MR. ROBOT – Season One
Streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video
Talented but troubled hacker Elliot Alderson works at web security firm Allsafe by day. When a major hack of one of Allsafe’s biggest clients, Evil Corp – a major company who are responsible for most of the banking, electronics and other digital works in existence – occurs, Elliot manages to stop the hack and save the servers from being infected. However, upon discovering a piece of software has been planted by mysterious hacker group fsociety on the server, Elliot decides to leave it there believing it to be there for a purpose not worth deleting. This action causes Elliot to be approached by fsociety led by the enigmatic Mr. Robot who reveals their master plan: to take down Evil Corp, encrypt their data and effectively wipe all the debt in the world clean so that there may be an even playing field rather than an ever-increasing rich and poor divide. Will Elliot join fsociety’s revolution and if so, can the masterplan be pulled off?
Amazon Instant Video TV series Mr. Robot reinvigorates the hacking genre and puts a modern day political spin on it by taking inspiration from current affairs as well as hacking groups such as Anonymous. With the major corporate companies in the world such as Google, Apple and Microsoft gaining momentum as their products become embedded in our lives and the companies themselves dipping their toes into other markets used by the masses, a future where the mega-companies run the world isn’t that far away if it isn’t in motion already, something which was highlighted by the 1975 film Rollerball. The series, which also appears to be inspired by Fight Club and V for Vendetta, focuses on taking from the rich (Evil Corp) and giving to the poor or at least balancing out the unfair equation which currently leaves many hardworking individuals with a mountain of debt whilst the 1% elite thrive.
I’d been wondering where Christian Slater had got to. After his stint in the stage version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, comedy Bound and Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, I’d seen very little of him. It’s great to see him back on the screen in Mr. Robot although his presence for most of the first season is underused. Usually I’d complain but fortunately there’s a reason for this. His character, the titular Mr. Robot, is a mystery to Elliot. Often spotted riding the subway in his tired jacket and grubby off-white baseball cap, he’s the brains behind fsociety and it’s his grand idea to take down the corporates and give freedom to the masses weighed down and enslaved by their debt. He’s also crazy with a capital C. Unpredictable but incredibly smart, Mr. Robot oversees the whole operation and makes sure things go to plan, even when Elliot’s mind begins to fill with doubt.
Rami Malek takes the lead as Elliot, a young man who’s hacking skills appear to be his only comfort in life as he peers into other people’s lives to distract himself from the loneliness of his. Though it’s never mentioned, hs character seems to have a form of autism and struggles in social environments, particularly when interacting with other people. His thoughts and actions are very logical to him but not to others around him. Often he’ll freeze or stare into space as his brain’s cogs work out a solution, whether it’s to a hack or finding a suitable answer to get himself out of a social interaction. Malek excels in his role and captivates as the exceptionally talented hacker who, like the people he spies and hacks on, has his own vulnerabilities which are explored throughout the series.
Despite Rami’s solid, captivating performance, it’s the role of Martin Wallström who steals the show for me as unhinged sociopath, Evil Corp executive, Tyrell Wellick. Here’s a man who’ll do anything to get to the top and crush anyone in his way. Ruthless and cunning, he spies his opportunity to grab the CTO job, one of the most powerful roles in the company with a payout to match. His own career ambition seems to be spurred on by his pregnant wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) who encourages Tyrell to do whatever it takes and failure is not an option. It almost seems like she’s the brains behind the operation as her thirst for success seemingly excels that of Tyrell’s.
Tyrell’s wife isn’t the only strong female supporting character in the show with Elliot’s best friend Angela (Portia Doubleday), headstrong hacker mate Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and morphine supplier Shayla (Frankie Shaw) offering three different influences on Elliot who he can rely on which is a joy to see after his troubled relationship with his own mother. They each have their own issues in their life but are equally pillars for Elliot to lean on in his time of need.
The first half of the series focuses on quickly establishing the characters before exploring Elliot’s job at Allsafe, Evil Corp and fsociety with the takedown of Evil Corp at the heart of it all. Towards the back end of Season One, things begin to slow down and characters begin to be investigated more and given a backstory, namely Elliot and his fsociety associates. Whilst these reveals are interesting, it does slow the momentum of the plot somewhat, a pace which was never perfect to begin with and reminded me a lot of fellow Amazon series The Man In The High Castle. Fortunately, the characters have enough about them to keep you watching but I hope in Season Two they’ll be sticking more to the nitty gritty of the core storyline rather than floating into filler territory.
Mr. Robot has plenty of interesting ideas and I’m looking forward to the upcoming seasons exploring them further, providing they don’t dwell on the brain of Elliot too much. This is a smart television programme and for once actually brings a realistic view of hackers, not that that sort of exaggerated, caricaturish version of hackers as seen in the film starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller, something which even the fsociety in Mr. Robot joke about. This is a series that is relevant now more than it ever has been and there’s clearly some clever writing behind it from creator Sam Esmail. Whilst the season ends abruptly rather than on a killer cliffhanger, though questions are still left unanswered, there’s plenty more I want to discover about Elliot, fsociety, Evil Corp and those characters surrounding them.
If you have any kind of opinion on the state of the world and the direction it’s heading in, Mr. Robot is a refreshing, eye-opener that will suck you into its revolution.