Sam Esmail's brilliant drama-thriller is back with a vengeance.
Mr. Robot Season 2 Episode 1 was an immaculately directed, often shocking return to the dizzying world of Elliot Alderson. All in all, it was everything I hoped the second season premiere would be.
I'm wary about two-parters (so long) but in this instance, every minute was warranted. Given that the cast of characters had expanded so much by the close of the first season, it was smart to use the premiere to sort of "catch up" with nearly everyone, while still finding time to introduce new faces.
We first opened on the moment in which Elliot initiated the big, season-ending E Corp hack.
This was a cool choice, given that we didn't see this happen on screen back in Mr. Robot Season 1 – the hack took place sometime between the end of Mr. Robot Season 1 Episode 9 and the beginning of the Mr. Robot Season 1 Finale, but it occurred during one of Elliot's blackouts.
Elliot didn't even remember initiating the hack on his own, how he wound up in Tyrell's car, or where Tyrell was.
The opening of this season premiere strongly implied that Elliot had killed Tyrell, while in his "Mr. Robot" state – as Tyrell sat at the computer, enraptured by the hack, Elliot walked over to the popcorn machine (which still had Darlene's gun hidden in it, as far as we know). The scene cut out before we could see what happened, but clearly Elliot believed that he had killed Tyrell.
How do I take off a mask when it stops being a mask? When it's as much a part of me as me?Elliot
The interplay between Elliot and Mr. Robot was incredible. Their "relationship," for lack of a better word, has become tense and volatile, ever since Elliot realized that Mr. Robot was a figment of his mind and tried to keep him at bay with a highly regimented daily routine.
Weirdly, though he was living with his mother, we haven't gotten any more insight into her character. We did meet a few of Elliot's new friends, though – Leon, who is newly obsessed with Seinfeld, and Ray, a neighborhood dog owner interested in Elliot's "special skills."
Mr. Robot was having none of Elliot's incredibly boring daily routine, leading to some intense moments between the two. Christian Slater and Rami Malek have brilliant chemistry and I firmly believe that their best scenes are the ones they share together.
The premiere seemed to suggest that Elliot's primary struggle this season will be an internal one, against his own mind. He was largely uninterested in continuing his hacking, though Mr. Robot threatened him (and even "shot" him in the head) in an attempt to get him to comply.
Elliot was mainly interested in finding out what happened to Tyrell. Mr. Robot wasn't giving up that information, but by the end, Elliot realized that Mr. Robot was "taking him over" for periods of time – typically during the night – in the hours that he wasn't journaling his daily actions in order to maintain control.
This realization occurred after Elliot had an encounter with Ray, who claimed they'd spoken the night before. Elliot didn't recall that at all, realizing Mr. Robot was controlling him.
Elliot: Why did you talk to him?
Mr. Robot: Because I'm gonna make you realize.
Elliot: What? What will you make me realize?
Mr. Robot: That they see me.
Nearly every word out of Mr. Robot's mouth in the premiere was incredibly scary and intense. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Christian Slater is so beyond perfect in this role.
Apparently, during their confrontation over Mr. Robot's meeting with Ray, Elliot "broke through" in a way by refusing to back down and concede to his delusion's demands. Elliot repeatedly demanded to know what happened to Tyrell, while Mr. Robot refused to tell him.
But in the closing moments of the premiere, Elliot zoned out during his church group – only to "come to" while calling Tyrell. Apparently, Mr. Robot decided to give Elliot what he wanted.
Also: yay, Tyrell is alive! He was one of the best characters last season, and I thought he was almost certainly a goner. His now-signature "Bon soir, Elliot" in the closing moments of the premiere was a gaspingly-awesome moment. What an ending!
Tyrell's other half wasn't doing too well in his absence. When we saw Joanna in the premiere, she was barely tolerating the new boytoy she'd picked up somewhere. He wasn't a pro at Joanna's rather extreme BDSM predilections, as it turns out. Their two brief scenes were both hilarious, as she dismissed him without a second thought.
On the bright side, returning home, she found a mysterious gift on her front steps – a music box, with a phone attached to the bottom. She missed a call from an unknown number, and I'm guessing that "Unknown" was Tyrell. Who else could it be?
One of the most intriguing things about this season will be seeing what exactly went down between Tyrell and Elliot in the blank space of memory that Elliot can't recall.
Assuming that Elliot wasn't hallucinating Tyrell's voice in the final moments of the premiere, Tyrell is alive. Why is he in hiding? Did he voluntarily agree to take the fall for the hack?
Last we saw, he was all-in on fsociety's revolution. Perhaps he agreed to accept the blame and skip town, for "the cause." News reports littered the premiere, clearly explaining how the public was reacting to the hack – most notably, Tyrell is the public's #1 suspect.
Another suspect? Poor, hapless Gideon Goddard – reduced to a "scared, small animal," as Mr. Robot so harshly put it. Caught in the crossfire, Gideon apparently lost his life thanks to Elliot's hack.
In the first half of the premiere, when Gideon met with Elliot, it seemed incredibly ominous. So I wasn't hugely shocked that this Brock fella pulled a gun on Gideon and likely killed him.
Having Elliot hallucinate Mr. Robot cutting Gideon's throat, in an attempt to keep Gideon from going to the FBI with what he knew about Elliot, was a great misdirection – I had a feeling that Gideon would die, but half expected Elliot to do it during one of his Mr. Robot blackouts.
Instead, Gideon's life decayed in the worst way imaginable. He lost his business, his reputation, his husband, and finally his life – all because of something he didn't do. Because he trusted the wrong person. In Season 1, Elliot explained that when he hacked Gideon, he found nothing. Gideon was a good man. His death (if indeed he is now dead) was incredibly tragic.
On a larger note: shortly before his shooting, we saw Gideon in a meeting with newly-introduced FBI Agent Dom DiPierro (played by Grace Gummer in a massive step up from her last summer role on Extant).
Did Gideon go through with his threat to expose what he knew about Elliot, since Elliot refused to use his hacking skillset to clear Gideon's name? If he did, a whole boatload of trouble is coming Elliot's way in the form of Agent Dom.
While Elliot is staying far away from all things fsociety, we saw Darlene step up and take on a position of leadership. She's clearly quite damaged after being abandoned by her brother; we saw her crying alone in the bathroom, while her fsociety "army" partied downstairs, taking selfies with the Wall Street bull's balls (talk about obvious metaphors).
We are in a war, and we are on the losing side of it. We are on our knees with guns to our heads, and they are picking us off one by one.Darlene
Darlene realized what the partying fsociety members didn't – they hadn't won. They hadn't dismantled E Corp's system of oppression. In fact, things were only worse – an idea that was clearly represented as we watched a frustrated customer argue with a Bank of E teller, insisting that she'd already paid off her loan.
Darlene's next move was to encrypt E Corp's data, holding it "hostage." Given that the group never particularly cared about money, I didn't think they'd keep the $5.9 million dollars that they blackmailed E Corp into delivering. Watching Scott Knowles burn the money while wearing an fsociety mask was a brilliant stunt and an awesome visual.
Clearly, Darlene realized what Philip Price did – dismantling the public's confidence in Evil Corp. and the government in an iconic, highly-visible manner was the surefire way to take down the whole system.
Finally, we saw a bit of Angela towards the latter half of the premiere. She's a total boss at her Evil Corp. PR job, reciting daily affirmations for success and money in the middle of the night after meaningless one-night-stands – but she looked totally dead behind the eyes while doing all of it.
Angela is in a bad place, and I have no idea what might become of her, since she told Antara (the lawyer for the wrongful deaths case against Evil Corp) that she was uninterested in helping her move the case forward.
I had a feeling that this might happen – that we'd see Angela become the very thing she hated most in Mr. Robot Season 1. I just didn't think it would happen so soon. Where will she go from here?
- There is so much to love about the show, but the premiere reminded me of how much I adore the music choices. Mr. Robot Season 1's "Where Is My Mind" cover was a brilliant homage to Fight Club. The use of "Daydream in Blue" during the extended opening sequence of the premiere was similarly fabulous. I loved Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" during the second half as well.
- Krista had a small part in the premiere, but she was so visibly terrified of Elliot that it was shocking. I wonder why she agreed to keep seeing him? She didn't look at all comfortable during their session.
- I'm looking forward to seeing how Elliot will react to Gideon's death. I imagine he'll take it very hard, given that he was potentially framing Gideon, and the belief that Gideon was a "patsy" for the hackers led directly to his death.
- We know very little about the new characters so far – Leon is super into Seinfeld and basketball, Ray is super into his dog Maxine, E Corp General Counsel Susan Jacobs is a badass lawyer with a cool house, and Agent Dom can speak Farsi and is very friendly. Dom's significance is obvious – she'll be directly involved with the investigation into the hack – as is Susan's, but I honestly have no idea where they're going with Ray and Leon (if anywhere).
- As usual, Sam Esmail served up some absolutely stunning visuals and cinematography, but I think my favorite (or at least the most iconic) was the sight of Elliot running from the basketball court back to his house. It looked positively cinematic.
What did you think of the return of Mr. Robot? Leave me a comment below and watch Mr. Robot online here at TV Fanatic to relive the premiere in all its glory!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.