Things I Loved This Year: Why Do You Ask?

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: a weird scene from a weird season of a weird show.

Robot.jpg

Many of the most satisfying television moments bring you into an unfamiliar world and ask you to draw conclusions, a task that’s often futile. Mr. Robot did that a few times this year, none more memorable than the scene in which a sullen young girl sat in front of an antiquated computer screen and asked Angela (Portia Doubleday) if she’s ever cried during sex. What was the purpose of that question, and the others she asked? Why was a young girl delivering them? Why didn’t Whiterose (B.D. Wong) invest in some more era-appropriate technology?

None of those questions have been answered concretely, at least so far. And I’m not particularly interested in the answers. The power of that scene was its mystique, and Angela’s emotional reaction to a set of circumstances that read to both her and the audience as peculiar. Doubleday was spectacular all season, as Angela toggled between betraying her beliefs and indulging them. But this was her high point.

It was also the most memorable moment in a season that rankled many of the show’s ardent fans, including me. The first half turned out to be an elaborate feat of misdirection culminating in the revelation that much of what we’d been seeing had been a product of our protagonist’s warped imagination. The second half raised dozens of plot questions and answered only a handful. That Mr. Robot wasn’t narratively satisfying this year didn’t completely turn me on the show, which continues to regularly produce moments of stunning sensation and aesthetic weight. Now I just hope that creator and showrunner Sam Esmail can abandon the game he and his writers are playing with the audience, and just press forward with the compelling, bizarre story they laid out in the first season. The Q&A scene could serve as a blueprint.

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