Mr. Robot usually enjoys a good curveball or two from the get-go, a shuffling of the deck a little bit, but killing off a major character in the second episode is flipping the table over. This episode was a mixed bag in more ways than one. The prologue was pitch-perfect with Elliot having to sell himself on the idea of changing Evil Corp from within instead of his earlier resolve to stand in its ruins. While it does drill in how Elliot is trying very, very hard to lie to himself and assuage his own guilt, it makes for a pretty interesting story in the early-going with Evil Corp (or I guess ECorp again?) being purged of its negative elements. However time runs out and, unfortunately, so do the major positives of this episode.
The show hits the brakes hard pretty early on with a choice to kill off one of the earliest cast members in Joanna Wellick. Having finally managed to shake the yoke of her husband’s fugitive reputation off of her – while at the same time opening the door for him to return a free man – she’s gunned down by her lover because of her rejection of him, after he lied to give Tyrell an alibi for a murder he committed. If that sounds like a bit of word salad, that’s kind of how it plays out when you consider Joanna’s character arc.
The major focus of season 2 was a game of “Schrodinger’s Tyrell” with the viewers and characters being left to guess whether he was alive or dead with most of that question’s tension focused on Joanna’s character. Joanna’s arc was good at milking the tension and emotional downfall of Tyrell’s status, but her death ends up retroactively nullifying a good chunk of the second season. It’s also makes you think that Sam Esmail is making it up as he goes along which really stings considering there are still good points to this season and episode.
The plots with Mr. Robot getting a long overdue therapy session (hint: it doesn’t go well) and Whiterose’s failed meeting with Evil Corp CEO Phillip Price are interesting as usual, but ultimately it feels like remixes of conversations we’ve seen before. While Elliot’s mission creep is interesting, as is the question of who it is Darlene is even talking to anymore now that she’s under the FBI’s thumb, it isn’t enough to wash the taste out of a poor choice. At some point Mr. Robot is going to have to start giving us a peek as to what’s under the hood. Stylism is great and all, but it isn’t a substitute for good plotting.
3 Therapy Sessions out of 5