After the first terrific episode, Mr. Robot left us in the middle of a cliffhanger. We find Elliot facing the so-called “1% of the 1%” he had briefly mentioned on the introduction to the story. Among the executives gathered at the top of a non-descript office building we find a familiar face, a former hacker, and one of the heads of E Corp we had briefly been introduced to in the first chapter. Interestingly, the scene is not one that offers much of a climax, and I get the feeling it is more of a moment of impasse between two players that will unavoidably meet again.
Despite the confirmation that Elliot is not imagining the men in black suits following him, he continues to descend into mental instability and drug addiction. He spends as much time and effort trying to give a semblance of normalcy to those around him than he does trying to protect those he cares about while attempting to become a virtual conspirator.
Once again, the show feels more comfortable outside of the main storyline. In this case, Elliot comes across a not-so-brilliant drug dealer whose natural demeanor is one of intolerance and violence. Though he considers leaving him alone so that he can continue to secure morphine, Elliot can’t help but feel as if allowing him to roam free goes against everything he has tried so hard to fight against. Elliot is a post-modern superhero. Not void of weakness and social inadequacy, but filled with the kind of empathy that drives him to utilize his skills towards what he thinks is a just cause. He may not do it with brute force, or by intimidation, but he manages to impart swift justice through a computer.
As I mentioned in my review of the first episode, the exchanges between Mr. Robot and Elliot tend to go in direct opposition to the rest of the show. Whereas Elliot protects those around him in perfect anonymity, the conversations he has with Mr. Robot force him to articulate the same fears and desires he hints at on his “private” conversations with the audience. Instead of letting us wonder about what makes Elliot the way he is, there is a tendency for Mr. Robot to get him to talk, unravel part of the mystique, and establish a parent and son type of relationship that feels a bit forced.
Should the show continue on a path of moral ambiguity, it will probably manage to retain his ability to surprise us and challenge our preconceived notions of who these characters are. If, instead, the show searches for simplistic answers, such as reducing Elliot’s thirst for justice to a desire to avenge his late father, then it is likely Mr. Robot will begin to lose some of its freshness and punch as the finale draws ever closer.
Rating: 4/5 – another satisfying episode, but not nearly as much as the premiere. It remains to be seen what paths Mr. Robot is likely to take from this point forward. It could either be great and unexpected, or cliché and predictable. Stay tuned for my reviews of the next 8 episodes.