The fourth (technically third) episode of Mr. Robot is strange and that’s saying a lot for a show with a story and directing style that hardly resembles any other running television series. The atmosphere of season 2 thus far has been quite “off”. Its eerie, nerving and the already odd world that surrounds Elliot seems unbalanced. Some fans have theorized that the slow pacing and weird tone of this season in building to a huge twist or something bigger in the grand scheme of the narrative. Other viewers have already thrown in the towel and gave up on the future of the show entirely. So which is it? Is Mr. Robot building to something grand or has it become too pretentious for its own sake?
Personally, I side with the viewers who believe that creator Sam Esmail is building story to strongly support and inevitable set of suspenseful, jaw dropping episodes . Those who are viewing Mr. Robot as a washed up show probably are seeing each episode for what it is at the surface, 60 minutes of characters walking and talking from scene to scene; but this isn’t exactly the case. Mr. Robot is a show that leans more on the artistic side of television, its almost cinematic like (think Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick). Esmail provides us with with long-takes, intimidating close ups and empty settings where the focal point is always the characters- the shows most important component. Its beautiful television making that adds a nuance to each scene that somehow makes me feel more engaged and want to analyse every passing second of the show.
Of course most fans are probably not interested in Esmail flaunting himself as an auteur. Artistic television is not for everyone. But said viewers are certainly struggling to get by in a season that they find “too slow”. The opening of eps2.2init1.asec which seemingly answers the question to who knocked on Elliot’s door in the final moments in season 1 was mostly engaging for these fans. Apart from these engaging first 15 minutes, nothing seemingly happens. Elliot battles Mr. Robot for his mind over a game of chess that consequentially ends with a foreseeable result, a stalemate. Angela’s new found confidence seems to grow and she gets Evil Corp heads thrown in jail. Darlene and Joana, two mentally strong women in Season 1, have reached their mental limits in this episode. What may seem as an episode with mundane events truly hides a lot beyond what the camera shows us.
Think about Esmail’s focus on objects. There is a reason why the camera was lingering on Romero’s FBI list that DiPierro found. There is a reason to why Angela continues to listen to her self-confidence building playlists. And the season long question to where Tyrell Wellick is, hinted in just about every other magazine or television screen in the show, is likely to result into a revelation similar to that in So1E09. After delving 14 episodes deep into the show, viewers have to know that everything about Mr. Robot occurs beyond our senses, beyond the lens, beyond the perception of our very protagonist Elliot.
Its apparent that season 2 has created a fan spectrum where the far left consists of those who appreciate the artistic direction of Esmail and the far right consists of fans who believe the show has become this overly pretentious project. Wherever you land on those scale, I urge you, just like Esmail, to remain patient and trust this season to guide us through what is sure to be a solid season piece of television.