REVIEW: 'Mr. Robot' is still one of the smartest and most addictive shows on TV in season 2


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Peter Kramer/USA Network

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson and Christian Slater as Mr. Robot on USA Network's "Mr. Robot."

Fans of last year's breakout show, USA Network's "Mr. Robot," will get enveloped once again in Wednesday's two-hour season-two return.

The first hour is primarily dedicated to Elliot's (Rami Malek) frame of mind. The realization that he is indeed Mr. Robot - and that the Mr. Robot mask, Christian Slater's character, is a vision of his dead father - is too overwhelming to deal with. After setting off the biggest financial crisis the world has ever seen by erasing billions of dollars in debt, Elliot strives for normalcy. But the power of his mental illness is continually haunting him. At the same time, how long can he resist his desire to make the world a better place?

Malek continues to deliver in this role. His wide, dark-rimmed eyes say more than any lines of dialogue could. Plus, we can't really place any trust in his words, can we?

Meanwhile, his sister Darlene has taken the reins of F Society. Carly Chaikin's stoic style of acting is so effective in this role, especially when she breaks from it in fits of anger. She isn't happy that the hack didn't destroy E Corp and hopes to finish the job.


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Peter Kramer/USA Network

Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss on "Mr. Robot."

That places her in what seems like direct opposition to childhood friend Angela (Portia Doubleday), who has been promoted to E Corp's PR manager and must combat F Society's menacing of the global conglomerate. On the surface, she's sleek and dressed to the nines, but she's battling confidence issues and has turned to positive affirmations to keep herself together. Is she the enemy or still working to change the system from the inside?

This season, show creator Sam Esmail decided to direct every episode. For the two that make up Wednesday's two-hour premiere, that makes for a pretty solid vision. The first hour is packed with a beautiful array of shots and scenes that place us inside of Elliot's head, while the second hour gives us a more global view of the havoc caused by last season's hack. There's a similar hue to both hours visually that keeps us from forgetting that at any point in time, things can become unhinged, or they may not be exactly as we see them.

In the second hour, we get a brief introduction to new series regular Grace Gummer. Meryl Streep's daughter plays an FBI agent, Dominique DiPierro, but it's unclear yet how she fits into the bigger picture. But in a brief matter of minutes, we learn all we need to know about the agent's personality. She's a slight mess, a free spirit in her personal life, but tough when it comes to work. She makes sense. No one on "Mr. Robot" is just one thing. And it will be interesting to see how those two sides of her personality seep into each other as the season progresses and she gets deeper into the F Society world.

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Michael Parmelee/USA Network

Craig Robinson as Ray and Rami Malek as Eliot Alderson on USA Network's "Mr. Robot."

"The Office" star Craig Robinson also joins this season as Ray, a possible new friend/client/temptation for Elliot to return to hacking. He seems folksy and reasonable, complete with an adorable dog, but who knows what he's really about.

The fact that this show adds an extra layer of interest in its mimicking of real-world events is a testament to Esmail's vision. The Sony hack, the shooting that delayed last year's season finale, and now the financial panic of Brexit - they all feed into the dense fiction of "Mr. Robot."

What I appreciate about "Mr. Robot" is that watching it is a challenge. Viewers will have to be comfortable with being confused for much of the time. It is what it is until it isn't, and it'll take patience on our part before things make sense. Figuratively, "Mr. Robot" doesn't speak down to its audience. Unlike a lot of TV shows currently, it wants us to feel uncomfortable, in the dark, just like the characters.


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