Mr. Robot:  Season 2
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Mr. Robot: Season 2

It is not uncommon for the second season of a popular television series to experience a phenomenon commonly referred to as the sophomore slump. The manifestation of its effects is proportional to the success of the initial season with the loss of perceived quality greater with the most praiseworthy shows. When the first season wildly exceeds expectations the onus of outdoing it often goes beyond realization. Showrunners are trapped by the perennial quagmire of the follow up season. Fan will demand that the aspects of the series that were responsible to that success yet introduce sufficient alterations to keep the series fresh. All too often theses are mutually exclusive the case of the USA network’s most recent mega hit, ‘Mr. Robot’ managed to achieve both with panache. The main theme at the core of the story is black hat hackers, so called ‘hacktivist’ and cyber security. Considering the controversy that dominated the global political scene effecting the 2016 Presidential election that revolved around computer hacking on an international scale, ‘Mr., Robot’ has become more frightenedly real than anyone could have imagined. Whenever a dystopian premise move closer to the current headlines, the show is certain to assume a significant degree of gravitas. Popularity of this series immediately was infused into the zeitgeist of a generation resulting from some of the most powerful writing, intense performance and a directorial style that includes visual components not even seen on most films. ‘Mr. Robot was a tsunami that swept away the competition. During the second season considered here it should upon the foundation in place and achieved even greater heights of success. It turned the sophomore slump into a sophomore surge.

The previous season ended with a group of hacktivist who call themselves ‘fsociety’ succeeded in the ultimate hack, infiltrating the most secure data farm that belonged to the corporate juggernaut, E Corp, better known to many as ‘ Evil Corp’ , destroying their records and backups for most of the credit accounts in the world. People were now liberated from crushing consumer debt but at an extreme cost; the global economy crashed. Not only did most people live on credit but this dependency extended to business and governments. The most talented hacker of fsociety is Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a young man beset by a myriad of personal demons. The audience is taken through some of the most important moments of the first season from a third person vantage point rather than the Elliot’s point of view. The man that has been pulling his strings brining him to crashing the world was his father, Edward (Christian Slater), better known as the titular ‘Mr. Robot’ due to the patch on his ever present jacket from his electronics repair business. The big reveal last season verified the most popular fan theory concerning the series; Mr. Robot was a construct of Elliot’s deeply disturbed mind. Elliot suffers from Dissociative Personality Disorder, previously called multiple personalities. The man controlling and tormenting Elliot, the one he remembers as his father, is all in his mind. This revelation also includes the most radical member of fsociety, Darlene (Carly Chaikin), is his sister.

In the aftermath of plunging the world, the hack now known by its date, 5/9, into chaos the members of fsociety are confused as to the next step. Darlene steps up guiding her cadre of hackers to continue to bring the evil agendas of large corporations and governments to the attention of the pubic. While she is driving forward, Elliot has withdrawn into himself. He has decided that the only way to keep Mr. Robot from controlling him is if he adheres to a strict schedule, not deviating by a minute during the course of the day. A part of this routine was to challenge his mind, now deprived of hacking as an outlet, by playing chess in the park. He becomes friendly with one frequent opponent, Ray Heyworth (Craig Robinson). Ray was persistent in breaking Elliot’s self-imposed silence and eventually breeching a web site. This opens Elliot to the direct notice of the incredibly powerful and active black hat community the Chinese group known as ‘The Dark Army’. They are not just dangerous online but are engaged in numerous forms of criminal activities in the real world.

Such a catastrophic failure of global stability cannot go without an official response and in line with those law enforcement agencies set their resources to locate the perpetrators. Senior Special Agent Dominique "Dom" DiPierro (Grace Gummer), is assigned to investigate the hack of E Corp and the head of the corporate legal department, the General Counsel, Susan Jacobs (Sandrine Holt) who’s draconian methods has given the nick name, Madame Executioner. Jacobs was directly targeted by fsociety when they hacked into her high tech, sophisticated smart home to frighten her. SSA DiPierro is one of the best agents in the FBI’s Cyber Division who is intelligent, intuitive and tenuous, qualities that make her exceptionally dangerous to fsociety. One of Elliot’s best friends from early on in his life is Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday). They both worked together at a cyber security firm before Elliot became involved in fsociety. After that company went under Angela went to work for E Corporation managing to receive a lucrative salary and exalted corporate position and access. Initially a sweet young woman Angela was forced to become hardened just to survive in this post 5/9 world. Starting at E Corp in public relations Angela leverages a promotion to a crucial position in Risk Management. Once drawn deeper into the activity of fsociety, with the help of Darlene, Angela begins to develop hacking skills of her own.

After such a fast pace conclusion of the first season, season two leaves fans with the distinct feeling that the pacing has slowed to a crawl. It must be remembered that the entire world literally changed overnight and it requires significant time to bring the audience up to speed by revisiting the individual members of the principle cast depicting how they survived. This necessitated substantial changes to most relations between people and affiliations with groups and organizations. In many respects this is a new series, extending the central narrative in an uncharted direction. The main focus of season one followed the events leading up to the 5/9 hack. So many stories of a similar nature are concluded at this point, leaving it to the imagination of the audience or a sequel at some future point. In the context of this series the aftermath follows directly following the game changing tipping point, offering incredible potential for the writers to escalate the intrigue, amplify the tension and force drastic changes in the character development. Many appear to hold firm to the misconception that the crux of the thematic impetus remains dependent on the strange existence of cyberspace. This is only the slightest tip of the proverbial iceberg. Cyber security is the means to segue into the exploration of the truly critical themes; the interdependency of economic, politics and the military that are able to alter the course of the world. While these events might seem too remote and grand of scale to effect the mundane lives of individuals, this series demonstrates the all-pervasive reach and repercussion of events similar to what was depicted here. Although the season was written and produced long before events that are only now unfolding. Hacking individuals, political parties and government have been suspected of altering history, rippling down to literally millions of people and potentially bringing the world to the brink of disaster, a place not held for over sixty years.

The acting in this thriller is extraordinary. Rami Malek has skyrocketed from a sought after character actor in a number of television series and movies to one of the most recognizable actors in the world. The overnight success that took over a decade of dedication has paid off as the considerable talent of this man continues to grow in scope and degree. Portraying a person with such a quagmire of emotional and psychological disorders is highly prone to being over done or presented in such a convoluted fashion that the distinct elements that synergistically form the character’s personality are lost in a morass of conflicting quirks. Mr. Malek navigates this treacherous road to achieve a masterful control over his character allowing the audience to embrace this severely damaged person as the protagonist. Contrasting Elliot’s fight against the Mr. Robot personality is the emotional journey Angela is forced to undertake. Some of the actions encompassing corporate blackmail and self-serving ambition would be unimaginable for the idealistic young woman seen early in Season 1. The character that has embraced the new world order with enthusiasm was Darlene. She slips effortlessly into the positon of leading fsociety making it into the means to enact her own view of how society should function.

Posted 01/12/2017

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