I really don’t want to spend the entire review griping about the runtime of this season’s episodes of Mr. Robot, but since last episode wasn’t an isolated incident (this episode was VERY long, clocking in at 65 minutes without commercials), I have to talk a little more about it. Television is a medium that thrives on conciseness. With shows like Breaking Bad offering a breakneck pace to their plotting and shows like Mad Men plotting out character storylines with laser-precision, shows that have fluff or excess really stand out. Which is why this particular episode of Mr. Robot may just be the nadir of the series so far. It is so bloated with excess, with scenes that go on much longer than necessary, that parts of it drag to the point of feeling unnecessary.
That isn’t to say that these scenes aren’t needed. The opening scene where Elliot comes up with the 5/9 hack clocks in at around 10 minutes, but the content of the scene itself reminds us of the inspiration for fsociety’s utopian dream and the brutal awakening that comes with knowing that such a dream is an illusion. The long chess scene between Elliot and Mr. Robot drags on for at least 5 minutes, but it continues to drive forward the notion that Elliot and Mr. Robot have to exist in some sort of symbiotic fashion. Everything in this episode is necessary, even if it’s drawn out, and it keeps the episode from dragging too much, even if it isn’t particularly good.
There’s a level of movement happening this season, but it is certainly slow. Darlene is still reeling from the death of Romero, unsure of what to do next and unable to find a target to attack. Joanna, who I’m waiting to see tied into the rest of the season’s plot, is still trying to pay off the parking attendant that saw Tyrell’s car in the first season’s finale, and is still trying to get Tyrell’s severance package from Evil Corp. Elliot is still trying to find peace with Mr. Robot. Angela is still trying to negotiate her existence at Evil Corp. The gang is still separated, and while that can be good for individual character development, it certainly makes for slow storytelling. There is only so much that can be drawn out from the Elliot/Mr. Robot dynamic, and even though it’s still fresh enough to be interesting, it is really going to have to shift soon.
It also doesn’t help that some of these characters still aren’t all that interesting. Darlene is slowly coming into her own, but she still has a petulance that isn’t particularly humanized, and her internal motivations aren’t entirely apparent. It’s clear that she is motivated by family and by this idea of revolution that is infused into both her and her brother, but we don’t know enough details about her past to put too many pieces together. It also doesn’t help that we don’t know anything about Joanna. She has been in just about every episode so far this season, and while we hear from her what it is that she wants, we don’t actually know anything about her aside from that she is part of a family (she has a daughter). There’s a subtle theme of family and connection woven through the season, but it isn’t quite apparent enough to mean a whole lot.
Really, the most interesting and invigorating thematic idea thus far is the notion that rebellion isn’t as simple as we think it is, and chaos is far more terrifying than we think it is. Some people look at Donald Trump’s candidacy today (and I’m talking people on the right and the left) and think that blowing up the political system is the way to fix things. But is it? Because the 5/9 hack here has only caused more violence and more death. Romero is dead. Gideon is dead. Fsociety is being actively hunted by some organization. And Evil Corp is still doing just fine. It isn’t easy to overthrow a major system, and the collateral damage is far more vicious than we can imagine. It’s the reason that Dom has been added as a point of view this season. She’s understands the stakes and the real consequences of the five/nine hack, and she wants to restore order to the system. We’re now seeing two sides instead of one, the desire to dissolve the system and the desire to restore it, and it makes season two infinitely more interesting as a result.
But really, this entire season boils down to the concept of control. Elliot, on his own, cannot fight back against the powers that be. Angela is proving to be hamstrung at Evil Corp, unable to get out from under Price’s hold. Joanna is unable to get more money to sustain herself and her bribery. Everybody is either being completely controlled or is so free that they don’t know what to do next. What people really need is somewhere in the middle, some vague direction to move in but freedom to choose the specifics. And until the characters here realize that, they’re going to keep wandering aimlessly, attempting to dodge bullets when they come their way.
What did you think of this episode of Mr. Robot? Who do you think is going to end up dead next? Let me know in the comments!