Mr Robot – Season 2 (2016)

This has been my only series over the Christmas break, university and having to worry about internships sucks cause it really takes your time away from whats important, being television. This may be a little sporadic and not very in depth at all since I watched this series over 3 weeks with some big gaps here and there for various reasons. Oh also spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll try to mark them but just be careful.

I loved season 1 when I watched it but for some reason I wasn’t particularly excited to watch this but I’m really glad I did. Narratively I can understand criticism levelled towards this season but I feel that watching it as a binge can help to brush past those concerns. (Spoilers ahead) I did feel that Elliot was slightly wasted as a character this season, I felt like he had very little impact on the story of f society, especially in the first half of the season with his status in confinement. The reveal of his confinement was wonderfully done albeit quite expected, and I really enjoy how Esmail plays with having an unreliable narrator, somewhat of a rarity in television and film. Even if he only really served to give Elliot something to do, I really enjoyed Ray as a character, I thought he was an interesting and well rounded character who served his limited purpose well.(Spoilers end) Despite the character being sidelined, Rami Malek was fantastic this season, I don’t know if I noticed how good he was in season 1 but I was pretty blown away by him this season. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Christian Slater who was given very little interesting material to work with but I suppose that was only natural after the season 1 plot twist. The power struggle between Elliot and Mr Robot did get a little tiresome and seemed to make very little progress.

This really was a season for the ladies, with the fantastic addition of Grace Gummer as FBI agent Dominique and Carly Chaikin’s Darlene moving the story on more than anyone else and Angela with a surprisingly interesting arc this season. I cannot say enough good things about Grace Gummer’s character Dom, I had found Gummer quite annoying in American Horror Story so I wasn’t thrilled to see her addition to the cast but I was so so wrong. Dom is one of my new favourite characters on television, she is such a layered character with perhaps more depth than any of the other characters on the show. It was refreshing to see a female character who is exceedingly capable, neither sexualised or sexless, equal parts sensitive and tough with a sense of humour and can handle herself not only intellectually but in a fight, yet she never felt preachy or like they were making a point with her being a woman, she just was. She was a grounded and believable character I was always eager to see more of and to see her survive any perilous situation.and Grace Gummer did a wonderful job. Chaikin stepped up her game with Darlene this season who is a fun chaacter but has yet to be given much more depth beyond what she has. Angela was a a nice eye into the mysterious world of E Corp and her inner turmoil was interesting and performed well, although I must admit I am growing tired of the same nervous expression with the furrowed brow three times an episode, although hopefully we’ll see Angela have more backbone with her new circumstances. Whilst talking about the ladies, we have to mention the terrifying and terrifyingly beautiful Joanna Wellick, at the start of the season you may wonder why we’re seeing so much of her, not that you’ll be complaining, she’s fantastic, but she seems unrelated, but it all pays off. (Spoilers) She pulls some serious Claire Underwood shit which could really change circumstances for Tyrell going forward. Tyrell was one of the big mysteries of the season, only coming back for the last two episodes, I honestly found him pretty tiresome with the constant crying which wasn’t quite believable but I’m excited to see him return as a regular next season (spoilers).

The cinematography continues to be top notch and distinctive through out with its cold and distant offices and unconventional extreme close ups, its such a pleasure to watch. I particularly enjoyed any scenes shot outside at night time, one example that comes to mind is the end of episode 10, a really fantastic sequence which was beautifully shot. (spoilers) Talking about that particular sequence, one thing I’ve loved in Mr Robot since that incredibly unnerving but brilliant suicide in season 1 is the way this show depicts gun violence. The stand out moments are Gideon’s murder, the shooting in China and the restaurant shooting in episode 10, the choice to show that restaurant shooting from outside is the kind of inspired direction that makes the show stand out. I cant quite put it into words, but theres just something about the gun play that feels so unique to this show, its quick, its brutal and its bloody but never over the top, it feels more real than most shows and movies which is perhaps why its so effective. However the show didn’t handle violence so well in the case of Elliot’s beating being swapped out for an overly long, heavy handed 90s sitcom sequence was a swing and a miss (spoilers).

The development of the dark army has made them into a formidable and very threatening possible antagonist, they really do feel dangerous and the addition of Whiterose gives them a face which is greatly appreciated. I admittedly got a little lost with some of the Whiterose/E Corp drama and the powerplant but I imagine that all will become clear next season. (spoilers) Although I liked the cinematography, I didn’t care for the Lynchian meeting between Angela and Whiterose with that child, it didn’t feel like it belonged in the world of Mr Robot stylistically and was a little too self indulgent but its one small moment in a great season (spoilers).

I thought this was a really great season particularly thanks to the brilliant Grace Gummer and expanded roles for other characters. The stakes feel very real with the deaths of big characters early in the season and violence that feels indiscriminate and real. Along with the usual great performances from the old regulars and beautiful cinematography I’d say this is a great season that avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.

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Zodiac (2007)

I almost don’t have enough good things to say about Zodiac, this was a really fantastic film that I’d been meaning to watch for such a long time and finally got round to with the Directors cut on blu-ray which has great special features which is why I mention it.

It’s quite an undertaking to take a true story that is so well known and that still has no satisfying conclusion and to turn that into an intensely gripping and suspenseful film. I think one of the main ways Fincher manages this is through his very filmic style and the way he plays with the genre in this film. The opening scene which depicts the killing of Darlene Ferrin plays like it comes straight out of a stereotypical slasher film, with two good looking teenagers being attacked alone in a car in the middle of nowhere, we’ve seen it a million times before. What Fincher does is really interesting, he takes these scenarios that have become cliches through their exposure in 90s slashers, I imagine at least in part thanks to the Zodiac killings, and he presents the with a clean and precise style. We are never made to forget that we are watching a movie, like we might be with the more journalistic style of a film such as Zero Dark Thirty for example, we are so aware that we’re watching a film that we start to forget that what we’re watching is true and that it happened. This tricks the audience into expecting filmic tropes to manifest themselves, you expect Graysmith’s family to get attacked, in the stunningly suspenseful basement scene we even fear for Graysmith despite the fact he wrote the book this is based on. It’s quite sobering in retrospect to watch the killings take place and to realise that we’re not watching a fiction, and from the special features it seems as though the deaths are presented very accurately and unlike the editing, they’re not quick or clean.

Even if you aren’t as drawn in by the style, the case is fascinating and the film is well worth watching to learn more about it. Despite the film being almost 3 hours long, it never drags for even a second, you constantly want to learn more and at the end you are desperate for it to keep going.

The film reminded me why Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors working today, his characterisation is distinct but he makes sure to keep it subtle and never lets it take over film, as ultimately his character isn’t the focus. The film also serves as a strong example of what I don’t enjoy about Mark Ruffalo’s acting, he makes strong choices in his characterisation but by god does he want us to notice. He’s so set on using this breathy affectation in his voice that he barely has any variation and it draws attention to the performative nature of his acting. Thankfully he never goes to the same extremes of Spotlight so it isn’t too distracting, I just thought it was an interesting contrast to Jae Gylenhaal. As usual Robert Downey Jr is Robert Downey Jr but he’s enjoyable and he injects nice, and needed moments of humour without being too huge a part in the film. John Carroll Lynch is a standout with very little screen time but a lot to work with in. I was also happy to see Chloe Sevigny who I always like and a surprise Jimmi Simpson Cameo.
I don’t feel that I can talk about the acting without mentioning the costume design, I don’t know much about this side of things, but it was hard not to notice how perfectly the clothes reflected the characters in the film.

This film has stuck with me for a good week after watching it, since seeing it, I have been incredibly paranoid when I’m in a room with windows and it’s night outside feeling that I might be being watched. I never felt particulary scared in the film, outside of the aformention basement scene and the lakeside killings (it takes a genius to make a killing in broad daylight so suspenseful), but the true nature of the film has made it stick with me horribly.