Winner of the Golden Globe for Best TV Drama, "Mr. Robot" follows Elliot Alderson (Golden Globe-nominee and Emmy Award-winner Rami Malek), a young cybersecurity engineer who becomes involved in the underground hacker group fsociety, after being recruited by their mysterious leader (Golden Globe-winner Christian Slater). Following the events of fsociety's 5/9 hack on multi-national company Evil Corp, the second season explores the consequences of that attack as welt as the illusion of control.
I will probably be in the minority here, but Mr. Robot: Series 2 is a hard thing to explain for an outsider, or even an alien that, for some reason, has crash-landed on Earth and now wants to indulge in the best series ever in order to pass his time while his ship gets repaired and it finally takes its flight. To deconstruct Mr. Robot’s second installment, we must reach for desperate academic measures in the form of Jean Baudrillard’s theory on simulacra (and simulation for that matter) and how, among other doings – he understood complex phenomena that is occurring almost everywhere in the world.
OK Good. First of all, Mr. Robot: Series 2 is by no means a bad series per se, but it suffers from what I call the ‘simulacra syndrome’, which is closely similar to the Chinese Room experiment, and goes like this: say some computer scientists make the perfect A.I. machine, which can understand, discern, speak and write in Chinese ideograms, so that is successfully passes the Turing test; then, for every input of Chinese numbers or letters, it gives away the perfect answer to all questions in Chinese; if this would be the case, then a question arises: does this (A.I.) machine understand Chinese, or it merely pretends that it understands Chinese? The answer is unknown at this time, but the point remains.
What about simulacra? Baudrillard argued that there could be (and are) things – more so copies similar to the original to an extent that these copies pass as THE original they’ve copied in the first place. The boundaries between the original and the copy are so blurred, that no one can tell anymore what is what, thus these copies achieve the status of a ‘simulacra’ of the original thing. How and why does this matter for Mr. Robot: Series 2?
Sam Esmail's Mr. Robot starring Rami Malek, Christian Slater and others pretends to have all qualities that make a given series great: an unreliable narrator, deeply flawed characters, ambiguity and bizarre occurrences that question the sole reality of everyone’s mental state in a given circumstance. Notice how I put emphasis on ‘pretends’, because Mr. Robot: Series 2 does just this – it pretends to have these qualities, but it just doesn’t. At its core, it’s just another churned screenplay that does not translate well to the screen at all. It’s a, wait for it: a simulacrum of a hypothetical Mr. Robot that, in a parallel universe, is probably beyond great.
The plot is nothing we haven’t seen before: after the downfall of cheesy-named E Corp at the end of season one, Elliot and his brain-friend Mr. Robot wander aimlessly until they figure their next steps; meanwhile, all kinds of impossible twists and turns derail the viewer from what would’ve been a great series, if not for Esmail’s cheap cop-out to make everything questionable, without a basis in reality. This is not good screenplay - it’s a simulated one – a mere simulacrum.
Mr. Robot: Series 2 probably offers some enjoyment to be had, in the form of chilling, rugged atmosphere and beautiful visuals. Apart from that, the emperor’s new clothes are so far, nowhere to be seen.