‘Mr. Robot’ Series Review
It took one look at the elementary title of this show for me to dismiss it when it came out back in mid-2015. If you haven’t got round to watching Mr. Robot yet, you too probably question its credibility as a worthwhile watch. But they don’t just award Golden Globes for Best TV Drama for nothing.
Once I got over my initial preconceptions (which hopefully you will too) and dived into it, I quickly understood why critics couldn’t shut up about this USA Network thriller and why awards shows couldn’t ignore it.
Elliot Alderson, a young socially-awkward programmer works as a security engineer by day and a hoodied cyber vigilante by night. He is depressed, addicted and very lonely. The only way he connects with people is by hacking them. And he hacks just about everyone with a half-brained security password; from his therapist to his workmates. Sometimes with noble intentions and other times only because he cannot help himself.
But the stakes get high all of a sudden when a mysterious figure named Mr. Robot recruits him to join the shadowy super hacktivist group fsociety. The group’s major mission? Take down the largest corporation E-Corp (which Elliot as the unreliable narrator refers to as Evil Corp) by cancelling all debt owed to them and freeing the people of the world.
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson does the best job of his career so far. Like Heath Ledger as The Joker or Al Pacino as Tony Montana, this is one of those rare cases where the actor was born for the role and you would totally lose interest if anyone else was in it (tough luck Jared Leto). Malek effortlessy portrays the multiple complex facets of his character; dazed, confused, disturbed, anxious, brilliant, alienated, psychotic, insomniac, depressed, unassuming.
If I were to be critical of anything about Mr. Robot, it would be that it sometimes forgets itself. A select few characters’ dialogues carry contradictions between episodes. Not that it takes away from the show’s overall brilliance but it made me realize that there may be a silver lining to having a single-minded showrunner like Aaron Sorkin.
Unlike Sorkin, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is quite democratic. Not shy to accommodate other people’s views and influences. A characteristic that may on one hand have continuation issues as a con but on the other, brings with it familiarity as a major pro. You will immediately notice shades of The Matrix and V for Vendetta in his work here. I also couldn’t place it while watching the 10-episode long Season One but it became clear to me that the 1999 cult-classic Fight Club was also a major influence when I saw Esmail mention it in one of his interviews.
Mr. Robot is the perfect show for the modern viewer. Its plot may be intricate but at no point did I feel the burden of commitment. Perhaps because of its uniquely detached style, embodied by its lead Elliot.
If nothing else, Mr. Robot will startle you with a healthy dose of paranoia. Enough to remind you to ditch that 123456 joke of a password. Lest you lose your beloved dog to a computer nerd.