spoiled’s breaking down Who Won the Summer? with five different features from five different contributing writers and editors. If you’re looking to see who lost the summer? We got you right here. All of these features will be found in a special edition of our newsletter which you can subscribe to on the homepage.
Oh, you didn't catch Mr. Robot this past summer? You tuned out because you thought the politics of the first season was a middling regurgitation of Fight Club or V for Vendetta without anything particularly inspiring to root for?
You're a dummy.
Okay, so you're not a dummy. Your concerns were pretty well measured. I wasn't a die-hard fan of the first season, and I'm still really only a die-easy fan after this second one.
If it goes off the rails beyond this point, it'll be a shame, but it won't be a huge loss.
It won't be the world's greatest missed opportunity (like the final season/2nd half of the last season of Mad Men). It'll just be a show that had a decent run but couldn't handle the huge train of hype it was riding.
But it won the summer. From Rami Malek's moving speech while accepting an Emmy for his performance last year, to that part where they left me confused AF beyond all measure, Mr. Robot, and possibly USA, made a strong case for winning the summer.
1. That really long episode that nearly killed it for me
It was a really bad episode, and to make things worse, it was relatively early on. Also, every episode before that had been really long. It was so long. I almost didn't make it, guys.
BUT! (and it took two viewings of this episode for me to get there) It powered through! It overcame that one really long episode, and the show was better for overcoming that adversity.
2. That throwback sitcom episode
Holy shit, guys. TELL ME YOU SAW THAT!
3. Joey Badass
Dude was a revelation to the show.
All he had to be was a weird companion during a lucid dream sequence (what are we calling that, BTW?), demonstrate a love and devotion for the single greatest sitcom of all time (yes, Seinfeld, and we'll get into more of this someday), stab dudes in another episode, and then reappear after the credits roll by in the finale.
Is that the formula for success for all cameos/minor characters? Possibly...
4. Craig Robinson
Man, I love Craig Robinson. Now, he didn't have to do much here, and he really wasn't funny, but unlike HBO's Game of Thrones where they'll roll out the deep bench of renowned UK actors for an episode or two (seriously light lifting on their part), USA went out and found Craig Robinson to be a good villain.
Now, it took a while to get there, and after we discovered he was a man of rather dubious intentions, he was eschewed away almost immediately―BUT! He was great.
5. Fan theories
This is a trend that's either going to ruin network television or make it just a little bit sweeter, but after the first three episodes, a Reddit thread emerged saying that Elliot's routine was probably a fiction. Not only was it a fiction, but he was projecting this fiction in lieu of the reality that is his being in prison.
Soon after, it looked like that couldn't be the case. There were a number of things the show concealed pretty well to knock that theory―posited before the premiere even aired―out of reality.
But nope. Thanks a lot, Reddit.
Of course, the same thing happened with Game of Thrones and the speculation of Jon Snow's parentage. Prophetic? Possibly. Annoying? Most definitely. This might lead to a suspension of weekly broadcasts. Everybody might just jump on the complete dump Netflix model.
Then again, probably not.
6. The cliffhanger
I don't know what Angela and Tyrell's conversation means. WTF IS GOING ON?!
7. Sam Esmail
Dude wrote a sh*t ton, but also directed every single episode. Now he wants to do that again for the third season. That's the equivalent of playing 4x4 street ball, full court―with chain smokers, in the middle of July, and then saying, "Yo, let's run that back."
Speaking of basketball...
8. THE PRISON BASKETBALL GAMES
Oh, man. How terrible was that?! Go back and watch it again. It's the worst basketball you'll see this year before the Nets take the court.
Pro-tip: SAM! Seriously. If you need basketball games played in New York, get New York basketball players. We have two NBA teams, nearly a dozen Division I basketball teams, and countless thousands of others regularly balling on public courts across the five boroughs.
The prison yard games look like glitches in a scratched copy of NBA Live '01―on SEGA DREAMCAST.
It's important that you neither have too many unnecessary people involved in the main plot of the show, nor too many inconsequential things going on that ultimately don't matter.
There's always got to be more than one thing going on, but it can't be too fractured into sh*t that doesn't have any consequence whatsoever.
Netflix's Stranger Things had this down almost perfect. Everything was a side quest towards the same goal. Mr. Robot has a bunch of similar side quests that will eventually move everyone together―or they're immediately undermined by actions around the central plot.
We can be okay with the way the shooting in China never gets resolved on screen because we know what Dom knows, and her focus on the case in NYC is more important. We can and should be fine with that.
We can be okay with the tension of the restaurant drive-by because it was A) absolutely perfect, B) the perfect road for Dom to go down to get to the finale.
Nobody else was doing that on TV. Sure, Game of Thrones gave us a huge revelation book readers hadn't seen depicted in the 20 years since they first developed the theory, and, yes, the last two episodes of that season were masterful in scope and execution.
But other than shock and awe, ultimately, where did that season take us? Waiting for another year while we simply just wait for the story to move forward, rather than leaving us twisted up in knots with the great mystery.
10. Timing is everything
Admittedly, TV was dope ALL SUMMER LONG. GoT, Stranger Things, The Night Of, The Get Down―with so many incredible stories unwinding at the same point in time, how do you really become something memorable? Look at the timeline.
Game of Thrones ended (June 26th) well before Stranger Things was released (July 15th), which was after HBO (why did they do this?) aired the special preview of The Night Of (June 22nd) before it officially aired (July 10th). Then came The Get Down (August 12th) which was good for a weekend, but ultimately was too messy to really hang.
So, conceivably, you could watch all of Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and The Get Down, before The Night Of ever concluded (August 28th). And The Night Of absolutely killed it during the finale. It felt like there was nowhere left to go.
Of course, in the midst of all of this, Mr. Robot, season 2, quietly aired on July 13th (by quiet, I mean they leaked the first episode), and then wrapped up on the last (official) night of summer, September 21st. That's a ridiculous amount of good luck to make a memorable moment.
11. USA Network
This is a diamond in the rough. USA doesn't really have literary shows like this on its roster. Sure, Falling Water might be good, but other than that, it's blue sky. It's Burn Notice. It's Suits. It's Monk. It's failed ideas like Psych.
Sure, everybody likes those shows, but what every network needs is a few solid dramas that get critical acclaim. FX is coming for AMC who was coming for HBO who really has no competition outside of cord cutter studios at Netflix and Amazon.
Honestly, USA might never be in that particular conversation outside of Mr. Robot, but that's really enough.
12. Rami Malek's a gem
Did you see his Emmy speech?[Feature Image Courtesy Presto.com]