Mr. Robot Series 1 Review

Mr_Robot_TV_Series-978107021-largeMr. Robot was perhaps the strongest show during the Summer months of 2015. It was renewed for a second season before the first episode had even aired. It was both a critical darling and a fan favourite with each episode being dissected by bloggers days after airing. It revolves around Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a hacker suffering from depression and a morphine addiction. By day, he works for Allsafe – a cyber security company. By night, he is a member of fsociety, a group led by the mysterious Mr. Robot (Cristian Slater – back on Heathers form), who are dedicated to creating a digital revolution. Their goal is to delete all of E Corp’s (a multi-national conglomerate and Allsafe’s biggest client) debt records.

Although it sounds like a second-rate Syfy show on paper, Mr. Robot features flawless writing, direction, performances and cinematography. Pilot director Niels Arden Oplev (hired off the strength of his own brilliant cyber-thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) sets the template of the show by creating an almost glacially chilling atmosphere. However, it’s Sam Esmail who deserves the real credit here. Mr. Robot is his creation. He wrote the majority of the episodes and directed three. His direction is stylish – the after-credits scene of the final episode features a long tracking shot which rivals the best of Brian De Palma’s work. The cinematography is gorgeous and evokes the almost hyper-realistic sheen of David Fincher’s recent work on the House of Cards pilot, The Social Network and even his own Dragon Tattoo remake.

Elliot

Rami Malek

Although I cannot claim that the show is realistic in its depiction of hackers as I have no knowledge of such areas, it feels the most authentic out of any cyber-film or show I’ve seen. However, the hacking aspect is only the surface of the show. It’s true themes are that of loneliness. Elliot hacks his friends and acquaintances because it’s the only way he can communicate with people. On paper that sounds clichéd but Mr. Robot is so accurate in the way it portrays the world of someone with a damaged mind. At times the show is more concerned with Elliot’s mental state than the actual planning of the hack. There are full episodes where the plot takes a backseat in order to portray the full extent of Elliot’s mental instability. It’s a credit to Rami Malek’s utterly convincing and jittery performance and Sam Esmail’s writing that these episodes feel more like the natural progression of plot and less like filler. These character driven episodes not only contribute to character development, they add an element of unpredictability to the plot. Mr. Robot is the furthest thing from a procedural. Like Better Call Saul, one never knows whether an episode is going to be a character study, a heist or go off in a completely different tangent all together.

Martin Wallstrom

Martin Wallstrom

However, Elliot is not the only character. We also have Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) – interim CTO of E Corp (even the people who work there dub it Evil Corp). Wellick is part American Psycho and part Macbeth. We see him in one early scene pay a homeless man so that he can then savagely attack that homeless man for some sort of twisted cathartic release. His wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) is the most Lady Macbeth-esque figure since Robin Wright in House of Cards. Like the Underwoods, they are the type of people who would do anything in order to advance in status. They are the perfect counter-balance to Elliot. They signify everything Elliot and fsociety rail against – people who control the world and have no regard for who they hurt, protecting their own investments first. Mr. Robot is the furthest thing from a thinly veiled critique of the modern world. Like Fight Club, it is an angry response to the consumerist world in which we live.

In Mr. Robot every character, no matter how small a role, feels like a fully rounded person. Shayla Nico (Frankie Shaw), Elliot’s girlfriend and morphine provider, is a kind but ultimately tragic character who adds a real warmth to such an overwhelmingly icy atmosphere. Even the villains such as Fernando Vera (a truly disturbing and repellent Elliot Villar), Shayla’s drug supplier, never fall into caricature.

There is strong violence in the show. However, at times the true violence lies in the characters’ speech. In episode seven, there is a moment of physical violence. However, the scene in the same episode that lingers in one’s mind the longest is that which Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), Elliot’s childhood friend and work colleague, and Terry Colby (Bruce Altman), former CTO of E Corp, share. Colby threatens her in perhaps the most overtly repugnant way possible yet he does not lay a finger on her. Mr. Robot is filled with scenes like this.

Verdict 4/4

Angry and subversive, Mr. Robot is essential viewing.

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