August 27, 2016
About the author : Project manager by day, crazy cat lady by night. Emily's first love is J.R.R. Tolkien. She's also into Walking Dead, video games, Doctor Who, and anime. When she isn't knee-deep in her latest fandom, she's usually sleeping.
I was impressed by the Mr. Robot Experience at San Diego Comic-Con last month. So I finally watched the first season–and the show lived up to my expectations.
Mr. Robot is set in New York City in modern-day. Mr. Robot is frequently praised for its accurate portrayal of hacking, so it’s definitely set in our world. Even though the show is set in New York, it doesn’t make a big deal about the city. Coney Island is a somewhat important element, but it certainly isn’t central.
Elliot Alderson is a cyber security engineer by day and a hacker by night. He spends his time hacking everyone in his life: his childhood friend, Angela and her boyfriend Ollie, his therapist, his friends, and his enemies. When he sees someone he loves being hurt–or if he thinks someone is acting wrongly–he takes action to correct the problem. Violence and bribery are never part of his solution, but he will threaten exposure or turn someone over to the police.
Without saying too much, he’s pulled into a group of hackers by a mysterious Mr. Robot. The hackers have a big plan and Elliot is key to its success. Elliot just isn’t sure if trusts the rest of them or if he even wants to be involved.
Elliot is brilliant–he’s a world-class hacker and he can read people like a book. He also deals with social anxiety and depression (which he medicates with carefully-portioned morphine he acquires through a drug-dealer). Elliot talks to the viewer directly (in his mind), as if the viewer were his imaginary friend. This makes for an interesting storytelling style; we see more fully into Elliot’s motives, even though no one else can.
Mr. Robot is a strange man who looks like he might be homeless. At one point Elliot describes him as certifiably crazy, “People ask you if you would jump off a cliff because your friends did. Mr. Robot would, just to prove a point.” He seems particularly interested in Elliot, but it isn’t clear if he cares about Elliot or if he’s only using him to achieve his own goals.
The secondary characters, such as Angela, Shayla, Gideon, and Darlene are solidly written. Some of them, Gideon, in particular, are extremely likable whereas others are more neutral. To be honest, these characters are all much more interesting because of the situations in which they find themselves than they are in themselves. I would never care about Shayla, Elliot’s neighbor and drug dealer, if she weren’t wrapped up in his story.
Aside from Elliot and Mr. Robot, the most interesting character is Tyrell Wellick, the SVP of technology at the largest conglomerate in the world. He’s an extremely ambitious man, driven to work his way to the top of the company. He seems to be almost as brilliant as Elliot, although it’s never clear how much Tyrell plans his encounters with Elliot.
The first season is ten episodes long, each episode ranging from about an hour to forty-five minutes long. I started watching on a Saturday and finished the following Monday night, so obviously, I was hooked.
Mr. Robot is engrossing. The emotions it elicits (or elicited in me) range from almost terror to heartbreak to paranoia. The show is intense–definitely not light viewing. I’m going to write a more in-depth post (which will most definitely contain spoilers) in a few days, but I would say that anyone who enjoys thrillers will enjoy this.
There were a couple of scenes that I felt were too explicitly sexual. We’re not talking HBO-style full-frontal nudity, but I still think it was too much. I understand that sometimes these things are part of a story, but I think they should be handled more carefully. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice the scenes, but they bothered me.
Oh, and there’s drug use. Like, a lot of drug use. This actually didn’t bother me at all, but some people may be bothered by it. There’s also some language.
From a thematic standpoint, the show is generally well-written. One of the themes of the show is that most people aren’t as “good” as they seem. Most people have secret vices or hidden pasts; many people hurt those around them on a daily basis–and Elliot can find it all. I may be reading into the show a little too much, but I feel like the one person whose flaws aren’t much exposed were Elliot’s. Yes, he pushes people away, but his social anxiety makes the viewer judge him less harshly. I feel like the way the show handled Elliot slightly undermined its message. But this is pretty minor.
My boyfriend purchased the first season on Xbox Video. The show is available on Amazon Prime ( the first season is free right now) and you can also get the DVDs through Netflix. (But seriously, who does that? I barely even remember that Netflix offers DVDs.)
Mr. Robot is definitely one of the highest-quality shows I’ve seen in recent years. It’s well-written, beautifully shot, and gripping. It may not be flawless, but it’s pretty close. Interestingly, the show has a really tight ending to its first season. I don’t even feel like I need a second season. Does that mean I’m not going to watch it? Of course not.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth post in the near future.