Mr. Robot Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: Daydream

Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Hello friend.

When we left season one of Mr. Robot, Elliot was following the instructions he was hearing from the voice in his head, manifesting as his father after he had (maybe) executed the largest upset to world financial systems in human history. He heard a knock on his door and the camera cut as he got up to answer. He wanted to save the world. What’s unclear going into season two is whether or not he can save himself.

In the opening scenes, we learn that it was Elliot who executed the Evil Corp hack and not Tyrell, although Tyrell is there, walking around with that mask and likely the face behind it in the last fsociety video, taking credit. While Elliot is filling in the gaps for us, he takes us way back into his childhood, showing us the moment he fell out of/was pushed out of his childhood bedroom window. This resulted in a head trauma that his doctor isn’t terribly worried about, but all good friends can already imagine may be the source of his current disassociate disorder. If anything, we should be worried that Elliot hasn’t spoken directly to us yet in this episode.

The first music cue is “Daydream,” from 1969, and it’s a fascinating choice. The song has been sampled and sample and sampled so many times and over generations that everyone who hears it will have a different reference point. Some will think of the Lupe Fiasco track, others go to Portishead, some might recognize the song sample from when the Beta Band used it (depending on how deep into High Fidelity you got), others might place it from The Pharcyde’s sample. At this point everyone’s experience with the song is a copy of a copy of a copy, which sets the mood for where your head should be and foreshadowing what he’s about to tell us.

Joey Bada$$’s debut appearance as Elliot’s new friend Leon, who just discovered Seinfeld and relates plot points endlessly over meals, lets us know the time Elliot has spent without us is no more than a show about nothing. Without you, friend, his life has made no progress. He has been trying to socialize himself, though, and we meet the wallpaper of people who he’s surrounded himself with while we were going. He’s living with his mother (“She’s the strictest person I know…Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?”), with no computer or internet access and visiting Krista for therapy. Repetition is the trick he’s trying to keep himself normal.

Finally, Elliot speaks to us. He doesn’t trust us, friends, but he trusts his father even less. It turns out that journal he’s keeping is a less than faithful transcript of his father’s rants and demands. It would seem the father who pushed him out of his bedroom window is withholding Tyrell’s location and has been habitually destroying Elliot – on this occasion, he shoots him in the head. We see shortly this battle for control isn’t limited to visions of his father hurting him, but includes his threats to hurt those who come in contact with him.

A small note on the scene where the kids in fsociety masks take the balls off the bull in the Financial District: It is well known that rubbing the balls on that thing is supposed to be good luck. You’re bringing a plague on all our houses, hooligans.

The best part of Darlene hacking the smart house of Susan Jacobs, the general counsel for Evil Corp, (played by Sandrine Holt who you know from House of Cards) is when she shows up in Lolita sunglasses with a one-legged man in tow. It’s good to see you, friend. Since we last saw her, she’s become quite the social crusader and is the leader of the Five/Nine, filling the hole Elliot left. Exposition lets us know that what they did, destroying the debt records held by Evil Corp, seem to have made things worse, rather than better. She sets in motion a new hack, demanding $5.9 million dollars from Evil Corp. In the face of this new attack, Jacobs meets with CEO Phillip Price and last season’s newly crowned CTO Scott Knowles to explain that the banks will be down for five days, wrecking more havoc on a system in peril. My question is: how are they keeping this from the press and the public? We don’t see their new PR maven, Angela, until episode two, but could she be the mastermind keeping this hack on lockdown?

Photo: Courtesy of USA.
After a brief intermission courtesy of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we join CTO Scott Knowles making the money drop as ordered by Five/Nine. The quiet strains of Phil Collins singing “Take Me Home” in the background are his inner voices whispering to us, friends. In a weird and brilliantly unexpected move, the Five/Nine send a bit messenger to give him a backpack with an fsociety mask, with instructions written on the inside. His orders? Dump the money and burn it in front of the gathering crowd. The obvious symbolism is that money doesn’t mean anything, which many people have said is true since we got off the gold standard, so you can burn it all down. The question is, what does Darlene, who watches all of this go down from the crowd, want to replace the financial dominance of Evil Corp?

CEO Phillip Price meets with the government and it’s one of those meetings where high-level people eat and look inefficient. Phillip is the character who finally brings up FDR’s New Deal and manages to make it sound like one of the greatest hoaxes every perpetrated by the government because, as we learned in his speech to Angela at the end of season one, his sliding moral scale and skewed world-view makes him the very model of a sociopathic CEO.

Speaking of sociopaths, here comes Joanna. She’s found herself a fuckboi to play BSDM reindeer games with her. It’s just so difficult to pinpoint who is the most horrifying character in this show. Her husband is still missing, as Nancy Grace informs us, and she’s got his old security force watching over her and the little gift he leaves on her doorstep: a cell phone. The cavalier way she tosses the red ribbon holding the package closed together certainly looks like a foreshadow of blood that’s going to be spilled.

Part two briefly introduces us to Dominique DiPierro (played by Grace Gummer, spawn of Meryl Streep who you may have seen in The Newsroom or American Horror Story: Freak Show). She’s one of the FBI agents investigating Gideon, from his earlier ramble. How her character will play out is hard to determine, since Gideon gets shot in the neck in a bar by an activist masquerading as a sane human being.
Bad news for dog people: Flipper will not be back this season, but despite the lack of explanation as to what happened to her is tempered by our introduction into the topic by Ray (played by The Office’s Craig Ferguson) and his bloodhound Maxine. Don’t you find that anyone who says, “I can take a hint,” almost always chooses not to take a hint? It’s hard to pick your friends with the voices in your head start acting on your behalf, though. Perhaps control is an illusion. His father has been taking control while he's asleep and there's nothing he can do to stop it.

Angela has become quite the shark, listening to Sonic Youth’s “Bull In The Heather” (a nice throwback to her penchant for listening to this band when the pressure is on from season one) and playing a game of chicken with a booking on Bloomberg TV for Evil Corp exec. The ice water now running through her veins is almost visible, it's so close to the surface. We may have our new anti-hero, friends. You do know she’s going to turn after a battle with Elliot, which is what this season is building towards. When she meets with Antara, the attorney on the wrongful death lawsuit she’s bringing against Evil Corp, to tell them she’s keeping her job and, furthermore, she enjoys it, well…a blonde big bad will be a nice turn of events.

The episode leaves us with the question of who will be in control: Elliot or Mr. Robot? Or rather, when will they merge into one? And if the goal at the end is still to save the world, what does that mean in the new world order?

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