Browsing Amazon Prime for a show to binge watch while ill is usually a good shout. On my first day off in about a week, a week where I have been coughing more than Walter White in the entirety of Breaking Bad, I chose to watch Mr. Robot.
I’ve heard good things from the show around the Internet and I don’t think it premiered on a UK channel at all, I don’t have a TV license though, so that doesn’t really matter to me.
I went into episode 1 knowing four crucial things about the show.
- It gets hacking right
- It’s engaging
- It’s unique
- It’s not pretentious
Yeah, it hits all these marks.
Mr Robot is many things, it’s a show about how big corporations treat the little people, how businesses treat their customers, it’s about mental illness, fixations and fighting back against the system.
The show follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malik) security engineer for Allsafe Cybersecurity by day and a vigilante hacker by night. Elliot is a gifted and troubled man, he uses his hacking knowledge and skills for good he says so himself, whilst confronting a coffee shop owner in the first five minutes of the pilot, it’s not about the money it’s about protecting people.
During the opening sequence of the show Elliot goes to a place called Ron’s Coffee Shop to talk to the aforementioned Ron. During their conversation Elliot reveals he has hacked into Ron’s details and discovered his real name, his bank information and that he knows the details about the servers he’s using for his child pornography website. It’s an enthralling conversation, you really get an insight into Elliot’s moral compass, doing the bad thing to be the good guy, as he leaves the coffee shop the police pull up and he disappears into the night like an Internet powered Batman.
That there was the moment Mr. Robot gripped me. The dialogue was engaging and interesting with Elliot listing of all this computer terminology that I couldn’t hope to ever understand, all of it accurate…I think
From there the show builds intrigue and questions. One of the most interesting narrative devices is how we the audience ourselves are a character. We’re a voice in Elliot’s head, one of possibly many, that he talks to and confides in heavily. It’s something that definitely sets the show apart, we’re seeing the world through the mind and eyes of Elliot because we’re essentially a figment of his imagination.
Early on in the episode Elliot tells us about E-Corp, a big company that his company, Allsafe, runs data protection and IT support for. He hates E-Corp, he thinks they’re greedy and destroying society with debt and no respect for the little guy. To that end he refers to them as Evil-Corp, this is one of the points that I think is pretty unique to the show, whilst looking at the logo for E-Corp Elliot talks about his name for them and the logo flickers and changes into Evil-Corp, from this point on every character and every logo refers to them as Evil-Corp because he’s defaulted his brain to recognise it as such. Elliot is literally a computer, he acts as such.
He’s a drug addict, addicted to morphine who’s in a kind of relationship with his dealer. He’s working at Allsafe with his childhood friend, Angela (Portia Doubleday) whom he bonded with because their parents both died from Leukemia whilst working at E-Corp (probably explaining a lot of Elliot’s hatred for them) and her longtime boyfriend, Ollie (Ben Rappaport) who Elliot knows for a fact is cheating on Angela but chooses not to tell her as he finds Ollie easier to control/deal with than her previous exes.
Elliot admits that he hacks everyone he knows, he knows their secrets and their lies all so he can rate them as people and decides their worth.
After a huge DDoS attack on E-Corp Elliot is forced to help the company he hates, I mean it is his job. During his attempt to fix their servers he finds a file labelled fsociety00.dat and a know telling him to leave the malware he’s found on the server behind. He does so and meets the titular Mr. Robot, leader of Fsociety, played brilliantly by Christian Slater.
This is one of those moments where I thought the show might get pretentious and preachy. Characters waxing lyrically about how the big corporations fucking over the small people and how debt and capitalism are destroying our society. This is one of those situations where if it isn’t handled right can turn into a mess that resembles some student project where they think they have a point when they don’t have one at all.
The characters and dialogue keeps these potentially hazardous moments interesting and engaging though. I found myself genuinely enthralled to hear more about how the shows economy had been fucked over by these corporations.
The show is filmed in a very interesting style, in most TV shows and films the camera is ordinarily framed with characters in the centre or on the left or right side of the frame. Mr. Robot frames characters in the lower quadrants of the frame, the bottom corners and heavy use of low angles to give the sense of a constantly on edge atmosphere. Like anything could happen at any time and anything could go wrong.
I’ve actually spent about 5 hours writing this review, because I’ve been so engrossed in watching the rest of the series and this show is something special and unique. It’s like watching Breaking Bad for the first time, you know it’s on it’s way to be something that’s going to blow you away.
For now I’ll close my review for episode 1 by giving it a 5/5 and definitely recommending people watch the entire series. Don’t make any plans because you will not be able to stop binge watching this.