The USA network has outdone itself in the past few weeks by releasing two of the best shows on television. Last week we discussed the new medical thriller “Complications,” which earned a perfect score of 10, and today we’re going to examine “Mr. Robot,” an absolutely fantastic psychological/cyber thriller.
The show is set in New York City, where Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek), a reclusive, socially disordered programmer, works for Allsafe Security, a huge cyber-security firm. Because he’s pretty much antisocial, Elliot, has no friends and spends most of his free time hacking into other people’s lives and doing drugs. He uses his phenomenal computer skills to expose dishonest people and protect the few others he cares about.
We see Elliot in action early on as he confronts the owner of a coffee shop and, much to the owner’s amazement and chagrin, lays bare all of the criminal activity he has uncovered. Elliot does all of his hacking at night so that it doesn’t interfere with his job. He also manages to prevent someone from hacking Allsafe’s most prominent client, and in the process he notices a secret code that he does delete.
One night as Elliot is riding the subway home, he encounters a man (Christian Slater) wearing a patch on his jacket that reads “Mr. Robot,” and the guy knows all about the secret code on Elliot’s computer. Mr. Robot convinces Elliot to travel with him to Coney Island, where Elliot meets the members of an underground hackers group known as “fsociety.” Elliot soon learns that the mission of this group is to destroy huge companies like the one he works for and in turn greatly reduce debt in the world.
Elliot hates Allsafe, and the prospect of destroying various CEOs of such companies really appeals to him, but he is hesitant to join fsociety because of the possible danger involved. The show’s first episode introduces the main characters and sets the stage for Elliot to make a decision that will affect the rest of his life.
I am completely hooked on this show after just one episode, and I eagerly anticipate watching the next nine shows in the series, which must have a great following because it already has been renewed for a second season. There’s no doubt that the premise behind the series is both intriguing and timely, and like so many outstanding TV shows these days, “Mr. Robot” has a big-screen look and feel to it.
The acting in the series is wonderful across the board, and Malek was a perfect choice to play Elliot. He has very expressive (sometimes frightening) eyes and succeeds well in establishing and maintaining the look of a haunted genius. In an online interview with NPR Malek offered an analysis of his character as well as some insight into why the show is appealing.
“‘Mr.’ Robot is a psychological thriller that follows Elliot as a young computer programmer, and he works at a cyber-security firm defending corporations he despises. Elliot is complicated. He’s very lonely and doesn’t know how to connect with people, so he hacks into their lives. The show is about human interaction and technology. We as a society have a hard time connecting with one another. We technically can do it.
“Anybody’s who is concerned about being hacked, or wants to know how that happens, is going to find the show informative and scary and enlightening at the same time. It’s not difficult for people to watch you at home. The microphone you have on your computer can be accessed. The camera, as much as people don’t think it can be accessed, it can. And it’s not that difficult.”
Of course one of the things making the series so fascinating is that hacking is a very realistic and frightening reality today. I’ve had my email account hacked several times, and the mere fact that someone I don’t know can do this is at once disturbing and unnerving. I really don’t like the idea that my life is available for some nut to monitor without being able to do anything about it.
Another thing I like about the show is its use of voiceover to get us inside Elliot’s head. He’s an incredibly complex and, in many ways, disturbed character, and being privy to his thoughts is riveting.
Another huge plus for the show is the presence of Slater as the title character. He’s an exceptionally talented actor and particularly adept at portraying offbeat characters. Watching his character develop throughout the series is going to be a real treat. In an interview with Forbes, Slater explained why he thinks the show is so timely.
“Well, this is certainly a subject matter that has really been at the forefront of great debates. It was addressed in the president’s State of the Union. The Sony hack happened. As we’ve been filming it, it’s just a subject that’s become more and more relevant as we’ve continued to move forward. I think when Sam (Esmail) created it, it was much more of an under the radar kind of subject and not something a lot of people were thinking about. The cyber-security companies were not nearly as popular and powerful as they are now.
“So I think that adds a certain layer of intrigue and fascination to what it is we’re doing. Really, sometimes we’ll be filming an episode, and the subject matter that we’re dealing with will then, the next day, be the headline of The New York Times.”
In addition to being highly entertaining, “Mr. Robot” is a most thought-provoking show, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s well directed and beautifully shot against the backdrop of the Big Apple.
After reading all the forgoing praise, it should come as no surprise to you that “Mr. Robot” earns the final score of an unqualified and enthusiastic 10. If you miss it, you lose.