Mr Robot 2×09 ‘eps2.7init5.fve’: Conflicting personalities

Source: USA
I don’t usually assess an episode of television by my emotional response to it, but that response is an important part of how we look at art.  When I watch The Leftovers, I connect with it on a very personal level, as it reminds me of the loss that I’ve experienced and how difficult it is to live with mental illness.  Mr. Robot, however, doesn’t elicit such a response.  It’s exciting, sure, and it’s reflective of the paranoia and anger of our time, but on a deeper level, does it really tap into how we feel on a personal level?

Source: USA

Source: USA

I would answer that with “yes, but only sometimes”.  The reason I believe a qualifier is necessary is because sometimes Mr. Robot doesn’t understand how best to tap into the fears and paranoias we have.  Sometimes the show focuses too intently on characters that aren’t really relevant (like Price), doesn’t elaborate enough on its characters (like Whiterose), or is too enamored by its own mysteries (like the Elliot/Mr. Robot dilemma).  Just look at the way that this latest episode ended.  Who is at Darlene’s door?  Who did Cisco see?  Why does Joanna want to talk to Elliot?  Tune in next time to find out!

Source: USA

Source: USA

Joanna had never been an interesting character.  Neither has Cisco.  Mr. Robot has so many good ideas, but they’re sometimes lost amidst characters that aren’t really fleshed out and mysteries that are more about cliffhangers than story.  The first ten minutes of this episode just took us through Elliot’s time in prison, which we already somewhat understood just by thinking through what we have seen already.  Those ten minutes weren’t entirely necessary.  However, Elliot’s complete detachment from Mr. Robot seems to be setup for some impending revelation, another twist that is meant to mirror the big twist last season.  Part of what made his episode frustrating is that it was largely setup, getting us ready for the season’s endgame.  And while setup episodes are necessary, sometimes it feels like this entire season has been setup for some big revelation in the endgame.  There just hasn’t been enough plot to fill all of the 12 episodes this season.

Source: USA

Source: USA

But this isn’t to say that it’s all bad.  Angela’s desire for control and her desire for vengeance are still clashing, to the point that Dom pays her a visit to tell her that they know about the Allsafe CD and that she’s being actively pursued.  The mystery behind Elliot and “Stage 2” is interesting, as it shows how Elliot is still in the dark about actions that he’s made and that he had to race against the clock to figure out what he’s done and what the Dark Army will do next.  The show is still good enough to make me want to know what will happen next, and it is setting us up for what seems like it will be a strong conclusion.  This episode, for being so late in the season (essentially the beginning of the third and final act), just felt tedious and occasionally boring.  And that makes for frustrating television.

But Mr. Robot has a plan, and that keeps it on track.  Sam Esmail clearly has a full story in mind, something that has a strong, intense finish, and it makes episodes like this worthwhile.  But if the show makes it to a third season (which, really, is inevitable), it needs to improve by adding more to the story and giving us stronger characters to watch.  Scenes with Price and Whiterose, while Esmail may enjoy them, don’t have the effect that they should because Price and Whiterose don’t feel like three-dimensional characters.  And it’s so frustrating because Mr. Robot is a show that has the potential to be so good, like it was in its first season.
What did you think of this episode?  What connection do you think Elliot and Joanna have?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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