Mr. Robot is back, everyone! And if anyone thought we would get a proper revolution a la V for Vendetta, they could not have been more wrong. ‘unm4sk‘ parts 1 and 2 are a slow start the season that offer more questions than answers or game-changing events.
First things first. Mr. Robot is aware that what fsociety did last season can have unforeseen consequences and that the promise of a revolution is not as ideal and romantic as it seems. ‘unm4sk’ does not contain any big events concerning “changing the world”, nor does it have much hacking action either. In fact, this 2-part premiere seems more of a continuation of the season 1 finale’s theme of presenting more questions than answers. Elliot is still having problems accepting his split personality, Darlene is still struggling to command fsociety with her brother’s absence, and everyone is still looking for Tyrell (although after that last scene, that might not be the case anymore).
Elliot’s escapism in this episode leads him to try to find some sort of routine (or loop) that causes him to fall into old patterns. Sure, he’s not doing drugs anymore, but he’s staying at his mother’s place (“the devil you know”…). This is something that Krista, who is still upset at Elliot for hacking her, does not approve of. However, we don’t get to see all of their therapy session as Elliot doesn’t trust us yet. In fact, ‘unm4sk’ is made even more confusing by the fact that our already unreliable narrator is not trusting us to show us all the details. During these monotonous, greyish loops, Elliot has the false illusion that he is somewhat in control of his situation. But he isn’t, and being aware that Mr. Robot is actually him does not make things easier either. In fact, it gets worse. Elliot struggles to control Mr. Robot because he cannot trust him to behave while he’s unconscious. Journaling and ignoring him does not help either as Mr. Robot is getting persistent and violent to the point of repeatedly shooting him in the head.
After having celebrated presumably saving the world in the finale, fsociety is unsure of what to do with their leader’s absence. With Elliot gone, Darlene is now the one calling the shots. She is worried and stressed, which results in a George Bush-like speech in which she asks the others to take things seriously because they’re on the losing side of this war. However, the other side does not seem to be doing that well either. ECorp is currently trying to deal with a ransomware implanted by fsociety asking for $5.9 million in exchange for the key to decrypt their data. By the way, all episodes from this season end with an encrypted file extension, probably a sign that we might have to do some more decryption/speculation this season.
Aside from Elliot, another character that is struggling to feel in control is Angela. Angela is now officially working for ECorp and she’s finding that… it’s not so bad. The people working there are not necessarily evil and she does need the money. Her attitude is much different from the insecure, naive character we met in the beginning of the series. However, there are many signs that this is a path she will come to regret at some point. The lawyer in the bar calls her out on her behavior, and Angela actually proves her right when she ends up sleeping with a random guy and when we see her repeating to herself how confident she is with some sort of self-improvement video. I’m waiting for the moment when she meets with Elliot, as they both need each other right now.
Going now back to Tyrell, Joanna has gotten herself a boytoy to satisfy her BDSM needs while she waits for her husband to return. At the end of the episode, she gets a mysterious music box with a phone attached to it. It’s a shame that she didn’t get to get the call, but it’s probably safe to assume that was Tyrell. It’s also quite interesting that Part 1 begins with a scene in the arcade with Tyrell wearing a fsociety mask and Elliot reaching for the gun in the popcorn machine. Is it a flashforward to Elliot killing Tyrell at some point? Will this be a scene that we’ll keep speculating on for most of the season or will we get an answer soon?
The episodes theme of control being an illusion resembles the illusion of choice of last season’s ‘Ones and Zeroes’ and, in a way, it’s fairy similar. ‘unm4sk’ repeats many of the series’ themes to demonstrate how everyone wears some sort of mask, not just Elliot. It’s not even a matter of having mental issues, but of how we have been “programmed” to act a certain way to please society, and that’s not something one can get rid of that easily. Even the talk about ‘truth‘ resembles Mr. Robot’s speech in the season finale when he ponders what “reality” really is. It’s come to a point when it’s really hard to see which character can actually be described as 100% genuine in this series. In fact, if there was such a character that was Gideon. Gideon’s death is probably the most depressing part of the episode, not only because of his death per se, but for what it meant. Gideon represented a good man who did nothing wrong and who did not deserve to go out in some random bar. This is the series’ way of showing us the ugly side of revolution and “freeing the masses”. Revolutions are often based on ideas and motivations more than on meaningful events that can actually change things for the better. Radical changes in the world always lead to unforeseen negative consequences that cannot be avoided, let alone controlled. Revolutions lack organization and, for that reason, one can’t help but wonder if Gideon’s death is on Elliot. Juding by how his death was handled, it does seem like that that’s how the show wanted us to interpret it.