price in a much larger capacity. Watching these two titans embroiled in a constant overarching battle of wits is never short of fascinating. Elsewhere, Craig Robinson continues to prove his immense versatility with a small, yet impactful recurring role.
By isolating their unreliable hero, Mr Robot managed to replicate the sense of mystery and secrecy it possessed in its freshman run. Elliot is no longer our sole point of entry into this world – he’s been compromised. So the show expanded, roping in other audience surrogates to carry the viewers through its various twists and turns. All of a sudden, Mr Robot became an ensemble show – and felt richer overall for it.
Highlights: eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx | eps2.7_init_5.fve | eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z | eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme
Writing this made me think about spoilers, and whether or not to incorporate them into my pieces. For movies, it’s fairly easy not to – and simple enough to signpost an article when you want to delve a little deeper. For shows, it’s a lot more complicated. I try my best not to ruin anything – especially for my reviews of Season 1’s – as these pieces should work as a recommendation to people out there who haven’t seen it. By the time you get to a second season, you’re at risk of at least spoiling the events of the first season.
I’ve done my best to avoid specific details here – but there’s no way I can analyse this without alluding to the big moments. As a compromise, I’ve just tagged them as things like the ‘big twist’. In the end, what constitutes a spoiler (beyond saying ‘X dies’) is usually down to personal preference . I’m just letting you know where I stand.
I’m just as interested in talking about this as the show in question btw, so hit me up.