Mr Robot – eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes: ALF and Wellick as Baggage (Review)

 Mr. Robot - Season 2

Mr. Robot starts this week with a 4:3 ratio  complete with ’80s sitcom music and shot through a filter that mimic’s that ’80s feel. Pseudo adverts interchange with the Alderson family vacation.  Canned laughter, ALF and “the man in the trunk” aka Tyrell Wellick (described by Elliot’s dad as “baggage”)  all convey a message.

This quirky beginning is a dream, of sorts, one that Elliot; recuperating in the hospital from the beating that Ray’s thugs gave him, is having. Influenced by an ALF rerun on the television, the dream, or interlude, tells us in the theme song that nothing is as it seems. No one is who they seem to be and that Elliot has more issues than initially thought.

It is fitting that the setting for this week’s prologue is the mid ’80s. (Alf hit TV screens in 1986.) The computer as “home accessory”really started taking off at that time. Commodore 64,  Apple and the Atari all became available  and very popular around then. Essentially Esmail has taken us back to the beginning and not through a flight of fancy either.

Clues are scattered throughout the sitcom “dream.”  (There are others later that indicate the fsociety are not the only players here.) The main message appears to be that Elliot and his other self, Mr. Robot, are in this alone.  The secondary message is that none of this is real.

Darlene disappears from the back of the car during the “Wellick escape sequence” and Elliot’s father tells him that “sometimes lies help.”  Elliot responds with:
“This whole place is a lie. Nothing is true.”

Another big clue appears during this sequence.  Mr. Robot kills Wellick with a tire iron. Does this indicate that in the last season it was Robot who murdered Wellick and this is why Elliot has no recollection of the event.

(It could also explain why he can see Wellick and Robot cannot. Once again, this could be a “metaphorical” killing of Wellick as it is still not 100 percent clear that Tyrell is “real.” )

This opening sequence, explained as a coping mechanism for Elliot to survive the beating by Ray’s minions, appears to do a lot amid all that canned laughter and seeming nonsensical action.  The scene also puts Mr. Robot firmly in charge of Elliot.

In this dream sequence, Elliot finally accepts Gideon’s death (The killing blow as by ALF in this alternate world. Esmail’s inclusion of the “double bump” over the man’s body was blackly comic.)  Other things are touched on in the ’80s sitcom world of Mr. Robot.

Both the women in Elliot’s life disappear.  Elliot’s mother maces Angela in the petrol station and, after being knocked out twice, Darlene vanishes completely.  Later in the episode, Angela and Darlene are working together to hack the FBI cell phone data bank.

Does this signify a parting of the ways?

Mr. Robot - Season 2
Darlene channelling her inner “Jackie Brown.”

It has to be pointed out that Esmail also, apart from his big wink at 1980s comedy television,  gives what appears to be a massive nod to Quentin Tarantino. The sequence with the blonde wigged Darlene, with 80s “hipster” music in the background,  heading to her rendezvous with Angela was so Tarantino-esque that one expected Samuel L. Jackson to turn up.

The entire “ALF” sequence dominates the rest of the episode. It is tempting to dissect the episode opener frame by frame. Just the Wellick sequence alone is full of clues. For instance, reversing to the exec as “baggage” seems to indicate that Elliot needs to let the whole thing go.  However, the rest of “Master Slave” has clues also.

The Chinese connection to the Dark Army is clearer in this episode. Price is having difficulty getting what he needs. “CD man” asks too many questions of his Dark Army rep and gets the modern day equivalent of bamboo under his fingernail as result.  Later he is recognized by Angela and Darlene has no idea why.

This is a huge clue that the Dark Army has been working in opposition along side fsociety all along. This possibility changes a lot of things  when looking back on last season’s attack on the storage facility.

Obviously Whiterose has a double edged objective and the main one is taking down E Corp as a means of allowing the Chinese government to slip in the back door. Price appears to slowing becoming  aware that there is a weasel in the henhouse.

Mr. Robot - Season 2
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss

Anglea as hacker was intense and funny.  Her face, throughout the entire  FBI sequence, screamed guilt. When Dom approaches her,  just before she finishes entering the last command to bring up the wifi, it her face is just priceless.

At the end of the episode, Elliot has given up fighting. He fully embraces his Mr. Robot  persona. This is the clearest sign of things to come. Robot has always been the real leader, as he says himself, he is what people see when they look at Elliot.

The final flashback, where it is learned how “Mr. Robot” came to be was brilliant. By the end it seems that Esmail is reaffirming that the series is “Fight Club” on LSD.

Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays on USA. Do not miss this “through the computer screen darkly” series.



Mr Robot: eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd FSociety & Death (REv13w)

Mr Robot: Season two

The third episode, which is really the second as the season opener was a double shot of Mr Robot,  starts with a flashback. Romero (Ron Cephas Jones) is showing the arcade to Mobley (Azhar Khan) as the two stroll down the Coney Island boardwalk, Romero tells Mobley about the bloody history of the place. It is, claims Romero, cursed and has caused more than a few deaths.  At the end of the scene, set against the iconic Dusty Springfield tune “You don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” the camera shows how the hacker organization got their name – “FSociety.”

Mobley asks, “What happened to the U and the N?” “Oh that,” replies Romero. “That is a story for another time.”

The opening serves as a protracted explanation about how FSociety came to be so named and it shows the dark history behind the arcade where the group worked in the first season. Romero’s tale also serves as a portent of bad things to come, a foreboding sense of danger for the group.

Springfield’s love ballad, used to transition the scene from the arcade to Elliot,  also seems to drop a hint about Alderson. The lyric “You don’t have to say you love me, just be close to hand,” could be referring to Mr.  Robot or  it could be a reference to Wellick.

More on that later.

This season, so far, has been  full of death and references to it.  Romero being found shot dead at his mother’s house is the start. Ray (Craig Robinson) speaking about his dead wife, and to her, and Gideon’s murder last week are all included in this episode. 

(Incidentally, it has not been mentioned  but Ray clearly knows Darlene.  In the season two opener,  when she takes over the automated house that Fsociety hacked, a  one legged man is seen walking up the stairs.  The man  is wearing shorts and all that can be seen is that  prosthetic leg. In this episode, where Ray talks about speaking to his dead wife, he mentions having one leg. Ergo that has to be him going up the stairs. It also explains how he knows who Elliot is in the season two premiere.)

This episode also reveals that Ray is not a well man. Aside from having one leg, the man requires dialysis every morning.  He is also having site problems with someone stealing his bitcoin and shutting his site down. It also pretty clear that he is not a “straight and narrow” sort of businessman.

Leon is not only real but he is Elliot’s drug dealer and the man really is fascinated by Seinfeld.

Elliot takes an overdose of Adderall and this starts  another of those patented “weird” segments of the show.  Alderson is kidnapped and force-fed cement until he vomits.  It turns out that he is making himself sick in his room. Mr. Robot watches and tells Elliot he cannot get rid of him.

In a stomach  churning move, Elliot begins picking tablets out of the vomit and shoving them back into his mouth. This is the beginning of six days with no sleep and by the end Alderson is in free fall.  He has managed to exorcise Mr. Robot during that time but he is clearly one step from being mad full stop.

Later he and Ray hook up and Mr. Robot turns up again.

More light is cast on Agent DiPerro. She lives alone, cannot sleep and is too driven to live “normally.” She even has trouble focussing while masturbating.  This lack of focus does not apply to her professional life.  It is her attention to detail that enables her to find the FSociety headquarters later in the episode.

(The bit where DiPerro rolls blunts for Romero’s mum is brilliantly ironic.)

Angela is slowly getting used to working for Mr. Price and E Corp.  She still recites her success mantra when needed but she is learning what the job is all about.  Angela is still naive to an extent, not realizing  that Price is constantly testing her.

Mr. Robot - Season 2
Anglea in Prices office, hand’s clasped like a patient schoolgirl.

Her final test comes at the fancy meal set up by Price. He gives her evidence that will destroy the two men who dined with Angela and Richard. Both are long time employees and the test is for Angela to eradicate them both.  Price tells her to leave out the emotion and it will go easier for her.

This episode seems to indicate, once again, that Wellick is not real or is a part of Elliot.  The clues are there: The static during the phone call, Tyrell’s spacey replies and, of course, the big one, Mr. Robot facilitates the call.  The latter clue is the most meaningful.  Robot is Elliot and vice versa.

Sam Esmail has always held on to his “Fight Club” theme;  where , in Elliot’s world, nothing is really what it seems.  Add to this formula Elliot’s constant self mediating and his schizophrenia it certainly seems to indicate that Wellick is not a separate entity.

Season Two has killed off Gideon  (Michel Gill) and Romero.  It appears that Ray, not the Dark Army, may have murdered Romero, possibly,  on Darlene’s orders. If that is the case, Mobley and Trenton (Sunita Manimay be next.

If Darlene is responsible, does this mean she has had  her own fatal error?

Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays on USA. Tune into this addictive and fascinating show and fall in love with television again.


Need for Speed (2014): Aaron Paul’s Video Game Film

Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall in Need for Speed
The 2014 film Need for Speed could be seen as a film made to cash in on Aaron Paul’s Breaking Bad popularity or an effort to capitalize on the video game of the same name. While the movie did make a decent profit, production costs were $66 million and the worldwide box office came to $203 million, critics panned the movie almost universally. The film’s biggest crime seems to have been, apart from starring television actor Paul, not being 2 Fast 2 Furious or part of that long running franchise.

Directed by Scott Waugh, stunt coordinator extraordinaire turned director, and starring Aaron Paul, Brit actors Imogen Poots and Dominic Cooper (Cooper is currently working steadily as Tony Stark’s daddy in Agent Carter on ABC) along with Mr Robot‘s Rami Malik and pre – 50 Shades of Grey Dakota Johnson, the movie is an action film based, very loosely on the video game and features fast cars, a little humor, and some thrills and spills along the way. Michael Keaton has a splendid cameo as Monarch, the former Formula 1 racer with a dickey heart who sponsors the De Leon race.

Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a racer who yearns to win the De Leon and whose small cadre of friends stick by him and help out in his late father’s business. Cooper is Dino Brewster, professional race car driver, rich guy and all around heel. The two do not get on, mainly because Dino stole Tobey’s girl, Anita (Johnson) whose little brother Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) is Marshall’s best friend. After taking a contract to modify a car for Brewster, a Mustang that is later sold to Julia Maddon’s boss for a cool $2.7 million, Dino challenges Tobey and Pete to a race and the heel kills Pete with a pit maneuver during the race.

Tobey is framed for the crime and put away for manslaughter. When he gets out, Marshall vies to get Monarch’s attention and get an invite to the De Leon where he wants to beat Brewster once and for all. Maddon joins Tobey as they drive across country with a bounty placed on their heads by Dino who wants to stop Marshall from entering the race.

That Aaron Paul has got some enormous acting chops goes without question. Just the fact that he held his own against master craftsman Bryan Cranston for the whole of Breaking Bad is proof positive that the man can act. Critics who had their long knives poised to sink into Aaron’s performance in this video game action racer were doing so because he dared to leave the small box. Had they paid attention, these “experts” would have noticed that Paul gave his usual meticulous performance.

Granted the storyline itself had some pretty glaring plot holes and Poots manages to look younger each time she is on screen, and there is not nearly enough Michael Keaton, but…

Malik shows just how he got the part of Elliot in Mr Robot, Poots showed just why she should be in more films and Cooper made a impressively nasty villain. The Brit actor showed just how to make the bad guy a truly nasty bit of stuff and that, in turn, helped to make Paul’s hero look even better.

Waugh did a good job in his second feature length film as director and the film looks great. Everything felt right and while not as glossy or OTT as the 2F2F franchise films, the stunts delivered the requisite amount of oohs and ahhs and made all the scenes crackle with excitement.

Certainly Need for Speed feels a little like a red headed step child to the “Furious” saga but overall, the film delivers. This is a 4 out of 5 star film, earning an extra star for the casting of Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper. It is Streaming on Showtime at the moment and worth watching despite its rather long runtime of over two hours.

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