Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2016 by Corey Atad
The long wait is over. Mr. Robot is finally back to occupy the airwaves and our brainwaves. In the post-Breaking Bad landscape of television, perhaps no other series is this primed for a cultural takeover. Mr. Robot checks all the important boxes: slickly made, with propulsive plotting, anti-hero psychodrama, and even some weird sex stuff thrown in for good measure. More impressively, the show feels uniquely current, embedding itself in the modern technological landscape like no other TV series or movie ever has. It’s a show “about” our world, and given the speed of social and technological change, it’s oddly comforting to have Mr. Robot back on our screens to center us.
Then again, if astute commentary on technology and anarchist revolt were all Mr. Robot offered, it wouldn’t really be worth the hype. Social satire isn’t hard to come by. Instead, what Mr. Robot does better than anything else out there is tie the fact of our modern technological life to the very real social and mental disorders afflicting us. Our main character, Elliot, suffers from some kind of severe schizophrenia, but all the characters seem to suffer from one kind of mental illness or another. It’s the depressive state of a world in which everyone is connected 24/7, but crushing loneliness haunts us still.
All these ideas lead us to a series of questions opened or addressed by the great two-part season premiere, “Unmask.” Of course, there are spoilers ahead for the episode.
What happened to Elliot after the hack?
Last we saw of our favourite multiple-personality uber-hacker, Elliot was being embraced by imagined visions of his family. Reality has turned out a little less pleasant. Over a month later, Elliot is now living with his mother, locked in a strict routine, denying himself access to a computer. It’s a “perfectly constructed loop,” Elliot says. A way of setting himself on a straight, simple path. One in which he doesn’t need to think much, or meaningfully interact with the rest of the world. He has a friend, Leon, who blathers on about Seinfeld. He goes to the neighborhood basketball court to watch the guys shoot hoops, despite not caring at all about sports. “But I do see the beauty in the rules,” Elliot says. “The invisible code of chaos hiding behind the menacing face of order.”
Are Elliot’s coping mechanisms really working?
It’s all about structure. Monk-like structure is what Elliot thinks he needs to rid himself of Mr. Robot. That side of himself, the radical side come to life in the image of his dead father, pesters him endlessly, urging him to get back into the world of hacking and global anarchic ambition. For Elliot’s part, it’s not the hacking he has a problem with, but his own lack of self-control. The regimen he’s created for himself is his way of trying to regain control. The ultimate end of which would be to get back the blackout moments, to learn where Tyrell Wellick is. But we’ll get there a bit later. In the meantime, he’s got Mr. Robot to contend with, and it’s a difficult fight. Mr. Robot shoots Elliot in the head. Not for real, of course, but it’s startling, at least to us. For Elliot it has seemingly become routine. A facet of his current existence he has learned to control, despite Mr. Robot’s protestations that, “this control you think you have, it’s an illusion.”
Where is fsociety now?
With Elliot out of the picture, fsociety has morphed. Two of its original members have apparently left the group, replaced by newer followers. “They were only half in,” Darlene says. Darlene is now running the show out of the hacked smart home of E Corp’s general counsel, Susan Jacobs. Things are hardly rosy at Chez fsociety, though. The party atmosphere is undercut by the pitiful gains Darlene outlines to the group. Their revolution was anything but. While the hack last season brought E Corp’s servers down, it didn’t bring the system to its knees. “Why does it feel like they’re still winning?” Darlene asks. “That what we did made it worse not better?” It’s a valid question. The systems of control at the top may have taken a hit, but they’re still the most powerful systems in place, bearing any pressure right back down on the average person. It’s a personal blow, particularly given what has happened to Darlene’s brother in the process. As Darlene sits alone, crying on the floor of the bathroom in this expensive house, we’re reminded of a similar scene from the series pilot. Elliot sitting alone in his apartment, squeezed into a corner, crying. Too lonely to cope. What good is revolution if it can’t even bring us closer together?