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USA's summertime hacker hit Mr. Robot, from creator Sam Esmail, returns for its second season on Wednesday, July 13th with a double-episode premiere.
As a unique, paranoid look into the world of stealth cyber-warfare, Mr. Robot took TV by storm last year with an offbeat, on-target look at a engineer/vigilante who gets roped into into a movement -- by the mysterious title character -- bent on toppling one of the world's largest multi-national conglomerates, E Corp (or "Evil Corp", as the show's protagonist, Elliot, perceives it).
If you're mulling over whether or not to catch up on Season 1 before the new run of episodes kicks off -- it can be streamed on Amazon Prime -- here are the reasons why you should flip into a full-blown Mr. Robot binge.
Star Rami Malek (A Night at the Museum) wasn't exactly an unknown before Mr. Robot, but stepping into the shoes of hacker Elliot Alderson, Allsafe Cybersecurity's top tech, has given the actor a role of the "breakout" variety. Sometimes you just need that one part, that one character, to slip into like a fine suit and stir up some mega-buzz. And for Malek, Elliot's drug-haze/cyber-malaise is the perfect storm of paranoia, anxiety, depression. isolation, and brilliance. We're drawn into this world because Malek is so mesmerizing in his portrayal of this outcast.
After trying his hand with My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten, Breaking In, and Mind Games, Christian Slater finally landed a TV project that clicked in Mr. Robot, giving the veteran actor -- as notable television roles can do these days -- a career resurgence and winning him a Golden Globe for his performance as the shadowy, feisty Mr. Robot - a call-to-action role that definitely channels some of Slater's past work, especially his "fight the man" character in Pump Up the Volume. Those who watched Season 1 know the full journey, and reveals, pertaining to this character, but needless to say Slater's performance as the scruffy, erratic ringleader of "fsociety" is one of the show's best elements.
Not since Showtime's Dexter has as series relied so much on a voice-over narration from a lead character. And like Dexter, Mr. Robot also features a sociopath bent on punishing the wicked. Elliot even keeps little souvenirs from his vigilante exploits, like Dexter did. And Malek's dry, downplayed voice only adds the overall intrigue.
But with Elliot's narration comes everything that plagues Elliot as a character, like fits of paranoia, lost time, crushing nervous, drug highs. All of which paint us a rather unreliable picture when you get right down to it. We're often seeing everything through Elliot's clouded eyes, but is he always seeing the truth? This twisting, turning element to the voice over gives the series an extra edge.
Of course, Elliot and Mr. Robot aren't the only two characters on the series. The ensemble is phenomenal, as is the subversive world they inhabit. Filled with themes about class warfare, corporate greed, surveillance, privacy, and hacktivism, Mr. Robot doesn't shy away from tackling important issues and what it truly means to create meaningful change.
Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday thrive on the series as the two women in Elliot's life, one from each side of his day/night tech duties, and Martin Wallström adds a severe wild card aspect to the show as an ambitious-but-crumbling E Corp executive while Stephanie Corneliussen Lady Macbeth's the hell out of her role as his wife.
Filled with shots with an enormous amount of headroom, positioning characters right at the edges of the frame and keeping the audience off-kilter with unconventional set ups, Mr. Robot's cinematography is meant to play off the Elliot's isolation and perpetual sleepwalk-feeling. Mr. Robot's gloomy color palate didn't just represent a big change from USA's usual "blue skies" programming, it became one of the most striking visual works on TV.
With a completely electronic score, inspired in part by '80s EDM and New Wave, Mr. Robot also sounds like nothing else on television. With low distortion and tense elements designed to create unease within the audience, composer Mac Quayle uses Elliot's manic mind-scape as an inspiration. Plus, standout songs from Alabama Shakes, Sonic Youth, The Pixies -- along with notable classical music pieces -- add to the eclectic nature of the soundscape.
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