Season 1 of USA Network’s Mr. Robot was a tour de force of ambiguous dream-reality subjectivity, suffocating but undirected tension, fantasy hacker hokum, doomsday politics, and diseased, irresolute relationships. I am not the first person to point out that it is, in nearly one too many ways, a millennial update of Fight Club.
But if you don’t take the philosophy-201-response-paper platitudes too seriously (remember in the Season 1 finale when he literally asks, “Is any of [the world] real?” Whoa, dude, don’t blow my mind too much) you can enjoy the show for the singular, batshit-crazy exercise in boundary-pushing, cinematic television that it is. The show’s strongest quality is less what it says about the proverbial World Today, and more its inventive dramatic irony and twists, as well as unforgettable and idiosyncratic characters.
And if you’ve been waiting for almost a year for more of the show’s herky-jerky storytelling, today is your lucky day. Mr. Robot returns to USA Network for Season 2 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. The premiere will be a two-part, two-hour episode, consisting of an “Ep. 0” and an Episode 1.
Here’s the trailer:
Need to catch up on Season 1? Amazon Prime users can stream the whole first season for free.
Season 1 Finale spoilers ensue in the next four paragraphs!
What’s important to remember about Season 1, for those who don’t have time to re-watch? Read Inverse’s roundup from last year if you’d like. But if you just require the basics, here are the major bullet points.
In the season finale, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) found out that he’s another level of mentally unstable than he — or the viewer — even knew. Maybe you predicted the twist, but Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot turned out to be a hallucination of Elliot’s dead father. Over the course of the season — with the revelation that Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is his sister — his broken family comes together, out of his subconscious to the paranoiac forefront of his attention. Yet in the midst of this, he still manages to execute the AllSafe hack — with sociopathic businessman Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) and the mysterious Whiterose now on his side. The attack is a big deal, as it has the potential to destabilize world governments. As some idealists said about Brexit, perhaps it’s a necessary evil for creating a new world.
First of all, we’ll need to figure out who knocks at Elliot’s door in the final moments of the finale. Tyrell Wellick’s relationship with Elliot will, hopefully, be further revealed, and we’ll see what the dynamic becomes when the two of them work together. Also, now that Slater’s character’s true identity — or non-identity — has been revealed, Esmail has clarified in interviews that he will be making it clearer where the real Elliot goes when Mr. Robot takes over. In some ways, perhaps, we will get a step closer to reality in Season 2, for better or worse. Most importantly, perhaps, we’ll see what the world in the wake of the “revolution” will be like, or if it’ll really be that different after all. New oppressive systems, across human history, tend to rise to replace the old ones. Is utopia possible in the world of Mr. Robot? Of course not.
But keep in mind: Don’t expect to get direct answers to specific lingering questions. The thing to be aware of this season is that creator and showrunner Sam Esmail has used the unexpected success of the USA series’s first season to fully take over the reins as director of every episode of the show. That is a ton of responsibility for one man for a full-season, 45-minute-episode, high-concept drama. The creative control Esmail has won, and the hallucinatory disorder of the show, will doubtless make for a thoroughly strange, but hopefully trailblazing, season ahead. One can’t help but think of the agency Louis C.K. won by taking Louie to FX instead of HBO or another premium channel with — at least, at that time — a more prestigious reputation.
So get very excited for Season 2 of Mr. Robot, but only if you are ready to wrestle with an even more bizarre beast.