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Mr. Robot - Season 2 Premiere - Review: "Welcome Back"

Many months of awaiting the second season of the acclaimed USA drama, Mr. Robot, finally drew to a close last night, with the two part season premiere finally hitting the small screen. The lead-up to Wednesday's premiere has been very entertaining thanks to the outstanding social media campaigns which contained numerous snippets here and there, culminating in part 1 of the premiere hitting the web for a brief period earlier in the week.

I was lucky enough to watch part 1, eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc, the day it appeared online during the week, leaving part 2, eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc, to watch last night.

The two episodes combined to create one of the most unusual two part premieres I've ever seen. Though creator, executive producer, and all-round superman Sam Esmail wrote and directed both episodes, the interplay between them was minimal, with both forging almost completely different paths in terms of storytelling.

Just as the first season finale ended with a spectacular one-take scene after the credit roll, one-takes took center stage again for the first few minutes of part 1. Tyrell Wellick was first on screen, located in the arcade room just as Elliot Alderson launched the encryption program which was intended to bring Evil Corp to its knees.

It's happening.

The next one take took place in a flashback to Elliot's time in a hospital following a broken arm. Elliot's parents were quarrelling over the impending bill, which also gave us a taste of the tumultuous childhood Elliot must have had as he grew up in a household with parents like that.

In present day we see Elliot applying computer logic to his life in the wake of the Evil Corp hack. This was the theme that both parts of last night's premiere carried through more than any other. In part 1 we watched Elliot share meals with Leon, and wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Elliot theorized that this loop would, in a nutshell, keep him sane, but it wasn't long until Mr. Robot would interrupt his attempt to normalize his life.

Along with the above major theme, a minor theme that flowed between both parts was Elliot's refusal to succumb to the pressure Mr. Robot was putting on him to return to the work he began at fsociety. The only time I recall seeing Elliot using any form of electronic device or computer was in the premiere's opening scene, when Elliot launched the hack. For a drama with computers and hacking at its core, this was a bold move by Sam Esmail. The absence of electronic devices in Elliot's life post hack meant everything was focused on Elliot's mind.

One of the premiere's most spectacular moments occurred when Mr. Robot shot Elliot in a vain attempt to convince him to join fsociety once more. It didn't work, but Elliot rose from the bed in unbelievably spooky style. From then on, including during part 2, Elliot wore a bandage around his forehead to hide the wound his mind had created there.

While Elliot's challenges were mostly mental, the physical world kept moving around him. Premiere night is not normally a night you associate with character deaths in television series, but Gideon Goddard bit the dust in part 2, almost completely out of the blue. Gideon was quietly drinking at a bar when a man began what seemed to be a philosophical rant initially, but when he revealed he knew who Gideon was, you got the feeling very quickly that his end was nigh. A bullet to the neck came next, and with the death of Gideon, one can assume his dilapidated cybersecurity firm, Allsafe, is all but gone with him, along with the FBI investigation into his involvement in the Evil Corp hack.

Part 1 featured the fsociety collective much more prominently than the second part. Leading the way was Darlene, who was struggling to keep the movement on track. In an interesting stunt they managed to cut the balls off the Wall Street charging bull. fsociety demanded a ransom from Evil Corp in return for the decryption of its precious database, but the money drop took an unusual turn as a bike messenger delivered instructions to Evil Corp CTO Scott Knowles to don a fsociety mask and burn the $6 million in cash right there on the spot.

It was ingenious using the 'smart home' technology to drive out Evil Corp's general counsel, Susan Jacobs from her upmarket home. fsociety have a new temporary crash pad in rather spectacular fashion as a result.

We are in a war and we are on the losing side of it.

Perhaps the character that fascinated me the most in this premiere was Angela. With the cheating Ollie out of the picture, Angela featured mostly in part 2, and looked right at home in her new job with Evil Corp managing public relations for senior management. I loved how cold she seemed - it's as if she's been a part of the Evil Corp machine forever. It's a marked change from the Angela of season 1, who was out of her depth at times within Allsafe, but who cared enough to go after Terry Colby, the man responsible for the death of one of her and Elliot's parents. Her lawyer who took on Evil Corp in season 1, Antara Nayar, met Angela at a bar, but was blown off immediately, further cementing the change in the character. Angela also had a one night stand with a man from the bar, and was seen listening to motivational videos.

Angela's change also further isolates Elliot, since Angela was one of the only people he interacted with on a personal level.

The cleverly positioned 'elephant in the room' was Tyrell Wellick. He hardly featured during the 2 part premiere, but the media and law enforcement have put him in the firing line over the Evil Corp hack. He wasn't mentioned much, but you were never in doubt that he has a large presence somewhere. Wellick has always been hard to read, and there's a big plot hole in terms of his involvement with fsociety that I hope will be filled in more substantially this season. His wife, Joanna Wellick, grows more and more twisted, with a daring bondage scene her first appearance this season. Even with Tyrell absent, it's clear Joanna will not miss out on her sexual needs.

As for the evil giant itself, Evil Corp is still very much alive. Drawing parallels to the bank bailouts that occurred on numerous occasions during the global financial crisis, Evil Corp's CEO, Phillip Price, was in brief discussions with representatives of the Federal Reserve, who were wanting answers as to why he was asking for additional financing on top of the $900 billion they had already loaned to get Evil Corp back on its feet. Evil Corp is down, but certainly not out. Price was asked to resign, but declined. Though the computery side of Evil Corp may be destroyed, the human side of it is not. To take down Evil Corp, the humans fronting it must go too, but computer code can't do that. That's where my hopes lie in terms of a season-long story arc.

Mr. Robot's two part premiere is tough to sum up. Both parts were very different, with Elliot's mental battles and Mr. Robot's willingness for Elliot to continue work with fsociety were the two themes which carried through both parts with a degree of consistency. It's a very different approach to the two part premieres I've seen in the past solely because both parts had so little in common. I'm not sure it worked out as well as it could have, but it did create a feeling of time and space, with each character getting a decent length of time on screen before being put on the back burner.

Sam Esmail's writing and directing were excellent as usual. His unique approach to framing the characters effectively shuts them off from others, and that worked well with the approach to each character in the premiere. The acting by the entire cast was also superb, and the choice of music for certain moments, especially Phil Collins' 'After The Storm' in part 2. The season premiere as a whole was more effective than impressive, and how the rest of the season builds on its foundations will be fascinating to watch.

Thanks for reading! It's fantastic to have Mr. Robot back on screen again. There's a lot I didn't have time to cover so make sure you share your thoughts and theories on the episode in the comments below. I'd love hearing what you thought of the episode. You can check out next week's episode promo and press release here on the SpoilerTV database.

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, Mr. Robot, Suits, The 100, How To Get Away With Murder and Elementary.
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