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Mr. Robot - eps.1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg - Review: "An Absolute Cracker"

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Waiting for a new episode for any television series you follow closely is always tough. But waiting for just the second episode of a new series to air has got to be right up there with the worst of things to have to wait for, especially when you know it's going to be epic.

It was very late in May when I viewed the pilot of Mr. Robot as a screener, a few days before it was released extensively online in one of the biggest releases of its kind, so I've waited longer than most of the 2.7 million viewers the pilot garnered in its time online. Incredibly, the series was picked up for a second season before its official premiere on USA Network last week.

So how was episode 2 of summer's number one new drama?

It was, without a doubt, an absolute cracker.

"eps.1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg", perhaps more easily pronounced "Ones and Zeroes" was written and directed by series creator Sam Esmail. I want to touch on Esmail's directing first because it was nothing short of outstanding. The employment of long shots was an especially notable feature in my book, conveying the normal lives everyone else is leading whilst lead character Elliot battles with others as well as his mind. The cinematography was also top-notch, as was Esmail's script, which pulled back slightly on Elliot's narration, but didn't disappoint in the one-liner department in particular.

"One's and Zeroes" picked up exactly where I wanted it to: inside the office of Tyrell Wellick. We learned quickly that Tyrell had assumed the CTO position at E Corp in the wake of the arrest of the man Elliot framed, Terry Colby, seen in the pilot. Tyrell is accompanied by around a dozen lawyers overseeing his attempt to poach Elliot from his cyler-security firm, Allsafe, following his successful neutralization of the trojan infecting E Corp's servers.

In a fantastically acted scene by Rami Malek and Martin Wallström, Elliot declines the job despite learning Allsafe will be no more as E Corp looks to move the management of all its computer infrastructure in-house. I did not expect to see Elliot face such a challenge so early - that sort of stuff is what the vast majority of television series would leave to serve as a cliffhanger in their season finales.

That was the end of Tyrell for the hour, but things were only just beginning for Elliot. From there he went to meet his drug dealer, Shayla, who was being harassed by her employer, more or less, Fernando Vera. Vera turned out to be Elliot's person of interest in this hour, but that was to play out later on. At home, Elliot wasted no time looking deeper into Tyrell Wellick, hacking his online accounts with ease, only to realize that it was all too easy. Sensing he'd fallen into a honeypot, the promised scenes in the episode promo played out, with Elliot demolishing his computer and ensuring his SIM cards were nice and crispy from a stint in the microwave.

Next on the schedule was Allsafe. Elliot was in the office with his boss, Gideon, who was rewarding him with a raise following his heroics in the pilot. However the tables turned when Gideon revealed what he knew about the shadowy f_society and showed Elliot the ominous video posted online by the group. It was this video that really caught my eye as it potentially outlines the direction the season, and perhaps the series, may take.

It painted Terry Colby as the faction's leader, and demanded his release, along with the release of the millions of people from the "illegitimate prisons of debt". The third demand was for the corporation to dissolve itself and donate all its assets to charities around the world.

Enter Elliot's close friend, Angela Moss and her boyfriend Ollie Parker. Continuing his attempts to bring Elliot out of his shell and to enjoy more of a social life, Ollie invites Elliot out for an evening, which never ends up happening. But to involve them more deeply in the hour somehow, the pair end up taking the CD of a small time artist pedaling his latest album on the street. Ollie's computer later spits the CD out, when in fact it installs a virus on his computer, broadcasting the webcam to the unidentified "musician". This is again a surprisingly early insertion of another potentially deep storyline. Great stuff.

But when was f_society actually going to feature? It took a while, but the wait (there's that horrible word again) was well worth it. By this point I'm wise enough to expect nothing orthodox, and that is indeed the case once more, as Darlene is reintroduced to Elliot while taking shower in his apartment. The ensuing conversations between the pair were great to watch as they traveled to the the theme park headquarters via subway where the mysterious 'Mr. Robot' made his first appearance.

The world is a dangerous place Elliot, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing

Christian Slater had a really solid outing. It's clear one of the objectives of this episode was to clarify the character's motivations (hence the quote above) while portraying Mr. Robot's passion for the task he was trying to accomplish. He wasted no time sharing the next phase of the mission with Elliot - a plan to blow up a gas pipe leading to a data storage facility to destroy a portion of E Corp's data backups. But Elliot's moral conscience proved to be a bit of a roadblock. Elliot bailed when he realised the plan could involve the loss of innocent lives.

Elliot's next stop was at the home of Shayla as he sought his next fix. In her apartment he once again encountered Fernando Vera, this time high as a kite. After a dangerous conversation, Vera left, and Elliot broke into the bathroom to free a drugged Shayla while his mind voiced to the audience why he loved picking locks.

The lock pick. Every hacker's favorite sport. The perfect system to crack, mostly because, unlike virtual systems, when you break in you can feel it, you can see it, you can hear it.

In a sizable mental battle, Elliot determined that it was worth risking his supply of drugs in order to save Shayla and get Vera off the streets. I must say I am liking how quickly this procedural element of the series is being dealt with. Elliot simply sent an incriminating .zip file to the police, and we witnessed Vera along with several of his men sitting on the sidewalk while the police searched their headquarters. This sort of approach is quick and easy for the viewer to understand, doesn't bog anything down, and doesn't waste time. It's early days and it wouldn't surprise me to see one of these persons of interest see a more drawn out time in the spotlight, but it's safe to say things are off to the best start one could hope for in this area of the series.

Shortly afterward, Elliot visited his psychologist for a brief, yet chilling visit.

How do we know if we are in control? That we're not just making the best of what comes at us and that's it?

That's just two of the questions Elliot asked in the session, again providing a deep dive into this guy's mind, and the thoughts that troll it constantly. If I had to pick one, it's this scene that was the highlight of the hour for me. The session, as if it wasn't good enough already, touched lightly on Elliot's background, as we learned how his father died, and the lack of action that was taken to put things right. That would return to haunt the final scene of the hour.

Having had a change of heart, Elliot ventured to the boardwalk to ask Mr. Robot if he could rejoin f_society. Long story short, Mr. Robot was a tough sell, and ended up pushing Elliot off his perch on the railing after he tried to justify his actions in relation to his father's death. That's a first in all the television I've watched, and serves as the episode's cliffhanger. How ironic, although a cut to the rock-filled beach below foreshadowed someone taking a slight tumble.

In summary, this was a superb hour that did as good a job as one could possibly hope for in following in the footsteps of the captivating series premiere. The common task of deciding whether the premiere was better than the second episode is made much tougher in this case. You get the feeling that despite the surprisingly rapid development in some of the areas I've outlined, there is a ton more yet to come. The cast continues to excel, in particular Rami Malik who had an absolute blinder. Emmy nod for next year's awards? Lock it in.

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you're as hooked as I am on Mr. Robot. In the words of the man himself, "Are you a 1 or a 0?". As always, please do share your thoughts and theories in the comments below. Check out next week's episode promo here (SpoilerTV features in it), the press release here, and a bunch of promotional photos here.

About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand, and works in the IT industry. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, The Blacklist, The 100, How To Get Away With Murder, Elementary and Castle. You can visit his television ratings website, or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.
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