The Emmy nominated (2016 Outstanding Drama series) Mr. Robot, airing on USA network, began season two with a two-hour premiere. There were two major plot threads last season: Elliot Alderson, a cyber security engineer/vigilante hacker, played by Emmy nominee Rami Malek, struggles with a dissociative disorder; and his work with fsociety (an activist hacking group much like Anonymous) to bring down E Corp “to change the world.” It is hard to imagine another actor in this role as Malek so perfectly captures Elliot’s disorientation, terror, and detachment.
Last season Elliot learned that as a result of his psychological disorder the titular Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is actually one of his identity states, embodied as his dead father, that he alone sees. Control is a major theme in this episode, and Elliot seeks to gain control over Mr. Robot who tries to bully him into resuming his role with fsociety. As part of this effort, Elliot now lives at his mother’s drab and austere home, and establishes a monotonous routine of sleeping, eating, and compulsive journaling. It is as if he is a robot controlled by a program. He also hopes to avoid Mr. Robot by staying away from computers. His psychiatrist, Krista (Gloria Reuben), questions why he would stay with his mother, who in flashbacks is seen as abusive to him as a child, and Elliot responds that she is the “strictest person I know,” and that he couldn’t trust himself back in his old life. He adds, “I don’t trust him.”
Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) was working with Elliot for fsociety at the end of last season. Wellick had been in line to become CTO of E Corp (known as Evil Corp), but was fired after suspicions arose that he killed the wife of the current CTO. One of the defining characteristics of dissociative identity disorder is memory impairment. Elliot suffers from gaps in memory and when Mr. Robot shows up, he asks him, “Where is Tyrell?” He fears that Mr. Robot has killed him and only at the end of the expanded episode does Elliot receive a phone call from Tyrell.
Angela (Portia Doubleday), a childhood friend of Elliot’s who, like him, lost a parent to the careless actions of E Corp, was involved in a class action suit against the company last year. She was recruited to work in public relations for E Corp and we suspected that she would work from within to bring down the company. In this episode, however, it appears that she has become co-opted as she tells her lawyer that she likes her job. She appears to be controlled by positive affirmations that she repeats along with a video. One of those affirmations: “My confidence is powerful,” is ironic in that the CEO of E Corp tells a group from the government that all they do is con the public and confidence is necessary for the con to work.
In Elliot’s absence, his sister, Darlene (Carly Chaikin), takes the leadership position of fsociety. In a segment showing the extent to which people have turned over control to computers in their daily lives, fsociety hacks a “smart home package” causing the temperature controls, security system, music, and lighting, to become uncontrollable. The owner is forced from her home. In a scene exactly like the one with the CEO of E Corp addressing staff from a balcony, Darlene addresses the fsociety hackers from the balcony of the woman’s home they had made unlivable.
Wishing to finish off E Corp, Darlene has ransomware inserted in their computer system. Like some hackers, this group wants social change not profit, and so they have the $6 million they demanded in order for E Corp to regain control of their computers burned in Battery Park.
Gideon Goddard (Michel Gill), the president of the now defunct Allsafe and Elliot’s former boss, pleads with Elliot to help him. Gideon is under suspicion of being complicit in the fsociety hack. Elliot does not help Gideon, who is completely innocent, and he is subsequently killed.
There are so many questions for the series to explore in future shows. White Rose (B D Wong) was meeting with Philip Price, CEO of E Corp at the end of last year’s final episode, which brings into question the Dark Army’s motivations. Tyrell Wellick’s wife, Joanne, continues to be a mysterious character. Who are the Wellicks and what is Joanne’s role in what Tyrell does? Finally, will the power struggle between Elliott and Mr. Robot result in Mr. Robot gaining more control?