Last summer’s surprise hit Mr. Robot returns with a special 90-minute Season 2 premiere tonight — unless you were the beneficiary of good timing and caught the first part on Sunday night, when the USA Network “leaked” the episode’s first 45 minutes on various social medium platforms. The network knows it’s got a hit on its hands, and has been rolling out creative promotional initiatives for the past couple months, building Game of Thrones-level anticipation for the new season of hacker Elliot Alderson’s (Rami Malek) misadventures. If you’re in need of a refresher on the first season of this particularly twisty show, read on, friend.
What’s Elliot’s deal again?
Elliot is our broody, black-hoodie-wearing, dark-circle-eyed, morphine-addicted, unreliable narrator who works (well, in the first season at least) as an engineer at a cybersecurity firm called Allsafe. When we last saw him, he was back in his Chinatown apartment, sitting down at his computer to watch the chaotic aftermath of the hack that triggered a global financial meltdown — a hack he orchestrated, although he has no memory of how it all went down (and neither do we). The finale ended on a cliffhanger: Elliot hears a knock on the door and begins to open it right before the credits roll.
So, who is Mr. Robot?
In short: Mr. Robot is Elliot’s phantom dad. But also, it’s Elliot himself. (Mr. Robot is…all of us?) In the second-to-last episode of the first season, Elliot realizes that the man who apparently introduced him to the Anonymous/Occupy-ish hacker group fsociety is just a hallucination of his father (played by Christian Slater), who died of leukemia when Elliot was a boy — the result of a toxic waste leak (known as the “Washington Township Scandal”) at the company where he was employed, Evil Corp. (Well, it’s actually called “E Corp,” but since Elliot hears it as “Evil Corp,” so do we. We’re all in this together.) In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Elliot finally realizes the shadow following him around all this time is his dead father — and that he’s responsible for Mr. Robot’s actions: “I am Mr. Robot.”
What about Darlene?
Ah, yes. Darlene is Elliot’s sister, a fact that he (and the viewer) only discover in the eighth episode, when he very awkwardly kisses her and has to be reminded who she is. Darlene’s reaction implies that this has happened before. A talented programmer, Darlene writes the rootkit — basically, a digital bundle of malignity — that results in Evil Corp being hacked in the show’s first episode. She’s both jaded and idealistic, and is eager to use fsociety’s smarts to take down the corporations that exert so much power on the world’s citizens. She also has ties to a Chinese hacker group called the Dark Army, led by a mysterious transgender woman named Whiterose (B.D. Wong). When we last saw Darlene, she was celebrating the chaos unleashed by fsociety’s hack, which freed loads of people from debt — although she and the other members were blind sighted by it, since Elliot carried out the attack without them.
And Tyrell Wellick?
Right. Tyrell (played by Martin Wallström) is a Swedish-American former employee of Evil Corp intent on becoming the company’s youngest-ever CTO. When Tyrell doesn’t get the promotion, he flips, taking out his anger on a homeless man whom he pays to beat the shit out of. Tyrell’s pregnant — and, frankly, terrifying — wife, Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), keeps pushing him up the corporate ladder, encouraging him to seduce the new CTO’s wife. But Tyrell, already at his breaking point, ends up strangling her instead. To distract the policemen who come to their house to question Tyrell, Joanna induces early labor by stabbing herself with a very elegant little pickle fork. After giving birth, she calmly instructs Tyrell to fix his situation or there won’t be any place for him in their family. Tyrell is fired from Evil Corp after being named a person of interest in the murder, and he goes to Elliot — the two met earlier, when Tyrell visited the Allsafe offices and revealed his own background as a hacker — and convinces him to tell him about fsociety’s planned attack on the company that’s just laid him off. But we haven’t seen Tyrell since, and a Season 2 scene released last week suggests he may be dead at the hands of Elliot himself. But don’t hold me to that.
How does Angela fit into all this?
Angela (the excellent Portia Doubleday) is Elliot’s childhood neighbor and best friend, who helped get Elliot a job at Allsafe, where she worked as an account executive. Like Elliot, Angela also lost a parent — her mother — to the toxic waste leak at Evil Corp. Evil Corp is Allsafe’s biggest client, and she’s in charge of the account until Evil Corp’s CTO, Terry Colby, asks to have her removed. She ends up breaking up with her cheating-ass boyfriend and moving back to her dad’s house in New Jersey, where she tries to take down Colby — who was one of the executives responsible for the Washington Township Scandal. But then he offers her a job at the very company she’s been trying to take down. Broke, with student loans and no job prospects, she accepts.
But wait! Did you catch that post-credit scene in the Season 1 finale?
Remember Whiterose, the Chinese hacker from the Dark Army collective? Well, at first it appears she and the Dark Army are willing to help fsociety hack Evil Corp. But then the group backs out for an undisclosed reason, and Elliot pays Whiterose a visit where she alludes to a “vulnerability” in the group that prevented her from going forward. The Dark Army is a kind of hack-for-hire group, without a grand, sweeping vision for revolution like fsociety. Still, it was a shock to see Whiterose dressed as a man and sharing a drink with Evil Corp’s CEO, Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer), in an opulent mansion in a scene at the end of the first season finale’s credits. Is she infiltrating Evil Corp to help fsociety, or is it the other way around?