BY STEVE GREENE
Over the course of “Mr. Robot’s” run, composer Mac Quayle has done a pretty effective job creating an eerie and ethereal (etheerieal?) backdrop to one man’s psychological self-sabotage. The ongoing trials of Elliot Alderson have been underscored by electronic-heavy instrumentals, highlighting the character in moments of triumph and moments of despair (more on that later).
As good as Quayle has been, the series has also benefited from a finely curated set of musical moments, with some of the most memorable “Mr. Robot” sequences bolstered by an impeccable soundtrack selected by music supervisors Amie Bond and Charlie Haggard. Some of these have been the numerous string of classical favorites used to set up Tyrell Wellick in various stages of upper-class crises. Others have drawn on electronic music icons that have influenced the show in more ways than one.
So as the show sets out for a new season, we’ve gathered together some of those show’s standout sequences, each of which were enhanced by some quality cuts.
LEN, “Steal My Sunshine” — A Fake Life
“Mr. Robot” is riddled with hypotheticals, from fantasy sequences about a life never lived to theoretical montages like this one. Filled with all the anti-consumerist apathy that’s the stated DNA of the show, this sequence enlists one of the poppiest tunes of this generation to go as superficial as “Mr. Robot” gets. For a show that wallows in the darkness of humanity for most of its runtime, these contrasts hit harder than they would on other series. (It’s just a shame they couldn’t somehow squeeze a mini-timejump for the line “L-A-T-E-R that week!”)
Maxence Cyrin, “Where is My Mind?” — Saving the World
In hindsight, using this song seems even more inevitable than it did in the moment. Tossing in a Pixies cover into a show dripping with “Fight Club” references seemed like a natural way to go, especially as the opening season was reaching its apex. Of course, when this episode aired, it came in the midst of the song also being used by “The Leftovers,” creating 2014’s equivalent of the Great John Denver Craze of 2017. A piano version was fitting: This scene effectively mourns the character that Elliot would never quite be able to be again.
Alabama Shakes, “Sound and Color” — That Knock
After the monumental way that Season 1 came to a close, leaving audiences with the small-scale tease of who was behind that ominous knock at the door was a solid parting touch. Even after the reveal of just who was doing the knocking (which came a bit longer into Season 2 than was most effective), this ending still stands out as one of the show’s better moments of expectation subterfuge. It also set the stage for a pretty great Season 2 promo that used Wings’ “Let ‘Em In” without needing much new footage.
Lupe Fiasco, “Daydreamin'” — Setting the Stage
Leave it to “Mr. Robot” to pick a song that not only captures the emotional state of its central character, but also works as an easter egg for the season to come. Coming at the open of Season 2’s first episode, this trippy reworking of I Monster’s “Daydream” helped to set the stage for a season built on one giant misdirect. Skip the “Mr. Robot” credits at your own peril.
Phil Collins, “Take Me Home” — Setting Fire to the Cash
Once Season 1 ended and the show no longer had quite the same “Who is Mr. Robot?” hook to mine for mystery and drama, there was a lot of speculation as to where the show would head going forward. If you had your money on “burning piles of cash, set to the sultry strains of Phil Collins,” then you are actually Sam Esmail. Congratulations. You’ve got a pretty good career going.
Philip Glass, “Opening” – Yummy Cement
As the fractures in reality of Season 2 ripped open into a massive fault line, Elliot raking through vomit to find some non-digested Adderall pills was definitely a low point. As Elliot’s life almost literally dissolved around him, it seemed appropriate to have the operatic gravitas of Phillip Glass help drive home the point that this fella is in further over his head than even he thought. Hard to watch? Absolutely. Necessary to up the stakes for a darker, more inward-facing season of TV? You be the judge.
“Imagine a World Gone Insane” — Even the Font is Perfect
An out-of-nowhere wallop, even for a show that prides itself on catching audiences off guard, the ’90s TV opening of the sixth episode of Season 2 was a fascinating exercise in visual mimicry. But as spot-on as the grainy home video feel of that opening was, the “Full House” theme song riff elevated the whole experiment to an entirely different level. (It’s almost as good as a resurrected Gideon laughing at the headline of his own death.) For some extra details on how the impossibly earworm-y “Imagine a World Gone Insane” came together, this is a great quick interview.
The Suffers, “Gwan” — Hallway Heist
All the ALF shenanigans got the lion’s share of attention the week it aired. But what really put Episode 6 over the top and made it one of the best of the year was Angela’s one-take trek through FBI headquarters. The show needed a pulse-pounding, neo-soul hype track to make the audience forget what Angela most likely suspected herself: This was a horrendously ill-advised plan, but it made for a dramatic entrance.
“Mr. Robot” airs Wednesday nights at — p.m. on USA.