by Matthew Thompson
I write on this site primarily because I enjoy it and it gives me an outlet to express my thoughts on various things. But I do like to think I give the people that come by here an idea of what is worth their time through reviews and the like. That is one of the reasons I enjoy doing my mini-reviews of new shows and pilots. And that is why I’m now bringing you this spoiler-free look at why you should be watching USA’s brilliant new drama Mr. Robot.
Mr. Robot is a cyberpunk-esque thriller. Its appeal begins with its complicated lead character. Elliot Alderson is a vigilante hacker who gets caught up in a plot to take down one of the world’s largest corporations, E Corp; a company that his day job at a cyber security company tasks him with protecting. Elliot suffers from social anxiety and depression and the show depicts these issues very well. I won’t pretend that I am unique in suffering similar issues in my own life. Nor have I ever been in nearly as bad shape in regards to them as Elliot. But I can relate to moments he experiences. The show does an excellent job of putting you in Elliot’s shoes, even going as far to let his delusions slip into the world we see on-screen. People don’t really call E Corp Evil Corp, but that is Elliot’s nickname for the conglomerate, so he hears that and so do we. We hear his inner thoughts as we watch. When he talks to himself about who might be following him and we see them on-screen, we wonder what is real and what is not. This aspect of his character acts as a central mystery hook for the series, but more so it creates a deep complex character to center the show around. I can’t say I have seen Rami Malek in anything before, but I’m so impressed with him here. He is superb at playing Elliot, this young man grappling with the issues I’ve outlined above and others like drug addiction. It is a wonderfully nuanced performance worthy of adoration thus far and a perfect one to anchor the show upon.
I’ve also been impressed with Mr. Robot’s depiction of hacking. There are no goofy graphical interfaces here. Just a lot of typing strings of letters and numbers into windows. It gives the show a more realistic feel than similar fictional takes on this type of material. Maybe just as important in achieving this more grounded feel is the fact that Elliot and the others can’t just hack their way out of any problem. Things go wrong. They fail. And sometimes when they succeed, something else goes wrong and its all for naught. Both of these aspects help to build Mr. Robot into the thriller it sets out to be and make sequences like infiltrating high security buildings and breaking someone out of prison taut, exciting and unpredictable.
As the series has gone on, Mr. Robot has done a good job of fleshing out Elliot’s supporting cast. This includes people like Darlene from the hacker group fsociety, who seek his help in taking down E Corp, and those he encounters in his personal life like his dealer Shayla, who makes for a compelling love interest for Elliot, and her boss Vera, who acts as an intimidating villainous presence on the show. Perhaps most intriguing of all is Tyrell Wellick. I never know what to expect when this character shows up on-screen, but he makes for a fascinating extra piece to the greater puzzle that Mr. Robot presents us with.
On top of all of this, Mr. Robot is a striking show with stunning shot composition and direction. It also delivers with an original score that fits the cyberpunk theme perfectly, but isn’t afraid to throw something a bit more off-kilter into the mix either which somehow always seems to work as well.
USA has long been known for its light, breezy procedurals. While it has certainly stepped away from that image in recent years, I still wouldn’t have expected one of TV’s top dramas to crop up on the network. Assuming it can keep up the quality throughout the remaining four episodes of this season, Mr. Robot should rank among the year’s best TV series. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, give Mr. Robot a try. It has quickly become one of TV’s must-watch shows.